Humanities Moments

Humanities Moments

We’ve all had “humanities moments” — when our lives were made richer, more poignant, and meaningful because of the insights the humanities provide.

Browse Items (119 total)

by Nancy Gardner, educational consultant and NBCT teacher
East German citizens climb the Berlin Wall
I remember seeing the images on the television, in newspapers, and in magazines. It was such an epic event. The Berlin Wall was coming down, something I never imagined would happen. As a child in the 50s and 60s, I remember bomb drills during elementary school. Several of my friends had fallout shelters in their homes. I used to be afraid of bombs, of communists, of Khrushchev. I tried to understand how a wall could divide the city of Berlin into two very different places. And then, in 1989, the unbelievable happened. I had just accepted an…

by Skye Shirley, age 28, Latin Teacher in Boston, MA
“Helen,” by Euripides
While taking Latin in high school, I became fascinated by the story of the Trojan War. I loved the interconnected perspectives of soldiers, royalty, deities, and ordinary people. The family trees and catalogues of soldiers seemed endless, and I was thrilled to discover that each individual inspired stories, plays, and art. As I began to master the intricacies of the myths, I prided myself on recognizing the differences between movies like “Troy” or Disney’s “Hercules” and the original story. I watched eagerly to notice what they got…

by Molly A. Warsh, Assistant Professor of World History, University of Pittsburgh
Family tree
My Humanities Moment happened when my husband and I received the results of the genetic testing kits we’d ordered. The stories that my husband’s DNA told matched up pretty closely with his family’s history, but mine delivered some surprises. In addition to indicating a lot of northwestern European and Central European ancestors, which I expected, my report pointed to Scandinavian, West African, and North African ancestors! This all came as news to my whole family. We wondered: how did these encounters happen? What were the circumstances…

by Matthew Booker, associate professor of American environmental history, North Carolina State University
Fishing camp
I like picnics. Picnics take us outside, to share food with people we like. Those are my three favorite things, and picnics offer all three with a minimum of fuss or cost. Every picnic is a special occasion. But one stands out because it showed me how much we can learn from deeply observing the world around us. Such observation joins us to the experiences of those who have come before, and perhaps even see through their eyes. It is a humanities experience. One summer day, to celebrate a birthday, my spouse and I packed up our little girls and…

by Andromeda Crowell, 27, Science Teacher, Orange High School, Hillsborough, NC
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During college I was on my way to becoming a scientist when I decided to get my education license on the side. During my student teaching internship, I was set to teach my mostly anti-science group of students a controversial topic in biology. I was not really looking forward to it, but I put my heart into designing lessons anyway, and actually an amazing thing happened. During one of the activities I designed, I noticed that not only was everyone in the class engaged, but they were genuinely curious and asking questions. After we finished…

by Scott, 34, former journalist
The Middle East
I was a newspaper reporter covering the War in Iraq in the late 2000s. My assignment was exciting, but often lonely. I bounced from town to town, usually embedded with the U.S. Army. At the end of a long day, there often was no one to talk to, grab a bite with or even watch a bootleg movie. What I did have, though, was a paperback copy of The Great War for Civilization by Robert Fisk. The book helped describe the near-history events that led to the real-time history I was witnessing on a daily basis. Through thorough research and…

by Michael Fontaine, 40 years old, Professor of Classics at Cornell University
The Vatican
A single question changed the course of my life.

When I first began studying Latin in 1996, it was a dead language, no doubt about it. It was pointless to try to speak it; everyone agreed the grammar was just too hard.

Legend had it, though, that a single man—a priest, somewhere in Rome, Italy—could do it. The last man alive who could speak Latin! I had to find him.

And after endless blind turns, I did. It was spring 1997, and I was spending the semester abroad in Rome.

I got up very early one morning because the immortal…

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I feel robbed that I did not get the opportunity to ask my Great Uncle Burl what it was like to train in North Africa or share stories of being at the Duomo in Florence. I was a young teen when he passed, and he did not share the horrors he saw as part of the 316th Medical Battalion in the liberation of Italy. Then as an adult, I received the precious gift of his scrapbooks, which have given me a little insight. One particular annotation on the back of a photo caught my eye. Among images of young men in uniform going from the desert to…

