Thursday, March 30, 2017

Civil Disobedience Pictures 2017

While we've moved on to study Hinduism, I thought I'd post some samples of the civil disobedience pictures my students drew this year.  I always love their creativity, and seeing what they've come up with.

So, for the blog post today, just check them out:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Community in Mourning

We don't understand ourselves.  How can we understand others?

Today we started off class reading a New York Times article about a United Nations researcher who was working for peace in the DRC when he was kidnapped and killed.

The story touched on many parts of the 7th grade curriculum that I am to talk about: human rights, citizenship, democracy, The U.N., and The U.N. Security Council.  As they were non-violently looking to solve serious global conflicts, it made sense to read the article right after watching and discussing Gandhi.  There were many parallels.

But The New York Times article didn't mention one thing: Michael Sharp was from Elkhart County.  He graduated from Bethany Christian, and many in our community are mourning the loss of a friend, a former student, someone they knew from church...

Social studies, in the abstract is impotent.  We understand the ideas, but only when they get close to touching us - or actually, heaven forbid touch us - do we understand power.

After MJ (as his friends and teachers called him) was kidnapped, his father said this:

"I have said on more than one occasion that we peacemakers should be willing to risk our lives as those who join the military do.  Now it's no longer theory."

That idea of peacemaking reminded me of a scene we just watched:

There is great injustice going on right now in the DRC.  And Michael Sharp was making it visible.  But he also did it without hate, or violence.  The NYT article mentions him going to church in order to build relationships with mass murders.  "Mr. Sharp, 34, had been in Congo for five years, with an enviable network of rebel commanders and local leaders, most of whom he had met in church.  'Michael told me one time: 'Rebels go to church.  You build relationships with them there,' said Rachel Sweet, a researcher who knew him."

And, he had much success.  In a separate article, which we didn't read in class, it says that his joint work with the Congolese Council of Christian Churches had, "convinced some 1,600 fighters to give up arms."

MJ had many friends around here.  On social media, the outpourings of grief were troubling and moving.  It was a reminder that social studies is real people.  Real consequences.  And it was a reminder that our students have many paths laid out before them.

I've had my quote of the day quote on my back board for several days now.  I put it up well before the news broke.  I put it up because we had just learned of Gandhi's assassination, and it was from his holy book, The Bhagavad Gita.  "The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.  There was never a time when you and I and all kings gathered here have not existed and nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist."

Though Gandhi and Sharp were different: different nationality, different customs, different ethnicity, different religions, different theology...  They were able to find commonality with people vastly different than themselves in their work towards peace.

Students in my class can earn extra credit if they read and discuss this blog post with an adult.  After you read it and discuss it, write 5 sentences about your discussion.  Have the adult you discussed with sign the paper.  Make sure your name is on it, and turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

By the Numbers

Much of the hour today we spent working on our Civil Disobedience pictures.  If you were absent today, or left yours at school, and need to finish, you can see some examples




If you were absent, just do it on a piece of paper.  Draw a picture showing an example of civil disobedience from the movie.  Write an explanation of what you drew, AND what makes it civil disobedience.

By the numbers:

I mentioned in yesterday's post that the number of people killed during the partition of India was between several hundred thousand and 2 million.

That's a lot of people for a war, let alone a "non-violent movement."  (In quotes, because in spite of Gandhi, there was a lot of violence... but you got that...)

...I just looked up some war numbers.  You can check them out.  There are a LOT of major wars with fewer than a million (or two million) deaths.

(And we're only talking about the deaths during the partition...)

The American Revolution (depending on the source) had a total of somewhere between 55,000 and 100,000 people killed.  (See here, for instance.)  That's SO much less than 2 million.

Of course, the population was smaller back then, and should be taken into account.

Still, with all the similarities between the two: fighting the British, wanting freedom, wanting to keep money within the continent/country...  It's easy to see why the line at the end of Gandhi, "He thinks he's failed" resonates.

I wasn't sure how much my students knew about the US Revolution, so I played some School House Rock while they were working:

Students can get extra credit if they read and discuss this post with an adult.  To get credit, write down three questions you answered, and write down the answers.  (Or three discussion points.)  Have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper you write on.  Make sure your name is on it, and turn it in tomorrow.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Gandhi, King, Silver Lining

PART 1: Gandhi and the Silver Lining

We finished watching Gandhi last week.  Although we skip a lot, we watch a significant portion.

At the end of the movie, students often ask questions about Gandhi's assassination.  Why was Gandhi assassinated?  Who killed him?  What happened to the man who assassinated Gandhi?

Today we read an article from The Guardian that was published the day after the assassination.  (Read it HERE.)

Gandhi's assassination was similar to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Both were assassinated by extremists within their own religion, because the extremists thought they were giving too much away to "the other."

