Where Do We Come From and Where Are We Going?


Acclaimed American journalist and author, Charles C. Mann, spoke to students about his latest book, The Wizard and the Prophet. The presentation was part of the Virginia Festival of the Book held each spring in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Charles Mann's visit to MSA offered students an opportunity to meet and have a discussion with an author whose books are part of their curriculum at MSA. Students study Mann's work during their first unit on early civilizations in 9th grade history. They read his National Geographic article on Gobekli Tepe. Later, in the 10th and 11th grade, students read sections of his books 1491 and 1493, which look at the environmental and culture history of the Americas before and after Columbus made his first voyage in the intervening year. Students in Dr. Hebert’s environmental science class read Mr. Mann’s new book The Wizard and the Prophet, a book on environmental history that investigates the strained relationship between mankind and the natural world in the 20th century, the upcoming population bomb, and the debate over how we might avoid calamity in a world populated by 10 billion souls.


Charles C. Mann’s writings are present throughout the Miller School curriculum, and for good reason. How could one person’s writing be relevant in Caton Hall’s laboratories and Old Main’s lectures, accessible enough for high school students and sophisticated enough for the Atlantic, National Geographic, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other of the nation’s top periodicals?


The answer is clear if one takes a moment to think of the subjects he chooses to investigate. In his writings on Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, Norte Chico in the Andes Mountains, and the first years of the globalized world, Mr. Mann uncovers profound truths about where we come from. In his newest book The Wizard and the Prophet, he turns his attention to the companion question, where are we going? These are questions immediately important to each one of us, and their answers do and will affect us all. Debates about where we come from and where we are going touch our collective memories, and speak to our great hopes and fears for our nation and the world.

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