“150 years isn’t that much time…”

“…and students need to appreciate that.”

Matt’s phrasing at the start of the Gettysburg tour is pretty spot on. I love thinking about history in this way, but it is one of the most difficult things for students to grasp. The sheer width and breadth of time is just so daunting.

I’m going through orientation at a new school, and sat in on my first social studies department meeting today. We each shared our favorite topics to discuss in history — mostly basic stuff, like WWII, Civil War, Civil Rights, and so on. One teacher said that he liked to get students thinking about just how many people have lived since the dawn of humanity. Approximately seven billion people populate our planet right now. We might perhaps estimate the total number of people who’ve lived, ever, but surely any such number would be virtually incomprehensible.

The idea of having a living person who actually spoke with a Civil War vet may not at first seem important, but it helps make this enormous planet seem just a little smaller.

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House Divided Project

Course Professor
Matthew Pinsker: pinskerm@dickinson.edu
Dickinson College
Carlisle, PA 17013

Course Producer
Lance Warren: warren@gilderlehrman.org
Gilder Lehrman Institute
New York, NY 10036