Stephan Wolf uses his historical knowledge to see every perspective


Stephan Wolf

Senior Stephan Wolf posing with a vintage military helmet.

Senior Stephan Wolf is not a fan of fake news. His veracity fuels his historical knowledge, which catalyzes his explicit understanding of both past and current events.

“There’s a lot of nations in the past, and still to this day, [that] have a lot of bias or propaganda or interests that are aligned with how they are willing to portray things,” Stephan said. “If you’re reading about the Soviet Union, a lot of their documents are very fake, and you kind of have to go in looking at that because they’re trying to give an outward appearance. If they say, ‘Oh, we are having a massive famine in Ukraine,’ they don’t want to say that to the world stage. And so their documents won’t cover that. You have to get different narratives again; it’s like news where maybe [they] censor out something or add something in that’s not exactly true.”

Stephan has always paid attention to history. Starting around seven years old, he noticed this “burning little passion” pushing him to educate himself on several different historical events. Once he hit thirteen, his understanding clicked into place—at this age, he claims that he got to a point where he “wasn’t stupid on most topics” regarding history, locking him into his ongoing involvement in the learning of historical events.

But with all of the aforementioned, skewed news coverage in the media, Stephan could not just rely on major news outlets to help him better understand history. He needed to take greater, more thorough measures to achieve an accurate understanding.

“I think books are a great source [to educate yourself], but I think we were also seeing a lot of technologies really playing into that,” said Stephan, giving his insight on the best methods to learn history. “There are small little bits and pieces that play into this overarching story of us as a people—you kind of mix that all together, and [like the news], you [have to] decipher what’s fake, what’s not actually important. [Then], you put together this narrative; it’s like assembling a story from a whole lot of missing chapters.”

The search for historically accurate resources can seem daunting, but there are plenty of options both on the page and online; it’s just a matter of sorting out the right messages that can fit different levels of understanding for the interested individuals.

But Stephan evidently knows his way around how to learn history—therefore, he has specific resources that have helped him to get to the point where he is now.

“For me, I find books that can recreate news is a great way to look at it because reading news today is like reading news back then,” Stephan said. “Then you have to [use] the same kind of ideas with it. A lot of official records are kept on a lot of things, and you can kind of dilute what the message is out of those population indexes or economic trends or stuff like that.”

Another way Stephan has helped bolster his involvement with historical knowledge is—as unconventional as it may seem—traveling. He doesn’t suggest traveling solely to learn history, as it would be costly and not very efficient in terms of completely understanding historic events, but the immersive qualities that can come from a trip to a historically rich location can be highly beneficial in the long run.

“I think travel is a good way to find [historical information],” Stephan said. “[It’s] something that has to coincide—I wouldn’t travel to someplace just for the history of it because that’s expensive and tedious. But overall, it’s a slow accumulation. This isn’t something that you can really cram overnight, and all of a sudden, you know everything about the Korean war. But [traveling] is something that [helps] you slowly pick up these tidbits; then you eventually assemble this kind of narrative, and that’s where it comes from. It’s nothing fast, [but] maybe I’ll see this cool article and I’ll read that, and I’ll get interested in a topic and progress and pick up stuff along the way.”

History is such an important yet expansive subject to be properly educated on, so Stephan has recommendations on how to officially initiate learning about this subject matter. For every person, certain aspects of history might be more interesting than others—this is important to decipher to help serve as a jumping-off point. From there, let the other events and topics just join in naturally to form a solid base of historical information.

In the end, a large fraction of history is centered around oppression, genocide, and the loss of human lives—it’s not something to look at for the sake of the destruction that has occurred. It’s critical to be respectful of the atrocities that horribly impacted generations of people then, and to this very day.

“To go about [learning], I would say don’t start with war,” Stephan said. “I think that’s a problem that people have—they go back and look at wars, and they glorify them a lot, which is something that kind of disgusts me. [They think], ‘Oh, look, this battle had X number of people dead,’ and they don’t really think about what they’re talking about. I think that’s a pretty easy way to figure out a bad historian from someone who actually cares about the fact that people have given up their lives in a lot of these scenarios. And that’s a horrifying thing to think about [when] you’re studying people’s deaths in a lot of cases. I would say going about it is simple; find something that interests you and then look into it.”

Although I do think there’s merit in learning history just because humans are great at repeating cycles—history is always repeating itself.”

— Stephan Wolf

It’s quite a common saying, but history does repeat itself. Stephan looks at this as a way to understand the past events that have resulted in our current political environment—it’s a way to notice the resemblances and contrasts between several years ago and now. Stephan additionally views this as a method to reevaluate our stance as Americans and hopes more people can understand the discrepancies between our issues and conflicts in other countries.

“History has proven that countries with allies survive and prosper, and nations that try and go at it alone fail,” Stephan said. “I think we’re seeing a lot of Americans question, ‘Why do we have NATO? Why do we have care in the EU? Why do we care about other nations? Why do we care about Ukraine?’ I think that that’s a very selfish behavior Americans like to take because we went at it alone and ended up late or countries ended up losing their sovereignty. It’s a human ideology. We’re in this collective together. We can’t view it necessarily in our own light all the time—I think that’s where it’s important to be involved in [the] international community and look at what it’s done in the past and what it’s gonna do for us in the future.”

While Stephan isn’t looking for a career involving history itself, he is utilizing this knowledge to aid his awareness on how global conflicts can result in economic repercussions—he predicts that there are “signs of another Cold War on the rise” and that there is probably “going to be increased defense spending from the entire global community,” based on the current Russia-Ukraine war. His clear grasp on politically-motivated situations helps him to establish creative solutions to problems intertwining with his focus set on business management and economic speculation.

With that said, history has helped Stephan to connect with the world and political issues that call for a keen eye to comprehend. While a portion of history skips over vital details, it’s imperative to seek out the whole picture in order to fully discern the past of the human experience during these times. Stephan commits to observe every aspect—including the pain and suffering—throughout history for him to understand different governments, political situations, and people from a breadth of countries. After all, knowledge drives understanding, understanding ignites empathy, and empathy forges change for everyone.

“History is something that you’re either interested in or you’re not,” Stephan said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s something for everyone to learn, or at least in the majority of the specifics. I think it’s something where you get a good base down, and then if you’re interested in it, you look into it more. Although I do think there’s merit in learning history just because humans are great at repeating cycles—history is always repeating itself. The big thing to remember is that you are covering a track of a lot of brutalities because human history is often us fighting in some way or another. The thing about fighting is people end up suffering. People suffer through these times to get to where we are today. People are still suffering, and there will probably be people suffering in the future. Although it’s great to read about these histories and these triumphs and failures, someone lost no matter what the outcome was. You sometimes [have to] think about it in that lens and through [other] perspectives. History likes to paint one picture, and there’s really a lot more underneath it that really should deserve some light.”