Essential Living Skill: Building Background Knowledge
I expect you – my charge, my responsibility, my students – to want to build your own background in order to more fully interact with, analyze, appreciate and grow from what we do in the classroom. Why?
I want you, possibly more than anyone else you have ever come in contact with, to gain the ability to grow yourself into a more fully developed, more deeply critical, more compassionately active individual of this world. Why? How?
There is an essential skill you must be willing to develop. You must be willing to develop an interest in background knowledge because there is so much we don’t know.
My entire life has been one filled with a hunger born of curiosity. Who were those people? What caused the end of that culture? How did this all get started? What does that mean? Where did that come from? Why do things happen? What is my purpose? Where is this going?
In a few weeks, I will visit ancient ruins of a culture long gone from this planet. Will I be able to fully appreciate what I see there? I remember a few years ago one of my students, Matthew, and his family (I didn’t know that soon I would teach his brother, Jacob.) were going to visit Mayan ruins in South America over a winter break. I was so excited for him. It was a trip to visit his own cultural heritage. To understand more deeply, more intimately who he was, what he was made of, who his ancestors might have been, what blood flows in his veins. I told him, “Pay close attention…These were your people…And bring back pictures.” Growing up with his parents, I was relatively sure he had some background knowledge. An interest was there.
I will visit ruins of those same Mayans. Will I be prepared to mentally sort through what I learn? Put new information in place? Build new understanding of my world? Will the horizons of my perspective grow wider? The only way I can be ready for this trip is to build a foundation of knowledge on which to fix my new understandings as I gain them? It will be my first primary source experience Mayan anthropology.
I begin my preparation tonight.
This evening, to live by example for all of you, I will commence construction of foundational knowledge in Mayan Culture. Tonight’s lesson well be provided by Netflix Streaming; click to watch National Geographic: Dawn of the Maya. You can check out the IMDB entry for it here – http://imdb.com/rg/an_share/title/title/tt0429990/.
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