Playing God (Part One)

Posted on December 16, 2009Filed Under CPS, Literary Stuff, The Giver | Leave a Comment

I’m out of action for family bidness tomorrow and Friday, so today was my last day of 2009.  I accidentally leaked the info early to one period, (the girls’ club) so they brought snacks today and sorta forced me into a “party” of sorts. I have never been able to resist a good snickerdoodle, or two, or ten. So that meant that I had to shorten things up in the other periods too…so it was sort of a nutty day today.

But in the 2 1/2 days I had to work with this week…

(Aside: I’m breaking a perfect record of never having showed a movie in class, ever in 20 years. But this time I’m having the sub roll the cheesy Outsiders movie tomorrow and Friday while I’m gone. They’ve been begging for weeks, and I’ve been telling them to “wake up” from the dream, but this will be my little Christmas present to them.)

…we did a little Giver epilogue and what-have-you. Yesterday, we discussed a few “literary” type questions.

#4. The denouement (resolution) of  The Giver is when Jonas slides down the hill on the sled with Gabriel.  a) True  b) False

Trick Question! FALSE! There is no denouement. Lois Lowry never resolves the plot; she leaves us hanging. About half of them got this. Half of those guessed.

“Remember? Denouement means “untying the knot” in French. Lois Lowry never unties the knot for us. She leaves it for us to do.”

“That’s not fair.”

#5 The climax of  The Giver is when Jonas runs away from the Community.  a) True  b) False

“Now remember, the climax in The Outsiders was when Jhonny (I say Jah-Honny, just for old times’ sake) and Dally die. The climax is the high point in the story. Everything sort of  “slides down” from there, through the falling action into the resolution. Hint. Hint.”

“Ohhhhh! That’s easy!”

Uh huh. They always say that. But usually my dog learns quicker. And he’s dead. Same stats as the previous question.

“The climax would be… when Jonas and Gabe slide down the hill on the sled. That’s where the whole story peaks. That’s where everything sort of comes together, and then we’re supposed to get the explanation, the aftermath. But here we’re left sliding down the hill. What if S. E. Hinton had stopped the story right after Dally died and Ponyboy passed out?”

“That would be weird.”

“No way, really?”

#6 Which is more important?  a) The needs/rights of the individual.  b) The needs/rights of the larger society.

“What? What do you mean? In The Giver? What? Our opinion? What? Wha?”

“Just click.”

In the CPS clicker software, in what the kids like to call the one-at-a-time mode, after a specified length of time, the display will show how many kids picked each answer as well as a green check-mark next to the correct answer. Sometimes I space on checking a correct answer for a warm up question, and they all wait expectantly for the correct answer, and… none of them are checked.  Of course they can’t cope (really they can); I assure them that they’ll get proper credit, and it’s an easy fix after first period leaves. However, this time I did it on purpose; I didn’t check a correct answer when I wrote the question.

In four out of five classes, it came out 60/40 in favor of “larger society.” The fifth class polled 60/40  in favor of the libertarian stance.

Of course they all start in on me when there’s no green check-mark.

So we talk.  About how the Community obviously leaned heavily toward B, and how the US leans heavily toward A. And how, as they enter the real world, they’ll have to wrastle with questions like these.

And I lead them to the question of whether the end justifies the means. Of course, in that form they don’t get it. They think means means what the definition is. But they’re all over it like Philadelphia lawyers (as a previous principal of mine used to say) when I put it like this…

“Is it ok to kill one innocent man to save 10 others? “

Immediately it is a cacophony of “YES!” and “NO!” and assorted other side conversations of opinion-sharing.

Some years, I like to see how many people it takes for a majority of the class to pull the trigger, so to speak.

“10? 20? Twofitty? What?”

“Stop!”

But this year’s bunch was pretty callous toward our hypothetical victim. In most classes, as long as there was more than one being saved, the majority said it was ok.

Ouch. A lot of them liked playing God.

“But obviously the Community would agree with you guys, since they’re willing to stick needles into babies’ heads.”

“Ewwww.”

“What? You can’t get much more innocent than that.”

Where we’re headed is the short play by Ray Bradbury called, “The Flying Machine.” But first we have to head for the bomb shelter.

(Continued next post.)


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