Philosophy of History/Conflict and Cooperation

Bradley Commissioner, Robert H. Ferrell, discusses the theme “Conflict and Cooperation.” Examples show where this theme could be developed in the elementary school years, but their development and reinforcement would continue in grades 7 through 12 as well.

A look into any era of the human story reveals two recurring patterns of behavior. Conflict between cooperation among individuals and societies are themes that are as basic to history as they are to human nature. Although they appear to be mutually exclusive, we can see again and again that certain cooperative efforts can result in conflict (for example the sstem of alliances in pre-World War I Europe), and conflict can draw humans into cooperative efforts.

We may today be in the midst of such cooperation growing out of conflict (or at leasts potential conflict). For two generations now the primary problem of world politics has been rapidly escalating danger of nuclear accident or war, which could cause deaths numbering from tens of thousands to tens of millions. Since July16, 1945, when the United States at Alamogordo, New Mexico, detonated a plutonium nuclear device, the peoples of the world have been in danger. The new regime in Russia promises a lessening of the balance of terror, butt it is too early to place more than a modicum of faith in developments there.

The hope of eliminating the nuclear problem lies in the study of history, of how we got to here from there, in the belief that we then can take measures to lessen the danger. This entails going back at least to the era of the Renaissance and Reformation and the rie of the nation states, then of nationalism beginning with the American and French revolutions. Here American history offers remarkable instruction. People came to America for reasons of religion and economics (that is, land), but many came to escape Europe’s wars, what President George Washington described as the Continents’s ordinary combinations and collisions. For them the harried voyage from the Old World to the New removed them from despotism with its wars into a new Eden of republicanism, democracy, and peace. Throughout the nineteenth century, with exception of the War of 1812, America as the Englishman James Bryce wrote, sailed on the summer sea. As the present-day historian C. Vann Woodward described what happened, America enjoyed free security, made possible by geography and the British navy. But then came the 20th century in which Europe’s troubles inexorably spread to America. It no longer was possible, as Jeffersonians had hoped, to make America as isolated from Europe as was China. Since 1945 nuclear weapons have spread to at least six nations. Non-nuclear wars have broken out regionally. Technologically they have advanced rapidly, using the latest non-nuclear explosives and carriers.

How to resolve, in peace, the intense danger of nuclear escalation of human conflicts? This is an essential question facing the human race today. We know from studying history that human beings will have conflicts. But we also know from studying history that humans have solved problems by cooperating in times of conflict.

Conflict and cooperation are vital themes of human nature that we learn from history. Never in history has it been so important that we understand both.

An example of how Conflict and Cooperation might be stranded through the Elemenatry Pattern B from Building a History Curriculum:

K: Learning and Working Now and Long Ago

Children learn to help in ancient cultures; tales from the Brothers Grimm; myths/legends/folktales (Arabian Nights, Paul Bunyon, Casey Jones); Aesops fables

GR 1: Child’s Place in Time and Space

Stories of children in ancient China; pages/squires in Medieval times; read-aloud stories such as Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

GR 2: People Who Make A Difference

Biographies of Nobel Peace Prize winners and how they met challenges of conflict (Theodore Roosevelt, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., others); stories of our grandparents and ancestors

GR 3: Continuity and Change: Local and National History

How/why people form and settle local communities, cooperation within and among communities (e.g. history of the United Way project, history of transportation); how/why people divided labor in early communities

GR 4: A Changing State

Organizing early settlements of our state; role of our state in national conflicts; our state in interacting with other regions of the world

GR 5: U.S. History and Geography: Making a New Nation

Religion/economics/politics in colonial America; the Revolution; writing the Constitution; opening the frontier; biographies of Paul Revere, George Washington, John Hancock

GR 6: World History and Geography: Ancient Civilization

Building cities in ancient Sumer, Egypt, Indus River Valley; polis of Athens; Incas, Mayas, Aztecs; biography of Alexander the Great