NOTIONS – TOPICS – PROBLEMATIQUES

Welcome to the new school year 2017-2018!

This blog is going to focus on the 4 notions and their definition. First by looking at the notions, you will notice that they all include 2 terms which are linked together by “and” or “of”. (Spaces AND exchanges, seats AND forms of power, the IDEA of PROGRESS, myths AND heroes)

  • Interroger la mise en relation des termes – cette relation est-elle de complémentarité? d’ opposition? de corrélation? de causes ou d’effets? Ainsi vous éviterez de ne traiter qu’un terme ou les traiter l’un après l’autre alors qu’ils sont liés entre eux. Posez vous la question : “quel enjeu puis-je dégager de cette confrontation des termes ?”

Idea of progress : il s’agit bien de l’idee de progres- donc de la représentation que nos sociétés se font du progrès – et pas seulement du progrès  en lui-même. Viewed from this angle, progress becomes a double-edged sword.

I am going to give you very simple definitions of the notions, but I will advise you to come up with your own definition. A list of topics will also be given but it is the key question (la problematique) which will determine the choice of your documents.

FORMULER UNE PROBLEMATIQUE

CONCRETEMENT UNE PROBLEMATIQUE C’ EST:

  • Une question ouverte à laquelle on ne répond pas par oui ou par non
  • Elle est introduite par : How, to what extent, why, etc..

Myths and Heroes

Myths exist in every society, as they are basic elements of human culture. We can understand a culture more deeply and in a much better way by knowing and appreciating its stories, dreams and myths.There are many types of myths such as classic myths, religious myths, and modern myths etc.  

A Hero can be a mythological figure, a person who is admired for his or her achievements, a superhero or maybe a role model or an icon. Therefore heroes, just like myths, can be real or fictitious. Heroes are people we can look up to, people who inspire like sport personalities, political figures, entrepreneurs, artists, etc..  Heroes lead, inspire, and entertain the masses.

A few examples in the English speaking world:

  • rags to riches stories : Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, JK Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Andrew Carnegie, Charlie Chaplin,Anita Roddick
  • Historical figures or National leaders who can be considered as heroes: Queen Victoria, Elisabeth I and II, Obama, Mandela, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malala Yousafzi, Ghandi …..
  • Founding myths of the United States (Pilgrim Fathers, The myth of the frontier, the myth of the Road, the Gold Rush, the American dream, witch hunts)
  • Unsung Heroes or fallen heroes of the Vietnam War that are portrayed in American films (Platoon, Born on the 4th July, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket)
  • Pop stars or sports heroes (and fallen idols)
  • American movies and comics: superheroes such as Superman or Captain America and their role in society/world
  • British heroes or heroines: Churchill, Florence Nightingale, the Suffragettes, Stephen Hawking…..
  • British myths and legends: Robin Hood, King Arthur, etc.

In our class, we will focus on the topic of  Witch Hunting in the USA by asking the following questions : Are witches a myth of the past ? From Witch-hunts and Communist-hunts to Terrorist-hunts Why have witch hunts been a recurrent element in modern American history?

The Idea of Progress

The idea of progress is the idea that advances in technology, science and social organisation can bring about a positive change to our society. These advances help improve our daily lives and give us a better quality of life. Social progress, scientific progress and economic development are usually considered as having a positive effect on our society. However the idea of progress is not progress since there are some cases where this change can have a negative effect too. Very often progress is also accompanied by opposition because society isn’t comfortable with the changes being made (same sex marriage, women’s rights, minority rights). We can ask ourselves whether progress is always positive?

There are many kinds of progress and they can be divided in diverse areas.

  1. Technological progress

The technological advances of the last decades have totally changed our world. For example, the arrival of internet has changed the way we communicate. On the one hand we have access to far more information than before, we can easily communicate across borders, buy new products, be informed about the latest news events, share our opinions about different topics but on the other hand, many people have become addicted to social media and this creates new problems such as depression, isolation, bullying, cyber criminality…..

  1. Scientific progress

Scientific progress has had a direct impact on the improvement of human life. Thanks to advances in medicine we can cure illnesses that could never have been cured in the past. Vaccinations,Antibiotics, painkillers and other medical treatments have helped to improve our general state of health and survival rates. But could there be a point where progress come too far? What should be the importance given to ethics? What about scientific progress in the area of cures for illnesses, cloning, performance enhancing drugs,   genetically modified organisms etc?

