World War I was cataclysmic not only in the death and destruction it wrought on the battlefield (with more than 10 million killed), but also in its shattering in the Western world (certainly in Europe) of certain kind of belief in the nobility of civilization and the inevitability of progress. “The war to end all wars,” in H.G. Wells’ immortal phrase, and the war that would “make the world safe for democracy,” according to President Woodrow Wilson — the idealism that inspired these phrases sounded bitterly ironic after the War, and by 1918 sardonic clouds had settled over the European psyche to stay.
This argument-based project teaches World War I through debates about the deepest causes of that conflict. It brings together primary and secondary textual and video sources to teach content through the framework of academic argument.
Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 masterwork Their Eyes Were Watching God was poorly received in its time. Famed African-American novelist Richard Wright dismissed the novel that year in the October issue of New Masses. “Hurston seems to have no desire whatever to move in the direction of serious fiction . . . . The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought.” Their Eyes was found wanting in relation on the sociological criteria of the Racial Uplift movement of the 1930s, but Hurston had her artistic gaze pointed as inwardly as it was immersed in the milieu of the intensely racialized encasing in which her characters lived and her sensibility came to be. Freedom, she wrote, is “something internal . . . . The man himself must make his own emancipation.” Reversing the charge that she turned away from the racist social forces and constructs, she called it “arrogance” to believe that “black lives are only defensive reactions to white actions.”
The narrator in The Witches is actually better off as a mouse than as a boy.
This is the second post on Argument-Centered Education’s newly designed method of organizing teaching and learning around academic argumentation in ELA literature units. The strategy is one we call Argument-Based Discussions Linked to Key Passages. We recently collaborated with ELA teachers with one of our middle school partners to adapt this instructional format to a unit on Christopher Paul Curtis’s Bud, Not Buddy (1999).
At the end of SY2017, one of our partner middle schools — James Otis School, a rising neighborhood K-8 school on Chicago’s near northwest side — implemented the mock trial project we developed for a unit on the early Jamestown colony in North America in the early 17th century, based on the excellent and multiple-award winning young adult novel, Blood on the River. The debatable issue at the heart of this argument-centered project is
Was the British aristocracy (i.e., those who ruled because of the family they were born into), according to Blood on the River, responsible for poisoning the colonies’ relationship with the native population in America?
And the full project was laid out in an earlier Debatifier post, here. This post will consist of several video clips from this implementation, led by veteran educator Janet Smith, along with brief analytics attached to each clip, highlighting two proficiencies and one deficiency.