Ryan // Starbucks in East Hollywood // 05.02.08
Ryan was reading Stephen Howarth's Knights Templar. It's non-fiction. Although he is a History Major from UCLA (yes, we proceeded to bond over our Bruin-ness) this book is not for class. He starts going on about tidbits on the Knights Templar, about how this book tries to weed out what is factual and what is fiction, because there are a lot of myths and fiction.
He explains that these knights were like Japanese Samurais during the European Crusades. Like their Samurai doppelgangers, the Knights Templar are elite religious soldiers of the Crusades, soldiers of virtue.
Turns out they did very little fighting though. Yes, they carried swords and the like but they were these high status soldiers who answered to no one. They went around spreading good. They were like gods on earth and revered by the people.
Since he just finished his stint at UCLA as a History major and is applying for grad school (hoping to remain a Bruin if he can help it) I wondered if his forte was in European History. Interestingly enough his specialty is West African History. He is interested in someday writing a book on History's role in social development and he hopes to be a teacher one of these days. Before attending grad school he will be heading off to teach in Oakland first. He wants to make a difference in how History is taught in schools.
"I got hired in Oakland first, and I am still waiting on LA. So I will be heading up to Oakland to teach ESL there and then come back to LA later on."
As a teacher he wants to reform public education and change education's view of history. "I believe different cultural groups should have a deeper understanding of their own culture. I think it really affects how kids grow up, how their minds develop."
Ryan believes that a kid in Crenshaw should be learning different History than a kid in, say, Van Nuys. For example, a young black female child should be learning about important historical black female figures as oppose to rich white males like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Not to say that she shouldn't know about these men but she should have an in-depth learning on her own history. There is a lack of this in our school systems and he wants to change that and nurture identities.
We start talking about our education and how we grew up, how our identities were molded. "Yeah, I'm Japanese, raised Japanese all my life. My mother remarried a Japanese man when he was 5 and was raised by my Japanese grandma. I'd do something bad and get scolded in Japanese by my grandma who spoke little to no English!"
More identity talk ensues surrounding race and sexuality, about how our culture focuses on one individual (when teaching history) when we should focus on the whole event and movement as a whole, e.g. we focus on MLK Jr. in schools when we should elaborate on the Civil Rights movement as a whole, and talk about all the other people involved. We talk about how African history is oral, hence less focus on an individual but the whole stories and histories. Amazing and enlightening conversation with Ryan. We were done and he started packing up. I wished him good luck on his grad school interviews this weekend and good luck in teaching in Oakland.