Monday, July 10, 2006

back from Concord

The Thoreau Society Annual Gathering went well. The only thing that freaked me out a little was that most of the sessions I attended, including the one I spoke in, were in the main hall of the Masonic Temple. We had a table and lecture set up on the floor in front of the platform, but my picture captures only some of the symbols of the platform:

My pictures came out much too dark--it isn't even worth trying to put into viewable form my picture of the banner on the other wall, which says: "Chartered June 16, 1797 by Paul Revere." There were lit stars in a blue panel on the ceiling.

My session went very well--generated a lively discussion. I started with some points from the conversation between history of technology and environmental history:
If wilderness is nature untouched by human hands then should we manage it?
The development of technology has changed our experience of wilderness.
Therefore, technology and wilderness are not simply opposites.
Our attitude towards wilderness has changed over time and Thoreau played a key role in that change.
Is Thoreau against:
--Technological progress?
--Unrestrained industrial capitalism?
--The idea that increasing civilization means conquering nature
If we follow Thoreau’s vision of a balance between wilderness and civilization in which one informs the other, where does technology fit in that?
Then I used quotes from my students to stimulate discussion. The organization is a mix of academics from a wide range of fields, high school teachers, and enthusiasts.

The Thoreau Society is very proud to have completed a project to make a DVD based on Thoreau's ideas intended to encourage high school students to reflect on their lives. There is more information at a web site called Life with Principle. We saw several chapters of it and my daughter thought it was great. It was not as historical as I had hoped--I'm not sure about using the environmental chapter in my class.

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