Progress with the Purpose Project

With the school year coming to a close, it’s safe to say that the projects are getting out of hand. Between 3 different projects and state/AP testing, I honestly surprised myself when I made progress on the purpose project. It’s weird to say, but I basically go into such an intense overdrive mode that I don’t do ANY of my work because the stress is too much to deal with. So far, I’ve done a few things:

Instagram Account

My plan for projecting my pieces to an audience was to make an Instagram account. My handle is @startaconversationproject. I’m trying my best to hashtag my posts and expand my reach as much as I can, but considering I can’t post a new project every day, it’s hard to grow quickly. However, I do think this is the most effective way of projecting to an audience.

Research

My research has consisted of writing down headlines, taking notes on big news that I see, and collecting pictures. I basically collect pictures from looking up keywords from the topic I’m using, and either going to Google Images or straight from news websites.

Final Product(s)

Okay, I only finished one piece so far, but for me, that’s a win. This one was on the Israel-Palestine conflict:

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Cutting everything out and arranging it was interesting and took forever, but I like how it turned out and I’m looking forward to creating more.

 

 

 

 

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Purpose Project Progress

Purpose Project Elevator Pitch

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Last week, we had the chance to present our ideas to the class through an elevator pitch. Doing this helped me accomplish a few things:

One, I was able to present my ideas to the class. Putting a concept into words and then presenting it in front of a group or people almost solidifies everything you’re doing and just talking about it gave me a clearer picture of my own idea.

Two, I received some ideas from the class and questions that made me think about the minute details of the project. For example, there were many questions about how I’d be conducting my research (I’ll go into details in the next section), but in general, I’ll be looking out for big, recent news events and then find a headline relating to it for the piece. Also, there were questions about what pictures I’ll be using for the collage. My idea was to use some pictures from magazines and combine that with actual pictures from various news sources that relate to whatever topic my piece is on.

 

Progress So Far

Before I started working on the actual projects, I wanted to get the majority of the research done. I usually stay really up to date during the year on the news, but when it gets closer to the summer months, I try to take a break from it. Unfortunately, for this project, I really had to pay attention to the news and pick apart the biggest stories. So far, the stories I’ll be doing are the mass killings of Palestinian protesters by Israeli armed forces after the US Embassy opened in Jerusalem (source), and the recent school shooting at Santa Fe High (source). I’ve already started collecting photos for both, and as the next few weeks progress, I’ll be adding more headlines to that list.

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Purpose Project Proposal

For this purpose project, I wanted to not only do something socially relevant, but also integrate one of my hobbies into the project that I otherwise don’t have time for because of schoolwork. It took me literally forever to think of a good project, but I think I found a good intersection.

For my purpose project, I will be turning news headlines and big issues in today’s society into art projects. I think the best part of it is in the simplicity- often times, news stories are reported in concrete terms and facts, which can alienate the reader from the events being reported on. Using art and pictures makes it seem more real, and easier to understand. Humans connect much better when they are given visual aids- and I know that at least personally, I always give up on reading a news article after the first few paragraphs. However, my purpose is not to simply report on the news. Instead of just telling it like it is, I would like to leave some of it up to interpretation. Hopefully, my art can start a conversation about important topics and keep people engaged. I am leaning towards the idea of using multimedia collages, but I would like to experiment with different art types before settling on one to use for this project. As for projecting to an audience, I will scan the art and put it onto an Instagram page, that way people can easily view the page and interact with it.

The Black and White in the Red, White, and Blue: To Kill a Mockingbird Review

To Kill A Mockingbird is arguably one of the most iconic works of American literature. Written by native Alabamian Harper Lee, it captures many aspects of the South in the 30s, from the rampant racism to the extreme social inequality, all seen in their small community in Maycomb, Alabama. It also tackles important issues like good vs. evil and the destruction of innocence. Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is a captivating book for the ages…

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I definitely enjoyed reading this book. It had its ups and downs for me (which I’ll get into later) but it was enjoyable and its unconvoluted style (thanks, Scout!) allowed me to actually read it and find deeper meaning without my eyes rolling into the back of my head after one chapter. The few things to discuss:

Black and White #1: Good vs. Evil

TKAM tackled a lot of heavy subjects, all of which I think can be summed up around the topic of “human nature.” Is mankind inherently cruel? Is there some good in all of us and if so, how does it show?

