Friday, March 28, 2014

Gandhi, Snowden, and DWB

I'm sorry to have been gone the past couple days, but that's just the chaos of life, I suppose.

Imagine with me that what is happening in Gandhi is now.  How do the British view him?  Is he a hero?  Is he a terrorist?  It seems like most of the British view him as a terrorist; some kind of threat - at least to the empire.  He claims no less - he openly admits that he believes the British Empire to be evil, and that he wants India to be governed by Indians.  But should this - nonviolent noncooperation against evil - be considered terroristic? ...Maybe it is too much of a jump, because now I'm asking you to presuppose that the British Empire is evil - and most British - at the time - would have disagreed.

And there's a scene where Gandhi had just documented much evil the British were perpetuating against the Indians: forcing them to work without pay, denying them water, raising rent on the starving in order to finance hunting expeditions, etc...  ...And the one British man says to the governor, "You've turned him into some kind of hero.  Back home children are writing essays about him."

I'm getting to my point: whenever/whatever we're studying and learning, we each bring out own thoughts to the process.  And I couldn't help but think of something/someone we'd studied about not too long ago.  Did you make this connection too?...  Edward Snowden.

The British in the 1930s and 40s were having the same discussions about Gandhi that we're having about Snowden today.  Is he a hero?  Is he a terrorist?  Is he a traitor?  And whatever he is, what does that make me?  If he's a hero, does that make me/us wrong?  And how should I as a person respond?  How should we as a nation respond?

Education is all about making connections.  We do this in Language Arts when we read - we insert ourselves into the book.  When the actions of the protagonist remind us of the times we've quarreled with our brother.  The time we had to make a sacrifice we didn't feel like we could make.

Here's another connection I made in Gandhi: remember that scene where the British tell him to leave, or they'll arrest him?

Gandhi asks about the charge.  He says, "I'm an Indian travelling in my own country, I see no reason for trouble."  ...Essentially Gandhi was saying he was about to be put under arrest for being an Indian in India.  Here's the connection I made:

Maybe you're unfamiliar with the term DWB.  It refers to real (or perceived) instances of racial profiling: Driving While Black.  The issues we are struggling with at our point in history, here in the United States, are the same issues with which previous generations have had to deal.  In the past (maybe this year) questions have arisen over the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the laws in Arizona where police could ask for immigration papers even if the driver hadn't broken any laws, the stop and frisk policy in New York.

Today, I'm not writing about whether any of these events or policies in our own culture are good or evil, right or wrong; I'm only saying that everything should be viewed through the lens of history.  Neither am I saying that these events are the same and therefore interchangeable: they're not.

But it would benefit us to look at their similarities, and their outcomes.  Who was the moral force in the past?  How has history judged each side?  What does that teach us about ourselves and who we want to be?

If you're reading this for extra credit, discuss it with an adult and then write a 3 or 4 sentence response.  Do you think the historical connections and similarities that I made are valid? If you can think of any other connections between Gandhi or the Indian independence movement and our own culture, please include them.

Have the adult sign the paper, and turn it in on Monday.

If you happened across this blog some other way, feel free to leave a comment.  (Students, you may always leave comments on here as well.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Grades and Things

I've been busy with grades and things.  I'll be back to normal posting tomorrow.  If you stopped by the blog today, let me know tomorrow.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Simple Problem

Hey, thanks for stopping by.

To get the credit for the blog today, discuss the following question with an adult:

Which is more important, the problem or the solution?  Or, which is more important, the question or the answer?

After you're done discussing, write down some thoughts about the conversation on a piece of paper.  Have the adult you discussed it with sign, and turn it in tomorrow.

And hey, none of this, "they're both important" nonsense.  Seriously.  Be brave.  Choose a side.

(Adults, just to mess with your kid, it might be fun to pick the opposite of whatever it is they choose.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Marking Period

I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll start you all off with a point of extra credit - just for existing.

You're welcome.

But I'm not offering extra credit on the first day - mostly because I just spent a lot of time making comments on your Gandhi pictures, and putting in grades.

Check them.  If something looks off to you, you'd better bring it to my attention rather quickly.

If you're missing anything, the official deadline to turn it in was today.  But if you're good at begging I might take it on Monday.

You can print off almost anything you're missing from this class HERE.

See you Monday.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Isn't Gandhi Afraid?

We started watching Gandhi today.

As students watch, they write out ideas, thoughts and questions that come to them.

One question I received today that I hadn't before (that I recall) was:

"Isn't Gandhi afraid?"