  1. Social progress

Social progress most often comes about when members of a population feel oppressed,  or second-class citizens (women’s rights, civil rights, etc).

Examples can be:

  • Scientific Progress – Medical advances, cures for illnesses, cloning, performance, enhancing drugs,   genetically modified organisms.
  • Technological Progress-  technologies to slow down climate change such as hybrid cars, wind turbines, solar panels, biofuel…..
  • Advances in communication:  the internet, social media, mobile phones, video games – how  they have changed our lives and the dangers of these modern ways of communication
  • Robots, automated production
  • Nuclear Power – for and against
  • Social Progress: changes in the quality of life – how does progress affect our/a society?
  • Education, employment, equality, family life, Women’s rights, human rights, minority rights The idea of liberty, freedom, democracy

We will focus on 2 topics

Scientific Progress :  Science and fiction : Does fiction draw inspiration from science or is it the other way round?

Social progress : Why is India said to be a country of contradiction?

Places and Forms of Power (also called Seats and Forms of Power)

In politics and social science, power is the ability to influence people’s behaviour. In order to live together members of a community accept rules, regulations, laws. This helps to create social cohesion but can also lead to conflicts and tensions. Even when authority seems absolute, there are always counter-powers which question it, aim at limiting its excesses and resist it. Power is also associated with authority and influence and certain places can be associated with the authority – for example the White House and the President of the USA, 10 Downing Street and the British Prime Minister etc..

Examples to illustrate the notion can be:

  • the power of the media (reality tv, internet v written press)
  • Financial power (the power of money)
  • Inequalities between blacks and whites – the fight against oppression and segregation (South Africa, USA)
  • The Civil Rights movement and political recognition : Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X (can also be linked to the notion of Myths and Heroes)
  • The power of Art (The Harlem Renaissance – Banksy..)
  • Cinema and power: how do films influence society? Movie stars using their fame to influence public opinion on certain topics (Leonardo Dicaprio, Schwarzenegger)
  • The power of education: improving knowledge and education across the world and enabling access to education for all (Malala)
  • The power of music and the music industry: songs used to change people’s opinions on political subjects (vietnam war, US President, poverty, climate change), pop stars who use their fame to bring about changes in the world (Bono, Bob Geldof, Madonna)
  • People’s empowerment

We will focus on

Protest songs : How have protest songs fought political power? How have they contributed to social progress?  (also to be linked with Myths and heroes because some of these protest songs have become myths – also to be linked with the notion of Idea of progress – how have these songs contributed to social progress?)

Civil Rights: To what extent have African Americans achieved equal civil rights? Are African Americans still second-class citizens? (also to be linked with Myths and Heroes and Idea of Progress) : MLK, Rosa Parks etc… Heroes who have inspired others and contributed to social progress

ART as a form of power : How has the Harlem Renaissance contributed to forge a black identity? (also to be linked to Spaces and Exchanges : The Great Migration to Northern cities – Migration for a better life)

Spaces and Exchanges

This notion deals with the geographical and symbolic areas (spaces) that all societies occupy and the interactions (exchanges) between men and different societies. Our world is built on the exploration and conquest of new spaces. The different cultural, economic, sociological and language interactions have shaped and characterised our modern-day world.

Examples can be:

  • India : Progress and traditions –
  • Working conditions (telecommuting, internet)
  • Globalization (the world has become a small village) – global cities
  • School and education (social diversity / knowledge)  comparison of the different educational systems – the brain drain
  • The Internet / social networks… a new virtual space ….the advantages and disadvantages of increased access to sites such as Facebook and Twitter -Cyber criminality, identity theft, cyber bullying, internet scams..
  • the movement of people: Immigration  to the UK, to the US, the Brexit
  • movement across borders (Gap Year) – student exchanges

We will focus on 2 topics :

Global cities: To what extent do migrants contribute to population and economic growth in global cities?  why are migrants attracted to global cities?

Migration: The migration of African Americans to Northern cities – In search of a new identity – Reason to migrate – Attraction to urban life.

 

Publicités

The fight for full African American citizenship continues.

When I heard about the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I thought back to another name etched into American history: Dred Scott.

In 1857, the Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether Scott, an African American man born into slavery, should be granted his freedom. The justices not only denied Scott’s request, but also took the opportunity to send a chilling message to all African Americans, free and enslaved, that reverberates to this day.