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While there are some bad things in TKAM (oh, you know, racism, police brutality, classism, murder, rape…) it’s themes are overwhelmingly feel-good-y. We see a lot of tropes such as bad guy dies [for his sins], that weird kid no one talks to (Boo…) ends up being alright, etc… not only that, but the main themes revolve around dignity, morality, and respect. For example, when Atticus says:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”

Atticus stands for the morally ‘good’ in the book. He is still a part of the community, yet goes against many of them to advocate for what he believes, no, what he knows is right. Even if he knows he just put a target on his head. But even when he is attacked, i.e. when Bob Ewell spits on his face, he takes the high road, maintaining that basic shred of human decency that adults are generally expected to have (but often lack, if you’re asking me).

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And he believes in this traits of compassion so fiercely that he does whatever he can to teach them to his children, thus the “you can never really understand a person…” quote. He treats them with respect, never raising his voice or beating them, but he still gives them a stern talking to when they misbehave. This reflects on the children at many points, but especially at the end of the novel, while the kids loved to make wild stories about Boo, as kids do, painting him as a monster, they were willing to accept him after he saves their lives. All because they learned about compassion through Atticus.

Black and White #2: Literally Black and White

However, some people are just not willing to learn. Take Bob Ewell. If Atticus stands for the good, Bob Ewell is certainly the evil. He lead a crusade against a black man that has done nothing but help his family simply because he felt as if he was wronged (try being a black person in the 1930s, Bob…). He remains a coward until his very last seconds.

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Which could possibly explain why Lee made a big deal out of the school scene where Scout explains to the teacher that the Ewells choose not to go to school. They are also the dirtiest, poorest, most reprehensible family in town (mostly talking about Bob here, considering he’s the man of the house…). It’s not just access to education, because clearly they had that- it’s the fact that they had the opportunity, but pass it off.

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A lack of education isn’t just what makes us think that pyramids were built to store grain—  It’s what spreads disease. It’s what makes us murder someone in cold blood. It’s what makes us start wars. Oh, and it’s what makes us elect complete idiots. An unwillingness to learn allows the mind to be poisoned by bias. There is no true reason as to why things like sexism, racism, and homophobia exist– but at the same time, prejudice will always exist.

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It existed in 1932 in Maycomb, Alabama. It exists in 2018 in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. And it’ll exist in thousands of years when we’re all cyborgs who travel to the moon for fun. So maybe mankind really is inherently cruel. Maybe we are all irredeemable and doomed to spend eternity in the fiery depths of hell. But most likely, it’s that delicate balance between good and evil within each of us that keeps the world spinning.  

Scout, the O.G.

I feel like the answer to the above questions would not be as clear and perhaps completely different if Scout was not the narrator. Her perceptiveness of the world around her leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind, yet her childlike innocence allows you to form independent opinions. Her narration is completely unfettered from the shackles of bias, these preconceived thoughts about race and class that society imposes on us as we mature– whether we like it or not.

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One of the most interesting scenes to me was the court scene. The juxtaposition between the adults in the room and the kids in the room clearly illustrates the divide that innocence creates. All of the kids (at leas the one’s we’re exposed to, anyways– Jem, Scout, and Dill) crave justice in the Robinson trial.

“It was the way he said it made me sick, plain sick.”

“He’s supposed to act that way, Dill, he was cross—”

“He didn’t act that way when—”

“Dill, those were his own witnesses.”

“Well, Mr. Finch didn’t act that way to Mayella and old man Ewell when he crossexamined them. The way that man called him ‘boy’ all the time an‘ sneered at him, an’ looked around at the jury every time he answered—”

To them, it’s clear as day that Atticus won the case and Tom Robinson is not guilty. Which suggests that justice is an intrinsic quality– it’s that damned transition into adulthood where adults have learned to be unjust.