Throughout his life, Gandhi showed tremendous courage in the face of persecution - it may have been his greatest strength, although one could argue for his patience and endurance, his understanding, or any number of his other positive attributes.

It's still a good question.  Isn't he afraid?  He knew he was going to get hit in the face with a baton, yet he kept burning passes and accepted the unjust punishment of breaking an unjust law.

He walked past the racist kids on the sidewalk - kids who were ready to beat him up.  (Beat him down?)  Wasn't he afraid?

I don't know.  I imagine he had some fear.

But there's also a calm in preparedness.  When we can face our fears head on, with a clear mind, I think we're less likely to be frightened than when we're caught off guard.

Because Gandhi knew his purpose and role - because he was prepared, he was able to face his obstacles with clarity and precision.  He knew he could give into fear, but prepared himself and avoided it.

That's my take, anyway.

Thoughts?  Anyone else?

If you're in my class, write your thoughts on a scrap of paper, and discuss them with an adult.  Have the adult sign the scrap, then turn it in tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shooting an Elephant

Yesterday we read a short essay by George Orwell: Shooting an Elephant.

If you haven't read it, give it a shot.  Read it.  If you were absent, or if you're an adult reading along on the blog with your child or charge: read it.

(Ok, ok... technically, I can't force you to read the thing... but again... it's very good.)

It's a non-fiction story, and it ties in with a lot of what we've talked about thus far in the school year: exploration,  imperialism, colonization, globalization, tyranny, cultural borrowing, cultural diffusion, the loss of culture, ethnicity, ethnocentrism... and probably a dozen things that I can't think of right now off the top of my head.

As I said, it's non-fiction, but it also has elements of symbolism - this, I believe, is why Orwell wrote it.


If you've already read it, or don't care if it gets spoiled, click "Read more" to continue...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kid President

We worked on a WWI map today from Junior Scholastic.  Many classes read the article on Friday.  If they didn't get to it then, we just skipped it.  I used today as an ISTEP de-stresser.  ...I'm pretty sure that's not a word...  Don't look it up.

At any rate, I'm glad the first portion of the ISTEP is over.  I would bet most kids feel the same way.

As part of our de-stressing day, we watched the latest video by "Kid President."  I had never heard of the guy before.  My wife showed it to me last night.  Here it is, in case you're interested in watching.

Tomorrow we're picking up where we left off before we started reviewing for the ISTEP.  We'll be reading George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant."  If you won't be here tomorrow, you should read it.  You can find it HERE.

If you want credit for reading and discussing the blog today, watch the Kid President video, and tell me what you think.  Find a scrap of paper, and write your favorite line - then have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign it.

Don't forget to finish the homework.

Friday, March 14, 2014

More Snow... .... ..... .... .... den.

So, Edward Snowden: Hero or Traitor?

We read an article about the guy today.  I'd talked about him a little bit before, enough that a couple of my students remembered.  One student even discussed the conversation with her parents - which I always love to hear.

She then went on to say that her parents think I'm a "lying crack-pot," which may have some truth to it, now that I think of it.  Seriously, I think something got lost in translation there.  :)

So, here's the link to the story.  You may have to put in a password, and I believe that's "birdbig479"

A little bit about what Snowden (and others) exposed, and the extent of the U.S. surveillance program: 

(You can look at these if you want, but I think the articles underneath give a better idea of what's going on.)

There's PRISM - which collects information.

There's MUSCULAR - which collects more information than PRISM, and doesn't need a FISA warrant.

Check out STORMBREW...

The spying is happening, and Snowden shed light on it.  It's not some left wing or right wing conspiracy...  for instance, here's the left-leaning ACLU:  click here.  Here's the right-leaning FOX News: click here.

And here's a website that details a lot of what's going on.

There are those who say Snowden was wrong, that he's a traitor, and living in exile in Russia proves it.  By "exposing" the surveillance, he is helping the terrorists - both with information, and morale, and he needs to be extradited and put on trial.

Others say he struck a blow for freedom.  He is a whistle-blower - that the government surveillance program is out of control, and needs to be reeled back in.  We should be celebrating what he did.

Call him a hero.  Call him a traitor.  Whatever.  But it's tough to deny the spying.

If you want the extra credit, read and discuss it with a parent or adult.  On a piece of scrap paper, write whether you think he's a hero or a traitor, and why.  Have the adult you read and discussed it with sign the paper.

If you'd rather leave it in a comment on the blog, that'd be great too.  (Or, if you take issue with anything I've said on here, feel free to let me know.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring Was Here

Well, spring was here for a day.  Every day, I try to post a thought or quote of the day.  You know, generally just what I'm thinking about when I come in and get started in the morning.  Monday's dealt with spring.  Today I just crossed the whole thing out and said nevermind.

