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He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.
— George Herbert
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
We create our own unhappiness. The purpose of suffering is to help us understand we are the ones who cause it.
— Willie Nelson
What you are is much greater than anything or anyone else you have ever yearned for. God is manifest in you in a way that He is not manifest in any other human being. Your face is unlike anyone else’s, your soul is unlike anyone else’s, you are sufficient unto yourself; for within your soul lies the greatest treasure of all – God.
— Paramahansa Yogananda
We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
— Joyce Carol Oates
My daily activities are not unusual,
I’m just naturally in harmony with them.
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing…
Supernatural power and marvelous activity -
Drawing water and carrying firewood.
— Pang-yun (740-808 a.d.)
The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
— Howard Zinn
Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.
— Sigmund Freud
I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not as a comment on my life.
— David Ignatow
Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness.
— Shakti Gawain
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
— Marianne Williamson
To become ‘totally awake’ requires absolute vigilance and commitment, akin to walking a razor’s edge.
— Colin Drake
Because I am the first and the last
I am the venerated and the despised one
I am the prostitute and the saint.
I am the bride and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter,
I am my mother’s arms,
I am the sterile one, yet my children are numerous,
I am the married woman and the unmarried one,
I am She who gives birth and She who has never given birth,
I am the consolation for the pains of childbirth.
I am the bride and the groom,
And it was my man who nurtured my fertility,
I am my father’s Mother,
I am my husband’s sister.
And he is my rejected son.
Respect me always,
As I am the Scandalous and the Magnificent one.
— Found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, 1947. Dated III-IV BC. Allegedly an hymn to goddess Isis
Change has never come with a click, or a tweet; lives are not saved by bracelets. We all want solutions, but why should we think or expect an easy one exists for a twenty-year-old conflict in Uganda when we have none for the wars we’re engaged in now.
I’ve spent my career writing, researching and traveling through Africa, and what I am always astounded by is how little I know. I couldn’t explain to my son, much less offer a solution to, any of the conflicts I’ve worked on, anymore than I could explain to him why so many people are poor or homeless in America, why our public schools are failing, or why we don’t have better healthcare. I can’t explain the world I have focused on daily for most of my life, and yet this film would have you think that in thirty minutes of child-talk, we can somehow understand, and then resolve, a conflict in a distant part of the world.
The doctrine of simplicity is always at war with reality. Our best, most human instincts of compassion and generosity, if they are to be meaningful, can’t come from a marketing campaign as simple, as base, as an advertisement for a soft drink that promises you the world for a single sip. If we care, then we should care enough to say that we need to know more, that we don’t have an easy answer, but that we’re going to stay and work until we find one. You can’t put that on a t-shirt or a poster. You can’t tweet that, but you can live by it.
— Dinaw Mengestu, ”Not a Click Away: Joseph Kony in the Real World”
You have had many sadnesses, large ones, which passed. And you say that even this passing was difficult and upsetting for you. But please, ask yourself whether these large sadnesses haven’t rather gone right through you. Perhaps many things inside you have been transformed; perhaps somewhere, someplace deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Far better to live your own path imperfectly than to live another’s perfectly.
— Bhagavad Gita
But there is a tendency among some in the excluded middle to throw up one’s hands and take the easy way out and fall in line with either side of the dichotomy. I see that as nothing short of treason, if not suicide.
Those people will never accept you, no matter how many of your old friends you turn against, or how many of your old beliefs you disavow. They’ll always laugh at you behind your back. They’ll always see you as stained, defective, stupid, no matter how far you bend over for them.
Keep fighting, because it’s the weirdos and the outcasts who have made things happen, who have moved things forward. Sure, the System loves to appropriate countercultures and subcultures, and now they’re doing it with the Geeks. But they do at their own peril. True creativity can’t abide by all of that, ultimately it will stop negotiating. And the Golden Goose will be cooked. And we’re seeing just how catastrophic that can be, as creativity withers away in the cultural conversation.
But the means to create viable art and culture have never been more available and the means to distribute it have never been more democratized. The question is the will to create it, and yes, to appreciate it.
Breaking through the endless static of 2012 will be the challenge. Having something meaningful and compelling to say and the talent to say it in an interesting way will be the way to meet that challenge.