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Some things are just plain as day. But then why can’t people wrap their heads around things like Ferguson? They’re not blindly innocent like a child, but some things are difficult to process and we are all extremely stubborn by nature. Wait, you’re telling me that the same police force I saw saving a puppy from a gutter in a Facebook video last week has also been engaging in senseless and horrific killings of innocent black people for the past hundred years? Not if I turn my TV off they aren’t…

You can probably point to the part where Scout realizes that the world isn’t all hunky dory and not everything can be solved by the old-fashioned fisticuffs:

“How could this be so, I wondered, as I read Mr. Underwood’s editorial. Senseless killing—Tom had been given due process of law to the day of his death; he had been tried openly and convicted by twelve good men and true; my father had fought for him all the way. Then Mr. Underwood’s meaning became clear: Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.”

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Mockingbirds

Which brings me to the point of killing a mockingbird, a central point of many of our lit circle discussions that I’d like to explore further.

I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.

“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

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You can examine many things as the mockingbird- overall, it’s associated with the cruel and pointless aspects of our world (so… all of it? Just kidding. Maybe.). The world that allowed Tom Robinson to be sent to jail solely for the color of his skin, the world that blamed all the bad things on one recluse simply because they did not know enough about him. Or maybe, the sin is killing children’s innocence in itself. But as cruel as this may be, there will always be evils in the world. Children must be exposed to them eventually- sheltering kids produce adults who are comically unaware of the environment around them, which is all too dangerous, especially in a democracy like ours. Perhaps killing mockingbirds is a part of human nature, however cruel it may be. We all grow up in the same world, but it’s up to us what we do with it.

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To Kill A Mockingbird (1-9)

“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird… Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic written by Harper Lee. It is told through the eyes of young Scout, and throughout the course of the novel, the reader learns about the mysteries and controversies enshrouding their tight-knit Southern community.

I remember reading this book when I was in 2nd grade (for some reason…) and I liked it, so it should be interesting to read it again from a different perspective now that I’m older. I found it a lot easier to read than a lot of other classics, probably due to the fact that it’s told from the perspective of a young girl, so while the book still has substance, the constant dialogue and non-convoluted language kept my attention a lot better.

Another thing that stood out to me early on is how much the setting of the novel impacts the plot and the characters. It’s set in the fictional town of Maycomb, a small town in Alabama.The “southern culture” comes out not only through their dialect, but also how isolated they are from the rest of the country. They are only focused on their own small-town drama, like what the Ewells are up to or what cake Miss Maudie is making, which makes it seem as if the reader was there and in on all their gossip.

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“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it… There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself.”


Words From the Wise

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

This is a quote from Atticus Finch when he is trying to teach Scout a moral lesson about having empathy for people she doesn’t really understand, such as the mysterious Boo Radley.

This is where the division of thought comes in that philosopher William James was talking about, what he meant when he said: “Now the blindness in human beings is the blindness with which we all are afflicted in regard to the feelings of creatures and people different from ourselves.” There is a fine line between understanding what someone is going through and knowing what they’re going through. When a friend is crying on our shoulder, we usually say something along the lines of “it’s okay, I get it, I understand.” But these statements are usually just empty reassurances. Do we really understand?

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Even if we’ve experienced it in the past ourselves, every experience is unique, so we truly cannot understand what a person is going through unless we try to imagine ourselves as them. Which also ties into Brent Staples- he wrote the article “Black Men In Public Spaces” to try and bring awareness to the issue of racial profiling in America. But an interesting thing that he does is he tries to understand the point of view of the profiler- for example, a woman walking on the street at night with a large man behind her is bound to be fearful for her safety. In many ways, it is unfair for Staples to speak of his opinion without at least considering the other side. Ultimately, we can never really know both sides of the coin ourselves, but we can do our best to understand what others are going through.

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Jean Louise Finch aka “Scout”

In the beginning of the novel, Scout is introduced as a headstrong tomboy who’s concerned with pretty much everything a normal six year old would be concerned with: the games she plays with her friends over the summer, neighborhood drama, and the start of school. She is the narrator and protagonist of the story, and while she is seemingly innocent in the beginning, she matures as a character even in just the first nine chapters.

