of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Values and Worldview

Today began a new semester.  Because my class was small, I did not throw candy at the students.  However, I did tell them about the candy throwing.  About 15 minutes into the class, I realized that I had left some notes in my office.  When I entered the classroom after running to my office, a student threw candy at me!  It was very funny.  However, I think a couple of his colleagues were shocked that he actually did it.

Part of the work for contemporary American history was inspired by a disturbing meme I saw a month or so ago.  However, the purpose of today’s class was not to introduce the isms.  Instead, I wanted to introduce the students to the idea of world views in general as well as the concept of values.  To accomplish this task, I first focused the discussion around American values and how those change.

I began the day by asking the question, “What are the qualities of an American citizen?”  Then, I showed the 1912 film  Making an American Citizen which concerned making good citizens out of Eastern European immigrants.  We also looked at some of the values which were important to Americans 100 years ago.  I then asked the students to work in teams to do an updated version of the 1912 film.  In doing this, I hoped to reenforce the point that values and worldviews could change over time.

To introduce the specific topic of worldview, I used Dr. Glenn S. Sunshine’s “What is a World View.”  Glenn does a great job of explaining the issue or world view in a way that is accessible for students to understand.

One surprise of the day was that students had trouble understanding the end of Fait d’Hiver.  Students miss that the main character has dialed a wrong number.  It seems that over the past few years, more and more students have this difficulty.  It seemed to me that only a couple of students were able to pick up this important point.  I am not being critical of the students.  Certain texts are more difficult than others and there is no inherent reason why they need to understand Fait d’Hiver.  But I have been surprised that the film is getting more difficult for students to understand.

Part of the reason I use Fait d’Hiver is because it is an amusing–though dark–film that allows me to make a point about research in a fun way.  In choosing it for today’s class, I wanted something light and funny as we made the transition from discussing worldviews to discussing specific course expectations.  However, given what appeared to be the difficulty of the students in understanding the film, I am not sure that this is a good choice.  But before making any final decision, I need to check with the students to see if my impression is correct or not.

One joke I cracked today concerned concerned “Join or Die” which was the first editorial cartoon published in what is now America was the first meme.  At least I thought it was funny.


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