Christoper Knowles, excerpt from “Pop (culture) Has Eaten Itself”
“There was a long period in my life when I accepted that I was a nice person. I had buried the more testy aspects of my personality … in the hope that I would be accepted by everyone I met. It didn’t work. After years of this behavior there were still people I was unable to win over with my smile and silence. Worse, I was losing the ability to express my thoughts and feelings. With increased frequency I began to experience anxiety before I spoke.
My silence grew, as did my discomfort with the person I was becoming. There was a black hole in my existence, an interruption of my authenticity that manifested in a real disconnection between what I felt and thought and what I said. And the more I prevented myself from voicing my authentic thoughts and feelings the more I lost opportunities to hone the skills of honest, direct expression delivered in ways that are kind and respectful of the other person …
… I have learned that degrees of niceness are not possible … but this does not mean that rude and disrespectful behavior—which is what one may think is the only substitute for being nice—is acceptable. On the contrary, openness and honesty delivered with respect and kindness is the healthy alternative to oppressive, silencing niceness”
— Evelyn Sommers
Character-building is the life-long process by which we can instill self-discipline and develop the capacities to live responsibly among others, to do productive work, and above all, to love. As Scott Peck notes, loving is not a feeling, an art, or a state of mind. It’s a behavior. Bearing this in mind, I offer the following philosophy about developing the character necessary to love and live responsibly.
Even though a person may begin life as a prisoner of what natural endowments he is given and the circumstances under which he is raised, he cannot remain a “victim” forever. Eventually, every person must come to terms with him or herself. To know oneself, to fairly judge one’s strengths and weaknesses, and to attain true mastery over one’s most basic instincts are among life’s greatest challenges. But ultimately, anyone’s rise to a higher plane of existence can only come as a result of a full self-awakening. He must come to know himself as well as others, without deceit or denial. Only then can he freely take on the burden of disciplining himself for the sake of himself as well as for the sake of others. It is the free choice to take up this burden that defines love. And it is the willingness and commitment of a person to carry the burden of love until death that opens the door to a higher plane of existence.
— George Simon jr., “In Sheeps Clothing, Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People”
I’ve decided never to fall in love again. It’s a disgusting habit. Ten minutes ago, I saw death everywhere. Now it’s just the opposite. Look at the sea, the waves, the sky. Life may be sad, but it’s always beautiful.
— Anna Karina, Pierrot le Fou
I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.
— Hermann Hesse, ”Demian”
Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.
— Walter Scott, Marmion
The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.
From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.
— Edvard Munch
Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.
— Mark Victor Hansen
You teach best what you most need to learn.
— Richard Bach, “Illusions”
Living the Dream of Educating, Empowering, and Elevating Brown Boys to Greatness!
By Craig Martin, M.Ed
I had to pinch myself when I realized that I was front and center stage with my dream of molding brown boy potential before an audience of the world. Granted, this may not seem so special when you acknowledge the great work being publicized about Urban Prep Academy in Chicago, The Eagle’s Academies for Young Men in New York, and Nativity Prep of Boston. All three educational juggernauts are positioning African and Latino American males to excel, flourish, and transcend stereotypes and statistics of the American Prison Pipeline. My dream cast happens to immortalize in a small public school urban classroom in Boston.
Inside Room 204, 26 charismatic 3rd graders pour into our all-boys classroom only to drop their bags and dash into the class library where they can pour through Ripley’s Believe It or Not for the twentieth time. It appears they can never get enough of the man who had a 200 pound tumor, the man who can balance 20 soccer balls on his tongue, or the woman with the giant golf ball eyes. Others find themselves debating whether or not an octopus would beat a squid in a battle royale from the Magic Tree House Sea Monsters’ read for homework. And a number of others lie on the rug enjoying the new graphic novel additions of The Lunch Lady, Bone, Secret Science Alliance, and Geronimo Stilton, captivating them to a reading stupor. “Mr. Martin…I NEEEEEEEEED that new Diary of a Wimpy Kid!” cries Adam as he pulls out his collection of books one through six and begins to re-read his favorite section to a peer.
My Architects of Change are in for a roller coaster of an experience, because for most of them, I will be their first male teacher, first African American male adult who is not a coach or administrator, and first African American male teacher who happens to lead an all-boys class to success. On the first day of school, as we rehearse how to walk quietly in a line and are cultivating ideas on what the number of the day could be, Steven quietly stops near me as says, “Mr. Martin, I like you…you embrace happiness like me. This is going to be my best year ever!” And he just walked past me through the hallways beaming with thoughts and emotions. My role in their lives is illuminating in possibilities as their surrogate father, coach, referee, counselor, cheerleader, mentor, and more. I represent a mirror reflection of who they could be and my main mission as their teacher is to pull out their best light and help shine it so that the world can see them as someone invaluable to the framework of our communities.
