Friday, March 14, 2014

Open Letter to all Stakeholders regarding "Of Mice and Men"

To the Parents/ Guardians of _______________________:

            The purpose of this letter is to inform you of a component in our study of the 1930s.  As we address the Great Depression, we will focus on the study of poverty in America.  Students will choose between two options for projects that center on poverty in the 1930s and in the modern setting. These projects can be completed outside of the classroom setting.  This will be complemented with an in- class study of John Steinbeck’s novella, Of Mice and Men.
            As with all choice of literature, some background as to selection needs to be offered.  Steinbeck’s work discusses themes intrinsic to the 1930s.  Focusing on the American predicament through the eyes of the dispossessed and the economically marginalized is of central importance to Steinbeck’s work.  As our unit examines the issue of poverty both in the Great Depression and in our own world, Steinbeck’s work encompasses realities that are contextual and universal in their scope.  The examination of the social conditions that give rise to the book and animate its plot will be given significant discussion time in the classroom setting.
            We will be reading the book entirely in class in about a week’s time. This gives an excellent opportunity for students to interact with the text in the classroom setting and to ruminate upon the concepts covered outside of class.  Students will be required to complete enrichment sheets that assess different aspects of reading comprehension and historical analysis outside of class.  I will be reading the text aloud in class as students follow along with classroom copies of the text.   This will allow a wide distillation of the text complexity in both syntax and thematic implications.  After student projects have been submitted, students will engage in a culminating Close Reading Activity based on Steinbeck’s work.
            Steinbeck’s work is not without provocative issues about which students and stakeholders need to be made aware.  Steinbeck writes the work in the mode of Social Realism. Steinbeck and other artists who embraced Social Realism seek to depict reality in an honest and direct manner.  Their hopes rest with awakening individual awareness and galvanizing voices towards change.  This is consistent with our course of student throughout the year.  Students have seen this in the Progressivism unit as well as in our study of World War I and our current course of study in the 1920s.  However, Steinbeck’s work does depict some rather intense images of reality that should be understood prior to its engagement.
            Of Mice and Men contains some scenes of violence.  Steinbeck does not use violence for violence sake.   The violence that is present is a reflection of the world in which migrant workers such as Lennie and George live.  The use of violence is not gratuitous or sensationalist.  This use of violence is not overt.  Rather, it is a statement about a world in which human life and human dignity has lost value in the name of money and status.  Steinbeck writes about a world in the 1930s where violence is the logical conclusion of emphasizing wealth and money over humanity.  This is a lesson that can illuminate much in way of thought and reflection out of our students.  In our desire to move our students farther along the path of scholarship, issues like these must be confronted and transparently discussed.  My hope is that employing Steinbeck will help us do just that.
            Steinbeck’s commitment to Social Realism also means that he does not censor the way in which people communicate.  Some of the language used in the text is meant to provoke individuals into thought and reflection.  Steinbeck employs language to highlight the way in which men refer to women and in which many White Americans referred to people of color.  His drive to depict the world of the 1930s through a prism that enables individuals to see what is and demand what can be compels him to embrace such a coarse view of reality.  In terms of reading aloud, students will see this language in print, but I will not read the words aloud.  Students have been notified as to the historical value of seeing such language in literature, viewing it as a trace fossil of how people at one time behaved in the hopes of making the future better than the past. Their maturity in this regard has been secured.
            Throughout this year, as students have sojourned on their path towards scholarship, there have been many intellectual challenges placed in front of them.  This rigor has compelled them to interact meaningfully with works from intense writers such as Howard Zinn, Swami Vivekananda, W.B. Yeats, Ursula LeGuin, Luigi Pirandello, and Erich Maria Remarque.  In each of these settings, our students, our emerging scholars, have embraced the rigor placed upon their broad shoulders.  For the most part, their thinking, work products, and writing have blossomed as a result.  It is with this in mind that they face their next challenge in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
            Naturally, there will be an alternate activity if a student needs to be excused from the reading. However, I wish to make a personal plea that interacting with the text in the classroom setting will enhance the student learning experience.  It is with this in mind that I am willing to speak with anyone regarding this selection of literature.  As we strive to provide challenging education to our students, Of Mice and Men is considered to be one of the great classics that will elevate the intellectual capacity of our young people. Please do not hesitate to contact me through any of the means listed below.  It is my hope that all of our students will join me in letting John Steinbeck be our guide through the brutal beauty that is the 1930s and the Great Depression.  If I can be of any further help or assistance, please initiate contact with me.

All best.

Ashley A. Kannan

Cell phone: (708) 822- 4260

Assignments for 3.17 to 3.21
Finish 1920s Assessments.  Assign Close Reading on Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams.”

Find your 15 Minutes.  Finish your Close Reading on Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams.”  If you want to come in during lunch for me to check over your work or email your work to me, this is a good thing. Facts and outfits need to be ready for Tommy Guns on Friday.

End 1920s with Teasdale’s “There Will Come Soft Rains.”  Discuss the 1930s with introducing Of Mice and Men.

Find your 15 Minutes.  Finish your Close Reading on Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams.”  If you want to come in during lunch for me to check over your work or email your work to me, this is a good thing.  Extra Credit for any Of Mice and Men letters returned.  Facts and outfits need to be ready for Tommy Guns on Friday.

Finish Close Reading Assignment in class.

Find your 15 Minutes.  Facts and outfits need to be ready for Tommy Guns on Friday.

Discuss Tommy Guns.

Find your 15 Minutes and tomorrow is Tommy Guns.  Facts and outfits need to be ready for Tommy Guns on Friday.

Tommy Guns Day.  Your completed packets are due at 3:30..

Find your 15 Minutes over break, each day, and revel in it.  This will be your last Spring Break as a District 97 student.  Grades will be updated by next Sunday.  Check online and then make sure you are ready for the 1930s.  
P.S.  Look for a Rabbit.  You’ll see why...

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