Point-Of-View and Context:
Analyzing Personal World Views Changing-Over-Time

Introduction:  The first step to becoming more skilled at using new lenses through which to view and analyze the world is to come to grips with one's personal point-of-view and the larger context within which it is a part.
  No matter how old you are, you can probably remember certain events, or experiences in your life that made lasting impressions. Of course impressions are always getting affected by new experiences, yet they all combine to form your personal point-of-view of the world. Analyzing point-of-view and the surrounding context that surrounds that point of view is a fundamental skill in historical analysis. Your really doing well if you can analyze how your point-of-view changes over time. In fact, among the Advanced World History skills identified by the College Board in the "Habits of Mind" being able to analyze point-of-view, frame-of-reference, context, bias, form the basis of the first four of the seven skills:

  1. Constructing and evaluating arguments: using evidence to make plausible arguments
  2. Using documents and other primary data: developing the skills necessary to analyze point of view, context, and bias, and to understand and interpret information.
  3. Developing the ability to assess issues of change and continuity over time.
  4. Enhancing the capacity to handle diversity of interpretations through  analysis of context, bias, and frame of reference
  5. Seeing global patterns over time and space while also acquiring the ability to connect local developments to global ones and to move through levels of generalizations from the global to the particular
  6. Developing the ability to compare within and among societies, including comparing societies' reactions to global processes.
  7. Developing the ability to assess claims of universal standards yet remaining aware of human commonalities and differences; putting culturally diverse ideas and values in historical context, not suspending judgment but developing understanding.

Activity Instructions:
1) On a piece of paper, take ten or fifteen minutes to brain-storm some of the events, major and minor, that have developed your view of the world. Just write down and/or illustrate any events or experiences you have had that have formed your view of the world.
2) Now list the events and experiences in order of their occurrence in your life and highlight the ones that have had more impact than others. Consider why certain events and experiences have had more impact than others, and to what extent (if any) there is a pattern or theme running through your experiences. For example, here's my personal list to about the time I turned 14:

  1. At church as a child in the 1970s, I remember learning that the church was sending missionaries to help poor children in distant lands. I wondered why these children were poor and needed help from our church.

  2. A show on television called "Big Blue Marble" on Sunday morning always started with kids around the world bouncing a big ball shaped like a globe. The kids were always having a good time and they were playing different games around the world.

  3. A big poster in my elementary school cafeteria with hands of different colors -- red, yellow, brown, and white, joined around a globe -- I thought it looked cool, but I didn't really know what that meant at the time.

  4. I remember leaning Spanish words on Sesame Street, but wondering why that was the only place I heard Spanish.

  5. Some kids in my school had Spanish names and had darker colored skin. I asked my parents about them and they said that they worked on the big farms in southern New Jersey where we lived

  6. I remember my grandfather getting "pistol-whipped" by someone who robbed his store. He was very angry and called the people "niggers".

  7. On our way to visit my grandparents, I remember traveling through an area where the houses were small and run down, and I remember some black children throwing stones at our car once.

  8. *My grandmother sent me gifts from different parts of the world she visited.

  9. I heard somewhere that everyone had an identical twin living in China somewhere and that if you dug deep enough you could get there.

  10. *I remember seeing people in Iran burning the American flag and our president, Jimmy Carter, talking about an oil shortage and American hostages in Iran.

  11. Fishing on the ocean with my uncle in his motor boat made me think about the world more often.

  12. I dreamed of building a raft and setting sail on a trip around the world.

  13. *Moving to the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. from southern New Jersey made wonder why people spoke so differently in each of the places.

  14. Having an exchange student from Paraguay one weekend in the summer when I was 14 made me realize that there were other people doing very different things and having a good time.

