Serfs and Lords

This week in the classroom has focused on the social hierarchy of the Middle Ages. I have yet to encounter the sixth grader who isn't fascinated with the feudal system and its blatant disparities between the classes. 

As the divide between the rich and poor has never really closed, I suspect that this peek into the past allows a neutral ground in which to speak about fairness and equality among people. I find these conversations to be profoundly important to the students, and I don't recall anything similar in my own early educational experience. I suspect that it is only in an environment that honors all the players in history, rich and poor alike, that such a dialogue can occur. When I was a child learning history we were still under the sway of canonical conventions that emphasized only victors and land owners. So while post-modern thought hasn't been a boon in all cases, it has forced a more honest assessment of what actually constitutes the historical record.

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Each week I place a thematic drawing on the chalkboard to serve as backdrop for the lessons. This image of a peasant threshing spelt was one such drawing that I managed to capture with the digital camera about two years ago. In general, I try to derive the imagery for my chalkboard drawings from art history, so that the students are not only taking home thematic stories and activities, but a visual record of history as well. 


Dan said...

Love the drawing.

Jeffrey T. Baker said...

Thanks Dan— I know you have a soft spot for agricultural themes.