Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Finding Solace

For the majority of this country it has been a difficult week, even here in Sunnyville. I have found solace in the fact that we happen to be working on argument writing in class, not because I want the students to debate politics - far from it as they are outlawed in my classroom for the good of all - but because my text happens to use social justice essays to teach rhetoric.

Today was especially gratifying as we read, "I THINK THAT WORLD LITERATURE has the power in these frightening times to help mankind see itself accurately despite what is advocated by partisans and by parties."

Having my students translate this to everyday speak forced them to focus on the thesis, but the real power lay in the words, "At birth, violence behaves openly and even proudly. But as soon as it becomes stronger and firmly established, it senses the thinning of the air around it and cannot go on without befogging itself in lies, coating itself with lying’s sugary oratory."

I love to dissect this personification with them, the growth of violence, how it cloaks itself to hide and thrive. I love pointing out to them the inevitable connection being made between lies and violence... and then turn them lose to discuss whether this work has any relevance in the world today.

To encourage them to discuss the ideas they have without sharing my ideas or values can be hard, but I live by the motto "my job is to teach them how to think - not what to think." I facilitate through questions and through listening, and I hear them make connections to extremist groups  - the methods they use, I hear them make connections to dictatorships - notably N Korea,
I hear a few groups make connections to the idea that media might use lies to achieve a goal. And after warning them that ALL MEDIA should be assessed for credibility and validity, I smile. Just a small, little twitch of the mouth. Maybe - just maybe - I am making a small difference and these kids will assess information and its source before making judgements. That maybe they, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, will believe "One Word of Truth Outweighs the World."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On a Lighter Note - Election Flashback

Political ads, attack campaigns, mud slinging, and sound bites are the hallmarks of the season, but sometimes we all need a break - a moment to silence the incessant yammering. So, take a breath, sit back and travel to November of 2000.

Far before Oldest was in her senior year of college as a political science major, she was a curious kindergartner. It was the 2000 presidential election and she had listened. When the radio talked of environmental policies, her blue eyes would grow round behind childproof lenses and plastic frames as she asked for definitions, explanations, and examples. Living in Sunnyville she had grown to be an outdoor girl, spending more time under the shade of the Live Oaks in the backyard playing with her imaginary friends - who lived in various trees - than watching dinosaurs on TV, making the planet and world around her were her biggest concern. So, when it came time to vote - she was prepared.

On the way to school that fateful day, she asked again, "What is the man's name who wants to take care of the planet?" She was ready to vote.

After school that day we went directly from aftercare the plight of the working mom's child to vote. As I parked, Oldest talked about her day and explained the entire school-voting process. She was quite excited as we walked into the precinct and explained, when asked, that she had voted for the man who would keep the earth safe - Bush!

Under pressure, and having forgotten a name, who wouldn't assume the man with the name straight from nature was the environmentalist? She was so disappointed that she had it backwards, but the world didn't end when her candidate lost - a good lesson this evening.

Good night, and may the electoral congress be ever in your favor.