Maybe you've heard.  We're taking the ISTEP tomorrow.

So, get a good night's sleep.  I know, snow... blah, blah, blah...

Get a good night's sleep.

If you wake up, and there's a two-hour delay - that's fine.  But I'm not expecting one.

Today, we discussed the silk road, exploration, and colonization.  I could tie it all together with a question about globalization.

And then, I hit on economic spillover.

If you want the extra credit points for reading and discussing the blog today, explain economic spillover to your parents.  Ask them how they would feel if a huge factory moved right next door to your house.  What would be some positives and negatives from that?

When you're done, write the following quote on a piece of paper, and have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign it:  "You were right about the stars: each one is a setting sun."

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Last Vestiges

Today, as I was setting up the room, I found this.  One of my classes had apparently slid it under the wall so that it would escape total destruction.  It is the last vestige of the Saian culture, which has been completely destroyed and replaced by the Eropan culture.

The bellwork today wrapped up the colonization simulation.  In case there is any question about what I was going for, I'm going to spell it all out right here.  If I'm reposting anything from Thursday or Friday, sorry.

Students created their own cultures.  These were represented by flags, chants/cheers, and altering their style of dress.  The chants/cheers represent their language, arts, and customs.  The flags represented their government, values, etc...

The play-doh represented the natural resources found on that continent.

I had two groups per continent.  This was to represent that the continents were very large, containing different people groups.  The flags were made out of the same color construction paper, symbolizing the similarities.  But they were still different - representing the differences within each continent.

The Eropans had superior weapons.  They came and attacked the people living on each continent.  The native groups had the choice between fighting and surrendering.  Most chose to fight, and it was rigged.  They lost before they even had a chance to fight.

This was meant to signify the advanced weaponry used against the various groups - be it the Aborigines, the Aztecs, or the Indians of India.

We discussed whether  or not it was "fair."  I asked whether or not the Eropans were ethnocentric for what they did.  I would submit the answer is yes.  They believed their culture was best - so much better than the others,  in fact that the other cultures didn't even deserve to live in many cases.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, discuss the colonization simulation one last time.  Compare it to what happened to the Banananovians.  How is the similar?  How is it different?

When you're done, find a piece of paper and write two sentences from your discussion, and have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper.

We're not there yet, but we're nearing the end of the marking period.  If you're missing anything, you can download it HERE.  (If I'm missing anything, let me know.)

Friday, March 7, 2014

He has put a knife on the things that held us together, and we have fallen apart.

There were many endings to the colonization simulation, but I would hesitate to consider any of them "happy."

Students spent the past two days building a culture, only to have it destroyed and replaced by another.

The conquering group came through, tore up the flags the others had made.  They stole their natural resources.  They fought and defeated those who resisted.  Then, they replaced the flag with their own.

Some of the original inhabitants of each of the colonies fought.  They were killed immediately.  Some surrendered.  They were forced to abandon their own culture.  Many (like James in 5th hour) were killed anyway, even though he did everything asked of him.  Occasionally, the conquering group would let someone live, but those instances were rare.

It was a sad day, and people felt cheated.

Maybe you're saying, "well... it was a happy ending for the conquering group.  They came away with natural resources and a larger empire."

You might be right, but here's another line from Achebe: 

"We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n'ani ji onwe ya: "He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down."

The title of this post comes from Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, tell your parents (or whoever you're reading this with) what happened.  Tell them how you felt during the activity.  Tell them what you think it means, and ask them what they think it means.

When you're done, write a paragraph about your conversation and have them sign it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Colonization Simulation

Today was a good day.  Stressful, but one of the best.  We started working on the colonization simulation.  The desks are cleared out of my room.and students worked on creating their own culture.  They were divided up into continents, and then within those continents, they formed smaller groups - symbolizing the fact that even though they were all part of the same continent, there's great diversity found within.

I don't want to give away what it all means, but here are some pictures from the day:


If you want extra credit for reading about, and discussing the blog with an adult... make sure you've read and discussed it.  Tell the adult what your flag looks like.  Tell them some of the natural resources your continent has.  Tell them the chant you came up with, and why.

When you're done, write two sentences from your discussion.  Also, tell me which of the pictures is your favorite, and why.  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tearing It Up

We're into exploration and colonization.

If you weren't in class today, click on this link to get the bellwork.

Then, use the map below to complete it.

So, we spent some time with the bellwork.  Most classes came up with a list of natural resources after they found out that was a big part of the answer for number 3.  (That's a huge hint for those of you who were missing yesterday.)

