In this week’s reading Hobsbawm discusses nationalism, the bourgeoisie and women’s evolving role. This period of history represents rapid changes across society, specifically in three areas, the newly nationalistic mindsets of the public, the reorganization of class structure and the dramatic changes in gender roles. Nationalism exploded during this time period, spread through urbanization, political parties and the “Us versus Them” mentality used to promote war. The rise of the middle class “Bourgeoisie” is also a critical theme of the socio-economic development of the 20th century. The downtrodden poor, and the newly wealthy classes would repeatedly come into conflict with each other, and the ruling class, across the world. Additionally, family structure and traditional roles were transformed when women were finally allowed increased rights, which, while limited, dramatically affected their roles in society.
Our class discussion on education definitely got me thinking about how education affected the lower classes during the twentieth century. The restrictions on child labor, and the introduction of compulsory education affected an entire generation of youth, whose situations were so different from their parents’. Its practically impossible to compare the lives of a father who labored in the factory from childhood, to the son, who at least went to elementary school before entering the workforce. This young generation was more literate, and therefore more enlightened, and far more politically active. This generation lead the transformation the social, economic and political landscapes of the 20th century.I also considered nationalism in today's classrooms. I went through school listening to the national anthem every morning, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance without a second thought. Until one day in which my history teacher had us stop after our daily ritual and think about what we were actually saying when we say “I pledge allegiance, to the flag of the United States of America…” When we say these words we promise loyalty and devotion to the U.S. and promise to fulfill all of our duties to our country, even if that means laying down our lives defending it. And American children make this promise every day, from the first day of first grade to the last day of senior year, often without a second thought. It's so easy for these pieces of nationalism to become completely habitual, to the point where you can probably only say the Pledge if your running on autopilot. And nationalism isn’t just in the first couple minutes of class, it dominates curriculum in history. We discussed how students should be well versed in their own nation’s history, but at the same time, we cannot neglect the rest of the world’s history, especially in today’s globalized society. Just something to think about, as technology connects even the farthest corners of the globe, our world gets “smaller” while our educations must get bigger, and broader with every year.