Scout is completely different than all the other female characters- she’s unusually smart (she can read and write while the majority of her classmates cannot), she is kind and stands up for her peers, and is considerably more wise than other kids her age. This is all probably due to her father, Atticus, who is the town’s lawyer. Despite being busy with work and a single father, he is probably the most formative figure in their lives.

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“that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well, but Aunty said that … I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year . . . . but when I asked Atticus about it, he said there were already enough sunbeams in the family and to go on about my business, he didn’t mind me much the way I was.” Chapter 9, pg. 86

Even though Scout is taught countless lessons in morality by her father (like the one above), she is still relatively sheltered from the evils of the world and is still innocent at heart. Like in the quote above, where her aunt is reprimanding her for wearing overalls, Scout seems to be constantly causing trouble even though she means well. Her moral/decision making compass is just a little off. For example, she is constantly getting into fights, like in Chapter 9 when she got into a fight with her cousin Francis after he said:

“If Uncle Atticus lets you run around with stray dogs, that’s his own business, like Grandma says, so it ain’t your fault. I guess it ain’t your fault if Uncle Atticus is a n****r-lover besides, but I’m here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family-“

While she might have legitimate reasons to get in fights with people, fighting usually isn’t the answer. While Atticus tries to teach her that, that’s one lesson she’ll have to learn firsthand when her family gets involved in one of Maycomb’s biggest controversies.

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As we progress into the book and continue having discussions, there are a few questions I would like to bring up:

  1. How would the novel be different if it was written in third person?
  2. How does Maycomb’s social hierarchy play a role in the community dynamics?
  3. What is Atticus’ parenting style like and do you disagree or agree with it?

 

-Taja

 

Marking Period 2 Overview

The following is my argument for an A in my Gifted Honors English Class this marking period, outlining my areas of growth as well as where I fell short:

Before I go into the nitty-gritty details of this marking period, I would like to say I believe I’ve earned an A. While I haven’t met all the goals I set for myself last marking period, I have seen significant growth in both my work and my general work ethic. One of my main concerns was my formal writing. Last marking period, I wanted to improve my organization and crystallize my voice as a writer, because I had issues with getting all my thoughts onto paper in a way that people can actually understand it. I think this was an entire marking-period long process for me that culminated with the final Othello essay.

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First, the freewriting: while sometimes I wouldn’t be able to get thoughts going, repeatedly doing freewriting helped me a lot with quickly getting my thoughts onto paper without having to worry about revising (something that stresses me out, but I’ll get to that later…) and peer editing it. Constantly writing and getting my thoughts out without having to worry about perfect grammar and sentence structure ended up being something that was really helpful for me. I realized that getting my raw, uncensored ideas out there really allowed me to progress later on in the writing process. You can find some examples of this on my blog, especially the post about the Joshua Medcalf podcast (link), or my book review on Fahrenheit 451 (link). While this didn’t have anything to do with Haroun or Othello, I thought it was a good representation of my unique voice as a writer, which is really important to me.

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Next was the Othello Double Entry Journals (link), which I like to call “Freewriting Except I Put More Effort Into My Thoughts.” While I ended up ignoring many of my quote analyses, I definitely had some diamonds in the rough (again, I’ll get to that in a bit…). When I went to write my thinkpiece (link), it was 2am and I was completely taken by surprise when I saw the “late” notification on classroom because I had no idea you assigned it while I was gone– but I the urgency ended up helping me, and it got rid of my chronic laziness in a matter of seconds. I really tried to write my essay through a unique lens (Focus Standard #3) and not the usual “Iago is a vice character and poor Othello was deceived!!” While it definitely wasn’t anywhere near my best work, it helped me more than I can imagine when I went to write my final essay.

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I think the final essay (link) is really where I saw my progress come through. Working in steps (journals>thinkpiece>rough draft) helped me a lot with getting everything done on time, and creating a clear-cut focus (Focus Standard #7). And while it was a little on the long side, I’m proud of this piece as I was able to discuss all of my thoughts in a formal matter and analyze quotes (Focus Standard #1) while still maintaining my voice as a writer, which was really the main goal I set in the very beginning of the year (maybe even since last year). I also actually revised that essay with the help of my peers (Focus Standard #9) which I don’t think I’ve done in months because I hate reading my own work after staying up late to finish it.