“Mr. Martin, is everyone we are going to read about going to also be an ‘Architect of Change’?” queries Rafael, after we completed reading a fable on a little brown boy who sought knowledge from an elder who sent him on a mission to help out many members of his community in hopes of receiving the wisdom he so desperately wanted. From our discussions on 14 year old African American scholar, Tony Hansberry, who patented his own surgery technique, Damon Weaver, 8 year old African American news reporter, who interviewed President Obama, and even King Tut who became leader of Egypt as a teenager, I find ways to illustrate how each person can make a tremendous difference in some way. It is imperative that they witness and experience successes that counter the narrative that they will become victim to violence, illiteracy, and/or poverty. “Rafael, that’s a good question. Time will tell. But I think you may already know the answer. Let’s see what happens” I retort.
This journey is grand with promise. My boys are the smartest in the city and they will work extremely hard to prove it. However, it will take reprogramming them to believe in who they are and who they can be. It will take facing years of people telling them they were stupid or slow or trouble makers. It will require pouring into them love, support, and advocating resources to stand in the gap when challenges arise. I look forward to what tomorrow will bring as I recount the daily recitation of our creed:
We are Architects of Change!
We believe in ourselves, our school and family, and in our potential!
We are not statistics. We are the Standard!
We will achieve, defy the odds, and fly high like eagles!
We are brothers, bonded, built strong, and ready to make a difference in our community!
We are ARCHITECTS OF CHANGE!
We are Architects of Change!
…and the world is ours!
Student teaching was a very rewarding and demanding experience. I enjoyed the fast paced and unpredictability of the typical workday. Technological difficulties, challenging students and meeting benchmarks where part of the every day routine. I learned a great deal in the past three and a half months, like organization being key to a successful lesson or the difficulty of differentiated instruction. The abrupt ending to my student teaching left me with anxiety of doing more with my students. I hope my students learned as much from me as I learned from them.
Student teaching was a learning experience. The first thing I learned was the difference between periods. For example, period one and two were both freshmen world studies classes yet they were very different in attitude, motivation and ambiance. I understood very quickly that I could not deliver the same instructional style to every class and had to differentiate instruction to reach an objective. I realized how difficult delivering differentiated instruction to students of various levels was. I struggled to bring all students along and keep them on track. Organizational skills were key to my success. The cooperating teacher’s organizational skills proved to be helpful not only to students with their use of a binder but also to me. Lack of organization always led to me to struggle in the classroom and in planning. Organizational skills also helped in the randomness of the school day. When technology fails or half the students are on an unexpected field trip you must be able to adapt and overcome with Plan B, C and D. I also learned that teaching has tremendous opportunities for professional development and growth. From attending workshops, seminars and professional development workdays to writing blogs and reflecting on my practice, teaching has given me much insight to the educational field and all the possibilities to grow as a professional. However, the most important thing I learned from student teaching was the importance of building positive relationships with students and staff alike. From playing basketball with students, going to soccer games, helping the gym teachers with attendance or working with the counselors to help one my students through a difficult time, I quickly realized the positive outcomes of these interpersonal relationships. Students who played “ball” with me or saw me at the soccer games saw me in a different light and had a higher respect for me. It put them on my “team” in the classroom, which in turn assisted me in getting cooperation and positive behavior. Positive relationships with staff also helped in achieving success with my instructional objectives because teachers were willing to share resources and provide plenty of advice on our craft.
Although I learned a great deal, I’m anxious to continue to be in the classroom. There were many learning activities, lessons and goals I still wanted to accomplish. The first two quarters in world studies my students learned the components needed to begin a civilization, society and city. I wanted to do a unit where they research cities and civilizations that didn’t necessarily start with those same components. Through this research create arguments and contentions on why that is and teach them analysis by learning how to write a thesis essay. Within this unit I wanted to teach bias and show them how it’s present in every thing we read and see and why that might be. Also, I’m excited to create a vocabulary unit where we translate slang words for academic words, using sources like pop magazines and scholarly journals that discuss the similar topics. I’m excited to get back in the classroom and continue my growth and my student’s academic development.
