History is a subject some students might consider boring but today at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day school, high school students heard from an international historian with a unique approach to showing them how relevant it can be.
"Imagine having the six killer apps."Yes, Dr. Niall Ferguson said killer apps. It’s a phrase designed to get teens to listen. They are what the historian uses to describe six ideas and institutions that resulted in a richer and stronger western civilization.
Ferguson listed the six, "Competition political as well as economic competition the scientific revolution the idea that we can understand the world through experimentation; the rule of law especially based on private property rights; modern medicine which has doubled and tripled life expectancy; the consumer society, without which there’s no point in having an industrial revolution; and the work ethic, that thing that got me out of bed at six in the morning and will keep me going until midnight tonight."
Discussing consumer society with students he told them, "We as a society have careered into debt." He told them that their generation will be the one paying the bills.
Senior Elena Rodgrigues found that intriguing, "I really liked that he studied currency. I think sometimes we simplify history. But there are so many different branches to discover."
He allowed students to ask questions which even included bit coin, and future currency. Food for thought for students.
Rodriguez added, “Like he said, history is not a straight line. But I do think if by studying history, we know how to better react to the future."
His biggest message to students, whom he says face distractions,
"Read! Read, read, read, whatever your subject, whatever your studying you need to spend more time reading and less time on social media."
A message not lost on Elena who said, "To have someone come here, who’s not a teacher to us, and you know tells us it’s super important and you can’t understand the world without understanding reading."
Savannah Dillard, a sophomore who may want to pursue writing found something in common with the world renowned author. She said, "His process of writing, the hunch and revising. I thought that was really true."
School officials say Ferguson himself went to a private school and that’s something that can inspire the students here.
Interim head of school, Pat MC Inerney said, "I think it’s really important for the kids to see someone they would like to emulate."
Ferguson is currently in the process of becoming a united States citizen. He explained, “I want to become a citizen because I have a great sense of optimism about this country’s future. But I also want to contribute to that future. And I can’t do that if I’m not a citizen. One of the ways I’d like to contribute is to help the education system which is excellent in some parts,
it has the best universities in the world, this country, with a very few exceptions. But it has some of the worst high schools.
If you look at the performance of high schools in some states its shocking how poor the results are. Schools are failing American children in far too many states and we can see the gap closing. I was shocked by data on Chinese versus American performance at the teenage level in math. It t is amazing the extent at which east Asia has caught up with and overtaken us. We've now reached the point that the children of unskilled workers in shanghai are doing better at math than the children of professionals and managers in the United States.
So, we have to fix that or we're gonna fail a generation.”
As instructors hope his words inspired Savannah. "It’s really nice to learn from someone who’s been there, who’s done it, who’s been successful at it."
Ferguson was the keynote speaker for the 25th anniversary celebration for Thomas Jefferson Independent Day school which opened in 1993.
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