Truth in Society

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 1994

Prompt #7

The plan for this morning . . .

First off, put the reflections you've written about the videos you watched as a participant in The Last Truth in Society Film Celebration in the marked box. Before dropping yours into the box, make sure that you have recorded your name, and clearly indicated at the top of each page the particular video being discussed. We'll make use of these reflections a bit later.

By now, you probably have some idea about what each of the six episodes involved. Undoubtedly, though, there are still many gaps in your understanding and knowledge. It may not be clear, for instance, who the principal protagonists were, and what the concrete sequence of events was, or what else was going on at that historical moment. Today our task is to identify the gaps, and to fill as many of them as we can. We want to soon arrive at the point where everyone has a fairly coherent picture of "what happened" in each of the six episodes; then we'll be able to start discussing which three we want to examine in greater depth for the remainder of the term.

Later in the term we'll spend a good deal of time cooking up and chewing on "big questions," the kind that have to do with "the broader context," "the long-term implications," "the wider meanings and significance of the events," and so on. At that stage, making the effort to learn about the distinctive perspectives of religious studies, literary analysis and sociology will be fruitful.

But we are not ready for the big questions yet. Right now, the kinds of questions we need to assemble are (or at least seem) smaller, more straightforward, "factual," concrete, specific, descriptive . . . We are in the library today in order to deal with as many questions of this sort as we can. The idea is to decide what we need to know to understand, as fully as possible, just what happened in each of these episodes.

To get started, let's use the yellow comment sheets attached to the "appetizers" (the photocopies of chapters, documents and articles filed in the six boxes). In the next half hour or 45 minutes, read one or two sheets from each pile, and then as many as possible from one of the piles (whichever one seems interesting). As you make your way through these comment sheets, keep asking: "What more about this do I need to know in order to better grasp what happened?" When something occurs to you, write it down.

To keep track of any questions you find while reading the comment sheets (and, probably more important, the additional ones that come to your own mind while you are reading) use the colour-coded "question sheets" provided. (You should expect that some of the comments about appetizers that you yourself have not sampled will be especially confusing. Don't worry about this; if you find yourself completely baffled, just move on to another bundle.)

It's important to remember that you should confine your questions to ones that we have a reasonable chance of finding answers to by the end of the day. That means they should mainly be pretty concrete, factual ones. Some of them, of course, may be answered in the material in the boxes that you haven't read yet; we should find that out as we go.

After this, we'll collect the "question sheets," sort them by episode, and divide them into 13 roughly equal piles. Thirteen because today you'll work as a member of a triad. (You guessed it: a triad is a three-person group. There are 40 students in the course. Assuming everyone is here, that yields thirteen groups, twelve being true triads, and the thirteenth having one extra member.)

Your group will receive a batch of question sheets, probably all relating to one episode. Your mission is to answer as many of the questions as you can, by using the resources of the library.

Before venturing out into the bowels of the library, sit together to carefully review your questions. Sort them, putting identical or similar or overlapping ones together. Then prioritize them, taken two things into account: (1) how crucial you think an answer to a certain question might be, and (2) how difficult you think it will be to find an answer. Your goal, obviously, is to make headway on as many of the more crucial (and answerable) questions as you can.

You should also take a look at the accompanying "Library Hints" sheet.

The room in which we are now sitting -- Room 112, the "Library Conference Room" -- will serve as our base camp. Periodically throughout the morning, your group may want to check-in. The three of us have arranged our schedules so that at least one of us will be "on duty," either in 112 or out helping someone, at all times. If you want to confer, look for us in Room 112 first. If you don't find us there, check the Reference Section.

Vending machines and pay phones are in the basement. (No food or drink upstairs.)

Plan to return to Room 112 so that we can convene a meeting of the whole class promptly at 1:00.

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