3) Now try writing an introductory paragraph that proposes that there is a theme or pattern to your experience that helps determine your world view over time:
4) Write two or three supporting paragraphs to further develop whatever contention you are making about your world view, how it formed or changed over time, etc.
5) Write a concluding paragraph in which you attempt to put some of your experiences in the context of the larger culture of which you are a part. Discuss the probable cultural origins of some of the events and experiences. For example in the early 1970s, there was increased racial tension in many cities across the U.S. Harsh language and feelings were exchanged between blacks and whites struggling to resolve long-term problems. Are there any events and experiences that reflect cross-cultural interaction, an important theme in world history? For example, you could argue that in my case, a relative degree of global peace and prosperity allowed my grandmother's to travel around the world and me to have an exchange student from Paraguay spend a weekend at my home. The church's sending missionaries and aid to other parts of the world represents the cross-cultural outreach of a major world religion.
3) Finally, try illustrating your world view as it developed and changed-over-time either on a simple timeline, or something more creative. (see some examples from a class in September 2001)

Follow-up activities for and questions for further analysis:

Classroom: Form groups after you finish, pass around your work (essays and graphics), discuss it, and nominate one person to make a three minute presentation on the world views represented in your group. Tell the class what experiences do you have in common, and analyze the differences.

Independent: use the following two sets of documents and illustrations to conduct further analysis

Questions to keep in mind for your analysis of the documents and illustrations:

What sort of commonalties and difference can you find about these students' developing world views?

What are the predominant regions and or nations of the world that are represented in these "American" experiences? (Create a chart that categorizes the ways that each region is perceived (i.e. relatives' trips there, movies, etc.)

What global economic, technological, cultural, political, or other global issues do you see reflected in these documents?

To what extent do you think these suburban Atlanta kids' perspectives are representative of the whole of the U.S.?

Further discussion:

Consider how less affluent, rural American children develop their impressions of the world? How about children in other regions of the world, living in war-like circumstances, or a part of independence movements like Chechnya or Palestine.

Document Set #1 (9th/10th grade Walton High School student writings, August 14-15, 2001);

1) Lauren, a ninth grade girl

When I was very young, my parents have always traveled. My mom has always attempted to show me the world. I still remember my mom showing me pictures of her diving in the Caribbean and hiking in Europe.
  When I was young, the thought of breathing underwater and swimming with sharks was impossible, but now that I have experienced this for myself, I believe seeing the great wonders of the underwater world is extraordinary. How the food chain really works is displayed throughout the ocean.
  This summer I visited Hawaii. When I was diving one morning, I saw a regular activity that the fish do that astounded me. I saw a large rainbow fish swim up to tiny "cleaner" fish, and the "cleaner" fish sucked all the algae off him. Pretty soon a line accumulated almost like a car wash. Diving and snorkeling has truly opened up the world to me. It has showed me that people aren't the only thing in the world to be concerned with.
  In the 5th grade I visited Cozumel, Mexico. Wow, talk about culture shock! I had never been anywhere besides sheltered East Cobb and high-rise-filled Westin. When I saw the tiny tin shacks built up on the side of the road, I asked my mom what they were for. My mom told me up to 10 people lived in them.

2) Nick, a tenth grade boy

  As a child I had no comprehension about how big the world was and how diverse it was. My world consisted of a few places in the small town of Lexington, Mass. My dad tried to explain to me about the war taking place across the globe and it didn't make any sense to me.
  It wasn't until I moved to Atlanta in the second grade that I really understood that there was more to the world than a few houses and a school building. Even though Atlanta isn't that far from Boston, when you're talking about the entire world I noticed differences in the people and my environment even though I was only in the second grade. By the fourth or fifth grade I had a much better sense of the world because my teacher tried to keep us up-to-date on current events taking place around the world. Also my grand-dad took a trip to Egypt and a trip to Asia in those two years. He brought back pictures and gifts that looked very different from the things that can be found here in Georgia. This made it even more clear to me that peopled around the world are very different. During middle school I traveled to the Midwest and Arizona. After these trips, I realized that even the U.S. was more diverse than I had originally realized. While in Arizona I walked across the border to Mexico. This made me realize the importance of an imaginary line. As I walked across the border, there was immediate change. All these experiences helped me form my impressions of the world.

