This may have looked like a blog about some dude’s vacation. And I won’t lie, I’ve absolutely enjoyed myself out here. But it has been so much more than just a trip through South America… The reason I wanted to be here – and the reason that Fund for Teachers so generously funded my research – is that there is something seriously lacking in the historical and cultural education of our students, at least in the United States where I teach.
Many of you came to this site as I blogged about my research travels through Peru and Bolivia. The travel is done (for now… there are already some exciting things in the works for the future, as Open Ended Social Studies continues to grow). But really, everything I’ve done this summer is just prologue to the next batch of lessons to be posted here at Open Ended Social Studies. The real work (which I love) will be translating my experiences this summer into several high quality units that put Andean civilizations into history classrooms – where they belong, alongside other great world civilizations.
These people independently invented agriculture, astronomy, and a whole social and economic system that stands alongside any other devised in the history of the world… And yet, they’re barely present (if present at all) in our classrooms. Doesn’t this absence create a bias in the minds of students? Does it not suggest that there are certain “real” civilizations – the Greeks, of course, and the Romans – and that others outside the so-called canon made a nice effort, but are somehow secondary?
Perhaps the Geeks have influenced our life in the United States more than the Inca have – but perhaps this is in part a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the philosophies and achievements Inka and their progenitors continue to be ignored and dismissed today, just as the Spanish ignored and dismissed them 500 years ago.
Thank you for all of your support of what I’ve am trying to do with this site. If you are interested in learning or doing more – please! Browse the site and read about some other civilization yourself. The lessons here are intended for use in middle and high school classrooms, but really – I’ve tried to put them together to be interesting to anyone. Learn something about the ancient Khmer, about Korea, Nicaragua, or the ancient Mexica, today. You’ll be better off for it.
And please, let the educator in your life know about this site. My hope is that it will be used in classrooms all over – as a free resource that encourages curiosity and awareness of other cultures and traditions. That would make me happier even than winning another grant.
Finally, if you have anything to contribute – a lesson, a story, an idea – this project is meant to be a collaborative one. Please, get in touch and let me know what you’ve got.
To paraphrase from Bill Watterson, one of the great philosphers of our time, it’s a magical world… Let’s go exploring.