Gone with the Wind

A Guided Discovery Exercise for Literature, History, Political Science, Media, and Wring Classes


It's one thing to sermonize about media insufficiencies and lies my teacher told me; quite another to have people discover these lies on their own.  The class exercise below, like many others of mine, belongs to the guided discovery category, and it works like a charm.  Most people are astounded by the result, which speaks more to them than 1,000 passive lectures.  (Incidentally, I have borrowed the idea of guided discovery from my science teaching, cf: http://www.is.wayne.edu/mnissani/PAGEPUB/SCIEX.htm)


The exercise consists of class discussion/four consecutive in-class writing assignments.  If the writing aspect is paramount, it works best in a computer lab.  The exercise is made up of 4 parts:


1.  Each student answers in writing:  What do you think of Gone with the Wind? (write you answer without talking to anyone in class).  Or, if they know too little about the book, this can be a take-home assignment:  Interview some older people and get their views.

Note;  So far, the answers of about 70 people, of which 50 were African-Americans, were: A great book, a great story, the best story ever, a wonderful movie, captures the old south, etc. Racism doesn't even creep in. 


2.  Now we have a class discussion, pool together our collective wisdom, and each person writes:  What did I miss?

Note: this doesn't help much, but it's crucial, for it shows that ignorance here is collective, and hence could not be a mere accident.

3. Now, examine this undergraduate paper: http//www.is.wayne.edu/mnissani/SE/gone.htm

4.  Answer questions:  What did the class as a whole miss? Who is right, Crystal or everyone else?  What's going on here? Why do Americans have such a mistaken notion of a blatantly racist novel?   Who and what caused this curious gap in our understanding of literature? What can we do to improve our conception of reality?


Of course, there is an outside chance that someone might know that the book is racist and that it laments the disappearance of the good old days of slavery, of keeping African-American illiterate as a matter of policy, of raping women and selling children down river, of betraying the age-old idea that all people are created equal.  So far, not a single African-American in my class had an inkling of this.  Instead, they tell me about such nonsense as how "frankly my dear changed their parents' lives."  But if a student has escaped the media and textbook fog, change the format and pit that knowledgeable student's views against the views of all the others.  The exercise, I suspect, would be just as powerful that way--or perhaps even more so--for the truth will not come merely from the internet, but from an actual participant.  They can then proceed to step 3, but now merely as a confirmation of the version they have just heard. 

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