Roots of Contemporary Issues
(adapted from https://history.wsu.edu/rci/about-rci/ )
This program at Washington State uses paired lower and upper division courses to ladder skills development in the context of studying the historical foundations of students’ current and relevant concerns with the world. While instructors design their courses individually, each is centered on one of five common issues in human history.
- Humans and the Environment investigates ways that humans have interacted with their environment. It consider how the environment shapes human life, but also how humans have impacted the environment by examining the economic, social, cultural, and political developments. Faculty often teach versions of the following case studies: Global Climate Change, Global Water Crisis, Historical Politics of Carbon Energy, Politics of Resource Consumption and Conservation.
- Globalization allows students to put our relationship to the natural environment into greater sense of motion – it explores the transformations that have occurred as human populations have developed relationships (economic, cultural, social, and political) across vast distances over the last five hundred years. Faculty often teach versions of the following case studies: Cultural Globalization; Global Pandemics; Colonialism and Capitalism; Global Drug Trade; Borders, Espionage, and Enemies of the State.
- The Roots of Inequality explores the great disparities (the “haves” and “have-nots”) of the world around us, along lines of race, gender, class or other differences. This issue allows us to ask questions about the origins of inequality, and how the inequalities in the world today relate to earlier eras, including the past 500 years of globalization. Faculty often teach versions of the following case studies: History of Race and Racism; Gender Inequality; Historical Inequalities in Public Health.
- Diverse Ways of Thinking helps students understand the past’s diverse peoples on their own terms and to get a sense of how they understood one another and the world around them. It addresses the historical nature of ideologies and worldviews that people have developed to conceptualize the differences and inequalities addressed in the inequality theme. Faculty often teach versions of the following case studies: A Clash of Civilizations?: The Politics of Orientalism; Economic Ideologies: Capitalism and Socialism; Modern Violence: War and Terror.
- The Roots of Contemporary Conflicts explores the historical roots of conflicts rooted in diverse worldviews, environmental change, inequalities, and global interactions over time. Its goal is to understand the global and local factors that help explain specific conflicts. This integrates the previous four issues within a case study that is both rooted in the past but also helps explain the dramatic changes we experience/witness in the immediate present. Faculty often teach versions of the following case studies: Palestinian-Israeli Conflict; Refugee Crises in Historical Perspective; War in Afghanistan.
In general, each case study begins with an introduction to a contemporary problem facing the world today, and then goes back in time from the pre-modern (at least before 1800), through the 19th and 20th centuries, and ends up back where it started. The lessons help students understand how knowledge of the deep historical and global roots of that case study helps us better understand the world around us.