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Overall, I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made this marking period in terms of developing my work ethic/organization, and my formal writing. However, I know that, like with all things, there is always room for improvement. Apart from making further improvements in the things I just mentioned, I hope to see growth next marking period in my reading habits (Focus Standard #5) and my voice, especially when analyzing texts and using literary devices (Focus Standard #10).

 

-T.M.

note: I was absent for all of the Othello socratic seminars.

Fahrenheit 451

“The books are to remind us what asses and fool we are. They’re Caesar’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, “Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.” Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.”

― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury manages to pack in scathing commentaries about the government & censorship, disillusionment, and the role of literature in society in just under 250 pages. It is a dystopian novel set sometime after 1960 and follows the journey of Guy Montag throughout three parts: “The Hearth and the Salamander”, “The Sieve and the Sand”, and “Burning Bright”. Guy is a “fireman” whose job is to burn outlawed books and the homes of people who own them. This is where the title comes from- 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature needed to burn paper. 

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He initially loves his job and believes he is doing a great favor to society by ridding it of impure literature. However, after developing a friendship with his 17-year-old neighbor Clarisse McClellan, his loyalties begin to change. Clarisse is very critical of her society and believes that life’s greatest pleasures are the simplest ones. Her thoughts are considered quite subversive for the time considering that everyone is over-stimulated and so glued to media and technology you’d think it’s an episode of Black Mirror.

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While these thoughts contribute to kickstarting Montag’s journey of self-discovery, it is really one day he had on the job that changed his life: he is forced to burn an old woman’s house that is filled to the brim with books. Instead of leaving the house, she lights a match and sets herself on fire so she dies together with all her books. This leaves Montag with a question: what do people find in books that’s so valuable that they would rather die than have to suffer through seeing them burn? What’s the point of it all? Just before the fire, Montag manages to steal a book to see for himself. And by the end of the book, his loyalties have done a complete 180 and he has dedicated his life to enriching society with literature.

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The book deals with many themes, especially those of government censorship and ignorance in an over-stimulated world. The themes really come out through the character of Montag and how he goes from a somewhat sadistic, government puppet who burns books to a rebel that is dedicated to building a society full of literature.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys allegorical dystopian books that are very critical of society (if you liked 1984, Handmaid’s Tale, Animal Farm, Hunger Games, etc, you’ll like this). I read it by coincidence after needing to read a book for school and just finding it on my shelf. It was definitely slow and confusing at parts, especially in the very beginning, but if you are able to look past that it becomes enjoyable.

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HBO is also releasing a television series based on Fahrenheit 451 that will come out sometime this spring. You can watch the teaser trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwHA7d1OkAY

Read more reviews here:  

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/books/review/fahrenheit-451-read-by-tim-robbins.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/fahrenheit-451-50-years-later-still-sharply-divides-readers-over-ray-bradbury/2011/08/26/gIQAn596fJ_blog.html?utm_term=.4faed0b0354a

 

Joshua Medcalf: Reflecting on the Purpose and Structure of Modern Education

Joshua Medcalf is a former soccer player at Duke and author of “Chop Wood, Carry Water.” In this podcast, he shares his opinion and experiences on the education system, and how he would like to reform it.

Listen to the podcast here!

Education: A Status Check

Medcalf’s current assessment of our school system is that it is in need of dire help (true). He says that right now, students and teachers are only concerned about what’s happening right in front of them- what tests do I have? What homework do I need to complete? Am I prepared for the midterm? This kind of teaching, Medcalf says, damages the natural process of learning. In order to actually learn is to live in the moment and gain experiences, because while you might forget how to solve parametric differentiation problems, experiences will stay with you long after you graduate. And the most important thing of all is your product: how will you leave an impact? Will you change the world? Will you improve the lives of those around you? All of these points are paramount in crafting the perfect education system, Medcalf says.

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Student or Robot?

I think a few of Medcalf’s ideas are great and should definitely be incorporated into the school system. For example, his class is mainly about going out there and getting your own experiences, and then using those experiences as a foundation for your education (instead, say, a textbook, being your foundation). This is especially important because I feel like the do-or-die way that school runs right now robs kids of experiences- students literally never have time to do anything because they’re too busy making up a story for English about that time they Definitely, Like, Climbed A Mountain Or Something And Then Learned About The Importance of Friendship. Knowledge and experience should always go hand in hand. But on the contrary, these exact ideas are the ones that scare me.

