Today we’ll begin studying the human body. The human body is an organism and like all organisms, everything it does it does to survive.
Living creatures have developed a lot of fascinating and creative ways to stay alive in the world. Anytime you see one of these strange adaptations, you should always ask the same question: how does this help the organism survive?
No matter how silly an animal’s adaptation may look (and there are certainly some silly looking animals out there) the purpose is to help the organims survive.
I always say living the Good Life requires a lot of imagination. You have to be willing to see yourself and the world in new ways. You have to be able to imagine a future that doesn’t seem likely.
Understanding the past also requires a lot of imagination. Today we’ll simulate a meeting in Jamestown. To know what life was like back then, you have to use your imagnation. You have to empathize with the people making the choices. And although much has changed in 400 years, people still are people. And each of you is an expert in understanding that.
Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement. As we’ve learned, the early days of that settlement were rough. Most of the colonists suffered and died.
But people kept coming over. People saw something in America that attracted them. I think it was opportunity, hope, and the chance to make their own future.
One-hundred fifty years later, our founders put these hopes into words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
We still argue over what these words mean and we’re still trying to make sure we live up to them. But they’re the foundation for the great experiment that America is and continues to be.
There’s an old saying attributed to Oliver Cromwell, an English military leader, in which he told his men to “Trust in God and keep your powder dry.” Powder, of course, is gun powder, and Cromwell was urging his men to be prepared to spring into action at any moment.
We don’t have powder in school, but we do have pencils. And I think “Keep your pencils sharp” is a perfect slogan for us. This means more than merely keeping your graphite to a tip. It means always being prepared to learn new things; it means trusting in yourself that you’re smart enough to learn these things; and it means always being willing to put in the effort that it takes to learn these new things.
Most of all, it’s believing that learning about the world is humanity’s greatest achievement. When you take part in it, you’re taking part in something great.
We’ve been reading about the class-based society of New Spain. In that culture, you were born poor or rich or middle class and people believed that was just the way it was supposed to stay. Kings were kings and slaves were slaves.
But things were happening in the 1600s and 1700s that challenged these ideas. Scientists were looking through telescopes and reordering the skies; philosphers were thinking about existence and justice; and writers and artists were representing what human life was really like.
These forces all joined together to lead to big revolutions based on the idea that all people are created equal.
Many people believe that compassion is the heart of all great religions. While these religions may be different in many ways, many of them have some form of the Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated.
But I think compassion is at the heart of all great human achievements. Science requires a passion for the mysteries of the world and a willingness to share discoveries with other humans. Scientific discoveries also lead to new technologies that aim to make people’s lives better.
So today look for examples of compassion in the stories we read (what does George Saunders how to say about compassion in The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip?), the lives we learn about (what examples of compassion do we see in early American history?), and, most importantly, your own life (what can you do today to practice compassion?).
It’s a new year–a time of fresh starts and resolutions. While we always have to live with the consequences of past choices, life is generous with second chances. The people who really care about us care about who we can be, not who they think we’ve been in the past.
So create some resolutions as a student and as a person. What do you want to do better? What do you want to focus on? What goals do you have for yourself in 2016?
While embarking on your own fresh start, think about how you’ll show patience and acceptance with others as they make their own new beginnings.
It’s better to be good at something than to not be good at something. But getting good at something can be hard. You have to fail. You have to make mistakes. Sometimes you have to look like a fool. There’s nothing fifth graders hate more than looking like a fool in front of their peers.
So it takes a lot of courage. Living the good life is mostly about courage. Do you have to courage to fail and keep going? Do you have the courage to do what’s important to you no matter what others think? Do you have the courage to stand up for what’s right, even if it’s not popular?
Yesterday we studied timelines. They are very useful tools for historians because they help us organize the jumble of events that happened in history. More importantly, they emphasize the events that were most important to history.
Your job as a student of history is to create a mental timeline of the most important events in human history. That requires a lot of close reading, reflection, and study.
This is your job in school: Work hard to learn things about the world. This world needs more knowledgeable people to make decisions about our future.