Map of Walden Pond
In my late 20s, I knew that I wanted to make a vocational shift, but I struggled to find the courage to do so. One day, I came across the lines of Transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he wrote in Walden in 1854. Though Thoreau lapsed into an unfortunate gender bias (as women may lead lives of quiet desperation, too), I still took refuge in his words. Reflecting on my own life (which felt quietly desperate, I realized) imparted me with the audacity to make a change and follow…

by My teachers
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When I began AP World in my sophomore year of high school, I knew virtually nothing about the religion of Islam. So when we began our unit on the Islamic Empire, my experience was something akin to culture shock. I had never realized how similar Islam was to Christianity, and the more I learned about the events of that time period, the more I began to realize *why* I was so ignorant. The interactions between the Western world and the Muslim people had consistently been tense throughout history, despite having very similar religions. This…

by Odera Tait
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It's not often that we interact with people that have disabilities. When I was in elementary school my mother worked in homecare and took care of a young girl. She was the same age as me but she didn't have the ability to communicate, walk, or even feed herself on her own. I would often frequent her house after school and I remember the first time I had met her. I was very awkward. I didn't know what to do with someone so different from me. Over time I became more comfortable around her. We would watch TV and play around. There was one day in…

Star Trek: The Next Generation
One of my humanities moments happened while I was watching old reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There is a character in that show named Data, an android who is constantly seeking his own humanity. At one point the crew of the Enterprise finds the sister of a fellow crew member who had previously died in the line of duty. Many of the characters in the show describe how the sister reminded them of their lost friend, but Data puts it the best. He supposedly doesn’t experience emotions, but his description of his own…

by Ciara Tolbert
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This skit was made because of multiple inspirations, but my contribution was the misuse of the word 'retard'. More days than not, I will be sitting on the bus hearing middle schoolers use the word retarded to describe something that is stupid or silly. I assume that they don't know any better and that it's not my place to correct them. Creating this skit made me realize that when it comes to anything like that, it's important to take the time to correct someone when they something offensive.

by Riley
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When I was on a mission’s trip in Atlanta, Georgia, we went to visit a refugee housing area where many of the children there didn’t have a positive role model to look up to. Many of the parents of the children could hardly speak English, and the children relied on themselves to satisfy their basic needs for most aspects of their life at such a young age. It was really sad to see the circumstances that these children had, and it wasn’t their fault, they had no control over it. When we were getting ready to leave, one of my friends was…

by Weaver Academy student
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When I was a sophomore in high school, I had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York with my high school choir. We had been invited to perform a solo set of three songs under the conduction of our teacher. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I experienced helped me to explore my relationship with music by perceiving the strong emotional connections of my fellow choir members. As I performed and saw how moved my classmates were, it made my experience more touching and memorable. I also was reminded of the hard work that was…

by My Dad
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My humanities moment happened a few days ago when I was talking to my father about college at a Mexican Restaurant. He talked to me about how lucky I was to be graduating high school and going to college in the fall. I didn't understand why it was such a big deal until he explained to me that since I'm adopted, I'm most likely the only one within my biological family to be going to college. It made me realize that many people didn't have the opportunities I have to go to a performing arts school and attend college. One of my closest friends…

by Savannah
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2 years ago my sister and I decided to spend our Saturday mornings helping distribute food at the Alamance Food Pantry . 30 families were given food every week and were only allowed to come once a month. One morning a woman showed up and had heard about the food pantry and wanted to get food. Unfortunately she had not called and reserved food and we didn’t have anything prepared for her, we offered for her to wait with us until noon and if there was any food that hadn’t been picked up she could have it. I could tell she was desperate and…

by James Cannizzaro
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Throughout my senior year of high school, I got to work alongside my classmates and my teacher, Mrs. Woods, as artists. This was our AP year, so our classroom acted as a sort of studio for all of us as we got to individually work on our concentrations. My concentration took heavy influence from surrealists like Beksinki and comic artists like Ashley Wood. Every so often, Mrs. Woods would recommend me books and artists to check out, notably architectural pieces and works by H.R. Giger. This new inspiration led my art in a new direction, and I…

by Carolyn Bucknall
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When I was a girl, my father hosted big work parties. I loved the parties because I loved Jim, the IT guy. He always smiled at me; he would take me up in his lap and bounce me until we both were giggling too much to continue. I loved Jim, and Jim, he loved me too.
Fast forward: middle school. Not the healthiest of cultures. What I learned there might have been expected, but not excused: It wasn't okay to be gay. Gay people… weren’t normal. They were odd. Inexpiable. It was an unhealthy attitude that I brought one day.
“I keep telling…

by Olivia K. Moore
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A few months ago I visited a local art museum and there was one particular exhibit that caught my interest. It was a photography exhibit by Lucinda Devlin. She had many different collections but the one I found myself looking at the longest was a collection of pictures she took in execution rooms in the United States. Most of them were lethal injection rooms, but some were electric shock. Death sentences are not something unheard of in the United States and are not uncommon, however there has been a long debate about whether or not they are…
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