Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Zone

We're going into week 3 of reading Guns, Germs and Steel with our Global Studies class, and the kids are amazing me every day.

Today I'm grading the journals they've been keeping as they read the book. Here are some excerpts [Warning: objectionable content ahead. Keep in mind, they are teenagers, and I always tell them that while I might not agree with everything they say, I respect their right to say it]:
In my opinion it could be possible to say that a less developed civilization stayed less developed because a more developed civilization held them down. However this is an effect not a cause. What factors made the "superior" civilization? What made them able to hold others down or enslave them.

If we relate the content we just read, he is saying the New Guineans are more smart and intelligent than white Europeans. If we see today's world the writer is totally wrong. Our present world show who is more smart and who is not and it's obvious from the observation that white people are smart.

While I was reading today, the thought popped into my head about when we went to the race exhibit last year. There was a moniter that showed the spread of of the human population. Humans started in Africa, then moved to other eastern countries that have people that are not white. From this information, I think that I can answer why white people had more "cargo." I think that darker skinned people evolved first, so they may have less of a drive to create new things. Although there may be less products that they get from the land, so they can't make the products that were brought over.

The explanations that the author comes up with for how societies ended up so different are insane. The possibility that it is because of the climate is crazy to me, but highly possible. Does it have anything to do with genetics? Does asking these questions really make a difference because are we honestly ever going to know for sure?
What I'm finding as the kids are struggling through the text (and we are still just finishing up the Prologue!) is that maybe what they said in grad school was true: kids will stretch up to their "zone of proximal development." We gave the kids a book that was too hard, but did a lot of preparation, and somehow they're getting it. A lot of them are actually REALLY getting into it.

I think teaching that way is like walking on hot coals. Until you've actually seen it happen, it sounds like a myth or an impossibility. If I weren't team-teaching this class with an experienced teacher, I don't think I would have had the guts to do it. It makes so much more sense to teach to the bottom than to to the top, or at least to the middle. But kids need more of our guts than that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a challenging project you're undertaking!
I've always wanted to read guns, germs and steel with my students, but time does not permit it unfortunately...