Monday, December 12, 2005

SUCH a Great Teacher

So. . . today I went out to lunch and, since I had forgotten to bring anything to read, I picked up a New York Times at the counter.

Imagine my delight when, over my soup and salad, I came across a headline that read something like "21st Century Threat Rooted in the 7th." It seems that members of the Bush administration are wandering around the United States making noises about the imminence of a new caliphate, and that most Americans have a vague enough understanding of the term as dark and ominous and scary that its proclamation by one Donald Rumsfeld just might scarf up a little support for the war in Iraq.

Well, I am always happy for the opportunity to demonstrate to my students that yes, there IS value in studying world history. They can, for instance, read the headlines intelligently.


I whipped out my paper at about 4:30 this afternoon and said, "OK, guys, here's the headline. Now what should it mean to a well-educated world history student?"

As it developed, we had to deal with a literacy-related challenge first. None of them could figure out the sentence.

"Seventh what?"

"Seventh sea?"

"Seventh inning?"

Finally one young man was able to establish to what "seventh" referred.

"Ok," I sighed, considerably less enthusiastic than I had been a few minutes earlier. "Now what happened in the seventh century? What happen that was so important that someone might be walking around saying that it is the root of our problems today?"

"The Black Death?"

"The Fall of the Roman Empire?"

I penciled on the board with my fingernail (no markers in sight), "Ms. C. is a failure," and then I turned to them and said, "If you do not come in here tomorrow afternoon remembering exactly what happened in the seventh century, I am going straight from here to the principal's office to request that he remove the "honors" designation from your transcripts."

Then I suggested they get back to work on the 16th century Latin American economy.

As I walked through the hallway later while they were dumping out the contents of their lockers and packing up to go home, several of my students stopped me to tell me that yes, they now know what happened in the seventh century. And one of them had the grace to admit that yes, since we had spent most of the month of September on that particular topic, the threatened demise of their honors status was not unreasonable.

Sigh. We haven't even come close to the real issue -- whether the headline is accurate, biased, or incendiary. Maybe tomorrow.

(Answer: The founding and rise of Islam.)


Virginia said...

21st century threat rooted in the beginning of Islam? Oh good grief!


Judith HeartSong said...

beat the drum George.

Tess said...

I'm in suspense, did the class figure out the 7th century and have you alluded to the 8th?

TerryAnn said...

glad that I found you. thegirlnexdoor77 was following your journal at aol. TerryAnn.

Stacy said...

As usual, your journal continues to challange me. I had to do an internet search in order to find a timeline of Islamic history. I had no idea what had occurred in the 7th century. I now have a rather vague idea... will read more later.

Globetrotter said...

We've known for a while that Bush is delusional, and believes he's been appointed by God to protect Israel and set up a democracy in Iraq. It's obvious that apparently Rumsfeld and Cheney think they are God-appointees, too.

The scare tactics worked for them before, so with support for the war waning it stands to reason that they'd pull the dreaded caliphate word out of the magic hat.

But based on the response of your honor students to the question, it could be that most Americans will just scratch their heads and say WTF?

In which case they'll have to promote prevention of the apocalypse as a reason for invading Iraq.

kas said...

I love teachers who crack the whip!