Friday, January 31, 2014

Mono, Poly, and Pan

Mono = One
Poly = Many
Pan = Everything or all

We started off the lesson finishing up yesterday's lesson, and introducing the terms monotheism (the belief in one god), polytheism (the belief in many gods), and pantheism (the belief that everything is god).

Normally, when I teach religions, I start with the "three major monos."  And I teach them chronologically, so we start with Judaism since it came first c. 1700 B.C.  Then move to Christianity c. 33 A.D., and then move on to Islam c. 632 A.D.

However, this year, I decided to start with Christianity, since the majority of my students have some background with this.  Even if they are not Christians themselves, many have been exposed to the ideas of Christianity by their peers or neighbors.

I gave them a little pretest to see if any of them knew anything about the religion.  I asked if they could name any of the 10 Commandments, any of the Gospels, or if they knew the "Golden Rule."

Some classes asked a LOT of questions.  ...I mean a lot.  I fielded questions about some controversial subjects: adultery, homosexuality, creation and evolution.  I was as honest as possible - probably being overly cautious not to misrepresent either side.  If I felt like the topic was controversial, I tried to point them back to you (that is, the adult that is reading this with the student from my class...)  

For instance, when a student 6th hour said, "I get where babies come from - you know, I came from my mom, and she came from her mom, and on and on and on... but where did it start?"  I had to pause.  And during my pause, when someone else shouted out, "I heard we came from monkeys!" I had to hold up my hands, and pause a little longer.

I tried to preface what I said with, "Many _____________ believe" because even inside Christianity, Judaism and Islam there is much diversity about beliefs.  And the same is true with science: while the vast majority of the scientific community may agree on the evolutionary model, there is diversity in the hows and whys: for instance, the consequences of genetic drift.

For the record, in the class where the student shouted out, "I heard we came from monkeys," I told the class that that's not actually what evolution teaches, but rather we came from a common ancestor.  Either way, we didn't really have time to get into it, so we didn't.

It's 3:30 and I still have to put in some grades, so I'm going to cut this post short.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing this post, write out the definitions of monotheism, polytheism, and pantheism.  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.  If you have any thoughts, questions or comments, you can put them on there as well - or leave them in the comments section of the blog.  (Sorry, I censor swears...  This includes rap lyrics...)

Also, your friends are forgetful.  I had a lot of people turn this in because you guys reminded each other to do it.  Thanks for helping one another out.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014


And we're on to the controversial topics.

Today I asked my students if they believed in God.  They had to explain why they believed God exists or doesn't exist.

I told them that if God doesn't exist, then - on a personal level - the question isn't very important.  Of course, if God does exist, then the question suddenly becomes much more important and relevant.

We discussed heaven and hell and went over some religious etymology - at least the beginnings of it: mono, poly, pan, theos, gnosis, etc...

To get the extra credit today, you should have read and discussed the blog with an adult.  Ask them their thoughts on god.  Why do they believe?  Why don't they?

When you're done, write two sentences from the conversation on a piece of paper, and have them sign it.

Turn it in tomorrow.

If you read this and have a facebook account, post it and tag 3-5 friends from class reminding them they can get extra credit as well.

See you tomorrow, unless there's another polar vortex.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pop Goes the Quiz

We had a 25 point pop quiz on governments today.  You can check your grades online to see how you did.  They should be posted by now.  If they're not check back in half an hour.

If you weren't here today, it's your responsibility to remind me tomorrow that you didn't take the quiz.  I don't think it's that difficult.

After the quiz, we played A Dictator's Game of Choices again.  Several students said I should post it to the blog, but I've decided to take it out of cyber-space.  I'm debating selling it, so who knows?  Maybe I can make a good... twelve dollars and fourteen cents off of it.

For real, I was up until well past midnight working on it last night.  Go me.  I put another line of options on there.  Now, instead of cracking down on the protesters or doing nothing, the dictator can try listening to their demands.

If you want the extra credit today, read the blog with an adult.  Then tell them how you did on the quiz.  Also, tell them about the game, and how it turned out for your class.

When you're done, write the following quote on a piece of scrap paper, then have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign it: "I still believe there is something up that sleeve.  And I do concede there is so much I can't see.  I won't believe there is nothing."  - Andy Hull

Turn it in tomorrow.

See you then.

By the way, there were a couple "extra" extra crediters yesterday.  Maybe that could be you?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Everything Changes

And yet, when I think of "revolution" I think about change.  How can I not?

The earth revolves around the sun.  Winter turns to spring.

The desperation of a Tunisian street-vendor is manifest by self-immolation, leading to mass-protest, mass-change, mass-revolution.

Revolution.  Arab Spring.  Change.

And the change is not the same.

The excess of snow brings flooding one spring.  The next year it comes late.  Or early.

After waiting a decade, it will still be too early to understand the implications and consequences and after-math of the Arab Spring.  And during that entire time more changes - complicated changes - will have occurred.

We played "A Dictator's Game of Choices" today.  We'll probably play another round tomorrow.  I hope that what the students gain from playing is that no two changes - no two revolutions - are the same - although it's important to look at them, and study them, and apply the lessons of history to our own country and to our own lives.

If you want the extra credit for reading this, tell the adult you read it with what happened in the game today.  What did your class decide, and how did that turn out for you?

Somehow prove to me that you read and discussed the blog.  It has to be in writing.  Then have the adult you read it with sign whatever proof you wrote.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Thanks for all the birthday wishes.  It's going to be a great weekend.

We've started looking at the Arab Spring the past couple days.  Hopefully your son or daughter can give you a little insight into what happened.  Go ahead and ask them.  Right now.  Just stop reading for a moment and see if they look confused or if they know their stuff.  (And students, come on... a great birthday present would be respecting your parents and not rolling your eyes at them when they start questioning you on the Arab Spring...)

