On the grounds that my son has enough to deal with – I do my best to keep themes of MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN* removed from our stories and studies. However, last night three of our books ambushed us with the ugliness of RACISM:
- From Kelly Yang’s novel, “Front Desk”: racism and racial profiling
- From Rachel Ignotofsky’s “Women in Science”: we hated learning that brilliant ophthalmologist/inventor Patricia Bath contended with racism throughout her academic career
- From Kekla Magoon’s novel, “The Season of Styx Malone”: we are pretty sure that the reluctance of our protagonists’ father to allow his children to venture into the big city is based upon a past trauma rooted in racism
I provided my son with a concise explanation of racism, and followed up with some questions:
- does it seem smart or ridiculous to assign specific characteristics to an entire group of people based on appearance?
- do we need to make others look bad to make ourselves feel good?
- is racism ever acceptable?
- what letter grade would we give racism?
*“Man’s inhumanity to man” – the phrase was first used by Scottish treasure, Robert Burns, in his lengthy poem of 1784, “Man was made to mourn: A Dirge”. We carefully examined each line of this stanza (vocab):
Many and sharp the numerous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!
Why can’t we be friends? – My son and I are reading from Iris Gottlieb’s cutie of a book “Natural Attraction”, which is filled with examples of unexpected and beneficial partnerships in nature: tarantulas/frogs, ants/aphids, whales/barnacles. (New vocab: symbiotic and mutualism.) This book offers an uplifting way to conclude each night’s academic agenda.
Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – to bring attention to Robert Burns’ 260th birthday, the diner owner was thinking about adding “A Taste of Old Scotland” onto the dinner menu, but there proved to be no interest among the chefs in preparing haggis, so as sort of a second choice, butterscotch sundaes were added onto the dessert menu as a watered down nod to the great poet’s homeland. I know, so lame. Over the course of the first month on the menu, 500 butterscotch sundaes were served up, 80% to teenagers. How many non-teenagers enjoyed a butterscotch sundae during this time? (answer at bottom of post)
Music to celebrate Robert Burns – we listened to the well known Burns song, “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, and then selected two pieces that idealize his native Scotland –
- “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, lyrics by Robert Burns (1794) set to a traditional Scots folk melody. This is a lovely rendition, but BTW, there is the most adorable performance in the 1999 movie, “My Life So Far” –
- Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, movement 4 (selected because the dominant melodic theme is based upon a Burns song, “Scots Wha Hae”), composed in 1880. Interesting note: Max Bruch’s first visit to Scotland was one year AFTER the premiere of his “Fantasy”. Another interesting note: this youtube video indicates that we are listening to movement 5, but we are not. This is fake news; there is no movement 5. This is a clerical error. –
- Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor (known as “The Scottish”), movement 2, composed in 1842, as he reflected upon his 1829 sojourn to Scotland. The short movement is full of bounce and spirit and this performance is conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Winner, winner! –
Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: 100 non-teenagers)