Friday, September 29, 2006

Email from One Candle Schoolhouse: Teaching Humanity

By now, Martha Nussbaum's essay "Teaching Humanity" ought to have circulated in blogs and emails worldwide. If not, then I think it certainly should. It touches on cultural aspects increasingly lost in a world driven by economic and technological lust. Nussbaum's essay begins:
I have no objection to good scientific and technical education, and I don't wish to suggest that nations should stop trying to improve it. But I worry that other abilities, equally crucial, are at risk of getting lost in the competitive flurry. The abilities associated with the humanities and the arts are also vital, both to the health of individual nations and to the creation of a decent world culture. These include the ability to think critically, to transcend local loyalties and to approach international problems as a "citizen of the world."

I got this essay this morning via email, courtesy of Diane Pool of One Candle Schoolhouse. One Candle Schoolhouse is a fine example of what Ms. Nussbaum is talking about and what endeavors directed towards culture can do.

Diane's email gave me a short update on what she and her kids had been up to after I gave them some Mango Jam comics. The digital painting above was done by one of her students as part of their effort to make their own comic.
You know the parlour game where someone starts with a sentence, the next one adds something, and on and on it goes around the room until you have a story? Well, I was thinking about a book that was done that way. I don't quite remember the title, but it was chapters instead of sentences that four or five published authors did. Dave Barry was the only one I remember, and obviously it wasn't a truly memorable story.

I've already started using this system with the kids as a means of pushing them to consider their own stories in terms of a comic strip. John Mark has 2-1/2 panels already, which I will attach for you to see--work in progress, remember--but I am so pleased with his willingness to try. He's using Paint for almost the first time. I think some of his other drawings will be in next week's MetroPost.

This is in response to the comic books you sent home with me. I'm still not sure how they've taken to them because, at first, they weren't interested. Now, slowly, I find they are starting to spend more time studying them, but I've not discussed anything more. Initially, the illustrations were just too 'townie'--fancy clothes,
hairstyles, situations--not anything like their rural world. So that's why I told them we need to produce our own strip. Do one on what it's like out here. When I
mentioned to John Mark (who is an only child from Mindanao, living here with an aunt because the school at home was too far away to attend) that his experience was something he could offer to other kids whose parents might be sending them away to school, he GOT IT.

So that's what's in the works, thanks to YOU!!!

And thanks, too, Diane!

In case you're wondering, I believe the little story that John Mark did here was of their visit to the Silliman University marine laboratory. At least, that's what I think it is because of the whales in the picture.

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