The partition of India-  (Adults, ask the student you're reading this with if they know what "partition" means.  If not, have them click on the word... You're welcome.) - The partition of India into India and Pakistan was a major blow to Gandhi who wanted a unified India.  And, depending on the sources, there were somewhere between several hundred thousand and two million deaths during/due to the partition alone.  For an old man advocating non-violence, one can imagine how trying it was.

Gandhi had been planning a trip to Pakistan in the name of reconciliation when he was shot.  (It's more complicated than this, involving money owed by governments, the threat of weapons purchased with that money, etc... but this is a blog for 7th graders.  If you're interested in it, research it on your own.)

To the point: I had a thought today that I don't think I'd had before.  While Gandhi's assassination is a tragedy, the silver lining is that it's better that he was killed by a Hindu than by a Muslim, the British, or his own fast.

Throughout the film we kept coming back to the principle that, "the only demons we have to fear are those that lurk in our own hearts."

My guess is had Gandhi gone to Pakistan and been killed by a Muslim, many Hindus would have used it as pretext to fight.  Or even if he had died on his own during the fast.  -Or earlier killed by the British in prison or such.

That Gandhi was killed by a Hindu precluded the possibility of  the Hindus taking revenge on themselves.  And it appeals to Gandhi's broader message for individuals to "be the change."

PART 2: King

A couple weeks ago, Mr. Krecsmar asked me if I realized it was the anniversary of MLK's march from Selma to Montgomery.  I did not.

Many students draw parallels between the lives of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  They were both fighting for civil rights.  They both endorsed nonviolence.  They both fought racism and ethnocentrism.  They were both unjustly imprisoned.  They both practiced civil disobedience.  They were both assassinated.

The Selma marches occurred in March of 1965, and were mainly over voting rights.  The tactics used by King mirrored that of Gandhi.  Those used by Alabama State Troopers mirrored the British.

Here's a clip of the actual Selma footage:

Here's a brief (1:12 minute) interview with Ava DuVernay, who directed the movie Selma:

This is a short promo for Selma which includes parts of the bridge scene:

And last, this is a clip from "Turn-Around Tuesday" - not to be confused with "Bloody Sunday":

I hope you took the time to watch one or two of the videos.  Keep in mind that this was in our United States, and only a little more than 50 years ago.  Some of you have parents who are over 50.  Most of their parents are over 50.  My point is, we're watching Gandhi and thinking about what happened long ago in a land far away...

If you read and discussed this blog with an adult, I'm hoping the adult asked you some questions about it.  To get the extra credit, write at least 5 sentences.  Maybe tell me whether you agree with my "silver lining" comment.  Compare what you saw in the Selma clips to what you saw in Gandhi.

When you wrote at least 5 sentences about your conversation, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.  Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spoilers: Am I Spoiling Gandhi?

We watch large portions of Gandhi in 7th grade social studies.  It had been part of the curriculum long before I got there, and it doesn't look to be going anywhere.

Spoiler alert: Gandhi dies.  As Gandhi was born in 1869, and the film was released in 1982, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Gandhi dies in it.

But what many... maybe most? of my students didn't know was that Gandhi was assassinated as a 78 year old.  (I mean, who assassinates a 78 year old?  Just let the man live out his life...)

Here's the thing, though: the movie starts out with his assassination.  In the past, I've shown the beginning first.  Then, after some discussion with colleagues, I kept his assassination a surprise.  I'd go back and forth from year to year.  Unsure which I liked more.

In 1982, when the film was released, the majority of people going to see it knew what had occurred.  They knew who Gandhi was, what his life was about, and how he died.  Like watching a movie about a husband and wife that work on separate floors of 1 WTC in August 2001 - we know where that story is going.  And it would make sense to start with the planes.  Or the opening of the Titanic with a submarine exploration of the boat.  We already know.

But a 7th grader watching in 2017 (or whenever you're reading this) has little background on Gandhi.  And they're not tied to him.  So, watching some random man get killed at the beginning of the movie cheapens how horrifying the assassination really was.  It makes sense to let them see the man, his cause, and develop an attachment to him so they can perhaps more fully grasp what happened.  Context is everything.

Students can get extra credit if they read and discuss this blog post with an adult.  Even though it wasn't brought up in this particular blog post, we've been been discussing India's independence movement for a while.  So, they should discuss the following: who was Gandhi?  What was he fighting for?  Was he successful?

Write at least 3 sentences about your discussion, have the adult you discussed with sign the paper, and put it in the extra credit tray on Monday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Back? Back? Are We Back?

This is not the best undead blog on the internet.  But... there are far, FAR worse undead blogs.

But this is my undead blog.

It died somewhere around the second quarter when I realized very few students were reading it, and taking advantage of the extra credit opportunities I was offering.

But I didn't realize how much I used it to remind me of things that I've taught.  And how many people around the world were stumbling across it.  I had a couple thousand page views last month, and I haven't posted anything since December.

So, I'm going to let my classes know tomorrow that I'm bringing it back.

We'll see if it lives this time, or if it dies.