3) Priya, a tenth grade girl

  During the time I lived in North Jersey, my impressions of the world varied the most. It was during those years I discovered that there was a world out there. From kindergarten to the fourth grade I attended a private Jewish Day school; Fitting in had always been a problem for me, because everyone in the school had two white Jewish parents.
I remember kindergarten well. All the mothers would pick up their children when school let out-including mine. The only problem was my mom was born in India. That made her and I both shades of brown, and I was left with only one Jewish parent After the first week, I had become embarrassed to be with my mother. I was ashamed to be her daughter. I used to tell her to stay in the closet and never come out. The world had been cruel. It had made me face my rareness at too early an age. I hated India.
  My Bubby and Zaida (grandma and grandpa) love to travel. They journeyed to Egypt, China, Israel, India, and much more. I had no concert of where these places were, but I knew of them. I loved waiting on their return for as soon as they came back I heard all about their adventures. No matter what they had been through-traveling on camelback or climbing Great Walls, I wanted desperately to experience it too.
 Attending public school definitely helped give me a greater knowledge of the world, as well as building my self-confidence. I learned it was Ok to be unique, and that everyone is different in his or her own way. However, e though my horizons had broadened and my curiosity grew, I was still contained in a bubble of in exposure. The world was too big for me to grasp just yet.
  I began seventh grade in a typical small Midwestern town-a place called Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Throughout my Junior High, there was only one person of indefinite color (not black or white) who also happened to be the only Jew: me. People came up to me and questioned my religion, because they believed all Jews had horns and a tail. At first I was appalled by such consumption, but later on it was explained to me that the world holds much ignorance.
  During the holidays, I was shunned upon for not celebrating Christmas Chanukah was unheard of It took me a long while to finally lessen the ignorance I brought culture and diversity to the school that had not existed After hugging a friend in the hallway, members of a White Power gang asked him one question ďWhy are you hugging that Jew?" Of coarse he replied, ďBecause Iím lucky.Ē With my influence people were more aware of Ďothers, and a great deal more accepting. I gained friends that had an understanding of the world, and I too, developed one.
  My impression of the world has changed many times all through my life?  I donít think it will ever cease Someday my bubble will pop, and Iíll be read, to meet the world. Hopefully that someday is soon.

4) Grace, a ninth grade girl

  As I was growing up, I learned that not everyone in the world was as fortunate as I am. When I went to Mexico for missions or even on 1. V., I saw how some poor people canít even get fresh water. They didnít have shelter or food or anything. I felt really bad for them. I saw on the newspapers that some people are so hungry that they donít even have enough energy to brush the flies off their face. They look absolutely horrible too. You could see their bone right through their skin. They were like skeletons with skin covering the bones. There was no flesh. It let me know that not everyone is as happy or lucky as I am and that we need to help each other around the world. One of my most recent impressions on the world was when I went to Europe. It is every different there from Georgia. In some churches, your knees and shoulders have to be covered. Sometimes, you canít even know your ankles! At first, I thought that that was ridiculous. I thought, ďHow come we have to be all covered up? Whatís so bad about wearing shorts to church?Ē Then I realized that it was the Europeansí belief to cover ourselves up. Even if it seemed dumb to me, I had to respect them and obey their rules. Thatís when it occurred to me that different people believe in different things. Also, not a lot of people own cars as much as people do here. They walk a lot more. It was really uncomfortable for me because I was used to riding cars everywhere. I guess it provides more exercise. I donít think they have a lot of roads either. At least not as much as we do.

