Why We Teach World Cultures and Geography

by Peter Goertzen

In 11th and 12th grade, students at Maranatha Christian School study world cultures and geography. Peter Goertzen explains why the school values the course, and why they choose it at this level over an advanced Western Civilization course. Students are exposed to areas of the world they may be less familiar with, and they are encouraged to understand the beliefs of other religions as they learn to communicate the truth of the gospel.

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I know a lot of schools, they’ll have a world history class, a Western civilization class usually, in 11th and 12th grade, or a more in-depth US history class, also. Our world cultures class covers mostly non-Western regions of the world. Latin America, China, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa and Russia are the areas we study, and we study the culture, geography, and history of these areas. I think it’s good for students to broaden and deepen their knowledge of the world beyond the history and the cultures that are most familiar to us.

We use a set of books that were published about 25 years ago. They are no longer in print. That certainly does present some challenges. Even though [they are] outdated, a lot of things haven’t changed. I need to update things like population figures, some of what it might say about the recent history, the politics and economics of some of these places. Certainly, the history up to 25 years ago is still like it always was.

I guess I get this question more from my 7th and 8th grade geography students: “Why do we have to study this? Why do I have to know that?” What I like to tell them is that they’ll be living on the earth for the rest of their lives, so they may as well get used to it, and they may as well know something about it. You don’t know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.

We talk a lot about different religions, about Islam, Hinduism, about Buddhism, and traditional Chinese religions, and you can certainly teach about these things in lower grades, but students have a greater capacity to interact with these ideas on a deeper level in grades 11 and 12, and that’s a benefit.

If we’re going to advocate for the truth to other people who don’t share our view, we need to understand that unless you are communicating the truth in a way that other people can understand, you’re not really communicating. You’re only communicating to the extent that other people are going to understand what you’re saying. It’s difficult to do that effectively unless you understand that, and the better you can understand the beliefs that other people have, the better you can advocate for what you believe to be true. I do try to keep what I believe to be true as the context of the discussion, even when we’re trying to understand a different point of view.

(Class lecture)
The thing about karma is it’s partially true. Is it true that there are consequences? If you do good things, then are there good consequences for that? If you do bad things, are there bad consequences? Can any of you think of a way in which the Bible says something very similar to that? Just one example, “For whatsoever a man soweth…”

(Student) “That shall he reap.”

“That shall he also reap.” Sowing and reaping. You plant weeds, you’ll harvest weed. You plant thistles, you’ll harvest thistles.

Even if we never go to these places, sometimes these places come to us. In America, we have the opportunity to interact with people from all over the world, from many different regions and cultures, so it is important for us to understand as much as we can about the world in that way.

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CONTRIBUTOR: Peter Goertzen

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