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Humanities. Part One.

[A man] must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to the community. These precious things … primarily constitutes and preserves culture. This is what I have in mind when I recommend the “humanities” as important, not just dry specialized knowledge in the fields of history and philosophy. 

– Albert Einstein

My son’s favourite main lesson block of all time is his Superhero block that we did when he was 8. He loved it so much that he did it again when I introduced it to a small group of 8-9 year olds at the end of last year.

We compared heroes from the Marvel Universe, a favourite world in our house, to real heroes from history. We looked at superheroes and compared superpowers. We imitated the “hero stance.” I made up games like a “rock, paper, scissors” action game where you had to duel another player and on the count of three perform one of the superpowers which were weather and element related.

This was a brief introduction to biography. Fiction and non-fiction. As I tell the “origin” stories of both types of heroes – the Captain America and the Martin Luther King Jr biographies for example – we see the “striving” of a human being. We see how obstacles are overcome and although the path isn’t easy, they keep going. Why do they persevere? What virtues are they trying to uphold?

Through these stories, the children experience the universality of the human journey as well as the extremely personal aspect. (Captain America used violence to fight for justice while Martin Luther King Jr did it with non-violent resistance.)

When we compared the superhero Storm with an African Warrior Queen, Kandake Amanirenas, the climate of the African desert and how they used it to their advantage to defeat their enemies was important. We did a watercolor painting together to emphasize what it must have been like in the desert, a stark comparison to the jungle that these kids live in.

We also look at cultural differences and contrasting world views which normally arise from unique upbringings – Wonder Woman and St. Bridget, for example. How does family support and cultural norms affect the way one sees oneself and the world around them?

While there are many potential avenues of abstract questions to be asked during this block, I refrain. I simply tell the story and ask them to re-tell the story the next day. We draw and after we do the pair of stories, they naturally compare. I only ask that they step into the shoes of these people that we learn about. What was life like at that time? What would life be like in the desert? What superpower would you want?

The beginning of a journey into being human. The beginning of recognizing the hero and villain within ourselves. The beginning of understanding that who we are becoming and have become is due to our experiences in our life.

And that some of us, with imagination only as our tool, dreamed bigger.

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