Students turned in their British Empire Maps, which they had completed for homework.

Then we spent the rest of the time going over their graded bellwork from Monday.  Most of their grades ranged from 0-3 out of 16.  So, once I went over why they missed the questions, I'm giving them a chance to make it up.  Well, that's not accurate.  They have to correct their mistakes for homework.

If you weren't here today, make sure you get your original copy from me, along with the new version.

In some classes we also talked a little bit about how War of the Worlds is a story about colonization.  (Or at least, that's one major interpretation of the book...)

I thought I'd add the movie trailer, just for fun... you know?

If you weren't here today (3/5/14), you have to print out, and complete the bellwork to get your points.  If you were here, you should read and discuss the blog with an adult to get the points.  Consider watching the trailer and talking about how it deals with colonization.

When you're done, find a scrap of paper, and write two thoughts from your conversation.  Have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Exploring, Silk Road, Imperialism

I want to enter grades, so here's the short, short version: we did a map in class today, and watched a short video about this silk road.

If you weren't here, you need to do the map.  HERE IT IS.

You also need to watch this video:

If you want extra credit, watch the video with the adult you normally watch the blog with, then discuss the video.  To the adults who don't want to spend 10:31 watching some video about The Silk Road, I'm right there with you.  You don't have to.  You can remind your kid that they can get extra credit by playing the online geography games or by watching/reading international news and writing about it.

(That said, the video is pretty good.)

If you choose to do the extra credit this way, please write 3 thoughts from the video, and have the adult you watched and discussed it with sign it.  If they want to write their thoughts down too, I'd love to get them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dancing Shoes/ Why Do We Need to Learn This Stuff?

Well, I didn't post on Friday, because I was off cutting a rug at the dance.  Here's my proof:

Lots of people were taking "selfies" there, so Mr. Ogle and decided we had to get in on that action.  Although, there's a new report out that says selfies lead to headlice.  Yep... we were definitely living on the edge.  And maybe it begs the question: if a selfie contains someone other than yourself, is appropriate to call it a selfie?

On to social studies:

We did some ISTEP prep today.  I gave students questions in the format of the ISTEP, and I'll be grading them today.  I'm grading them hard too - just like the ISTEP.  Hopefully it's eye-opening and helpful.  The questions dealt with the religions we've been studying for the past two weeks.

If you weren't here today, make sure you see me to get a copy of the assignment.

I heard Mr. Cowells is taking a break from ISTEP prep to teach about the riots/Russians in Ukraine.  He used that link today.  Click it if you want a REALLY quick and easy intro into what's going on...

I bring this up because I just had book club last night.  We just finished Bloodlands.  The premise of the book is that the real story of WWII is in the land between Russia and Poland.  It goes into detail about Stalin "collectivizing" Ukraine.  Stalin intentionally starved the Ukrainians.  ...Starved... as in to death.  Lots and lots - Snyder puts the number killed in these "political famines" at 3 million.  And then Russians moved onto the land - which maybe accounts for some of what we're seeing in Ukraine today.

I'm often asked by students why they need to learn this stuff.  (Sometimes it's about other classes as well.)  There are many fine answers to this question, and I've addressed it before.  But here's one I don't think I've brought up yet: deeper understanding.  At least, I haven't brought it up like this...

Many of my students have found themselves in this situation - in class, somebody's bothering one them and he - "good student B" tells that person to be quiet.

And then HE - good student B - gets yelled at.  (Well, "yelled at."  Chances are the teacher has just asked him to be quiet.)

Now, good student B was talking, and so the teacher has every right to ask him to be quiet.  The only information the teacher needs is that THAT student was talking.

BUT if the teacher had more information - the fact that the other student had been bothering him first.  In fact, the other student had been bothering him ever since he got this new seat...  In fact, good student B has been bullied by this student in the past, and they have a long history of conflict...  Well, that might change the teacher's understanding of the events.

The point is, gaining more historical/geographic/etc... knowledge allows you to have a deeper understanding of the historical/geographic/etc... knowledge you already possess.

You think you understand something - like the teacher who only understood that a student was talking - but with more information, you find out you barely understood it at all.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing this with an adult, tell them how you think you did on the religions bellwork from today.  Then, discuss the analogy I just gave.  Do you agree?  Does an increase in knowledge (of stuff we may not need to know) allow for a deeper understanding of what we do need to know?

Write at least 3 thoughts from the conversation on a piece of paper, and have the adult you read the blog with sign it.  Turn it in tomorrow for extra credit.