People tend to write—and, thus, think—the most at the beginnings and endings of things. Whether that thing is a job, life, or education, the middle just isn’t that interesting. At the beginning, we are filled with excitement over the newness of the experience and anticipation for its possibilities. Bursting with enthusiasm, we are eager to share about our new experiences with anyone who will listen.
I’ve certainly seen this with posts by students at NYU-Abu Dhabi. They post prolifically in the early days, but eventually their frequency deteriorates due to the inverse correlation between life and sharing. Still, as I contemplate attending college across halfway across the globe their posts help to make the prospect less remote.
Thus, I hope that by renewing my writing here and cataloguing the memories of my last
fiftyforty-four days at UWC-USA, I might be able to offer a similar resource to students (my zero-years!) contemplating this experience which I have lived and loved for the past two years.
Of course, writing here will also help me to reconcile that I have finally reached an ending. By reflecting on this amazing breakneck experience of the past two years, I hope to gain some insight into how exactly it has impacted me and where I see myself going from here. Hopefully, this might even help me to decide where to attend university.
I thus promise to be an endblogger, posting regularly on the resolution of my life and investigating the future through pontifications on the past.
Also, please excuse the current state of the blog. I actually wrote this post several days ago, but got sidetracked with trying to restore the previous technically-advanced site. Failing that, I’m shipping my writing with this minimum viable product until I find the time to make the blog beautiful again.
What follows is a poorly written exposition of my recent activity. If you’re not in the mood for self-congratulatory bullshit, here’s the gist: I made morgante.net. It’s cool. It’s me.
Before doing so, I created numerous designs, from the gaudy to the overly-subdued. One was entirely primary colors, another was pure black-and-white. With respect to the design, I feel I’ve reached the ideal equilibrium with respect to the Goldilocks Principle: interesting, but not garish.
As my online home on the web, it of course links to all my profiles on various sites (I have too many). Most notably, I’ve added a link to Lemnos, my lab. Its name comes from the island upon which the great engineer-god Hephaestus wrought his creations. Within the lab are all my various technical projects. Its powered by Habari and a plugin of my own devising. The project pages are almost entirely automated: metadata is extracted from the plugin source, downloads are built from the subversion repository, and support is powered by the Habari Forums. Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the result.
Back on my hub, I did my best to keep things jovial. Building a website entirely devoted to myself is inherently rather pompous, so I was sure to have a healthy dose of self-mockery. The about page is a tongue-in-cheek tale of my life, while the Twitter widget in the sidebar features my occasionally whimsical wordplay. Meanwhile, the contact page is fully AJAXified, using my AlienContact plugin.
In the future, I plan to have a fully integrated lifesteam, à la Sweetcron. It will have all my activity from various places around the web, in addition to random life achievement bits: school awards, projects I start, etc. — the idea is that I will be able to programmatically generate a resume from the data. Though I currently have something similar here, I would like to eliminate a lot of the superfluous material from Newy Ancient and move it to my hub. The next iteration of my blog will put my best content up front, while also integrating newer (short) link posts.
Stay tuned for more exciting things as I finally get some priorities straightened out. My goal is to write at least one article a week, when the hellish load of AP English allows it.
Tomorrow I leave for a month in Paris. I expect my Internet access to be limited, and won’t be able to post — though I doubt it’d be noticeable if I didn’t post this. I’ll return July 28, upon which you can expect an increased post frequency as I sort out some priorities.
Au revoir, mes amis!
When I was younger, I thought history didn’t matter. To me, history was a dusty land filled with dates, maps, and death rates. I thought the inhabitants of this land — historians — were old, dusty people who had nothing interesting to say.
In short, I confused history with historical societies.
I was, and am, a person driven by change (action) and, to an unhealthy extent, power. Technology and politics, my passions, both move at a breakneck pace and are always focusing on the future. To my naive self, history was entirely antithetical to my entire philosophy.1
As one might expect, school was at fault. School taught me to memorize dates and people.2 We almost never explored the context of these events; we never delved into the legacies of the leaders beyond the most basic level. Timelines made regular appearances, as did color-coded maps. All this memorization took up time, time which would have been better spent thinking.
Naturally, given this context, I felt that history was something to be avoided like the plague.3
Now, of course, I know better.
Once I got teachers who actually understood and enjoyed history, I was able to see beyond the numbers. I discovered that history wasn't a textbook or timeline, but a story, and a damn good story at that. With this discovery, I was able to find the joy of the past.
Not to go all philosophical on you, but the past really is the present.
Society evolves, but evolution involves a lot of repetition. Each iteration is almost exactly the same as the last, with only minor differences. A knowledge of that past iteration helps you to understand the current iteration — and the differences between the two.
Understanding — truly understanding — the world (politics, society, technology, etc.) is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. Thankfully, we have the past to help us. With the wisdom of the past, we can more easily understand the present. Instead of having to draw an entirely new map of the world, we only need to draw a map of the new parts.
Almost every situation we encounter, somebody else has encountered before. Even when we can’t see them, we’re walking in someone’s footsteps. Thankfully, that someone has probably already come up with a solution for or analysis of the situation. I am continuously reminded of this, whether in my daily Googling of technical problems or my comparisons between Palin and McCarthy. When it comes down to it, history is probably the most useful subject there is.
Sadly, far too many teachers get it wrong. Though I'm sure you're not one of them, you probably know some of them. History, more than any other subject, is really easy to get wrong.4 It is far too easy to get caught in the micro-history (who fought in what battle on what date?) and forget about the macro-history (why was he fighting?), especially because the micro-history is very easy to teach and test. Given this, it is no surprise that many history teachers don't teach history.
And every time it is a tragedy. When taught as a collection of dates, history loses its spark. A bad history teacher will — guaranteed — make history dull and lifeless. In other subjects, one can get by with a poor teacher and still enjoy it. History, more than any other subject, depends strongly on the quality of the teacher. A good history teacher5 will make even the most reluctant of students sit up in their chairs, but a bad history teacher will make even (or, especially) the future-historians start texting under the table. In no other class is this true: math people will always find
numbers mathematical language interesting, and some never will.6 The cost of a poor history teacher is great, but the benefits are superb: history gives students a framework to understand their world.
So please, remember to take the hi- off history.
Of course, at some point the “facts” do become important. The dates and names aren’t entirely irrelevant, especially as one wishes to progress. To talk effectively and intelligently about the ideas, one must know the facts — especially if one aims to convince others. However, the ideas are indisputably more important — without them, history is pointless. Unfortunately, the ideas are generally only seriously discussed in the upper grades of high school and college. Up until then, the bare facts hold almost exclusive domain. By the time students reach the exciting parts of history, we have built a (false) image of history as boring and pointless — in fact, many never reach those discussions simply because they assume all history is as boring as 5th grade history. Even at the unit level, history is taught in the wrong order. Most teachers start with the bare facts and only touch on the bigger ideas near the end of a lesson. This should be reversed on both the micro and macro levels, with grand ideas being taught first to build interest and discussion. Only with the themes in place should the facts be taught, to supplement and reinforce those themes, leading to continued investigation. The primary focus of history should always be the story.
What do you think the proper order of history education is? Do you think schools need to focus more on the context of history?