MS English classes have gone deep in their thinking over the past several weeks. The 7-8 section recently completed a series of discussions on Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, for which they explored the novel’s dark, comic satire regarding human behavior, militarism, and self-interest. In the process, they wrestled with the historic context of humans repeating problematic tendencies, and they took solace in their own agency, formulating original thought while valuing their ability to read well, to write for an audience, and to experiment with various forms of self-expression. The unit culminated in a formal essay assignment for which each student critiqued a motif within the novel, explained their argument using detailed explication of text, and included their reasoning for how self-expression functions to counter the various behaviors that Vonnegut takes to task. Fittingly, therefore, they also detailed their individual plans for an ‘altered book’ project, which they are now continuing in Keri’s art class. Having each been given a copy of a ‘throwaway’ book to alter (which range from academic overviews of historic eras to copies of dictionaries, and therefore contain a wealth of potential material for further satire), the students are envisioning their ‘throwaway’ book as an artistic medium, and thereby strategizing how to cut, glue, bend, fold, add to, re-contextualize, and reshape them in line with their theses. Meanwhile, the 5-6 section recently wrapped up their study of Euripides’ classic play Medea, which they read during class while split across two teams, defense and prosecution, knowing that they would ultimately put the title character on trial. They therefore honed their collaborative skills, developed major points of contention, and anticipated the counter-points of the opposition. Each team prepared and revised written arguments and determined who would deliver the phases of the trial. When the big day arrived, they were given a lesson in tying a Full Windsor knot, and, I must say, the assemblage of neckties for both sides added a substantial air of seriousness to the proceedings. The 5-6 class presented their case in clear and deliberate terms to the 7-8 class as jury, who had not read the play. In fact, both legal teams argued and countered their evidence so effectively during a thirty-minute trial that the jury needed ninety minutes over a span of two days to complete their deliberation. Eventually, having carefully weighed the evidence, the jury reached a verdict of ‘guilty’ on two of three counts for murder; they were unable to render a verdict on the third count, since they could not determine whether Medea intended to kill Jason while he consoled Glauce. In retrospect, therefore, the defense acknowledged that they probably should have included an additional piece of evidence whereby Medea rides away in a chariot supplied by Apollo, and therefore seems to have the favor of the gods. I don’t know whether such evidence would have swayed the jury, but I’m confident it would have extended the deliberation, at least. Next up, the entire Middle School will stage their interpretation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which they’ll perform before Spring Break.
Humanities in Action
Mar 1, 2020