with Sally Zeiner
In class on December 2, we began by discussing the prior week's homework -- refining our criteria for friendship. For most of our philosophy students, a friend is someone whom you enjoy being with. Aristotle proposed that for someone to be your friend, the feelings should be mutual. He also defined three types of friendship: use, fun, and moral guidance. Our students agreed that friendship should be mutual. We also considered the Little Prince's friendship with the flower, and his reasons for leaving the planet. Has your child ever felt that they could not be friends with someone who lied or misrepresented themselves, as the little flower did to the Prince?
The adventures the Little Prince had as he traveled from planet to planet raised interesting questions, especially about authority and ownership. The king says he rules over everything, but does he have any real authority? What is real authority? Where does it come from? We talked about authority in the contexts the students are most familiar with: a parent's authority, teacher's authority, and coach's authority. Our philosophy students determined that authority can come from the responsibility to take care of someone, or by voting, or through force.
The businessman says that the stars belong to him. In class, we began a chart comparing and contrasting the authority and ownership of the king and the businessman with that of the Little Prince. In two weeks, we will begin discussing our final book for the course, Iron Hearted Violet. This is a long book. I highly recommend it as a family read-aloud, or even on audio, for students who may find the book challenging. As we have done all semester, we will begin class each week by working on a simple story map to make sure that we all understand the reading before we begin our discussions.
We began class by discussing our homework from last week, comparing and contrasting the Little Prince’s concept of authority and ownership with that of the king and the businessman. As we talked, it became clear that we needed to clarify the difference between authority and ownership. We applied this to our own lives, where we can understand it best, in relation to our ownership and responsibilities for the animals in our families. We can own and take care of pets, such as chickens or cats, without having any authority over them. However, for Ava, who is raising a seeing-eye puppy, it is very important that she does have authority over him.
We connected this to the story of the Little Prince. One student suggested that it was as if the flower had authority over the prince, even though the prince took care of the flower.
In Chapter 20 (XX), the Little Prince encounters a flower just like his. The Little Prince says, “I thought I was rich…; and all I had was a common rose.”
We considered the relationship between beauty and friendship. Can we find someone or something more or less beautiful if we know them better? What is the relationship between friendship and responsibility? We will continue to explore the themes of beauty, authority, and friendship as we read Iron Hearted Violet.
In class I asked students to read the first five chapters of Iron Hearted Violet for next week, and then write a paragraph or more answering the following question: How does the friendship between Violet and Demetrius compare to your criteria for friendship?
Have a great week!