Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our Youth

So this new post is going to be about me, not my classroom, though it is very tempting to write about what a wonderful job they're doing researching the difficulties plaguing the life of Africa... eh, nevermind. I'm going to write about that instead. It's far more interesting than little old me.

Three students presented today first period. The first presentation was themed "We Don't Own the World" and focused on vegetarianism. Here's what we learned. 1) In order to feed a meat eater (someone like me) it takes four times the amount of land necessary to feed a vegetarian. 2) KFC and McDonald's practices debeaking of chickens and raises them in farm factories to die... we feed Wyatt chicken McNuggets when we take him to McDonald's to play. This makes me sad because he's cute and so are chickens. Maybe Ted Nugent has it right.

The second presentation focused on the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Here are some startling facts: 1) Every day AIDS kills 6,300 people. 2) 8,500 people are newly infected everyday 3) About 70% of the worldwide population of infected live in Africa... this sickness seems to be spreading due to a lack of education about preventative measures. Storytelling and superstition trump science in their culture.

The third presentation was about poaching. It seems most animals are targets for poachers to "strip" the way cars are stripped in this country by criminals for parts that can get them money. But cars don't lay bleeding where they're disfigured: animals do. The following animals are poached in Africa: Elephants (ivory tusks-hide), Rhinos (ivory horn-hide), Leopards (hide), Lions (hide), Zebras (hide and tails), giraffe (hide), and the Dik-Dik (bones).

In all the presentations were inspiring and compelled by a close study of Heart of Darkness, Christen's visit and research done entirely in a computer lab.

When the presentations are over, I have a short video and lesson to teach them about the 30 Human Rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created in 1948 by United Nations.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Once upon a Beat

Hello Internet, I was wondering what has happened to the Beat generation. I've looked for them in the pages of my high school American Literature textbook and... can you guess? They're not there! While scouring you (Internet) for resources I have found many wonderful documentaries... no really. Not just a bunch of video montages made by college students set to their girlfriend mispronouncing words from "HOWL"... serious film. The more I study the Beats, the more I wonder if they're best left out of the survey of American literature most high school students have dolloped onto their consciousness like a fartsound spoon of cafeteria confectionery. Why leave out the Beats, folks? Why?

I understand the intellectual cowardice that rules public education. In the "HOWL" obscenity trial one of those standing against the poem was a public school teacher. We have always been part of THE MAN's tribe. Not quite gun and badge carriers, but close enough to call it. Am I right? So what's this trying to be with the hip crowd. Settle back into your Robert Frost, Norman Rockwell campy Americana, drink your Ovaltine and lower your voice. This is a library, need I remind you.

I found a lesson plan that actually calls for the teacher to play a recording of "HOWL." I mean, am I pushing the envelope too much? Should I just be content with teaching the "masters"? My book includes some of the Harlem renaissance writers... shouldn't I just leave well enough alone?

I've spent a significant amount of time with Ginsberg's poetry. I read On the Road. I know Corso and Snyder's stuff. I can't help but feel these are representative contemporary American writers. Were they any more radical than the Romantics? Maybe just a little bit. I don't know. Maybe I should just be content to put them out on the shelves and point the occasional beat soul their way. Maybe discovering these writers on your own is more gratifying. Maybe I need to stop being a pansy and just xerox 11" X 17" copies of "Bomb" for the class to read out loud. I'm not trying to be cute...

I suppose I'm having these thoughts having come off teaching The Catcher in the Rye. Isn't that part of the story? Can we be so bold as to consider it a critique of American values in the 1940s. Isn't Holden a Beat in cocoon? Haven't upper middle class, capitalist, white Christian values failed him? Isn't that the point? How can a teacher teach The Catcher in the Rye and not go on to the Beats? What am I supposed to do? Pass out copies of "The Road Not Taken" and tell them "Holden took the easy way out, and if you're not careful his failure will be your failure too." Should I be stroking my cop moustache while I say it?

Ah, it's all too much. I'm going to sleep. Peace.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hello, Africa!

Grade Level 12
Advanced English

Choose any one of the following activities for our study of Heart of Darkness

1. Good readers ask questions of a text. Keep a reading journal to record yours. A reading journal should be an informal piece of writing done after each significant session you have with the book. A reading journal should do all of the following:

a) List unknown words. You will look these up and write down the definitions.

b) Ask basic questions such as who, what, where, when, how?

c) Allow the reader to react to the philosophical issues of a text. This story addresses each of the following philosophical questions, for which there may be no definitive answers:

• Is evil an inherent human trait?
• Should women be protected from harsh realities?
• What is the nature of human superiority? Is there such a thing?
• Is Heart of Darkness a racist text?
• Is colonialism ethical? What stance does the book take on empire?
• How should one go about telling a story? Explore Conrad’s philosophy of storytelling. Should a story be a kernel, or the haze that brings out a glow?

d) Reflect upon imagery (light and dark) and metaphor/symbolism.

2. Africa is still a vastly troubled nation. Research modern dilemmas (such as child soldiering, the war in Darfur, etc.) and prepare an informative presentation to the class including handouts and visual aides.

3. Animal rights take a backseat to human rights in Conrad’s novella. Research the
devastating effects the need for animal products has caused in the animal kingdom and prepare an informative presentation to the class including handouts and visual aides. Your presentations need not be restricted to elephants, but should include current information about the ivory trade.

4. Ivory is just one of the sought after natural resources of Africa. Research the
other natural resources that have caused conflict in the land and prepare an informative presentation to the class including handouts and visual aides.