Saturday, August 9, 2008

Henry Ford and Literature and the World

I have just returned from a tech-free, two-week vacation, so sorry for the length of time between posts. My mind is humming now though after some great reading and rereading of books. I tackled Understanding by Design for the first time (one of my summer goals from below -- I am about done with all of my goals if you can believe that), and I am just about done with rereading East of Eden, one of my AP Lit students' summer reads. Lots of great ideas from UbD of course, but those will have to wait for a later post. As for E of E, I have read this book many times before, yet I learned once again the worth of rereading (I was honestly thinking I could rely on my memory for one more year before tackling this LONG novel again ...).

I discovered Henry Ford has a recurring role in the opening of my world literature class. Odd ...

When my students and I study Brave New World as our first in-class novel, we of course talk about Ford. We use this great short article as a comparison to the novel. If you teach this novel, I highly recommend taking just 15 minutes to have your students read this article after they have read about 4 chapters of BNW and write down connections between the two. There are so many, and the students can see so clearly the impact Ford had on Huxley and his thinking. Students are struck by how this automatization and mass production was truly revolutionary -- enough so that an author predicted a whole future on it and a future that is not so far-fetched in 2008.

Then I read this passage from E of E (from Part One, chapter 13, section 1): "It is true that two men can lift a bigger stone than one man. A group can build automobiles quicker and better than one man, and bread from a huge factory is cheaper and more uniform. When our food and clothing and housing all are born in the complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking ..." If you have the book, turn to this section and read all of it as there as much more than I will quote here.

This quote gets me thinking a lot about my overall essential question for my course, and I am still figuring out how to bring all of that together. But I do know that when we discuss BNW and the Ford article, I will be reading this passage to them to show how momentous this time in the world was to two authors from two different countries. I think they will be struck by this connection across continents and see how what we are discussing truly is life-changing stuff ... at least I hope they will.

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