School and Society Assignment for Thursday after Reading Days (S)
On Thursday, October 18, we finished watching Delafield and then read together the essay "Becoming Native to Our Places," from Wes Jackson's book. It is very important that everyone review and study and try to make sense of this chapter, which is the educational culmination of Jackson's argument. It needs multiple readings and discussion, and, above all, connection to your own experience and to what you know about the loss of cultural information in your own contexts. Jackson packs a great many ideas into a very small space, and one will miss most of what he has to say if one reads him casually or quickly. He makes great demands, and he has an incredible breadth of vision. He is also sometimes not very charitable to his reader: he makes big jumps and leaves out the connecting material. You have to think along with him. Over the break, I will try to write something to make this book more accessible. I am convinced that it is an important contribution to our discussion.
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At class on Thursday, each person was given a book or a movie to look at over the break. The assignment is to introduce this item to the class next Thursday by discussing its relevance to themes developed in this course so far and to the general topic: "School and Society." You will each have about five minutes; please do a couple of paragraphs as the basis of your discussion and hand those in at the end of class. Those who were not in class on Thursday will have a chance to select an item and report on the following Tuesday.
Some notes on this project:
1. Books and movies are often attempts to teach, and that is one way to understand how they relate to the course. One might think of Bird by Bird and The Important Book primarily in this connection, and consider the ways that they carry forward educational projects suggested or endorsed by Dewey or Freire or Horton.
2. Books and movies sometimes portray aspects of current educational practice and ideology in a critical way. One might connect such portrayals to criticisms we have encountered. The Child Buyer is an example of this kind of portrait.
3. Books and movies portray teaching or education in the broad sense we have come to understand after reading The Higher Power of Lucky. We see people trying to build attitudes and capacities in other human beings, to open up -- or close down -- possibilities for them. One might think particularly of A Thousand Clowns in this connection.
4. Some books make straightforward recommendations about teaching, related in interesting and complex ways to the suggestions we have encountered so far. Philosophy and the Young Child is an example of this kind of discussion.
5. Some works of art portray a social fact that is in need of educational attention: either ideals to be cultivated or human dead ends, warnings about the products of bad education. One might look at Remains of the Day with this idea in mind.
6. Some works of art say something about the point or task of human life. Any such work sets a challenge before the educator: to craft experiences that help people to accomplish the task that life presents them. This might be a helpful starting point for looking at Defending Your Life, for example.
The works you have selected are rich, and many of them can be approached from several different perspectives. Your introduction should help others in the class decide whether they want to check out your book or movie, out of general interest, or as a way to think about the material we have been discussing.