Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Researching/Teaching Butler: Student Perspectives on Parable of the Sower

As you can see from a quick glance at the blog authors, I'm experimenting this year with adding blogging into the mix of things students do in my courses. So this semester I'll be posting post-group research/teaching project learning analyses from students in my Science Fiction course here at sf@SF. The students' task in this assignment, one dimension of many they're being assessed on in this project, is simply to identify the one or two most interesting things they learned about the text and or writer on which they presented as a result of the planning, research, teaching, and reflection/assessment process they went through in doing the project. These are not meant to be full-blown analytical/interpretive/argumentative critical essays, but instead little personal, subjective pieces on what the text they taught meant to them and what they learned by teaching it.

Here are two of the three team members on Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower.

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Carolyn begins:

After reading this book it was immediately clear to me that there were certain topics that were considered main themes of the book. Religion and Earth Seed was the main focus of the book from what I could tell. I find it extremely interesting how people react so differently in drastic situations. This book was interesting because it gave us all different types of people to observe. We had Lauren who was a firm believer that Earth Seed was going to save the world, or at least start over basic humanity again. There was the older generation in Lauren’s neighborhood who seemed to be so stuck in the past referring to the “old days” before the change. Rather then accept that they had to take action, or at least precaution, they had rather focused on maintaining some sense of stability in the neighborhood and not reacting to what they had to have known was coming in the end.

I found I was comparing myself to Lauren throughout a lot of the book, trying to determine if I would be able to react the same way she did; in a way it sort of helped me to rationalize some of her behavior. The only thing that differs from Lauren and I is the fact that she turned to religion as her crutch in the book and I really don’t think that I would react in the same manner. It’s hard for me to judge because I doubt that I will ever seriously be part of that type of world, but at least as far as I can tell I think if anything I would separate myself more from any ties to religion I have now. A lot of people turn to God in desperate situations and pray that he can get them out of that when in fact its something I believe you have to do for yourself. If you can’t depend on yourself to get you out of whatever chaos you’re in, then you can’t depend on anyone. Also, Lauren was just so stuck in her ways, almost closed-minded, which was a characteristic that reminded the readers that Lauren was in fact only a teenager and wasn’t really able to grasp the full concept of what was going on around her.

I found the book really interesting and out of the books that we’ve read so far I think it was really the easiest read we’ve had. At least for me I was able to put myself into the main character's shoes and was able to really understand, question, and criticize what was happening.

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Jessica concludes:

I am really happy that teaching the class the novel that we read was part of the assignment. While teaching the class Parable of the Sower, I learned even more than from just reading it. Our group received so much feedback; it turned out to be a great discussion. Our group was a little nervous at first, but the presentation flowed very smoothly.

One part of the discussion I found myself thinking about quite a lot was “sharing.” This is when Lauren, the protagonist in the novel, shares pain with people that are suffering. The class thought about, “What if the society was full of ‘sharers,’ how would the new apocalyptic society deal with this?” This is because they could slow the society down, or bring the entire hope of the society down as well. The thought of enslaving them even came into my mind (as sick as that is); however, it was interesting to get different perspectives on what would happen to this society. The discussion opened my eyes to new ideas about the subject, when I did not think there was that much significance about sharing when I first read it.

Also another idea that was interesting that I have thought more and more about after teaching it, is could this apocalyptic world really happen? Would there be a drug that could make people act in a way of violence? Would we have to live in gated communities? I did not think twice while reading the novel that any of these factors within the book could possibly happen in the real world; however, getting the other students’ perspectives on the novel made me think otherwise. If our economy was destroyed, and millions were homeless or dead, I think that there would be this competition of life that Lauren and her group, and even the rest of the apocalyptic world, had to go through.

Also while reading Parable of the Sower, I was in Lauren’s head the entire time because it was her journal that we were all reading. She had so much hope and so much faith that they would get through this time, and their world would go back to what we live everyday. That the world would go back to its “normalness.” However, while having the discussion with the class, many people felt that really Lauren was na├»ve, and getting the world back to normal was a very slim chance. It gave me an entirely new perspective on the book. The entire time reading it I was on “Team Lauren.” I knew that she was so smart and would get her group out of the debacle they were in. However, while having the discussion with the class I realized and spoke out that Lauren, as intelligent and beyond her years as she was, she was still just a kid. She was only 18 at the oldest in the book. She still had the hopes of a child, and would not take no for an answer that they would make it out of this situation alive.

I learned a lot while teaching the class this book. I even learned a lot while getting my group’s perspective on the novel. Each of these class discussions opens my mind to other ideas that I never thought of before, and that is something I really look forward to. It always makes me think, “Did the author plan for us to think this way or that way?” It is just interesting to get different points of view on an idea that was so concrete in your brain while you were reading you were not up for interpretation, but during the class discussion it really opened my eyes to different ideas. I would not have changed anything about our presentation; it went great.

2 comments:

mme1188 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Constructivist said...

Thanks, Megan, I only deleted your comment b/c I copied it into the Asimov post going up tomorrow!