Interconnected World

This 10-minute video, titled The Most Dramatic Footage From the 18-day Revolution, is indeed the best footage I have yet seen of the remarkable and historic events from Egypt. 

It has good music, is well-paced, and does a nice job of comparing the tanks that shot streams of water at the Egyptian protestors…

…with the man who stood in front of a column of tanks that approached China’s Tiananmen Square in a 1989 crack-down on pro-democracy demonstrations:

Many of my students, born around 1995, have no idea who tank man is; they know little to nothing about the events in China on June 4, 1989. 


In the summer of 1989, as a junior in college, I was working as an intern in Washington, DC.  When my friends (who were more far politically savvy than I) heard about what had happened in China, they decided to march in protest along with thousands of other students in the DC area.  The idea, I learned, was to show solidarity with the students in China who were protesting for more political freedom.  We marched from Dupont Circle to the Chinese Embassy, about a mile away:

I mention this seeming tangent for a few reasons — first, it is one of my first political memories.  I didn’t really understand everything that was going on (at the time, I did not read a daily paper with any rigor — I scanned headlines and focused on sports), but it got me interested in world events in a way that I imagine the events in Egypt today must be getting students today interested in world events.

One of my goals for this blog is to “hook” students on following world events by providing context to help them understand what’s going on.

The second point is that a study of geography leads to empathy.  Seeing that map jogged my memory of the event.  I now remember it was warm (not hard to guess — it was summer in Washington, DC) and I also remember standing in the circle where we massed and chanted slogans outside the embassy — let me zoom in to show you:

At the time, only the grey building on the left was part of the Chinese Embassy.  Apparently, in the 20+ years since I marched (gulp!  I’m getting old), the embassy complex has expanded to include the red building on top.  But when we were there, the attention all focused on the grey building to the left.

But getting back to the video that inspired this post — it’s a TREMENDOUS video.  You need to watch it… but after you finish reading the rest of this post (it’s short, I promise).

The title of this post is: Interconnected World.  You know that, but let me explain the ramifications for education in the 21st century:

Here’s an explanation of how I learned about the video: 

First, someone made the video and uploaded it to YouTube.

Then, someone I don’t know posted a link to the video on his or her Facebook page.

This “someone I don’t know” turns out to be an old high school friend of Melissa, the mother of one of my former students. 

Melissa watched the video, was amazed, and shared it with her daughter, my former student, who now works on an extra-curricular club with me — the Documentary Production Club.

The student, amazed herself, shared the video with two classmates from the club, as well as me, at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

I happened to be online, and watched the video right after she sent it (I trust her judgment) and I was mightily impressed.

But it did not stop there.  I was so impressed that immediately after that on Saturday morning, I sent the following review out to my current students:

One of my students watched it a few hours later, and this is what he wrote back:

Now this points out that learning can (and does) happen anywhere and any time.  This particular learning chain went from the parent of a junior — through me — to the parent of a current freshman in about three hours.  On a Saturday.

Now this video can’t stand on its own.  A thoughtful student can’t just watch this 10-minute video and say “ohhh…  I understand now!”  and then move on.

To really “get” it, students would need to devote some serious time.  To start with, they would need help unpacking some of the references — for example, what happened in China in June of 1989?  And what happened in 1979?  And why are commentators like Nick Kristof wondering whether this revolt will be more like 1989 (China) or more like 1979 (Iran)?

If we only had time in the curriculum to do more of that unpacking!  With final exams approaching, we don’t really have time in class to explore what’s going on in Egypt, and that’s sad — especially since, as President Obama says at the end of the video:

“There are very few moments in our lives when we have the privilege of watching history taking place…”

What an amazing interconnected world we live in.  And what an amazing time to be a learner.

Now what are you waiting for??

Make 10 minutes and watch the video.  You’ll be glad you did.

I mean, how could nearly 85,000 people be wrong?  (when I saw it Saturday morning, I think the views were around 30,000, so it’s gaining traction!)

Note: in the time it took me to write this post (about little more than an hour, between 10:25-11:40), I expected that the view count for the video would have passed 85,000.  Well, it did…  Plus a thousand more!

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About Steve Goldberg

I teach U.S. History at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning.
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One Response to Interconnected World

  1. Pingback: What is history? And why we need to hook students with current events | What I Learned Today

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