What will the students of the future study about our time?

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 Photo <br /><figcaption id=Photo by Brian Sweeney

Students at Townsend Harris spend a great deal of time pouring over textbooks that detail the defining events of past generations. Inevitably, students begin to wonder what will populate the bullet points and subheadings when this generation’s story makes its way into the textbooks of the future.  Undoubtedly the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and the subsequent War on Terror will feature prominently in any discussion of this time period.  Assuming this to be true, The Classic surveyed students to see what they believe will be the other defining events and moments of the past decade.

According to the survey, 37% of Harrisites believe that the fight over same-sex marriage rights is the most significant story of post-9/11 America.  Another 28% of students pointed to the status of race in America as being a signature topic of the time, given the election of President Barack Obama.  The remaining students split between those describing technological advancements, specifically those in the medical field, as a key story and those describing climate change, as evidenced by recent catastrophic hurricanes, as the bigger story.

Perceptions about same-sex marriage have evolved extensively over the last decade.

President George W. Bush proposed an amendment in 2004, which would define marriage in America as being between one man and one woman. At the time 32% of registered voters favored legalizing same-sex marriage.  Within seven years, that number rose to 53%.

Before 2008, many Americans believed they’d never live to see a non-white president elected.  As with support for same-sex marriage, views on the possibility of having an African American president quickly changed.  When Senator Obama won the 2008 Iowa Caucus, the possibility became reality.

In 2012, Americans elected President Obama for a second term, making history twice by electing the first non-white president and the first non-white president to serve two terms.

Then there were the natural disasters that took the country by storm. Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy all caused mayhem that many saw as proof that climate changes will have real and long lasting consequences for humanity.

In October 2012, New York City public schools closed for a week as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  Adding onto the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, as of 2013 two major coastal areas of America have been greatly damaged by extreme weather conditions.

Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people in 2005.

Another important event people discussed involves the findings of the Human Genome Project, which successfully sequenced all the genes found in human DNA. Although fully completed in 2003, the Project’s results enhanced the field of forensics, biomedicine, and molecular medicine, while adding supporting details to the theory of evolution and human migration.

Among other things, many believe that the findings of the project will have long term effects in the fight to cure humanity of various diseases and conditions.