The hardest part of the closing stages in my student teaching experience was reflecting on what have my students actually learned from me. I struggled thinking, “what if they didn’t learn anything?” maybe they learned some obscure enduring understanding, or how do I explain that they learned behavior in a classroom and not necessarily content. I figured the best way to find out was to just ask them to write me a letter stating what they learned from me. After choking up and getting teary eyed, I realized a few common themes in my student’s letters. They mostly addressed themselves as “we” and not “I”, they stated they learned to focus and listen to each other as well as me, they mentioned how they gained confidence in asking questions when in doubt and how much they enjoyed learning about particular topics (i.e. Egypt, India, Buddhism, and Mesopotamia). The use of “we” led me to believe that together we had created a classroom community where everyone is valuable. Suggesting they learned to focus and learn from every resource in the classroom (student, teacher and book) demonstrated that I modeled how to use the whole classroom efficiently. Finally they described particular topics they enjoyed most. Ancient Egypt was a favorite among them and how they enjoying learning to create “prezi”. It was rewarding to see that students enjoyed my lessons and they felt enthusiasm to use new software to synthesize their understandings. This has been the most rewarding work I have ever been involved in and I have chosen a wonderful career for myself.
 Prezi.com is a website that allows the creation of interactive presentations on any particular topic.
“The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”
(Abraham Lincoln, Dec. 1, 1862)
Reflecting on a Teachable Moment
About six weeks ago I shared ideas about the “teachable moment” in Egypt as an “opportunity” for educators and their students to explore the historical events taking place in the Middle East (Egypt and Democracy—A Teachable Moment). That blog post focused on the human spirit and desire for freedom. To be honest, I’m uncomfortable describing the events in Japan as a teachable moment “opportunity”. Often, we perceive opportunity as a pleasant occasion, one that “opens doors” to exciting possibilities. This is a different kind of “teachable moment”, but one that must not be ignored in our schools and classrooms. School leaders, from principals to teacher leaders, should help guide the way, ensuring that students do not miss hearing, seeing, reading, and engaging in discussions, about the fast-moving events in Japan. Twenty-first century skills related to global awareness and collaboration, problem formation and problem solving, creative solutions, ecological and alternative energy resource awareness (i.e., advantages and risks), curriculum integration, and economic literacy, can all be addressed in classrooms to understand and learn from this tragedy. In addition, teachers and students can explore essential questions, such as: How can the resiliency of the Japanese people be explained as they continue to cope with this triple disaster of a 9.0 earthquake, 500 mile an hour tsunami, and nuclear calamity? What health-related and moral issues have surfaced during this tragedy? What critical thinking issues and problem solving considerations emerge when comparing the Haitian earthquake with the Japanese tragedy? Japan is a leading economic power, what is the responsibility of other nations—both rich and poor—to assist Japan at this time? What can we learn from this tragedy?
Heifetz and Linsky: Technical and Adaptive Challenges
The Lincoln quote that opened this blog post reminded the people of the United States in 1862 that to resolve the Civil War, “we must think anew, and act anew.” The triple disaster in Japan certainly requires out of the box, “anew”, thinking. Each day’s news reports cover desperate measures taken to address the nuclear calamity, and getting help to 500,000 people who have lost their homes as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. To complicate the situation, these citizens live dangerously close to nuclear plants, that are failing and leaking radiation. Thus, the Japanese nation must weigh existential questions and issues related not only to temporary shelters in the local area, but to evacuation outside of the local area—but where to? What should be done? What actions should be taken by the Japanese government to help their people? How much should we ask of nuclear plant workers, firefighters, police officers, and military personnel who are working within the dangerous radiation zones? How can other nations assist? These questions poise new scenarios. When discussing these questions, issues, and scenarios, the ideas of Heifetz and Linsky in Leadership on the Line (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) can be used to enhance the classroom conversation. Heifetz and Linsky distinguish between technical and adaptive challenges. They describe technical challenges as problems or dilemmas faced previously in which we “have the necessary know-how and procedures” (p. 13). Adaptive challenges, “require experiments, new discoveries, and adjustments” (p. 13) not just from organizational leaders, but also from a host of other individuals in the organization. Heifetz and Linsky do not suggest that technical challenges are any less important than adaptive challenges; they do suggest that, “the single most common source of leadership failure we’ve been able to identify…is that people, especially those in positions of authority, treat adaptive challenges like technical problems” (p. 14). They note, for example, that the events of 9/11 required leaders to think differently about how to address terrorism. Certainly the events in Japan require both technical and adaptive thinking and solutions. Sharing these two concepts in class can provide teachers with interdisciplinary “opportunities” related to science, social studies, math, English, and health education. School leaders should encourage elementary school grade level leaders to work with their teams, and middle and high school department chairs to come together, and consider how to address these issues concerning Japan. The concepts of technical and adaptive challenges can help get the conversation started.