5) Lucy, a tenth grade girl

  When I was a young child, my world was very small. It was completely contained within my family and school. I began to be exposed to various aspects of the world and different cultures when I became old enough to read on my own. Reading books broadened my horizons. They showed me that there were other cultures different from my own and taught me some of the first history that I was aware of. By reading different books about children in different countries and different times I learned that the life I knew was not the same one that every child grew up in.
  I was too young to remember most of the Persian Gulf War, but I do remember a certain incident regarding it. My mother had read a newspaper article that mentioned sending the soldiers care packages. The article specified that no religious material should be sent, however, because the soldiers were fighting in an Islamic country. I think that this is one of the first times I became aware that the entire world did not hold the same religious views and beliefs that I had been raised with.
  A lot of different things have combined to form the way I now view my world, including my past experiences, books Iíve read, people Iíve met, and my religious beliefs. Being born and raised in East Cobb, I havenít been exposed to many different cultures first-hand. I have never traveled very far from home. One experience that has helped mold my view of the world right here at home was a group service project I participated in when I was in seventh grade. We did some work with inner-city children in Atlanta, giving them a day of fun and providing them with a Thanksgiving meal. I had never before realized how terrible the living conditions for some people are right here in Atlanta. It affected the way I see my own situation and the way I view the rest of the world by showing me a different life-style.
  Though I have had some experiences and insights into other cultures, and though I have some strong opinions on certain subjects, I am not set in my way of thinking, nor am I entirely sure of how I view the world right now. My views are still forming, and I think that they will continue to do so.

6) Leslie, a ninth grade girl

  When I was young and living in the suburbs of Chicago I thought that the city was the center of the world and that everyone in the world had everything they needed. One day my grandma came to visit me and she brought me a doll from Russia. She told me a story about walking out of the airport door and having several dirty children running up to her begging for food and money. I asked my grandma why they didnít just go to their parents and get money and food. After she explained to me why, I could not believe that there were people in the world that didnít have everything that they needed.
  When I was 10 I saw a part of the movie ďSchindlerís ListĒ on TV. It made me go through a period in my life where I was sure if I fell asleep the Nazis would come and take away my parents. Also one of the things that amazed me was that Jews in Germany were not allowed to go wherever they wanted to and that they had curfews. It really changed my impression of Germany and non- Jews.
  My most recent impression of the world was my trip to Israel. I could not believe that at one of the synagogueís we were touring that we would not be allowed in unless we had skirts covering our ankles. It also amazed me the way the people think. They do not care about money or society all they cared about was religion and spirituality. My impressions of the world has changed greatly since I was young.

7) Sabrina, a tenth grade girl

  Ever since I was very little I have moved. In moving I learned not to stereotype because each region of the country is very unique. Each area pronounces objects differently and had different names for familiar objects.
  In the fifth grade we had an exchange student from Japan. Her name was Setsuko and she lived near Osaka. I found it interesting to hear first-hand about the Japanese culture. I learned that no matter how accurate a report on a country is an account from a resident is more accurate.
  The summer of the seventh grade I traveled to Great Britain. During my time there I visited many landmarks and sites, but what I enjoyed most was the people. At one park in England, I played football/soccer with a few kids. I found it interesting that in my opinion, they had an accent; but in their opinion, I had an American accent.
  Then, last spring, I traveled with my church youth group to Mexico. There we built houses and held vacation Bible school. One thing I noticed was concepts and standards of wealth, health, and education vary from country to country. Culture affects every aspect of life.

8) Lauren, a ninth grade girl

  When I was younger, my granny used to bring me all kinds of coins from different places like England, Mexico, and other places. When I was young, I didn't realize how many different cultures there were and how many different kinds of people there are. As I grew older, I learned a lot from social studies classes about different events in history or different places in the world. Seeing shows on television about these places excited me. I really thought that if you kept digging at the beach, that you could get to China, and I tried it many times. When my Uncle Lou would tell me about all the places he went such as Australia and Brazil, I discovered all kinds of interesting things. Now, because of some of these experiences, I know much more about the world and what's beyond Cobb County and beyond even the United States.
  Also, by watching movies, I have learned about different places. "Mulan," for example, helped me understand more about Chinese culture. These are just some of the impressions I have.

Document set #2 (illustrations)

A   B  C D E


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