Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Classroom Profile | Lesson Background

Read this information to better understand the lesson shown in the video.

Image of students in Mr. Poon's class.Content: Five Philosophers

Plato, a philosopher in ancient Greece (427-347 B.C.), established the Academy, where he and his students pursued philosophical and scientific research. Many of his early writings took the form of dialogues meant to encourage rational discussion and generate multiple solutions to a given problem. His treatise The Republic examines the nature of justice and sets forth an ideal society in which reason rules and citizens perform roles for which they are best suited.

Thomas Hobbes was a seventeenth-century English philosopher. He is most famous for writing The Leviathan, in which he proposes that human beings live in a constant state of conflict. Their lives, he writes, are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." In order to bring peace, people enter into a social contract with a ruler (or assembly), who exercises absolute, unquestionable power and who is accountable only to God. The ruler cannot be unjust to subjects because they have authorized his power.

Mao Zedong was a Chinese political leader who helped found the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. He wrote "On New Democracy" in 1940, which outlined how Marxism would be adapted to conditions in China, and in 1949, established the People's Republic of China. According to Mao, ongoing revolution was the mechanism to end class struggle and party differences on the way to the establishment of the ideal state. Much of Mao Zedong's political philosophy appears in Quotations from Chairman Mao, also know as the Little Red Book.

Reinhold Niebuhr, a twentieth-century Christian theologian and political philosopher, believed that society was ruled by self-interest and that conflicting interests must be balanced. He put his hope in individual morality to offset the power of groups. Niebuhr, an activist, took a stand against Hitler during WWII. He once said, "The duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world." Some of his works include Christianity and Power Politics, Faith and Politics, and Moral Man and Immoral Society.

Martha Nussbaum is a twentieth-century and current classicist, professor of law, and a philosopher-advisor to international economic development projects. Drawing from the classic philosophers, especially Aristotle, she believes that in order to decide what is good for a society, one must begin by asking the question: What is the good life? She uses literature to raise life's most important ethical questions, and believes language is crucial to being able to describe others and move beyond one's own cultural narrowness. Nussbaum wrote "Aristotelian Social Democracy," "Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism," and Citizens of the World: A Classical Defense of Radical Reform in Higher Education.

Teaching Strategy: Dilemmas
Problem-based learning uses dilemmas and scenarios, either real or fictional. Used to stimulate interest, highlight conflicts, and feature abstract ideas in a more concrete setting, these devices pose a problem, such as ethnic strife, and encourage students to construct a course of action. Students learn to think critically as they question their own assumptions, their classmates' assertions, and the references they consult. The actions they propose are based on facts, evidence, and the weighing of alternatives and consequences.

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