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I think a balance of both “taking risks/being left on your own” and “staying in the safe lane” would be the most beneficial for students (or at least for me). Guidance is important in education- I know personally when teachers just throw work in front of me and force me to teach myself all the material, I get very frustrated and give up. Their class is not the only class I take, and while I would love to work on what they give me, I simply cannot complete things without guidance and then be expected to pass the end-of-unit test.

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Even if one TRIES to make a gradeless class or a self-taught class because studies say it’s beneficial, certain aspects of the school system will always be there. They will always be required to input some sort of grade, give us tests, and make us prepare for standardized tests. And if that’s what the education system is always going to be like, then yes, I want to conform so I can ultimately get good grades. It’s not good to set your students up for failure by not teaching them anything. This is where the balance comes in- let your students take the reigns sometimes and explore their interests. If they fail, help them get back up, guide them through the process, rinse, repeat. If anything, my 10 years of schooling has taught me that there IS a way to be a good teacher and prepare your students for the “real world” while also offering a useful, stimulating, and challenging class where students can experience things for themselves- teachers just need to find that balance.

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Rule #1: Don’t Demean Your Target Audience (I thought I wouldn’t have to say this…)

A large part of the podcast is how the evolution of technology has shaped the experiences of the youth. The fact that both Medcalf and Wettrick just categorize an entire generation into mindless zombies who just stare at their phone all day is ridiculous. Adults in general are so quick to demean the generations below them because they think they know best. They call us “soft,” “lazy,” “entitled,” you name it. “Well, when I was your age, I was destroying the economy and the housing market, I didn’t have any time to frolic around on my phone and eat avocado toast!” Sentiments like these only hinder society’s progress. After a quick Google search, I found a myriad of ways in which Millennials have been shaping the world as we know it (note to Boomers and Xers: Google (link here) is a great tool! Now you can check if the outlandish things you’re saying are actually true before you write another vacuous opinion piece!). For example, millennials are starting businesses at much younger ages than their Boomer counterparts (27 to their 35). They’ve also lead the way in societal changes like the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage, pushed for granting citizenship to unauthorized immigrants, raising the minimum wage, advocating for diversity in the workforce, and so on.

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Hoards of youth today have such creative imaginations and a pure drive to make the world better, and we need to foster this within our school system and allow it to grow. If we give kids a good learning environment and an opportunity to explore their interests, there is no doubt that they will all achieve great things. Will they cure cancer or colonize Mars? Maybe, maybe not. But don’t yell at that kid who draws all over his notebook in class- give him a computer and he’ll become a web designer. Don’t punish the outgoing kid who loves to talk and talk and talk in class- give her an outlet and she’ll become a famous writer.  Our youth WANT to change the world- we just need to give them a chance. While each generation might have had their downfalls, they also all contributed their own unique and important things to the world- that is undeniable. However, we, as a society, cannot brutally dismiss our youth because they are the basis for the generations to come.

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All in All…

This was overall a rollercoaster of a podcast- I wholeheartedly agreed with some things Medcalf and Wettrick talked about, while other things were outright insane. For example, one point that really sums this up is when he talks about how privileged and lucky he is to be white with money (and named Josh) because it opens up a lot more opportunities for him than if he were a person of color from a low-income community. Which is completely true. Yet, ironically, he doesn’t take the opportunity presented to him. If you have a privilege and can use it in a positive way, then take it. What he did by throwing away his education in its final phase is, quite frankly, extremely selfish and brainless. And, I quote, “Move your family to Africa, move them to the Philippines, go somewhere where struggle is a daily part of their existence instead of trying to manufacture opportunities for that to take place in your daily environment.” (around 15:15) What??