The Human Tragedy
As the events in Japan are addresses, it is vital that the basic human elements of the tragedy are not overlooked. Yes, it is critical for classes to examine diagrams of nuclear plants, reactors, fuel rods and containment shells—but it is equally critical to note, that as the death toll rises, each death, injury, destroyed home, and job lost, is an individual, family, national, and global tragedy. The stories of families looking for loved ones, and the highs and lows of finding or not finding family members, must be discussed along with the technical and scientific information related to natural and man made disasters. Drawing connections between the consequences of natural disasters in one’s own community and the events in Japan, can help students realize that these events are not just abstract problems about a nation far way, these are real events, and involve our human family.
Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves….We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it.
(Lincoln’s Message to Congress, December 1, 1862)
A Special Audience of School Leaders
On Thursday evening, February 17, 2011, I had the honor of addressing students who are completing the Executive Program in School Leadership at Tel Aviv University in Israel. The diverse audience of young and seasoned professionals included Jews, Muslims, and Christians; some already holding administrative posts, and others preparing for their first leadership positions. The students asked insightful questions and had a clear grasp of important school leadership issues. Although the main purpose of the presentation was to discuss Learning From Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success (Alvy and Robbins, ASCD, 2010), two serendipitous “teachable moments” reminded all of us that, in the Middle East, seemingly benign concepts have real cross-cultural implications. These “teachable moments” related to the democratic developments in Egypt and elsewhere, and the consequences of leadership decisions during wartime.
Pursuing Democracy: 1862 and 2011
While discussing the importance of a school’s vision and mission, I shared the quote at the top of this blog (from Lincoln’s Annual Message to Congress on December 1, 1862) to emphasize that Lincoln never waivered from preserving the Union and spreading democracy. Moreover, Lincoln believed that the world was watching (“The world will not forget that we say this.”). Lincoln felt that democratic movements around the world would be adversely affected if the Union failed. Shifting to today, during the Tel Aviv presentation, we immediately drew a connection with the events in Egypt and the struggle to expand democracy. Hosni Mubarak's government had fallen five days earlier. The democratic "energy" in the Middle East is palpable. Yet, the uncertainty regarding how these events are unfolding, is of concern to everyone who cares about the future of the region. From a cross-cultural perspective, Lincoln’s position on the expansion of democracy in 1862, certainly resonated with these school leadership students in 2011; real events have real consequences.
The Consequences of Wartime Leadership
In Learning From Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success, Pam Robbins and I discussed how Lincoln sought advice from his diverse team, and how he persevered following the tragic battles of Antietam and Gettysburg. During the Israeli presentation, I drew analogies between Lincoln’s leadership practices, and the behaviors of today’s successful school leaders as they enlist diverse teams and remain resolute when vital issues surface. I provided examples related to closing the achievement gap and the drop out epidemic in the U. S.
During the “Q and A” time a student questioned the wisdom of my resolute leader example. The student asked, “What about when a leader is marching a nation toward war, and is making poor decisions?” In my opinion, I did not provide a satisfactory answer to the student’s question. I reiterated the importance of establishing a diverse team, but did not provide an in-depth answer that comprehensively addressed the issue. In Israel, war is very real, almost everyone—male and female—serves, and everyone is affected by the consequences of misguided, or wise, decisions. I thought about discussing U. S. leadership related to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, but was unsure if “my” issues would resonate. From a cross-cultural perspective, I felt that the student thought I had not grasped the gravity of her question: she was a student living in the volatile Middle East.
As is often the case, after the presentation I “replayed” her question and my answer; how should I have addressed the issue? Clearly, leaders must surround themselves with bright individuals, all leaders, who can be trusted, have common sense, and are expected to raise issues—without fear of reprisals. Effective teams should cast doubt on possible actions that are not in the best interest of the organization. In contrast, if leaders surround themselves with “yes” men and women they are courting disaster for themselves and, more importantly, the individuals they are expected to serve, and the mission they are expected to pursue. Ironically then, when leaders pick individuals and create teams that share similar points of view, the leadership teams and organization may be heading for disaster. Confident school leaders hire confident associates—principals, assistant principals and teacher leaders—who believe in the vision and mission but have the experience and expertise to recognize that different strategies lead to success. Successful teams are built on trust, competence, confidence in team members, and a healthy exchange of ideas and contrasting opinions. Upon reflection, I should have drawn one major conclusion when answering the student’s question: During times of war or peace, a cardinal sin when leading is the failure to embrace a team of individuals who are expected to raise their voices when necessary—even in opposition.
