Taher Vahanvaty, a junior at King’s Academy in Amman, Jordan, is particularly passionate about modern history. To that end, he chose to study US History, European History, and the interdisciplinary study of Palestine. To make the most of his experience, he also opted for a double course load of Arabic in his freshman year.
President of the Model United Nations program, he enjoys the leadership role that offers him the privilege of teaching younger students “how to have fun while being informed on world affairs”. It was through activities in MUN that he developed an interest in the law and the legal issues, a subject important to our generation, he says. His love for mentoring children saw him working as a junior camp counselor in California spending a month taking care of the campers, and planning enriching events.
Taher, who spent a lage part of his childhood in the US, plans to pursue law and aspires to work in the field of human rights and constitutional law. His dream is to right some injustices within the legal system.
What got you interested in history?
I fell in love with history first through movies and books- each story was a puzzle piece fitting together to complete the picture. Over the past years, I have taken advanced courses in European, US, and Middle Eastern History, and while they are all fascinating in their own ways, what continues to interest me about history is its interconnectedness. It’s impossible to understand a place or time fully without the context of other nations alongside it or the years leading up to it. The arc of history helps us understand who we are and how we got here.
I enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Study of Palestine after studying Modern Middle Eastern history, since the Palestinian cause cannot be understood without knowledge of the rest of the region. This summer, I plan on working at the US Embassy in Amman to help me better understand US presence in the Middle East and the American-Jordanian relationship, a historically and politically important alliance.
How will studying history help in shaping our future?
Georg Hegel viewed historical progress to be like a pendulum that swings from extremes and eventually settles in the middle; a way in which one can predict the future by analyzing the past. History is the story of our world and helps us understand how we have come to be who we are. Without knowing the first part of the story, we can never understand what page we’re on now. Moreover, legal judgements are built upon precedent, making history the very basis of the laws that dictate the future. By understanding history, the powers at play, and who wrote the history we learn, we can better understand the world we live in, and by extension, the world to come.
Tell us about the Acceptance Project.
For the past two years, I have worked with The Acceptance Project (TAP), a non-profit organization that teaches high school students skills in dialogue and encourages civil discourse. TAP works to bring together those with greatly differing views and helps cultivate dialogue on the most divisive issues.
How do you plan on taking it forward?
When I first joined as a blog writer, TAP only had two chapters in rural Pennsylvania, in the United States. Over two years, we have grown to 15 chapters around the world. Through my blog posts, I was able to share the importance of civil discourse. But I also realised that while I had engaged with high schools half a world away, I had neglected the very community I lived in. This year, I started a TAP chapter in Jordan, the first international branch ever. We have also started a chapter in Nazareth, Israel, and more foreign schools are working their way through our comprehensive facilitator training now. My hope for TAP is its continued growth and for the benefits of civil dialogue to be shared in schools around the globe.
Your dream job?
To be a US Supreme Court Justice. I find the judicial branch of government most interesting and morally important because while elected representatives may pass the law, it is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether it abides by the US constitution.
To learn more, visit haleeducation.com.