Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Final Reflections: Katherine Baird

Hi I'm Katherine and I have been a student in Dr. Burton's Rhetoric and Civilization class. We have taken a non-conventional approach to schooling this semester. Check out my experience in regards to my self-directed learning, my evolving project, and my thoughts on communication and history.

My self-directed learning
During the first half of the semester my learning was greatly enhanced as I was able to study particular parts about history that were interesting to me. My out of class activities included several hands-on learning experiences including the Norman Rockwell exhibit, the Rose Marie Reid swimsuit exhibit, and navigating BYU Special Collections.  The Norman Rockwell exhibit featured hundreds of Rockwell’s artwork featured on the front of each issue of the Saturday Evening Post. My understanding of history of the 20th century was greatly enhanced as I was able to observe these covers and noticed how war, even on the home front, affected the attitudes and values of Americans. It made me think of how my own life is leaving a trail that tells the story of both my good and bad times. The Red Scare was one of the pieces of history that I studied the most. I was able to view top secret files that have now been released about the events of this time period. It amazed me how paranoid most of America became during this time period and how many innocent people were prosecuted. As I studied this, I noticed how close the US was to establishing harsher policies and how as a nation we could have followed in the footsteps of Nazi Germany. It is often said that history repeats itself and I am grateful that I was able to see parallels as I performed my self-directed learning.

My evolving project
My project began simply as I was intrigued about the statement that Apple had released publicly. I remember reading that letter and feeling as if it was a defining moment in history. Apple is a powerful company and blatantly refused the demands of the government. It reminded me of several times throughout history when an individual/group defined the ruling power and how those actions turned into a revolution (i.e. French Revolution). I was personally passionate about the debate surrounding this statement so I decided to have that as the main focus of my project and to build an argument around it.

My argument continued to evolve as the weeks passed. I first felt that I would argue that the power of companies is growing so strong that they may threaten the power of the US government. After receiving feedback from a variety of both peers in class and strangers, I decided that while companies may be growing stronger in power so is the US government and that my argument was not as strong as it needed to be. I continued to pivot my argument bit by bit until I arrived at my final argument, the US government is growing stronger in power and has the potential to become so strong that our individual freedoms may be threatened.

Collaborating as peers led to refinement of my topic and ideas. Initially we were in our cohorts and in my group were Michael and Laycee. Both helped me to form my initial ideas into words. When Michael shared his idea I came up with a clever title which stuck with his topic all the way to his final draft (see: A Plea From the Past). As we shifted into topic groups Adrian and Tommy collaborated with me on my topic. It was hard to fit our initial arguments together, but after bouncing ideas around I was able to further pivot my argument with their help. Other classmates helped me as well; Amanda’s comment helped me to realize I needed to also address the other side of the issue, Michael’s comment helped me to see which parts of my topic I could elaborate more upon, and Viktor Fel encouraged me to pivot my argument to have more credibility.

Communication and History
Communication is a crucial component of civilization. Communication is defined as the "interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs." Communication evolves with time, take the written word for example. Pre-printing press manuscripts were handwritten therefore the common man had limited access to literature. Spelling was not uniform and books were seen as a form of art not just information. After the printing press emerged spelling became uniform, literature became wide-spread, and literature moved away from being a piece of artwork. Now speed forward to the 21st century, where we have digital communication that takes on every form you can imagine. Through written communication we are able to see the values and morals of people throughout history and get a glimpse into their lives.
"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
-Isaac Newton
Viewing the contemporary world through the eyes of history has helped me to appreciate where we are at as a society. Great advances would not be possible without the work of our forerunners. History repeats itself and I have seen this while studying hundreds of years of history in a matter of weeks. The same concerns that people had hundreds of years ago still concern us today, just in a different form. When America was founded people wanted fair representation. Today we are still concerned with fair representation, just in different ways. As I look through the issues we face today, I can look to my knowledge of history for solutions and warnings of what not to do. 
"History is written by the victors."
-Walter Benjamin

History, past and present, writes itself everyday. We can choose what history will look like in our lifetime but we can't choose what those in the future say about us. It is an interesting paradigm to contemplate. Ultimately the past happened how it happened, but have we rewritten it to how we want it to have been?

1 comment:

  1. It was especially interesting to hear how all the feedback helped you to advance your thinking and develop your ideas. Nicely done.