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When I first heard this, I honestly had no idea how to respond, but I’ll try… if you are blessed with opportunities to make your life great, then by all means, do it! Go to school, get a degree, get a job, change the world! Why not? I’m going to be brutally honest- going to Africa or the Philippines isn’t going to make up for your white guilt. Appreciate what you have, make the most of it, and if you still feel that guilt, then use your education to better their situation, instead of looking at struggling communities like you’re window shopping for the “perfect life experience.” You shouldn’t need to exploit those who are worse off than you just to put your life into perspective. Experiences will come to you through your education and through your day to day life– going out and saying “I’m going to look for an Experience™ today!” completely defeats the purpose. Education is an amazing way to not only better your own life, but the people around you, and ultimately leave an impact on the world– so while you should never stop pushing for change, also appreciate the education you were given.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

                                                                                                                         -Albert Einstein

Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Final Project on Hero’s Journey

     Group Members: Jeremy Kohn, Stephanie Land, Matt Tremba, and Connor Roop


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The Pre-Process

     From the beginning of this project, our group was very certain in what we wanted to do. We felt that a game board would best represent how the Hero’s journey works: hitting all the steps, going on adventures along the way, and eventually restarting. Not only was it a way to clearly explain the Hero’s journey, but we could be creative with it as well. We designed it after Candyland (pictured below), with different blocks to land on and different adventures in each section, as well as game cards that tell you things like “you’re doubting your adventure, move back 4 spaces” or “you met your mentor, take another turn!” We also decorated the board with aspects of Haroun, which I’ll get into later. 

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Symbolism & Drawings

            My group member Jeremy and I decided to split the board between the “ordinary world” (left) and “fantasy world” (right), just like the Hero’s Journey is split up. I wanted to include symbolism and characters on my side of the board. So, I split the middle of my side of the board between the happy-go-lucky land of Gup and the dark, depressing land of Chup. The sides of the board also correlate with the steps: Haroun crosses over onto the land of Gup, meets his allies and enemies in both gup and Chup, and goes through an ordeal and seizes the sword in Chup, and so on. On the tests, allies, and enemies section, I drew Mudra the shadow warrior, as he is first thought to be an enemy but ends up being a crucial ally. For the approach, I drew Iff, Butt, and Haroun staring into the distance at the dark ship, deciding on whether or not they should risk their lives and go there. For the ordeal, I drew two hands sword fighting to symbolize the war. Finally, for seizing the sword, I drew two things: one, Kahani turning again, and two, the two sides of the moon combining again. Apart from specific parts, I also put Haroun and Iff peeking out from the top of the board. However, my favorite part of the board was the sea of stories. I drew the different “strands” of stories in the sea as colored strings intertwining, and at the bottom, I drew the “pollution” coming from the land of Chup and combining with the stories. In the corner, I drew a book with the pages flying away, and each page is losing more and more words, until the entire page is just blank. This was symbolic for Khattam-Shud and how he wanted to get rid of all the stories on Kahani.

 

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The early stages of the product. 

Self-Assessment

          The product overall was very satisfactory. Throughout our research, we learned about the different stages and the different versions of the Hero’s journey that exist, as well as the stories that apply to it. Once we learned about the Hero’s journey, it really opened up my eyes- I can now spot the Hero’s journey in most fiction books I read, even biographies. And the best part was that we created a tangible product to show what we’ve learned. Learning feels much more satisfactory when you can hold the knowledge in your hand than when it’s crammed into the back of your brain.

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If I had to rate us on the designs specs rubric, I think we most definitely hit the requirements for “make it beautiful, poignant, relevant, and unique,” and the “Surfer on the Sea of Stories.” We worked to make our project as unique and creative as possible while still describing the process of the Hero’s Journey as it related to Haroun, and I believe we were successful. The other groups also did a great job at relaying their information back to the class- I especially liked how the different skill sets of each group resulted in many unique projects. 

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While the Hero’s journey might be a lot more simple and “clear” than, say, allusion or allegory, it provided a lot of insight into the book itself, especially towards the question of “what’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” The Hero’s Journey showed how Haroun progressed and grew as a character through meeting his mentor, deciding to go on an adventure, being tested by man and nature, failing, and eventually coming through in the end. Once a character goes through the Hero’s Journey, they gain knowledge and experience that fundamentally changes who they are as a person. So, the Hero’s Journey answers Haroun’s question: once he embarked on this fantastical adventure through the land of Chup and Gup and literally living his fathers stories, he learned the importance of friendship, family, perseverance, and yes, stories.