We'll finish it up Tuesday and Wednesday, and then we'll move into studying religions.

I'm not going to post too much about the Arab Spring today though.  I'll save that for next week.  Today I want to post about Popeye.

Now, I don't have any tattoos - and I'm neither condoning them, nor disparaging them.  But Popeye?  That man has a couple.  And he's tough.  I always loved the episodes when he'd eat some spinach and his tattoos would come alive with power:

...Ok... so technically that's just his bicep.  But that's the best I could find on youtube with the time crunch I'm under.  If you find a better one, send it to me.  I'll embed it in here.

I've taught my kids what "unlimited governments" are.  They're governments with unlimited power: dictatorships, oligarchies, theocracies, and absolute monarchies.  But they don't know the many synonyms for unlimited governments: ATAT.

A: Autocracy
T: Totalitarian
A: Authoritarian
T: Tyranny

In those types of governments, all the power lies with the government itself.

There's a good chance there will be a short quiz over ATAT on Tuesday.  Until then, have a great weekend.  If you are looking for some extra credit, write the 4 synonyms for unlimited government on a scrap of paper 4 times, then have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in on Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Acting Out and Acting Up

Yesterday I graded and entered the student government pictorial-quiz - which is why there wasn't a blog post.  I wanted to scan some in so you could see what they looked like, but I didn't have a chance.  You can look at last year's post: check it out.   You don't have to actually read it, just look at the quiz.

Today we started practicing our Act-it-Outs.  Students were split up into groups and they'll be performing a skit on one of the seven types of governments we've studied.  The performances are tomorrow.  I'll tell you what, it's chaotic when they're in here practicing.  Seven loud groups - each doing their own thing.  ...I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow - if I still have any sanity left.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing this post, I'm actually sending you over to the one I linked to from last year.  Here, I'll link to it again - see how nice I am?

Take one of the two quizzes on a piece of paper.  Tell me whose quiz you took, and have the adult you read the blog with sign it.  If you do that, don't forget to turn it in.

Have a great evening, and see you tomorrow.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Post Grades

There's a lot I want to say about Dennis Rodman, basketball diplomacy, North Korea, Kenneth Bae, human rights, The Declaration of Independence, and The Hunger Games.  But I have to get grades posted.

Here's what you can do, if you made it here.

Tell the adult you're reading the blog with what you human rights are.  What are some ways the United States protects its citizens?  From other countries?  From themselves?  From their government?  What are some of the ways the United States protects the human rights of its citizens?

I realize I may have asked some of those same questions in the post yesterday, but I've really got to get these grades posted.

Write down some thoughts and answers on a piece of paper, and turn it in Monday.

See you then.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weather: At least this mess isn't political - which means...?

I'm pretty sure you're all well aware of the weather and the cancellations and delays, so I won't spend two paragraphs detailing all that.  Let's get right to the good stuff.


Today, I gave a little government recap.  We spent so much time going over the various types of governments, I thought it'd be good to discuss what a government actually is.

So, I asked my students:  "What is the purpose of government?  What does it do?  Do we (human beings/ Americans) need a government?  Is it necessary?  Why or why not?  Explain your answer in roughly 5-10 sentences."

I also asked them about limited and unlimited governments, as well as the various types of governments we discussed at the end of last year.  But right now, I just want to focus on that first series of questions.

I came in early this morning, and thinking clarity is always a good idea, I decided to go old school and look up "government" in the dictionary.  (I already had my definition, but sometimes it's good to consult an outside source, you know?  In case I missed something.)

"Government:  n.  1.The administration of public policy in a political unit.  2.The office, function, or authority whereby political power is exercised.  3.  A prevailing political system or policy.  4.  A governing body."

So, already I'm a little annoyed that "A governing body" is one of the definitions for "government."  Apparently, nobody ever told The American Heritage Dictionary the rules for defining words.  And, even though I know what "political" means, I thought - well - why not just look that up for the sake of clarity as well.

"Political: adj.  1. Of or pertaining to government or politics.  2. Characteristic of political parties or politicians."


"Politics:  n. (takes sing. v.).  1.  The art or science of political government.  2.  The policies or affairs of a government.  3. a.  The conducting of or engaging in political affairs, often professionally.  b. The profession of a person so involved.  4. (takes pl. v.).  Political opinions or principles.

Seriously?  This is why people don't buy dictionaries any more.  I'd have been in big trouble if I didn't already know what political, politics, and government meant.  What a waste of time.

So, I went with my gut and had the students answer the question on their own, and then I gave them the purpose of government - according to me.


Ok... you caught me.  That's not my own.  I'm taking it from Thomas Jefferson, who was a pretty bright guy.  He put it in the Declaration of Independence - you know, the part between "We hold these truths to be self-evident" and "to effect their Safety and Happiness."

I could spend a lot of time typing up whether or not that's really the case - what about governments that only look out for themselves?  (I'd argue that they're "bad" governments...)  But I'm not going to deal with that.  Instead, I'll just ask you: how does our government protect and provide for its citizens?  Or at least, (if you're a Debby Downer) how does it try?

If you want the extra credit today, you should have read and discussed the blog with an adult.  If you did that, write down an answer or two from the paragraph directly above this one.  (You know, how does our government protect and provide...?)  You should be able to think up several examples, but if you're having a hard time with it just tell me that you're having a hard time with it...  But don't use that as a cop-out.  I mean, come on... you've come this far.

Once you wrote that down, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper, and put it in the extra-credit tray tomorrow.

Oh yeah... you had homework.  Don't forget you can get it HERE. You may use your chart.