2. Write a brief essay in which you respond to the following question.
Johns Hopkins offers 49 majors across the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering. on this supplement, we ask you to identify one or two that you might like to pursue here. Why did you choose the way you did? If you are undecided, why didn't you choose? (If any past courses or academic experiences influenced your decision, you may include them in your essay.)
Imagine a nation where people are executed not for whatever wrong they did, but for what they might do. Imagine a person who was convicted of being a French spy solely due to his first name (Napoleon) and sentenced to 30 years in a labour camp. Imagine a leader who commanded such great respect from his people that they would believe whatever he said whilst he was massacring their friends and relatives. Imagine a government which committed atrocities on such a vast magnitude that Pol Pot's project seemed like child's play in comparison. Think Oceania from 1984, and place it in Northern Europe. This is more or less an accurate picture of what Stalinist Russia was like.
After reading this, I would expect you to be horrified, shocked even. I know I was when I first read about it. I felt incredulous at the extent of his crimes against mankind, crimes against his own people even. I also felt confused and amazed; I could not understand how the Russians could have tolerated what would be termed as madness in any half normal society. After I found out just how tight Stalin's grip on Russia was I felt pity and sympathy for those hundreds of millions of people who suffered directly or indirectly because of Stalin's policies. I would expect you to feel the same as I did. You would probably be more shocked however if I told you that Joseph Stalin was voted the 3rd greatest Russian ever in a national poll.
The fact that history is a study in human beings means that it is able to invoke emotions in the people studying it like no other subject can. I am aware that some people literally cry with joy after solving a particularly difficult equation; however personally I can not empathise with a set of numbers. One can not help but be impressed by Caesar's ingenious tactics or admire Trotsky's courage and perseverance. At the same time, one naturally feels hugely sympathetic to Stalin's victims and horror towards his lack of regard for basic human morals.
Unless we experience history firsthand, our knowledge of it puts us at the mercy of those historians who choose to describe to us a particular set of events, either in written form or in the spoken form: an oral tradition handed down, or, both written and spoken forms, especially if the events have occurred since the invention of the radio, television, or other means of mass communication, such as the Internet. In modern times, therefore, our knowledge of history, and hence our perception of it, is presented to us in a combination of several formats.
My passion for history stems from the fact that it is one of the few subjects which allow, indeed it encourages, debate amongst its participants. This factor makes it stand out amongst nearly every other subject. Take for example, science. There is no doubt, no question about the validity or application of Newton's Laws of Motion, on Earth at the very least. He was able to prove it through mathematical calculations and logical deduction, backed up with empirical evidence. Some people prefer it when there is a solid answer to a question. I personally however prefer a subject where I can hear both sides of an argument before making a judgement. The beauty of history is that it provides for this. The analysis of historical facts, in an attempt to answer the why of anything is always debatable. Historians are never impartial to a historical event, and so any conclusion a historian may come up with is nearly always followed by a lengthy and fiery debate about its validity. Only the facts remain relatively certain; however even the same facts can be presented in a different light to favour a different argument.
The philosopher and novelist George Santayana once said that "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it". In my opinion, this is the crux of learning history. History repeats itself; the description in the first paragraph can easily apply to Mao's China as well.