For the past two weeks, my world history survey course has covered the revolutions that made modernity. Last week was about politics in the Age of Revolutions. This week is about the Industrial Revolution.
Over the weekend, coincidentally, I caught the latest episode of the Harvard EdCast. It’s a conversation with the social psychologist Geoff Cohen on the “crisis of belonging” among American youth. In this conversation, Cohen spoke about the wide-ranging educational benefits of inviting students to discuss their values together:
And in a number of studies that my colleagues and I and others have done, we found that the simple act, for instance, of just asking students to reflect on, what is core to you? What are your most important values? What would you stand up for? What would you die for? What is really dear to your heart? Giving students the opportunity to write about their core values in the classroom has been found, under some circumstances, to have these wide-ranging benefits, closing achievement gaps in GPA, even after just a few sessions of doing these kinds of activities, improving health and well-being, leading to greater retention throughout high school and college. And this has been replicated in several studies.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but in schools and classrooms where there are resources and pathways to success, if I now feel like this is a place where my whole self is accepted, I’m more likely to seize those opportunities. So these are just examples of many of little things we can all do to make the situations a lot better.
This comment helped nudge me to plan the activities with which I began each class this week.
Continue reading “Two Reflection Activities for the Age of Revolutions” →
This is the fifth regular installment in a series of posts as I rewatch a 1977 documentary film called How Should We Then Live? The series has moved from Thursdays to Saturdays. If you’re reading this series for the first time, I recommend starting with the project introduction. Today’s episode is “The Revolutionary Age.”
I approach this week’s episode of How Should We Then Live with trepidation. Halfway through his sweeping ten-episode story about “the rise and decline of western thought and culture,” Francis Schaeffer has now arrived at historical territory that I can consider really mine: the early United States. That means the temptation to embark on a detailed fact-checking of his work is going to be strong.
And let me tell you, this episode has some major opportunities for fact-checking.
But the larger problems with Schaeffer’s story are already familiar. In “The Revolutionary Age,” Schaeffer continues to compress and stretch time according to the needs of his argument. He crowds complex experiences under simple labels. He passes reductive judgments on entire societies and civilizations. He shows little interest in historical study as such; he embraces it just to the extent that it serves his evangelistic or political purpose. And he seems determined to see the best in the past people he identifies with his own evangelical Protestant faith, and the worst in those he doesn’t.
Unfortunately, while sharing its basic flaws with the previous episodes, “The Revolutionary Age” lacks their crucial redeeming element: It does little to cultivate appreciation for the visual art, music, and other cultural monuments of the societies it discusses. As this series moves into the modern age, I’m worried that Schaeffer is losing interest in ushering his viewers into the bygone social world.
Continue reading “How Should We Then and Now: Ep. 5 (The Revolutionary Age)” →