My three and a half week course as an assistant professor at USC

The Japanese during World War II

Carthaginian Battles with Rome

The South during the American Civil War

Anglo-Zulu War of South Africa

Mexico during Mexican American War

Jin Dynasty and the Mongol Invasion of China

And the list goes on. My course will be dedicated as an appreciation of the subjectivity found within the historical record. Who is to say that history is true? If there is an appreciation of multiple perspectives in modern society, why does this not apply to history? A student will be assigned the task of researching and presenting an oral history presentation, not glorifying the battlefield successes of an individual culture, but capturing the alternate perspectives of the losing side.

Oftentimes, my high school history courses and language classes have painted history with broad brush strokes. There have been countless occasions in which I’ve fact checked my textbooks and have found the information lacking. Woodrow Wilson was a notorious racist against Jews and Africans, Stalin was a greater threat than Hitler ever was, there is more Mongolian DNA in the world than any other culture/civilization. The International Workers of the World (IWW) was a socialist movement in the 20th century that shaped the course of American labor movement for years to come, and once again the list goes on.

In my humble opinion, high school history classes are an attempt to foster memorization and regurgitation. True critical thinking comes from an appreciation of the minutiae. Every community, hamlet, nation, and civilization is complex. No individual side owns the rights to a moral high ground. The study of how people come to endure, succeed, and fail during war/conflict is especially important because it highlights the moral fallacies within our socio-political constructs. It’s important to note that my class does not over intellectualize or dehumanize pain and suffering; rather, my students will attempt to give a voice to those lost perspectives that for some reason the historical cannon chooses to diminish because of battlefield losses.

Interestingly, those students who choose to write about a culture that is outside of their own will be assigned a people or civilization that is antithetical to theirs. For example, a South-Korean student will research and present a project on North-Korea, an African American will present a piece in regards to the Southern perspectives during the American Civil War, an American student will report on the Japanese worldview during World War II, and the list goes on. Hopefully, through an appreciation of these supposed losses, a better understanding of the commonality found within opponents is created. President John F. Kennedy made a deft observation in that man made problems such as conflict are manufactured by human constructs; thus, these can also be deconstructed by human constructs.

The goal of this course is to prepare for the next war. Therefore, the thesis of my class is quite simple: a defeat on the battlefield does not necessitate a loss of culture, perspective, and most importantly the identity of the losing side.



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