Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Final Reflections - Jason Peterson

My self-directed learning

The learning section of this semester occasionally felt like trying to drink from a fire hose; whatever happened to stick really well were generally the things that I felt were most significant. The activities/research I embarked upon that held the most import as far as understanding the historical periods better were watching the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, and studying Wealth of Nations & the Communist Manifesto.

Triumph of the Will was critical, as everything I see and hear about WW2 has always been from an American/Allies point of view. It is often easy to dehumanize or devalue the experience of the "others," especially in this situation when they are universally condemned as being morally wrong along with having lost the war. This film opened my eyes to how a whole other side of human experience is often hiding behind the schemas of my ethnocentric mind.

Going back a little further, reading the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx made for a very interesting experience, as in modern times these two systems, capitalism and communism, tend to be ideologically pitted against each other, yet they emerged from very similar circumstances and for very similar reasons - both authors wanted to find a solution that would leverage industrial technologies and work best to increase happiness and prosperity for the greatest number of people possible. Another parallel that I hit upon was that even though in the great enlightenment they were trying to move away from the feudal system as a whole, during this time period they were both essentially advocating that a feudal system is the way to go, only putting different spins on it, one where nature determines the serfs and the lords, the other where serfs are willing and lords are the ones deciding where resources and property are allocated.

Overall, what I learned most about history is a lesson that I feel can be applied to the modern day - that there are MANY lenses all events and ideas can be seen through, and it is beneficial to study as many of them as you can to get the most complete picture, which I tried to apply throughout the rest of the semester.

My Evolving Project

My project was born directly out of both my historical research experience, as I detailed above, and my peer's projects. As they set forth to share their examples and the messages that they felt were central from history and crucial to this age, there was a great variety of ideas. Some I agreed with wholeheartedly (like Michael's), some I was ambivalent towards and looked forward to being convinced of their importance (like Jolene's), and others I really didn't like the message at all, feeling resistant towards them (like Alec's). However, I watched their ideas develop over time, and as they all included alternative contrasting concepts and became balanced, well-reasoned and supported arguments I felt like I ended up benefiting most from the ones I originally liked the least! From this I concluded that if we are ever to learn "hard truths," the things that may help us the most because we probably would never have accepted or reached them on our own, we really have to be open to alternative viewpoints. Combine that with the similar main idea I took from history, and that's where my topic of Dialectical Thinking was born.

Originally, I wanted to take a more holistic approach, covering why Dialectical Thinking is needed and how we could teach/learn it. However when I was able to learn more about Eli's project (Confirmation Bias), and Sarah's project (Modern Education), I found that by letting their posts act as intro and conclusion of my topic I was able to narrow mine considerably. This helped my content and research to be more relevant, detailed, and useful. Working as a group we complemented each other well and were able to contribute to each other's ideas effectively.

This seamless transitioning of our topics lead to a very straightforward structure for our group post, one leading into the next in sequential order. However, the difficult part was the format. To be entirely honest, our Prezi format for the text was simply a result of not knowing exactly what we were going to do yet, so we did something really easy to throw up there in time to have something to show to the class! Once it was presented we received feedback that it was a really good idea, so pleasantly surprised we went on to simply refine that. With the video, again we had no idea what we were doing at first, but seeing Bryce and Rachelle's group post video we thought that doing something dramatic, followed by an informative segment detailing our ideas themselves could be effective, which is how we ended up where we did on the group post!

Communication and History

I believe communication is central to society, because every individual inhabits in a very different reality than those who they interact with. When you mention the Middle East, you are likely referencing some radically different mental framing describing the Middle East than I am. I may be imagining a frightening war zone riddled with bloodshed, while you may be imagining the place that has nurtured and given rise to the "best cuisine" in the world! When I say to my brother, "why were you late from work today?" He may be thinking I am complaining about how he's always late, whereas I might be inquiring because I want to express concern over his well-being.

If we don't learn to communicate effectively our realities remain stagnant, and friction happens when our realities collide through our interactions. This friction manifests in the forms of interpersonal conflict, misunderstanding born of lost meaning, and when escalated to the most extreme societal level, it can result in actual war. When we are capable of communicating effectively our realities will evolve over time; instead of friction occurring, synthesis will result from our personal realities meeting. This synthesis includes mutual exchanges of thought, better ideas born of new ways of thinking, and an opportunity to build each other up.

Now that I have learned this principle from history, I see the contemporary world as one of possibility, discovery. I can never be entirely sure that I understand what is going on, which helps me remain humble and ready to learn/discover. I see history as a microcosm of life: there is something there for anyone who wants to learn any particular moral from it, but there is even more there for the dialectical thinker who wants to have their life changed, in unexpected ways, for the better.

1 comment:

  1. Great overview of your learning and project. Very glad to see how you tied this in with peers' projects and how you learned from them and evolved your opinions on their topics.