The court held that as members of an inferior race, African Americans were not citizens at all — and, as such, did not even have legal standing to sue. African Americans, as Chief Justice Roger Taney so decisively determined, had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The next century was characterized by an ongoing struggle to prove Taney wrong.

African American heroism during the Civil War era hastened the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, which ended slavery and (theoretically) reversed race-based restrictions on citizenship. Yet these gains were negated almost as quickly as they were realized, as the strong grip of Jim Crow choked communities throughout the South.

Over the violent decades that followed, African Americans endured church bombings,harassment, and police beatings and animal attacks, like the brutalities inflicted on those marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. This sacrifice of the black body, along with sustained lobbying, ultimately led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Yet even today, second-class citizenship continues. It shows up in generational poverty, a disparate education system, mass incarceration, and violence at the hands of police.

In fact, African Americans are three times as likely as whites to be killed by police, even though they’re twice as likely to be unarmed. That’s produced a slew of names that, like Dred Scott’s, may loom over our history for centuries because of the rights they were denied.

In 2012, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both of whom had committed no crimes or infractions of any sort, were deprived of their constitutional right to life by self-deputized racists who proclaimed themselves judge, juror, and executioner and gunned them down.

That same year, Rekia Boyd was murdered under a hail of bullets by an off-duty police officer who reproached Boyd and her friends for talking too loudly, depriving her of her right to free speech, freedom of assembly, and life.

In August 2014, Michael Brown’s right to a fair and public trial was violated by the police officer who shot him and callously left his lifeless body to bleed out in the street.

Walter Scott’s life and right to due process were taken in April 2015 at the hands of a law enforcement officer, who then had the audacity to plant his weapon next to Scott’s motionless body on the ground — all over a mere traffic violation.

On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling, a father of five who was selling CDs to provide for his children, was murdered by law enforcement officers who violated his Fourth Amendment right to prevent unwarranted search and seizure simply because he fit a certain profile.

Less than 48 hours later, Philando Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light. Castile’s non-threatening disclosure that he was legally carrying a concealed weapon prompted a police officer to murder him in front of his partner and her four-year-old daughter, violating his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

In 2016, one would hope that the “inalienable rights” of all Americans are respected. Yet Taney’s words that African Americans “have no rights which the white man was bound to respect” still ring loud and clear.

The fight for full African American citizenship continues.

TO WHAT EXTENT HAVE AFRICAN AMERICANS ACHIEVED EQUAL CIVIL RIGHTS ?

A FEW FACTS

Slavery in the USA was abolished in 1865, but black Americans did not have equality:

  • The Ku Klux Klan beat up and lynched [lynchTo kill someone, usually by hanging, without holding a legal trial. black people.
  • Black people were not allowed to use white public facilities such as schools and parks. This was called ‘segregation’.

There had been successful attempts to improve the status of black people before the 1950s – for example, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), set up in 1909.

However, it was in the 1950s and 1960s that the civil rights movement – led by Martin Luther King – challenged white supremacy:

  • In 1954, Rev Brown won the right to send his child to a white school.
  • In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person, inspiring the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • In 1957, nine black students, with military protection, went to a white school in Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • In 1963 – after campaigns of restaurant sit-ins, Freedom Rides on interstate buses and bloody civil rights marches – a quarter of a million people marched to the Lincoln Memorial to hear King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.

The civil rights movement gave black Americans legal equality:

  • The Civil Rights Act (1964) outlawed segregation in schools, public places or jobs.
  • The Voting Rights Act (1965) gave all black people the vote.
  • The Fair Housing Act (1968) banned discrimination in housing.

However, black Americans did not achieve economic equality, and still remain a socially disadvantaged group.

JIM CROW LAWS

‘Jim Crow’ laws were passed in the southern states. They denied black people equal rights. Black people and white people were segregated. Black people were not allowed to use ‘whites only’ public facilities. In this streetcar terminal in Oklahoma water coolers are marked for ‘colored’ or white use.

Many pictures that illustrate segregation can be found on the internet.

Slavery was abolished in the USA in 1865, after a bloody civil war.

