As a youth, Peter Frankopan was disenchanted by the version of history he learned as he studied the map of the world. Frankopan was uneasy about the relentlessly narrow geographic focus of his classes at school, which concentrated solely on western Europe and the United States and left most of the rest of the world untouched (Frankopan 2015, Loc. 141). After further reading and studying, Frankopan realized that there was more to the world than he was being taught. Frankopan states, “It was suddenly obvious that the regions we were not being taught about had become lost, suffocated by the insistent story of the rise of Europe (Frankopan 2015, Loc. 152).” Frankopan began studying the world from the perspective of the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Caucasus region, focusing his attention on the Eastern expansion of the world instead of Western expansion.
Frankopan’s vantage point may be connected to his Croatian heritage (Frankopan, Peter Frankopan – The silk roads – VPRO documentary – 2017). Perhaps his desire to understand where his family fit into the history of the world drove him to question the version of history he was presented with since he heard little about how the puzzle piece of his ancestry fit into this picture.
In the same way that Frankopan desires to understand where his Croatian heritage fits into the history of the world, so African Americans long for the history of their ancestors to be taught and recognized as a valid puzzle piece in the history of the world. African American history has long been taught as beginning with captivity and enslavement on the West Coast of African, with little thought to the long and ancient history of Africans in the history of the world. Knowing history is empowering for any group of people as well as affirming one’s very being. This is why I believe there should be culturally relevant or responsive curricula for African American children and youth.
Culturally relevant or responsive curricula for African American children and youth in Christian education, allows children to see themselves as positively fitting into the world. The vantage or viewpoint in which the history of the world is presented is critical in determining whether children of all cultures understand that they are created in the image of God. Culturally responsive teaching studies a wide range of ethnic individuals and groups; contextualizing issues within race, class, ethnicity, and gender, and including multiple kinds of knowledge and perspectives (Gay 2002, 108).
Frankopan believes the history of the world is more complex than we believe stating, “It is easy to mould the past into a shape that we find convenient and accessible. But the ancient world was much more sophisticated and interlinked than we sometimes like to think (Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World 2015, 26).” Frankopan shows the importance of differing perspectives of the world. Hopefully, Christian education curricula for African American children and youth can benefit from a culturally relevant or responsive vantage point just as many have benefited from Frankopan’s perspective of world history.
Peter Frankopan – The silk roads – VPRO documentary – 2017; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMhjI_00hVk. Directed by Floris-Jan van Luyn. Performed by Peter Frankopan. 2017.
—. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2015.
Gay, Geneva. “Preparing for Culturally Responsive Teaching.” Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 53, No. 2, 2002: 106-116.