Where to next?

Hey, kids. Now that we’re coming to the end of this first little introductory unit we should probably figure out where to head next. And I do mean “we.”

Several years ago there was a symposium held during which many of the brightest lights in the social science fields determined what the biggest questions facing humanity might be. I happen to like big questions. I think having one that guides one’s studies imbues those studies with purpose and energy. So, what I propose is we look at these questions as a class and determine which ones we’d like to pursue in our course.

As far as the curriculum is concerned, I’ll have no problem addressing the overall expectations of either section (grade 11s and 12s) using any of the proposed questions. Leave that part to me.

What I’m proposing is that you guys have a look at the following questions and select which one we’d like to start with. I’ve done the math and I estimate we’ll have time to cover about four of them by the end of the semester.

To be clear, this isn’t necessarily a democratic process. I mean that the one that gets the most “votes” won’t necessarily “win” though I will take popularity into consideration. We will proceed with the question that some (or all!) of you have made a case for. In the comments section of this post, you tell me what question most fascinates you and why. Post anonymously if you like.

Here are the questions, slightly modified from the list made by the aforementioned symposium:

  1. Why do people so often act against their own best interests?
  2. How can society build and maintain trustworthy and resilient institutions?
  3. How can humanity continue to build its collective wisdom?
  4. How can we ensure equality of opportunity for all people? (alternate question: What would we prefer: equality of opportunity or equality of outcome?)
  5. What effect(s) does our biology have on our society?
  6. How can we best manage “black swans” – rare events that have extreme consequences?
  7. Can progress be painless?
  8. Can there be any such thing as a free and safe society?

So. Have a look. Have a think. Look up some definitions if you need to. If I hear nothing from you guys, I’m afraid I’ll just have to make the decision all on my own and you’ll be stuck with listening to me drone on about my pet obsessions. Trust me when I say you don’t want that.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

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Questions for: Theories, Perspectives and Methodology

Hey kids. I love questions. I like them even more than statements. Seriously. What I’d like to do here and as an ongoing practice is have you guys post any questions about the assignment you have here. Because as we all know, if you’re wondering something, some other folks probably are as well. This way we all get to benefit from one another. You’re welcome to post anonymously if it feels more comfortable.

Questions for: Foundations for the Study of Social Change

Hey kids. I love questions. I like them even more than statements. Seriously. What I’d like to do here and as an ongoing practice is have you guys post any questions about the assignment you have here. Because as we all know, if you’re wondering something, some other folks probably are as well. This way we all get to benefit from one another. You’re welcome to post anonymously if it feels more comfortable.

Novel Study #1: Self-Assessment

Hey, kids. Time for that most delightful of activities: staring at your own navel and telling me what you find there.

If you’re looking for a little guidance on what I mean by “knowledge,” “application,” and “thinking” then look no further.

Knowledge: it’s exactly that. In your novel study, do you think you’ve demonstrated a thorough, factual knowledge of what the literary elements are?

Application: to what degree have you applied your factual knowledge within the context of your novel?

Thinking: this is definitely the toughest one. Try to judge the level of insight you think you’ve achieved. The scale might go from “I understood the basics of this novel” to “daaaaaang, I saw right through this book, all the way down the very meaning of life, the universe and everything.”

So without further ado, go ahead and fill out this survey. Just like before, novel studies will be marked in the order of received self-assessments. Go!

What Kind of Philosopher Are You?

Hey, kids.

Just for fun, I’ve linked you to a few philosopher self-tests. So go ahead and take any or all of them. And in the comments, let us know what test(s) you took, if they agree and how accurate you think they are.

You can find the tests here, here and here.

On Monday; Alexander the Great!

Literature Circle Assessment

Hey, kids.

For this novel study, the assessment will come mainly from my observations and our conversations regarding the novel your group is reading. This will happen on a daily basis as you meet with your group and grapple with some kind of discussion prompt or other activity I’ve posted. As such, I want to make sure the assessment expectations are absolutely crystal clear.

In an effort to get everyone involved, you tell me in the comments below what you think I should be looking for on a daily basis. Pretend I’m carrying around a clipboard with a checklist on it. What should be on that checklist? You can go right from the basics like, “has book,” all the way up to more sophisticated items.

So, leave your suggestions in the comments section, I’ll take them into consideration and we’ll debrief on Monday when I reveal the checklist itself.

Why I Love Studying

I started this post with the idea in mind that I’d provide my Big History students with a little taste of why we’re doing this three-ish week unit on world history. I mean, aside from the usual reasons like, I’m your teacher, you’reĀ  my students so let’s do this thing!

It all has to do with purpose. I study for a reason. And by “study” I mostly mean “read.” I’ve offered this advice before: read! Sometimes I read very carefully and take notes, intending to use them later for some specific purpose. Sometimes I’m just reading, fiction or non-fiction, just kind of vaguely letting it sink in. That’s okay too. But why do I do any of it? Because I can’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t be developing my mind to the highest possible point it can reasonably be developed.

That’s it. That’s all. I really don’t mean to sound elitist or snobby about it. In fact, it’s the opposite. I want everybody to develop their minds to the highest possible degree.

And part of doing that, for me at least, is learning some history. It’s a great avenue for accessing all kinds of topics like: why we behave the way we do; what’s the fairest way to divide up all our stuff; was it a mistake coming down out of the trees; and, most importantly, how can we as a species reach the absolute pinnacle of our potential?

I’m not in a hurry. I suspect that last one will only happen once we sublimate our consciousness into the fabric or spacetime itself. Which I don’t imagine will happen for a while.

In the meantime, let’s make some sense of this crazy world. Or do our best to try.

Whatcha Readin’?

Hey, English students. I’m putting this here as our central hub to simply share what we’re reading. That’s all I require of you this week. Please use the comments section to share with us what you’re reading; how you chose it; early impressions; ongoing thoughts (throughout the week); or anything else you’d like to share. Just remember to pop in at least once a day, have a look at what people are saying and drop in a comment or reply of your own.

Start today with just a quick check-in so I know who’s paying attention.