Socials Assessment

  • Describe your selected section of the unit and what you understand to be the main idea at the heart of understanding it.

Emma Field, Aidan MacDonald and I researched, analyzed, synthesized and presented information on Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard Cromwell. We covered their roles in history, their impact on the English Civil war and (hopefully) generated discussion/introspective thought on the morality of their actions during the 1600’s.

  • Considering your own presentation, as well as those of others:
    • What are you proud of contributing to your group and the class’ understanding of your topic?

The Fajber-Field-MacDonald Trifecta (FFMT, for short) was quick to decide on our course of action with regards to this assignment: we all agreed to make a song. After further discussion, it was proposed and then agreed upon that we would additionally create and present a timeline chronicling the life and times of the Cromwells, therefore putting all our information into a more accessible format.

We split the timeline into three sections, and the song was created in a 6 hour writing/recording session that used materials such as: video-cameras, Aidan’s laptop, excessive amounts of Chai Tea Latte, and repetitive vocal support on the part of Emma and Aidan that I was to be the lead singer.

    • How would you alter or improve your group / class participation to ensure better understanding of your topic in future units?

FFMT was the best quad in TALONS history. ‘Nuff said.

In all seriousness, we worked very well together.

With regards to class participation…

I have been undertaking a vigorous mental exercise that has doubled as a thought experiment; for the past month or so in the TALONS room I have been endeavoring to speak less and to listen, truly listen, more. The catalyst for this change in classroom behavior was a discussion we had during the Wiki section, where Vanessa’s diplomatic chops caused me to re-evaluate the impact I was having on discussions.

Being quieter was a rather fascinating thing to try and do, really, and over spring break I have had a lot of trouble putting these thoughts into words. The conclusion that I drew included, but were not limited to:

  • The TALONS, as a whole, are ineffective decision makers; however, this is because we are generally primarily concerned with hearing everyone out. That is not something that I wish to see change. Despite this, the lack of forward momentum which arises in most class discussions involving choice is a frustrating thing to observe without personally jumping in and doing what (I feel), would increase our effectiveness, and therefore our overall time we had left to do things.
  • Our class contains people that put their opinions forward, and those that choose not to. This seems like a surface assumption, but over these past few weeks I have had the opportunity to think about it a lot. I want to hear everyone’s opinion, but I feel a NEED to move things forward. I get physical pain in my chest when we use entire blocks for simple discussions; not because I think the discussion was unimportant, or unneeded, but because we could have discussed what we needed to speak about and then discuss what we wanted to speak about. That’s all. How this relates back to the idea of certain people choosing not to put their ideas forward… to reach our highest cohesive success, every TALONS needs the confidence to put their ideas forward, and the restraint to hold their ideas back. I can say now from experience that the latter is more difficult then one might think. This means that when you feel your thought is worth saying, you say it. No one can fault you. But when you are saying something for the sake of being heard or rehashing something that you or someone else is unhappy with, unfortunately you have to exercise your self-control. This was hard for me to initially understand (it seems we TALONS have very ingrained ideas and values of justice), ‘how can you let something happen when you could and should forward a better option?’. For In-Depth, my mentor, Jacob Gebrewold, had Emma and I read the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It reads as such: You give up to go on.

It was an interesting thought experiment, and one I recommend to other people in our classroom that have the inclination to speak often and freely. Because of this self-imposed restriction during the course of this project I contributed less than I had the capacity to; however, I am glad that I took the opportunity to gain this new insight.

  • How should we as a class look to improve future experiments in collaborative unit planning / teaching / assessment? ”Ask and yea shall receive…”

I think the project was well-formed, cohesive, and excellent for learning retention (I will never forget ‘Black Tom’ from the English Civil War). The problem that I personally had was the time it took to get off the ground. I will not waste your time describing again my thoughts on our class discussions.

  • Other than your own section, describe an element of the unit which captured your interest.
    • What will you remember about it?

I could go into detail on almost every quad’s project (in my opinion everyone had a high calibre lesson) but I’d like to take this time to highlight the Risk game.

The Risk game was successful in what it was aiming to do: to have the TALONS class actively learning about the battles and scope of the English Civil War, all the while being engaging to (most of) the class. That’s no mean feat. The creators put a lot of thought into the game rules which was evident (food, special events, special units, etc.) but what really caused it to be effective was the evolutionary process it had over the course of the week it ran. Mr. Jackson pointed out how he was delighted to see that the Risk team was taking feedback and actually applying it; what may have been unsaid was how good an effect that had on the TALONS class. That constant change and recognition of feedback allowed it to go from a great, to an outstanding project.

    • How does it relate to your existing knowledge/feelings/assumptions about history and politics?

This unit is the entirety of my existing knowledge/feelings/assumptions about the English Civil War… but relating to modern day politics what struck me was how Mill-ian everyone was. The accepted school of thought was: For the Greater Good. Even the Parliamentarians who were fighting to put power into the common man’s hands subscribed to that belief.

  • Considering the entire unit (course material as well as collaborative unit planning and group work), what questions / issues did the English Civil War unit raise for you?

For me it was always about the morality of the actions taken by those in power. How did Cromwell manage to away with canceling Christmas? I’ve never fully agreed with the idea that power denotes corruption, but the English Civil War definitely supports that concept. It was a turbulent time filled with leaders that just took what they wanted (e.g. CROMWELL) and they became powerful for it.

Do the leaders of today follow the same principals of power that the leaders of yesterday did? Has the common man and woman gotten better at rejecting decisions they don’t agree with that are made by the powerful? How?

Food for thought, I guess.

  • Describe your daily engagement with the topics covered/discussed in class. Use examples of strategies and habits used in your daily studies.

High engagement in class. I really enjoyed this project and wanted to make the most of it, so I was doing my best to remain at a high level of engagement. At home, I will admit I was significantly less eager to do the daily readings and the review of my character for the court and everything else, too… but it paid off the end. Reading strategy #1: Write what you read, read what you wrote, and then compare what you read to what you wrote about what you read. Got it? Reading strategy #2: I do this all the time, actually… I pick a random song and then replace the lyrics with everything I just learned/read. You can’t forget Henrietta of France when you put her into a song, say, “Royals”…

 

  • How would you undertake a similar course of study to greater effect in the future? Aspects of this unit you would strive to duplicate or change to improve.

I would set aside a few minutes to make sure that groups weren’t doing the same thing. For example, two groups did songs. Nothing was wrong with either song, they were both excellent, in fact; however, repetition, no matter how well disguised is a contributor to boredom, and furthermore lack of engagement. A few minutes at the beginning to confirm that every group was using different media would have prevented that.

 

BIG QUESTION: Do you agree with the statement “Absolute power corrupts absolutely?” Why or why not?

No.

Studying the English Civil War gave me an interesting thought: 100’s of years ago, humans thought that humans were pretty great. They were pretty proud of themselves.

The idea that humanity is an unhealthy species appears to be a more modern opinion, and its interesting how quickly we jump to condemn ourselves. It is far easier to say that we are a disease, and appear wise, then it is to say we are strong, and appear arrogant.

So I ask forgiveness for my arrogance in this: I believe that we have limitless potential. It’s cheesy, yes, but there is something wonderful about the idea of infinite possibility. I reject “absolute power corrupts absolutely” because of this; I refuse to accept that no one has enough will-power to defy this old quote from a famous cynic.

….

Now I eat my words. With regards to the English Civil War, it seems as though Nietzche was right. King Charles, Oliver Cromwell, The Parliamentarians after Cromwell’s reign… no one really seemed to fit our classroom definition of “good guy(s).”