Life didn’t improve for ordinary black people in America:

  • ‘Jim Crow’ laws were passed in the southern states. They denied black people equal rights. Black people and white people were segregated [segregationKeeping groups, particularly racial groups, apart.. Black people were not allowed to use ‘whites only’ public facilities such as schools and parks.
  • Ku Klux Klan was formed. It was set up in 1865 to frighten, beat up and lynch black people.
  • Poverty was a major problem. Black people occupied the worst jobs in society. Many black women worked as servants to white people.
  • Race riots flared up. Occasionally white people would riot and attack black people such as happened in Detroit in 1943.

Gradually, black Americans began to challenge their second-class status:

  • In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was set up to oppose discrimination by challenging it in the courts.
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, the Harlem Renaissance celebrated black culture and declared ‘black is beautiful’. Jazz music and dances like the Charleston became popular.
  • In the Second World War, black Americans were just as brave as white Americans. They came home demanding respect. The US military finally allowed black and white soldiers to serve next to each other in 1948.
  • In 1942, James Farmer founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to challenge segregation by non-violent direct action.
  • In 1957, Martin Luther King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to fight for civil rights by peaceful marches and demonstrations.

    The path to civil rights

    paths to civil rights1954: Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark case. With the help of the NAACP, Rev Brown won the right in the Supreme Court to send his child to a white school.

Again many pictures can be found on the internet to illustrate the following events:

1955: Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. Black people in Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, refused to use the buses until the Town Council abolished segregated buses.

1957: Nine black students exercised their right to go to a white school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mobs threatened the students. Even the governor of Arkansas tried to stop them by sending in the National Guard. President Eisenhower eventually took charge and used soldiers to protect the students.

1960: Sit-ins took place when black students went and sat in white restaurants until they were attacked and thrown out.

1961: Freedom Riders were black and white activists who travelled together on interstate buses – many were badly beaten by white mobs.

1963: A civil rights march in Birmingham, Alabama, was attacked by police and white racists.

1963: The Washington Freedom March took place when a quarter of a million people marched to the Lincoln Memorial to hear King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.

Consequences

  • In 1964, Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize. The third Monday in January in America is Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday.
  • White violence forced the US government to step in to give black people their rights:
    • The Civil Rights Act (1964) outlawed segregation in schools, public places and jobs.
    • The Voting Rights Act (1965) made it illegal to do anything that might limit the number of people able to vote. Some states had used a literacy test to try and prevent black people from voting as many black people had limited access to education.
    • The Fair Housing Act (1968) banned discrimination in housing.
  • In 2008, a black American, Barack Obama, became President of the United States.

However:

  • Civil rights did not give black Americans prosperity or jobs. Black Americans – particularly in the ‘black ghettos’ in the towns – remained poor and angry.As a result, more extreme black leaders such as Malcolm X, and more radical groups such as the Black Panthers, were set up – black protests in the 1970s became more violent.
  • Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.
  • Black poverty, and violence and discrimination against black people, continues.

Interpretations

Many of the historians who wrote in the 1960s and 1970s about the civil rights movement had taken part in it. They focused on heroes of the movement, such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, and the national campaigns which led to the civil rights laws.

Many of these books portrayed civil rights as a struggle between the bigoted white segregationists [segregationKeeping groups, particularly racial groups, apart. of the south and idealistic civil rights workers from the north.

This interpretation has provided thrilling stories for Hollywood films, such as Mississippi Burning (1988) and The Long Walk Home (1990) and most recently Selma..

The Revisionists

In the 1980s, local studies overturned this ‘heroic’ interpretation of civil rights history. They showed how the civil rights movement was built ‘bottom up’, out of thousands of local actions by black churches and community organisations from which a few issues, such as the Montgomery bus boycott, became national news.

In the 1990s, historians began to realise that the civil rights movement involved more than ‘evil whites fighting noble blacks’. They also began to pay more attention to different kinds of black activism – eg environmental and union campaigns – and the role of black women, and of other disadvantaged groups such as the Native Americans and Hispanic and Latino Americans.

Recent studies have shown that black challenges to discrimination did not spring into existence with Martin Luther King in the 1950s, but began as early as the 1860s.

What is your interpretation of the American civil rights movement? Was it something special or part of a longer process of protest and progress? Was it ‘the Martin Luther King show’, or part of a wider movement? Was it is a success or a failure?

Watch on Mojo.com the history of civil right history of the civil rights movement

One step forward…..

A post to come will focus on  African Americans in the USA today .