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Tell this story.

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Morning Class Retreat

Talons talking erratically

In brainstorming a way to synthesize the myriad tangents and threads being pursued in our recent study of rebellion and revolution in Egypt, as well as 1860s Manitoba, I wound up writing what began as a challenge to myself, and the Talons, to boil down the human affinity for stories of power, rebellion and freedom, and became much more something of a spoken-word take on history, storytelling, and the very purpose of life itself.

Sometimes, it can feel as though the objective of a lesson – so often a shared synthesis of ideas that comes from everyone pulling in the same direction, as we say in Talons – is elusive to even the instructor, or facilitator, whose job it is to bring about and make meaning – data – for the concerned parties (learner, teacher, parent), until each group’s unique questions can be asked, and looking ahead at the next few days and a wrapping up of the unit on Canadian rebellion, I struggled to answer a few of the ‘regular’ questions:

  • What to make of the course material (in this case history)?
  • How to connect it to our modern experience?
  • How might this unit / project connect to the group’s collective and individual self?

In this case, I was trying to make the study of history connect with the class’ consistent call to actualize ourselves in the learning environment, and personal lives as students and citizens, and in some small way perhaps echoing Jim Groom’s call to:

...make open education in praxis fun, accessible, and basically rock!! DS106 is the beginning of this movement, and it isnā€™t about me, just look aroundĀ ds106. I mean people all over the world are doingĀ Colleenā€˜sĀ Playlist Poetry assignment, she is shaping this class not only by her willingness to create and participate, but by our ability to connect that urge with many, many others who share her desire. That is the beginning of a new dynamic that is not simply transactional. The idea of creative teaching hopefully re-imagines that locusā€”and I need to spend some more time framing this out more because I know itā€™s right. I feel it deeply in my heart of heartā€™s, and as Gardner notes in the discussion above, it is time to reinvest our hearts in the process of teaching and learningā€”I couldnā€™t agree more with that sentiment and I want to make it so.

I wanted the Talons to take their reading and evolving understanding of our national, and current, history, and give it voice in whatever way they might see. But it can be difficult to generate this type of inspiration without a concrete goal, or set of instructions. My vision, though complex and potentially multi-faceted as the personalities and perspectives in the class, and across the world, was simple at its heart: I wanted the class to tell the story of Louis Riel, and the Red River Rebellion, and in doing so tell the story of our class, each of us, in encountering our history, and one another, at this moment in our shared development.

What else is there in life, really?

I was inspired and enthralled in this idea, as well, by my recentĀ drive-timeĀ listening to the Radiolab podcast episode, “Who am I?” delving into engrossing scientific radio journalism in support its episode’s thesis: “The self is a story the brain tells itself.”

RadioLab.org – “The Story of Me”


And somewhere in there, in reflecting on the recent action research of the class’ blogging community, and the developing narrative of the class’ collective, and individual successes and struggles, I thought that the best outline I could offer the lesson and upcoming group project was the simple challenge of the brief essay I had written the night before. It is – to date – the strangest introductory material I have given to a history class.

Louis Riel by Bryanjack

Tell this story.

Rebellion, oppression,

the will of humans to be free.

We are taught the nature of history,

and government, communication

storytelling in the name of

a pursuit of knowledge,

of ourselves, and the breadth of our nature

to be capable of making something,

and living the best life we can.

If each person who was given

the opportunity to express their perspective

in life did so, with the tools at their disposal

to record and publish their thinking

across distance and time

we might know some fraction

of the truth in a world inhabited by a people

whose singular defining characteristic

is to staunchly resist the very changes

which contribute to our progress.

But these struggles each represent a powerful

theme in and of themselves about the truth

of humanity’s story:

that an indominable human will inevitably overcome

a beaurocratic means of suprressing it;

that new ideologies can shatter the expectations

and realities of the old; and that an age committed

fervently to its ideals is rife with the opportunity

to be exposed by people few and brave.

And we well these people’s stories,

and attempt to in some way understand them

and the moment they ineherited, and chose

to stand up, and not submit to the expectations

and realities of their day, so that we might recognize,

in our own selves, and our own times, those things

for which we need to stand up.

Throughout history, we read of continuous examples

of peoples who have through violence and ignorance

have had their rights supressed by regimes

both tyranical and democratic.

When people have acted in haste or fits of passion,

incorrectly, this has resulted in many deaths.

Our present moment asks that we stand and be counted

as lives lived to the best of our honest knowledge

about what our actions mean.

We study the lives and times of men like Louis Riel

to know what others

have been willing to stand for,

when doing so has not been easy.

Because it never it easy,

and surely will not be when it is our turn,

whether we are standing for our lives,

our minds,or own opinion

in a world where everyone’s

from New Orleans’ orphans

to the Kings of Spain,

is exactly equal.

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