Thursday, June 10, 2010

"In the World, the Carrying Capacity of Humans is Limited..."

"...History holds all things in balance, including large hopes and short lives." (Adah, Book 5)

I mentioned yesterday that I was rereading "Poisonwood Bible" for book club tonight. I'd previously led the discussion for another of my favorites, "Unaccustomed Earth," by Jhumpa Lahiri; there were about eight of us that time. Apparently, my branch has tried to cancel their "second Thursday" book club during the summer for lack of attendance, but the members resisted. So we had it, and so it was that I led a conversation about "Poisonwood Bible" tonight with a lovely woman named Barb.

Luckily, Barb was a like-minded reader. The book angered her in the same ways it angered me (America?!?! How could you?!?!) and engaged her in similar ways. She had grown up with an older sister who was visually-impaired and was fascinated by the relationship between twin sisters Leah (able-bodied and brilliant) and Adah ("crippled" and brilliant). We both agreed that the end was perhaps more drawn out than it should have been.

I told Barb about the Lumumba movie and my shock over America's involvement, and she told me about living through the assassination and being vaguely aware of the official version of what had transpired. She'd said something to her dad, and he said she sounded like a Communist: "I wasn't offended," she told me.

While it would have been nice to have more voices, I enjoyed this book-talk. We'd only met the last time I did the book club, months ago, and after we'd discussed Kingsolver's book for a good forty minutes, we talked another fifteen about her children, my education, and our hope for the future.

A thought: Pundits talk about code words. Dog whistles. Things politicians can say that only reach a certain audience. They may refer to states' rights. Welfare queens. Tough on crime. But it's not just racist politicians who use them. We all do in our own way. We say something that would register only to those who share our world view, negotiating until we know we are in safe territory.

I realize I'm unsafe at school. Today, in a lesson about understanding visual information, I showed a picture of a couple, posing for a wedding picture. He was in his tux, she in her white wedding gown, bouquet in hand. In the background was storm, palm trees heavily bent by wind, heavy rain. On closer look, we see that the bride's bouquet is coming loose and her hair blowing. And still they smile. The text on the bottom: "Ignoring global warming won't make it go away."

One student thought the poster was suggesting that global warming caused the hurricane, and no one wants hurricanes to ruin a wedding. But clearly, the couple, obviously affected by their environment, are choosing to ignore it, just as we continue to ignore global warming. This same student argued that global warming is a hoax, and the poster is propaganda. How do you argue with that? On one side you have scientists, and on the other side you have non-scientists. As Bill Maher said on his show last week, this is not a debate! I did the smart thing and didn't engage myself. The last thing I want to do is diminish a student; besides, we're going to spend four more weeks on evaluating sources. The best thing I can do is give him the tools to find better information.

1 comment:

mkcillip said...

Och, that's such a tough spot to be in in the classroom! I don't know if I would have handled it so well.