As they engaged in debate during a mock Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, Class IV (9th grade) students in the History of the Human Community (HHC) course grappled with the roles of presidents, prime ministers and other representatives who have a stake in the Middle East.

The recent two-week simulation project required students to research an assigned position extensively, focusing on the issues of territory, status of Jerusalem, security and refugees. They investigated details and strategies related to their roles, searching to define identity and perspectives about the conflict.

The course’s main objective is to gain knowledge and understanding of the competing interests vying for peace, security and self-determination in the lands of Israel and Palestine. Taking what they have learned in class about the Middle East along with their extensive research, students test their comfort zone and advocate a position, which might include representing Jewish Settlers, Israeli Peace Groups, Palestinian Liberation Organization or Hamas, among others. In teams, students work toward points of agreement by negotiating about Israeli and Palestinian land division, security checkpoints, citizenship, rights and violence level.

“Before researching, I was positive about my views on the issue, but the conference really helped me to consider different view points,” said Liz Furlong ’15. “The project was emotionally hard for me as I was assigned to represent a negotiator with extremely different view points from me. The assignment forced me to stand in someone else's shoes—shoes I wasn't sure I wanted to wear.”

History of the Human Community—one of two required history courses—analyzes 20th century conflicts tracing back to their ancient and medieval roots. Studying specific eras of history in great depth, students become more informed, thoughtful and analytical about modern-day conflict. The class pushes them to think critically, analyze carefully and examine history from different perspectives. Students connect the many layers that accompany these complex conflicts, taking into account ancient history, religious conflicts, nationalism, imperialism and current-day war.

“They get a real understanding of the complexity of the conflict, a real understanding of the frustrations involved in negotiation/diplomacy and a sense of themselves as capable intellectuals,” says Jenny Carlson-Pietraszek, history teacher. “It was really difficult for many and yet, they really like it.”

In the second semester HHC will cover topics including the Indus River Valley Civilization, Hinduism, 19th and 20th century history of India and the creation of Pakistan.

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