Commentary

Goodness Without Global Knowledge…

While catching up with old friends, a classmate from home mentioned panicking over an AP world history test. Another was worrying about how she did on her civics quiz the previous Friday. Yet another asked if I could help her recall a certain name from the Renaissance period I had distantly heard of, but was unable to make any connections to. I searched my brain through the minimal knowledge I had retained from my ninth grade world history class as well as my most recent History 200 course in the fall, but was frustrated to find I had no knowledge on these topics. Of all wonderful benefits Andover has provided for me and my fellow peers, it’s surprising lack of sufficient world history courses has been one of its more negative aspects. I believe in order to truly live up to its dedication to serving “Youth From Every Quarter,” Andover has the obligation to create global citizens by educating students on global history and politics.

The best history classes I’ve had took place during middle school. I have retained my knowledge on New world exploration, civil rights and both world wars from those earlier years of education, but most of these topics are Americentric or take an American perspective. My brief sixth and seventh grade introduction to world history is where most of my meagre knowledge on international affairs comes from. The only information I have retained from a world history course after ninth grade is that Napoleon’s second wife was named Josephine.

When I entered Andover as a new Lower, I was a little surprised that my History 200 course was only for one term. Like most humanities classes at Andover, the course was discussion based. I enjoyed the interactive and engaging experience, but at the end of fall term I found myself having completed more of a discussion course rather than a history course. I found myself even more disappointed when I discovered this would be my last mandatory encounter with world history. Of course, I will be required to take History 300 as an Upper or Senior, but the History 300 course departs from world history and focuses on the narrow scope of American history. Now I’m afraid I will be stuck with the limited knowledge I have on the history of the rest of the world.

I am personally not much of a history student. I had never had an extreme liking of the courses themselves, yet I had always known the information I was taking in was extremely important. In order to engage with the global circuit, in order to navigate international industries competently, we need to understand the history, politics and social climate of not only our own country, but of the various other countries where many of us will live and work. Attending Andover made me realize even further that my skills were nowhere near up to par.

I am not sure if, in coming into Andover, I was expected to have already received the majority of my history education before I took the classes here. From my history class in the fall, its primary function seemed to be to discuss topics more generally or from a different angle. Perhaps the History Department assumes students already had sufficient knowledge of these topics. If this is the case, I would have to disagree. While my friends back in North Carolina are required to take a year-long civics course as well as have the option to take a year-long AP world history course, I am stuck with having already fulfilled my history requirement during the first eight weeks of school, a History 300 class either my Upper or Senior year, with no year-long world history class. I understand the academic rigor of Andover limits the number of courses a student can take each term, I highly encourage Andover to reconsider the history courses they offer. Especially with our high population of international students, a course like world history not only reflects our student body, it is also relevant no matter your geographic background. Like math, science or English, no matter how much they may be hated or loved by any particular student, learning the history of the world you live in is a crucial aspect of navigating the future. It is, unfortunately, under emphasized at Andover, and I believe our generation, and future generations of students, would benefit greatly from an expanded world history offering and possibly an additional requirement.

Caroline Gihlstorf is a New Lower from Chapel Hill, N.C.

Apr 13, 2017