Summer SAVY 2015 (Session 4, Day 9) – The Golden Age of Piracy (Rising 4th/5th)
As class reaches its sad end, we took today to learn about one of the reasons historians study the phenomenon of piracy: combatting piracy today. We began class with an exploration of modern day piracy, focusing on the international hot-zone in the waters off of the Somali coast. Students learned the history of colonialism and de-colonization of Somalia, and about the Somali Civil War to understand why the region is at such unrest. Then together we read quotes from the United Nations report on Somalia, which discusses illegal fishing and waste-dumping off of Somalia’s coast, and the ways in which Somali fishermen have responded. From there, students figured out how the fishermen’s responses escalated to piracy and ransom in and around Somali waters, and how the international community, including the US, is addressing this global threat.
We watched footage smuggled out of Somalia by a journalist who met with some of the pirates to get their perspective, before switching to interviews with everyday Somali people. Students found that while some people reviled the pirates and feared the negative attention they brought to Somalia, others praised them as heroes for the influx of cash they can sometimes provide to a deprived area. Together we discussed how complex this issue is, and ways in which other nations might be able to help.
Then students had the choice of working alone or in groups to write letters to the United Nations, offering their own suggestions for ways to solve the Somali pirate crisis. Students were encouraged to think of how the Golden Age of Piracy came to an end for ideas. Suggestions ranged from repairing Somali infrastructure and providing schools & hospitals to remove reasons people might have for turning to piracy, to ingenious plans to catch more of the pirates in action so that they can be arrested and go to trial. After open house, these letters will be mailed to the UN Visitor Center in New York, to show them that no one is ever too young to care about international affairs.