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Americans and World History

Since I’m an American, the perspective my public school education gave me was that anything outside of my lifetime is old; anything that happened before the 1920s or so is ancient history; history more-or-less started in 1492, but it didn’t really get going until the 1600s when people began to colonize the east coast of America, and that was all just a lead-up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

We Americans have such a limited perspective. I recently reviewed the Chrononauts card game (Looney Labs) for Knucklebones magazine in an article about using games for homeschooling (which is currently slated for the July issue of 2008). It is a fabulous game where you become a time traveler who changes parts of history and then watch the ripple effects later in the timeline. From an educational standpoint, the game is awesome. Well, awesome for learning American history from about 1900 on. I found myself thinking, if I had a time machine, I would want to see Rome, visit Ancient Babylonia, watch the building of the pyramids, meet Charlemagne, and listen to the Sermon on the Mount. Why do we somehow think that history means the past four generations of American history?

Looneys, if you happen to read this, I didn’t mention any of this in my article, since a gaming magazine is not really the place for me to take up my own personal rant. I had only great things to say about your game. I can’t wait to play Andy’s hippy game in the new Stonehenge expansion. It sounds very interesting. But I digress.

Here’s the problem as I see it:
(1) Americans (myself included) have a hard time getting our minds around the history of our own country, which is just over 250 years old.
(2) Recorded history goes back over 6000 years.

6000 years is a long time! Have you ever tried to think about it? Just to help you grasp the immensity of it, let me illustrate for you. My youngest daughter is just over a year old. If you took her exactly on her first birthday, you would have one year’s worth of child. So that helps you get a feel for how long a year is. Now, if you want to understand how long 6000 years is, you would have to line up 6000 children on their first birthdays and add them all together. Simply mind boggling, isn’t it?

Or how about this: if your kitchen chair represented 1000 years of history, it would take an unbelievable SIX CHAIRS to represent world history! That’s enough chairs to fit around your dining room table.

That’s why you come to this blog, isn’t it. Perspective. Tomorrow I will share more profound insights for understanding over 6000 years of recorded history. It’s all in service to you, dear reader.

Categories: History
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