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Tuesday, March 11

March 11, 2014

WWTWWT: Today we finished our discussion of Aristotle. Key points covered:

1. Aristotle believed, like we said last time, that the telos of human beings is happiness. We qualified that further: happiness, he believed, meant being being virtuous (or just plain “good”). And the good life, he thought, was one spent pursuing the thing that makes us human: the capacity for rational thought.

2. That led us to an explanation of his concept of the “Golden Mean.” This is, simply, a path between two extremes that will lead to virtue. For example, take the emotion fear. If you have too little, you’re reckless (a vice). If you have too much, that’s also a vice, cowardice. But if you have “just enough,” you’ll be courageous (but sensible). Here’s a chart:

3. A fair amount of Aristotle’s work survives, but only in the form of lecture notes. (The books based on those notes are gone.) The notes are pretty dry stuff, but we’re lucky to have them at all — after the fall of the Roman Empire, Arab scholars preserved and translated Aristotle’s works, which were then re-introduced to Europeans in the 12th and 13th centuries.

In the second half of class we reviewed a comparison between Plato and Aristotle, which will be the basis of a quiz on Thursday. I gave notes and also put the material into a handout, which you should get from me if you were absent. I’ll expect you to be ready for the quiz.

Adaptation: Attendance was not great again today, but we moved forward anyway. We started off by hearing about your researched fairy tales – some interesting stuff was brought up. We also started watching Into the Woods, a Stephen Sondheim musical. We watched the first 30 minutes – if you were absent today, PLEASE make every effort to watch this sometime tomorrow, before Thursday’s class, so that we’re all on the same page. Let’s make it happen.

Siren: All April copy is due next Tuesday, the 18th, at the start of class.

Film Studies: You handed in your responses to War of the Worlds and we talked briefly about your various interpretations. By vote, we started to watch Hook. We got through about 45 minutes of the film. A reading assignment was also handed out – a copy is waiting for you in the box if you were absent. We’ll start off on Thursday by discussing this reading, then continue watching Hook.

Bookbinding: Continued to work on current project. If you are behind or want to get ahead, you can arrange to come here during 3rd block on Wednesday or Friday.

8th Grade: Makeup cultural literacy test. You guys barely made it — an even 75 percent — but it happened. In the second half we watched the Twilight Zone episode “Nick of Time.”

Survey: CNF: We started a new prompt. We brainstormed a list of ceremonies, and I had you come up with one type — that you’d either participated in or attended — where something went wrong. Then I had you write that moment.

I also gave back the “little thing/big thing moment” notecards from last week. And I handed back the the “greatest fear” essays, which showed substantial improvement from the first essays.

Two things to remember:

1. Keep your focus, and don’t get lost in a moment . Moments are great, the lifeblood of an essay. But remember that you’re doing more than just writing an interesting moment. You have to have something to say about it. You also have to look at an essay when you’re done and ask yourself: “Are there any important related moments — moments that relate to my focus — that should also be included?” Which brings us to the next point…

2. Always seek out connections that can provide comparisons. This is the difference between an OK essay and a great one. Some comparisons demand to be made; for example, if you’re writing about something that happened one Christmas, it’s almost implied that you’re going to have to contrast this with past Christmases, even if in passing. “Has something like this ever happened before — to me, or to anyone else?” is a question you should always ask yourself. How does the experience you’re writing about compare?

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