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If you haven’t already, head over here to view all of the posts I made on Haroun and the Sea of Stories!

-T.M.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Khattam Shud (Final Post)

Final Thoughts

             As Haroun and the Sea of Stories comes to a close, we say goodbye to all the colorful characters and dramatic plot. The novel ends on a quick, harsh note, after the war. This was actually a shocking aspect of the ending for me: the entire novel had been building up towards a war between the Guppees and Chupwalas, the war itself was very abrupt and more like an impromptu comedy skit than a war. I assume it is because Rushdie didn’t want to glorify war, and show that no matter what side of the war one is on, they will always look foolish in the end– this is just one of the many ways throughout the book that he slyly makes fun of the Western World.

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Happiness is a Social Construct

            Well… not really, but it’s true to a certain extent. The main point that the ending of the book revolved around was the true meaning of a “happy ending.” Haroun wishes for a happy ending for his city, and while he notices that they are happy now, nothing has truly changed- the happiness is only superficial. The following quote by the Walrus expands on this point:

“Happy endings must come at the end of something… If they happen in the middle of a story, or an adventure, or the like, all they do is cheer things up for a while” (202)

           Rushdie uses this point to show that there is really no such thing as a happy ending for a story. Haroun’s father got his storytelling abilities back, Haroun’s mother came back, their city is happy again, and the Guppees won the war. Despite all of this, the book leaves you feeling empty and melancholic at the end. But this is not truly the ending to Haroun or Kahani’s story: happiness, in the end, is short lived, just like sadness is. No one’s story will ever end.  

We also discussed this for most of our group’s Socratic seminar: we eventually came to the conclusion that happiness cannot be given, but it must come from within. This is why Haroun was genuinely happy when his mother came back, because it was what his adventure was driven by, but his city was only “fake” happy- they might have been laughing and dancing in the rain, but nothing changed at it’s core.

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So… What’s the Use In Telling Stories that Aren’t Even True?

            In my opinion, Haroun’s journey to Kahani is a metaphor for stories in the real world. I broke it down into two main points:

  1. As said above, Haroun’s wish doesn’t solve the deep-seated issues of his town or magically erase all the heartbreak him and his father have endured since his mother left. Instead, it provided everyone with a superficial happiness. While it might not last forever, it still counts for something. This is part of the reason we read stories: to make us feel. Obviously reading a journey about saving the princess won’t make you a hero, but you can live vicariously and experience the pain, love, heartbreak, and fear right along with the narrator.
  2. Before Haroun embarked on his journey, he never imagined something like this happening. Overnight, he saw fantasy lands, creatures, magic, and overall experienced things that otherwise would not be possible in the “real world.” But does this mean his journey is all for nothing? Of course not. What really matters is what he went through and the stories he learned. He learned of the importance of friends and family, perseverance, and the beauty of both silence and speech. These values, not the magic creatures, are what will stick with him until he grows old. The same holds true for stories: It doesn’t matter if stories are made up or 500 years old, because they contain “eternal” truths, which end up enhancing and guiding one through their understanding of their own life. Morals are the most valuable things a reader can take away from a book.

Hero’s Journey

                 I was assigned to read the novel through the lens of the Hero’s Journey, the path that most heroes follow within a novel. The Hero’s Journey is very sequential and concrete, which gives readers little to analyze through this lens. The end of the book saw Haroun hitting a few crucial steps, including “Reward/Seizing the Sword” (when The Walrus gives Haroun a wish, and he wishes to make his city happy again), “Master of Two Worlds” (when Haroun makes Kahani start spinning again and restores peace), and finally, the “Return With Elixir” (when Haroun and his father return from Kahani. The Elixir can either be thought of as happiness, his father’s storytelling abilities, or his mother).

 


Overall, while it was extremely confusing and a little tedious to read at times, Haroun and the Sea of Stories was a fun and sweet book to read. The values that Rushdie managed to convey through a children’s story definitely made an impact on me and how I perceive storytelling. I would definitely recommend it! 6.5/10

-T.M.