Beyond IQ

The World Through Benjamin Franklin's Eyes

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Instructor:
 Maria Johnson
3-12 students
Suggested Age Ranges: 13-18
Meets: Thursdays, 2:30pm;, 8 sessions, starting January 23rd.

Course Description


Limited government that valued representation, moral aptitude through following specific virtues, persuasive writing style, electricity, and so much more! These are what Benjamin Franklin gave America in its infancy. Through studying solely his writings we can see into his own mind and his world at large. We can see how he formulates and defends his beliefs with his pen. Students  will be able to learn how he wrote while at the same time learning some history. Take a seat with Benjamin Franklin. Learn from the master. Afterwards, you are sure to not only be a better writer but also a better person.

This class is recommended for learners aged 11-15. After each class meeting, learners will have the opportunity to practice their skills through assigned reading and a writing challenge. Between class meetings, learners will need access to a word processor. All reading materials will be provided by the teacher.

This class has 8 meetings (either 8 weeks of single sessions or 4 weeks of two sessions). This course is interdisciplinary at its core. While analyzing texts, we will dabble in history, politics, and science. We will take a chronological approach to the writings of Benjamin Franklin. We will even be analyzing the Declaration of Independence, since Franklin played a key role in writing it. Student activities will include writing an experiment, following Franklin’s daily schedule, and writing under a pseudonym.

Course Schedule:

1. Silence Dogood Letters, 1-3, 1722 (4 pages, single spaced)

  •        Benjamin Franklin writes under a pseudonym. He pretends to be an elderly woman. Through this letter we are introduced not only to Benjamin Franklin but also the 18th Century.
  •        Questions for discussion:

       How do we know he is a trustworthy writer? How does he prove his credibility?

       What does he hope the reader will take from the work? What is the purpose of reading from his point of view?

       What can we learn about his world from this?

       How does his writing style differ from our own today?

2. Letter to Peter Collinson, 1753 (8 pages, single spaced)

       In this letter he discusses his electricity experiments in depth. This shows what a renaissance man he was. We will discuss Benjamin Franklin the inventor, specifically how he explains and defends himself on paper. Students who especially like science will enjoy this section.

       Questions for discussion:

       What is his methodology in his experiments?

       What can we learn about the man from this letter?

       How would you go about writing about an experiment?

       How does his writing differ from the Silence Dogood letters?

3. Declaration of Independence, 1776 (3 pages, single spaced)

       Benjamin Franklin was on the committee to write it, and he had a heavy hand in forming it. Reading this allows us to talk about Benjamin Franklin the politician. He contributed greatly to America’s success through staying true to his own character and ideals.

       Questions for discussion:

       What additions did Benjamin Franklin make?

       Where are his other  ideas evident within?

       Why is this document so important?

       How have Benjamin Franklin’s ideas and values stayed alive in modern society?

       How does the style of this document differ from others we have read?

4. Excerpt from his autobiography, 1784 (4 pages, single spaced)

       Written at the end of his life, this closes down the course nicely. This excerpt is on self improvement through careful attention to specific virtues. Benjamin Franklin the human and craftsman of self.

       Questions for consideration:

       Why did Benjamin Franklin want to improve himself?

       What did he focus on? How does he explain it?

       What did he exclude?

       What tone does he write this in?

       What can we learn from his regime?


 

Final Assignment:

We will have one assignment due at the end of term. Students may choose from the following

  1. Story

       Write a story using Ben and a moment in his life.

       Use historical details, which we discussed in our class.

       Minimum -  1,000 words

  1. Letter

       Write a letter pretending to be someone else.

       Use that letter to instruct the reader. 

       Mimic Silence Dogood’s style. Convince someone you are an authority on a topic.

       Minimum - 500 words.

  1. Experiment

       Write out a plan for an experiment OR how an experiment went afterwards.

       What failures do you predict or did you experience? How will you make sure that the experiment is trustworthy?

       Minimum - 500 words.

 

Required Texts:

Silence Dogood Letters, 1-3, 1722 - link 1, link 2, link 3

Letter to Peter Collinson, 1753 - link

Declaration of Independence, 1776 - link

Excerpt from his autobiography, 1784 - link 1, link 2

 

Participation:

Our class is structured as a discussion. Questions fuel our class. Therefore, participation on the part of the student is very important. I want to hear the student’s thoughts and opinions. That said, I do not need the “perfect” answer. You cannot edit a blank page, nor can you strengthen a silent response. I hope the student will feel comfortable to share without worrying about their grade or my opinion of them. If the student does not feel comfortable speaking in class, there will be a document open where they can write. This document will be open in between classes if the student wants to reflect and contribute later. I count participation because I want the student’s voices to make up our discussions.


Resources:

For the lecture itself, we will use Zoom. Class communication, discussion, and homework will be done through Google Drive.

Plagiarism:

Students should always do their own work. Cheating and copying are not allowed.

Accommodations:

Students’ age, experience, and limitations will be taken into consideration and potentially accommodated for. Let me know if assistance is needed.

The instructor reserves the right to change this syllabus at any time. Students and parents will be informed of these changes by email and/or in class.



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