“…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
(The Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863)
A Teachable Moment
When should a teacher take time to engage a class in a teachable moment that is outside of the “official” curriculum? The Egyptian crisis is historic for many reasons, thus presenting one such teachable moment. District personnel, principals, and teacher leaders can play an important role in encouraging faculty (especially new teachers who may be more reluctant to deviate from the "official" curriculum) to capture this teachable moment. Ironically, since the social studies is not “essential” to the high stakes testing agenda, teachers who address the Egyptian crisis can be less concerned about “teaching to the state test.” This frees teachers to assess the actual baseline of their students (pre-existing knowledge) concerning Egypt and proceed. Three possible avenues for classroom curriculum and teaching success related to this teachable moment include: addressing 21st century skills (complemented with relevant content); developing essential questions; and fostering curriculum integration and faculty collaboration. As you review these avenues, certainly reshape them—make the teachable moments relevant to the needs of your students.
I. Addressing 21st Century Skills: Discussion Points
• Critical Thinking (e.g., How did the crisis in Egypt develop (consider different viewpoints and the implications of the different viewpoints)? Where does the blame fall? What is the role of government? What role is social networking playing during the crisis?)
• Problem Solving (e.g., What are practical alternative solutions/scenarios to resolve the crisis? How would the solutions differ for different political groups?)
• Creativity—sailing in uncharted waters (e.g., What is missing from the news reports? What “out of the box” issues should be addressed to understand and resolve the crisis? Role play different individuals of Egyptian society: Depending on your individual role situation, how would you cope with the crisis?)
• Global Awareness (e.g., What is Egypt’s historic role in the Arab world? How does the crisis affect the Middle East? What are the possible implications for the Egyptian-Israel Peace Treaty? Why are the United States and Egypt strong allies? What are the prospects of the alliance in the future? Consider other regions of the world: how is the crisis affecting those specific regions?)
• Economic Literacy (What are the global economic implications of the crisis? How is the crisis affecting world markets? How might the crisis affect the price of oil? How important is the Suez Canal today? What is the economic situation for the average Egyptian?)
Of course, 21st century skill questions must be complemented with relevant content knowledge. For example, basic facts about Egyptian history, geography, current government, role in the Middle East, treaty with Israel, relationship with other Arab states, are all content issues that must be considered.
II. Considering the Big Issues, the Essential Questions. The quote from the Gettysburg Address, opening this blog post could generate a discussion about the fragility of democracy. Lincoln believed that a Northern defeat in the Civil War would have severely weakened the success odds of other nations striving for democratic principles. An analogy with today’s Egypt is relevant. The winds of democracy are blowing in the Middle East, as they did in Eastern Europe and Asia when the Soviet Union fell. Essential questions related to this topic include: What is a democracy? What types of democratic structures exist in today’s world? What does it take for a democracy to succeed? What challenges does a nation face when considering democratic reforms? How are nations affected by events in other countries (with examples: Poland in the 1980’s, possibly Tunisia today)?
III. Fostering Curriculum Integration and Faculty Collaboration. In middle and high schools, English, Social Studies and Media/Technology teachers can use the Egyptian crisis to engage in joint lessons assessing news media reports, comparing various points of view, evaluating the role of social networking, assessing Egypt’s historic role, and weighing geographic issues. Also, parts of President Obama’s historic speech to the Arab world (Cairo University on June 4, 2009) on democratic institutions and the U. S. relationship with the Arab world could be used in middle or high school classes as a collaborative activity. The importance of artifacts to a nation’s heritage (e.g., the threats to national museum treasures, the pyramids), and the implications for all civilizations as a multicultural issue, are topics of relevance that can be discussed at the appropriate level from pre-school to grade 12.
Hopefully this blog post will support your teachable moments. We are all connected in our 21st century flat world, thus affected by the Egyptian events. Most importantly, let’s hope that the people of Egypt have the opportunity to pursue a democratic solution that is best for their country.