Thursday, October 18, 2007

History of Poland

Today I had my midterm for the history of Poland. It was alright. I finished with time to spare. Basically I wrote in a Blue Book, identifying several terms and trying to explain how they were significant. I had studied all of them and found it was most difficult how to repeat information without sounding like I was just spitting out the same answer, since the terms all related to the big dates of Polish history at that point: 1386, 1414, 1569, 1648 etc.

It is an interesting class, closer to the kind of history I took in High School than what I have learned in College. One might decry the fact that it was all names and dates, no grand post-modern theories deconstructing the whole notion of "Polish-ness." But I am learning about the history of a country and its peoples, and I find it interesting. it is a good lesson of how not to build your government. I feel bad that it was the Poles who seemed to have a state and constitution that was a laughingstock of Europe. Its most ridiculous provision was that it let nobles legally revolt and fight the king with their own armies. How the country survived for so long without being conquered is the real miracle of the country's history.

Since I knew only the basics of the country's history, this is the approach that works best. I am learning things I can share with other people. One of the kids in my class is in the same fiction workshop as me and we tried to out-do each other in telling our instructor, Darin Strauss,of all the poor decisions Poland made from 966 to 1795.

Imagine trying to teach the history of the US to kids on the model I have experienced in college. They would learn nothing. Even if it was all myth, they would still know something and then could deconstruct it to see what was underneath. Before Racism can be taken apart or the notion of freedom, the concrete history of slavery and the adoption of the constitution has to occur. Grand theorizing is fine (I do it all the time) but without any grounding in time and space, its just wasted energy.