Philosophical and Historical Perspectives

All fall down (Sally Nicholls), history and memory, medieval children and youth, literacy, creativity, communication



Needless to say, the coronavirus pandemic has profoundly affected education and the daily lives of students and teachers at every level. We can discover a good deal about who we are, and how we believe education should work from the ways we have responded individually and collectively to this traumatic disruption. Of course, this is not the first pandemic in human history, and we might learn a lot about childhood, youth, and education from looking at other historical responses to pandemic. This exercise could help put our experience ‘in context.’ We will be looking back at the worst pandemic in human history — The Black Plague, circa 1350 — through a young adult novel about the experiences of one peasant family, seen through the eyes of the eldest daughter. What was life like for them before the Plague, how did they cope with contagion and death, how did it turn out for them? The question of history — which tends not to be heard in our preoccupation with what we understand as the present — become much more problematic when we look back to a time for which a very incomplete record. We will try to evaluate the truth of the author’s account, the rich context she creates out of very limited historical ‘data,’ and examine the lenses we employ in our reading and interpretation.

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Group Project: Youth in Plague-Time

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