Showing posts with label ancient philosophy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ancient philosophy. Show all posts


A Lesson in Opposing Viewpoints: On Appearances and First Impressions

Don't trust too much in appearances.
Quintillian, Ancient Roman Teacher and Writer (c. 35 - c. 100 C.E.) 
Clothes make the man.
Recorded by Erasmus, Counter-Reformation Writer, and Scholar (1466 - 1536 C.E.) 
N.B. The phrase is found in Multiple Babylonian, Greek, and Latin Sources. Even Polonius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet says it: "The apparel doth oft proclaim the man."

Clothes on a line

Two Ideas About How One Ought To Present Oneself
     Here is a set of dueling philosophies — one based on suspicion of outward appearance — and the other, an appraisal of appearance's worth in civilized society. Which one rings more true?
     I want to trust in the idea that appearances do not tell the entire story of a person. However, I read once that the average person takes X seconds to make a judgment about a person they just met. Do I think you should dress appropriately for a job interview? Yes. But getting the job, keeping it, excelling at it, and growing as a person — will take more than appearances. So maybe the lesson is that you show the world what they want to see and hope they can see who you really are once you get your foot in the door. However, I am tickled by this notion that if we did not judge by appearances — as much — wouldn't the world be a better place. I am thinking of internalized racism — the idea that society is infused with systematic racist beliefs that undermine everyday people's ability to be successful. I had a boss that said, "Dress for success" and "Fake it till you make it," but I think she also told us in a work meeting that she says those things because we live in a world that does judge by appearances. One has to rise up to the occasion — but what about when we meet oppression and resistance to our goals because of our appearance?
The Moral Dilemma of the Two Television News Anchors  
     I think of a dilemma I once read: two television news anchors apply for a competitive job at a cable news station. The job requires facetime on-air every day during primetime television. The first candidate has a degree in media broadcasting, but they have a missing front tooth. The second candidate has a degree in English, but they score well on visual appeal (according to an internal poll). Is there a moral problem in hiring the second candidate based on visual appearance, only? This dilemma bothers me because most people I present this problem to will say, "Hire the candidate with the most experience and the best background for the job" — but I see on social media how people will degrade media personalities for the way they look. There is cognitive dissonance in our society.
Can We Have Our Cake and Eat It Too?
     On the one hand, we want to celebrate ability and prop up a meritorious system based on skill and aptitude — but we are held back by our biases and what we deem "normal." How do we break the cycle? Let me know in the comments. 
  • Erasmus, Desiderius, and Barker, William Watson. The Adages of Erasmus. Canada, University of Toronto Press, 2001.
  • Stone, Jon R. The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations: The Illiterati's Guide to Latin Maxims, Mottoes, Proverbs, and Sayings. The United Kingdom, Routledge, 2005.


Philosophy in the Classroom: Sample Student Work on Plato's Allegory of the Cave (With Thirteen and Fourteen-Year-Old Kids)

Student sample work of an annotated representation of Plato's cave
Sample Work from Mr. Roselli's 8th Grade Ethics Class
Planning an Eighth Grade Ethics Curriculum at a Private School in Queens
I taught the 8th Graders every Tuesday as part of my teaching load this past school year. I teach at a private, independent school in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. The kids are receptive to learning - albeit a rowdy bunch. The class was split into two. So basically I saw each group every other week. The class was PASS/FAIL and I put a lot of emphasis on student participation, talking, and group work. I uploaded content for them to read and view on Google Classroom so I did not have to spend a lot of time going over the material in class. Here is a short overview of one particular lesson I did (with some student work).

Reading Plato's Allegory of the Cave in a Middle School Ethics Class
We read Plato's cave in class - using a lesson I had created (and which you can access here). The kids were in eighth grade - so they would be thirteen or fourteen years old.

Kids' Understanding of Plato's Ideas
A sample students' work representing Plato's Cave
Students jot down their summary ideas to get the gist.
The one takeaway I noticed with this age group is that they totally "got" the idea of most people's inability to change a mindset and think through a different perspective. I feel like that is indicative of the age group - most kids that age have difficulty understanding and processing different points of view. They recognize others' points of view, but since they are often self-focused and not other-focused, they spend a lot of energy and anxiety over whether or not people "get" their point of view. They desperately want to be understood (which is human). In this example, from student work, I had the kids present their own visual representation of Plato's cave. These three students, Isabel, Ryan, and Hayden, were very much fixated on the idea that enlightenment is pretty much impossible. Notice how they put an exit sign in the cave with the label "unachievable".

