Comment from “A Buddhist in Idaho” & Reply

With all due respect, I believe that a global perspective gives students a healthy perspective. It’s a good thing. Not having the context of a wider worldly perspective leaves our students poorly prepared for the world. If you want your students to have more money and better jobs, get them to understand the world and not just their race or nation.

We live in a global society. There’s no denying it.

And being a practicing Buddhist in Idaho, I can also say that the wider world is not all Christian or Muslim or Jewish. It’s a mix.

Let kids understand that mix and they’ll be more prepared for the realities they’ll face.

Best to you.

MY REPLY:  Thank you for your thoughtful comments.  For what it is worth, when I teach the coherent history of the West I teach about the various cultures and civilizations outside of the West at the point of contact.  For example, Achaemenid Persia during the Greco-Persian Wars, Ming China during the 1500s, and Tokugawa Japan at the time Commodore Perry opened Japan to the outside world.

From this Asiatic history, the lessons of Qing China and Tokugawa Japan are clarion-clear.  Within a couple of decades, both closed themselves off to the outside world in the early-mid Seventeenth Century.  Two centuries later, when the Industrializing West came knocking they found themselves hopelessly outclassed.  Xenophobia never pays.  This lesson is deepened by the variant answers to the West arrived at in China and Japan.  The Chinese lived in denial, and suffered the ravages of the Tai-Ping and then the Boxer Rebellion.  Japan became “more Western than the West”, internalizing a caricature of Western Imperial values and producing the nightmare of State Shintoism which led Japan to her 1945 doom.

I am not advocating xenophobic education.  I believe in World History as a variant, but not equivalent, topic.  No one would think it wise or reasonable for Japanese schools to stop inculcating future generations in Japanese national folkways and perspectives.  The same is true in any nation.  We Americans are not “global citizens”; we are American citizens in a culturally competitive world.  As we are global hegemon and the central economy, we have worldwide interests.  But we are not some theoretical neuter; we are inheritors of the traditions that developed both a functional Republic and the technology to reach Luna.  We stand for something more than our belly interests, and this value makes us that Winthropian “shining city on a hill”.  Why would so many around the world crave our freedom and the wealth and opportunity it produces if we did not have something of value in our culture?!  It is this value, and its cultivation over millennia, that a coherent curriculum in Western Civilization offers.

I do well appreciate being a member of a political minority.  I am an out-of-the-closet Conservative Public School High School Teacher.  I was such in Maine and Connecticut, in very Blue regions and in a hyper-Progressive profession.  I am honestly exhilarated by being such, as I have the opportunity to live in such a manner that is an education to those around me who maintain variant values.  I imagine that you have had many opportunities to expound upon the legacy of Prince Gautama and his meditations under the Boti tree; the notion that the sensate world is a trap for the soul which has a solution in emptying oneself of desperation about our struggle for survival. 

In any event, you have given me the gift of a thoughtful question.  I hope that my answer at lease revealed some of the reasoning behind my notions.  In short, I see it not as an “either/or” choice, but a matter of teaching both identity and scope.

Best wishes!

Ralph K. Ginorio

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I am a veteran public school High School History Teacher, specializing in the history of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Western Civilization. Generations ago, Americans erroneously removed Western Civilization requirements from the High School curriculum. Here and elsewhere, I am trying to restore the teaching of this essential heritage to young Americans. I invite you to join me in this effort! In fact, without the efforts and talents of others, this initiative will surely fail.

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