As you know, I was taking notes during today's socratic seminar (that's a picture of me on the right). I had a feeling that there were going to be some really great questions and I wasn't disappointed. As I said afterwards, some of the things you were talking about were the same kinds of things that they talk about in college classes. Your questions were discerning and your comments were insightful. Ms. Martin, who was in the room for the last 15 minutes of the seminar, commented to me about how blown away she was by the level of discourse (look it up if you don't know the meaning) that was going on. And in case you didn't notice by my demeanor, I was impressed.
Because you're involved in the seminar, and because memory can sometimes be a fleeting thing (especially at my age), I wanted to share with you my transcript of the seminar and the different things that you said that stood out to me. Sometimes, because there was so much said (and there were a great deal of themes touched upon), you forget some of the things that were said and some of the topics that were covered.
After the endless discussion around Shelly's lunch, Regina kicked it off...
Regina -- "Is being dead the same as being vaporized?" You then proceeded to talk about people and their legacies and if everyone who knows you is dead, and you've left nothing behind, it's the same thing as being vaporized. An interesting concept.
Katherine -- Talking about Winston's job of rewriting the past -- "Do you think that there are things in our history that were written to make certain people look good? Things that really weren't true?" You then proceeded to have a discussion on perspective in history, whether or not you know books to be true, such as the Bible.
Justin -- Asked about 2 + 2 = 5... Wanted to know if a government could rise like this today... You then had a protracted (look it up) conversation about the idea of 2 + 2 equaling 5, Angie and Regina really going at it... Regina said that we needed the basics such as that so we could communicate. Very astute observation.
Katherine -- wanted to know what year you thought this could all be possible in? Was it the past? 1984? Now? The future? And if the future, how long into the future? This led to a conversation about cutting down the language (IM/text-speak) and what that would mean to society and your lives...
Justin -- "Use one word to describe Winston." I thought this was a very clever question, although I do wish that we'd gone around the table and everyone had thought of a word. But a couple of the words that came up were "confused" (Angie) and "restricted" (Randy). Both good terms for Winston. You had a bit of a discussion over that.
Regina -- "Is government control easier than freedom?" and went on to explain that if they're telling you what to do, it might be easier and asking if the difficulty of freedom was worth it. A discussion ensued. Honestly, some people go through their whole lives not even thinking about the concept of control vs. freedom. At this point, I was so happy at the level of discourse going on that my head nearly exploded. :) You generally agreed that we need some control, Justin thinking that we need "some, but not too much"... Afterwards, I left you with the term "slippery slope" and the question of "how much government control is too much?"
Katherine -- "Do you think that Winston is the only one with these flashbacks?" This led to Angie's comment, "If you know you're going to get in trouble by saying something, why would you say it?" In the summation, I asked at what point you would say something, if it wasn't happening to you. For example, many asked of the average person in Nazi Germany how they let things get so far out of control and how did they just go along with all of the evil going on... To which the people usually said that it was so gradual that by the time they realized what was going on, they couldn't do anything about it without risking their own lives.
Justin -- "What do you think will happen?"
Regina -- commented that the proles are the future and it would have to be that group that would protest en masse (look it up). She spoke of your generation and how if you didn't get involved and speak up, nothing would change. Justin, Regina and Katherine talking about how Big Brother and the government didn't want anyone to remember things. Regina said that if you remembered the lottery numbers, you'd connect it to what you were doing that day, and then you'd have other memories and they didn't want that. Angie then made the most memorable comment, saying that no one ever wins the lottery except old people -- and here's my favorite part -- she then turned to me and said, "No offense." HAHAHA! The highlight of my day!
Shelly then asked "What if you don't believe in what your dictator is doing?" A GREAT question and one asked by dissidents (look it up) in countries all the time.
Angie -- would do what the dictator wanted because that way, she wouldn't be miserable.
Justin -- made an astute comment about how people would "just get used to it."
Katherine -- if you're just one of 5 people and the government's against you, you're dead."
To which Angie replied how 5 people may not make the difference themselves, but they may start a movement that might then be powerful against the government. This made me think of a woman who sat down in the "wrong" section of a bus in a one-woman protest against her government policies, risking arrest or worse, and the young priest who stood with her, facing arrest, his own government plotting ways to disgrace him, and death threats. Whether or not you realized it, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. are two of those 5 people Katherine and Angie were talking about.
Regina -- stated that in most books, she can clearly see the characters, but in this book, she can't see it clearly. The world is so foreign to her that she can't get a grasp on the look of it. Very interesting.
Katherine -- once we discussed how people are always being watched, she now notices that people are always watching her and that maybe we're going through what the book talks about right now. Most agreed and felt that it made them "uncomfortable."
So, my job is done. I've managed to get into everyone's head and freak you all out. I can now retire happy. :)
In regards to Angie's comment about "doing what the dictator wanted because that way, she wouldn't be miserable" and Katherine making a comment about how if it wasn't happening to her, she might not do anything (which I totally understand), I wanted to include a very famous poem written by Pastor Martin Niemoller, a German priest who lived in Nazi Germany during the rise of Adolph Hitler. At first, he supported Hitler, but when he realized what Hitler was doing, he protested and was sent to a concentration camp. After a horrible ordeal, he was freed by Allied forces at the end of the war. He wrote this of his experience:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak out.
Please let me know what you think of this poem and of the socratic seminar in general. Also, please let me know if you think of things that you'd like to talk about on Monday so that I could prepare materials that might help/explain the topics.