Getting Students to Jot Down Their Ideas

The lingo teachers use is "getting the gist". You are not looking for kids to pen a dissertation. But you want students to produce something written in the course of the lesson. The comments they made were original, and I liked how they understood Plato's dual reality theory. It is not an easy concept to get, but they really appreciated it. From a writing perspective, it is vital to get students to jot down their ideas - even if it is a few sentences or even a list of words. It helps the kids solidify their thoughts. And also it helps me, the teacher, to scan for student understanding.

Using Visual Imagery to Make Connections with Students
A teen boy wears a virtual reality headset seated in a dingy room.
After exploring the ideas of the lesson, students can talk about the above image. What do they notice? What do they wonder? Collect the students' responses.

Class: Eighth Grade Ethics / 90 Minute Lesson (you can break it down into two separate 45-minute lessons)
Materials: paper, pencils, pen, handouts of the Allegory of the Cave, Comprehension Questions, Discussion Questions, Entrance, and Exit Tickets
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific -
My TpT store has resources for
middle and high school English teachers


Will I Shine Among the Shades in Hades Like Tiresias?

Henry Fuseli, Tiresias appears to 
Ulysses during the sacrificing (1780-1785) 

Yesterday I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for my bi-monthly one hour visit. I go to the museum immediately after psychoanalysis. I'm sure there is a connection to that somehow. Reliving painful experience followed by the need to be absorbed by beauty seems like a rational explanation. Also: proximity. Dr. X's office is on the Upper East Side so it is not too far of a walk to attend a visit to one of the world's most voluminous holders of art. I checked in my bags. Bag attendant: "Do you have any electronic devices?" I answer a laconic "no." "Do you mind if we inspect your bag, sir?" I am secretly relieved my latest issue of Wet and Wild is absent. Just kidding. This is a kid-friendly blog. So I will say, "just kidding." Although I am sure there are a few number of kids who do read this blog. And if they do and they are scandalized then I am sure I can rightly join the ranks of Socrates's who was charged with "corruption of the youth." In fact, I just had a conversation about Socrates's trial in class last Thursday. Most students agree that Socrates is a cool cat. But, I wonder if they would have liked him if they had actually met him. I too think Socrates is a cool cat but I have a suspicion that I would not like him very much. I think it is the passage in the Meno that compares him to a stingray. Meno tells him that his frequent and accumulating questions without answers numb him like a sting ray's sting (or a jellyfish?). Why be so numbing Socrates? It goes against educational practice today. We are not supposed to overload our students with too many questions. Socrates asks Meno one question after another. Without answer. And more complicated. Can virtue be taught? He does not like Meno's answer so he asks him more questions. How can we get at the heart of virtue? Do we even know what virtue is in its essence? I don't think Socrates is satisfied that strength tells us anything about courage as a whole or that healthy bones tell us anything about health. Socrates wants to get at the heart of the matter. We don't know anything about the essence of a virtue. In fact we know nothing for certain about wholes in of themselves. We know via recollection. We remember knowledge. Since we existed before this life (our souls are immortal) we come into corporeal existences with the memory of our past existence buried deep within us. Knowledge is memory recall. The puzzle is the access to our soul's knowledge is not an open flood way. It is more like a dam with tiny holes allowing a minuscule of seepage to pass through. Damn transmigration of souls. How can I know anything if I do not even know that I must remember to know? That is the stingray part. At least for me. How do I access the treasure trove of knowledge from above? Do I look at beautiful things to stimulate my mind to recollect? Socrates suggests it is all by mere chance. So remember and some don't. The son of a wise man is not necessarily wise. The key is the tether. When you got it — hold it down. Don't let a morsel of knowledge get away and be able to distinguish the dross from the good stuff. I like how the Meno ends. Odysseus was able to identify Tiresias among the shades in Hell because Tiresias shone with a special light. He was a flitter of glory among shadows. In other words who knows when we will "get it"; maybe never, but the thing is, when we do in fact see it, we will know it.


Poem: Rabbit

how come life is like

the bald man

who comes to



ostensibly to spread

joie de vivre

but instead

reminds us

the rabbit we're


was shot in the backyard

along with the pigs?