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FEB. 15, 2016

World History with Ted – The Presidential Campaign

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Ted Wesemann, Natural Science & world History Teacher

As though we aren’t already fatigued by the presidential campaign, I must say it is proving to be a valuable tool and perspective in World History class at OA this spring. The fragmentation and strife within what once seemed to be the monolithic Republican party is most instructive as we explore what a liberal democracy looks like. On the Democratic side of the aisle as well, the word socialism seems to be part of the political discussion and for the first time in my life as a Cold War child, the threat of communism isn’t the next comment.

Hispanics, women, Jews, and African Americans are all represented on the presidential debate stage. The candidates are all over the map on issues of gun control, immigration, protectionism, education, health, right-to-life, the economy, governmental regulation, terrorism and global security. It must be what the founding fathers had in mind for a healthy democracy and, like them, we can only trust that this Darwinian process really does bring our best and brightest to the forefront.

So, our History class has started with the European Enlightenment for some insights into where modern political thought all started and I’m pleased to see my students also bring varied and dissenting voices to the discussion on the social contract. Some understand how Hobbes and Rousseau could argue for the centralized power of the State or even a “benevolent” dictator. Others cannot accept any compromise or erosion of individual rights. Moral and cultural relativism are always lurking on the edges of the conversation. And couldn’t we prove Adam Smith wrong and build economic equality in America without regulating Wall Street? Don’t we have a moral responsibility to be the global police?

Then there is always that nagging comment that communism has never really had a fair chance, coupled with the vague hope that we actually could be that nice to each other and pull together for the greater good. And yet we all admit that we will hoard all the brownies we can when given the chance.

Is it the grand concepts of governance or random acts of individual kindness that run the world?

Well, the one point on which we all agree is the foundational truth of liberal democracy that says we get to have these discussions at all. And for me, these conversations prove that hope is rational.

Ted Wesemann, Natural Science & world History Teacher