After a month discussing the human sciences, the G11 TOK class has shifted its attention towards history. As a prelection, the teacher drew the calendar on the board and had each student jot down national holidays from different countries.
National holidays from the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Korea, India and the United States were listed on the board. The students were then guided to recognize that across nations, the following were universally commemorated: heroes, independence days and religious holidays. In a sense, one creates an impression of the country’s history by what they hold dear yet there are common threads across nations. One student also observed that there are generally young holidays – about fifty to a hundred years old – while others are ancient. Most are fixed dates while a few depend on other factors such as the lunar cycles.
The students were then asked why history should be considered a separate area of knowledge when it is already identified under the human sciences. The students were given a two-minute buzz session to consider the question. One mentioned that the human sciences tend to be forward looking while history involves the study of the past. Another shared that while the sciences can be controlled and replicated to a certain extent, history is not easily simulated, much less duplicated. One possible answer also involves how history forms a part of the different fields of the human sciences – archaeology, psychology, economics, etc.
The teacher then showed three forms of media on the same topic: the 1963 assassination of JFK.
They were shown the Zapruder film, a clip from the documentary “The Day Kennedy Died” and a portion of the 2016 film “Jackie.” These were processed according to the type of historical materials and the ways of knowing involved in their production and the knowledge it generates to an audience. The first two were considered first-hand accounts, which focus on memory and sense perception in eliciting emotion. The last one was deemed by the class to be an imaginative interpretation; the teacher then processed that while it may not be as historically accurate as the first two, it did bring to mind a history of emotions: the loss and grief felt in the aftermath of the assassination.
To close the discussion, the students were given different quotes on history, among them:
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” – George Orwell
“All history is gossip.” – John F. Kennedy
“The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What’s left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars.” – Bertolt Brecht
The students are then expected to share their thoughts on their chosen quote for the next meeting.