“Who Am I? An Exploration of Personal Identity Through Philosophy and Literature”

Author: Jessica Waber

School/Organization:

J.R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School

Year: 2018

Seminar: Philosophy, Science & Society

Grade Level: 12

Keywords: Critical thinking, Making connections, Morality, Personal Identity, philosophy, Questioning, social justice

School Subject(s): English, Writing

This curriculum unit will ask students to answer the seemingly innocuous question of: Who am I? This may seem like an easy question to answer and we can all list a multitude of inarguable traits that define us and give us our individuality, but take a second and truly think about it yourself. Who are you? Is the person that is sitting here today the same person you were when you were five? Was your five-year-old self the same as your eighteen-year-old self? What makes you the same person over time? Are you a completely different human than you were weeks, months, or years ago? When approached from different philosophical perspectives, students will discover that this question is extremely complicated. A human personality, our identity, is born and built by a combination of factors and many philosophers and psychologists have differing views on how our identities are formed and what makes us the same or different person over time. Ultimately, students will explore the concept of identity and look into their own personas while reading and analyzing philosophical texts, engaging in debate and critical thinking, and making connections between philosophical ideas and literature.

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Full Unit Text
Rationale

The Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School is a magnet school in Philadelphia. The school is special admittance and our students are gifted and very motivated.

As a 10th and 12th grade English teacher, I am constantly coming up with ways to engage my students in the material that they are reading and figuring out interesting ways to connect the material to their everyday lives. No matter how motivated students are to learn, it has become apparent to me that English tends to be the last subject that students tackle when they are swamped with homework which is a common daily occurrence for our students. Students at the school are very busy with extracurricular activities and when given the choice of what assignment to first complete at the end of their full day, they will often feel that they have to start with math or science, followed by social studies, with English coming in dead last. Reading gets left to be the last task. Having been a busy high school student many years ago, I do understand the plight of the novel being thought of as the least important assignment to tackle. Students feel they can fudge their way through class and still get high marks without having truly read. This I can understand, but I cannot fully accept. Students will turn to the subjects of science and math first because their grades are high stakes in those classes and it is harder to fake knowing something in those types of classes. The emphasis that students place on grades is something that I feel very conflicted about philosophically. I find that the more students are focusing on getting high marks, they are not fully engaging in the materials that they are learning. They are covering a lot of curriculum, but not going deep into the material. To truly engage with a text or concept, one has to make a meaningful connection to the subject of study. I see a lot of students at our school getting high marks on exams, but not really retaining the information that they are learning or feeling excited about what it is they are studying. This concerns me. I hope that students are excited about their studies and believe schools should be a place where lifelong learners are built and self-directed, innate motivation to learn should be fostered. Instead, many times I see students competing for high marks and not truly engaging in the processes of inquiry, analysis, and critical thinking because they are not intrinsically motivated to do so. Students tend to be motivated by grades.

I want to make an effort to move beyond the culture of learning for a grade and try to encourage my students to get lost in the works we are reading and become stronger writers because they want to, not because they feel motivated to simply get a high grade. If a hand gets raised to answer a question or ask one, the raised hand should be motivated by the desire to discuss and not to simply please the teacher and get credit.

The units that I will be teaching to my students will hopefully encourage them to become intrinsically motivated to read and write as the curriculum will allow them to explore philosophical questions that they can relate to and that directly impact their lives. I am hoping that the essential questions of the units will motivate the students to think deeply and dive into their reading because they are truly interested. I hope that they are excited about connecting the philosophical ideas that will be presented during our units of study to the world around them and that this will promote active discussion amongst 12th graders that will be leaving the safety of Masterman shortly and truly exploring some of these ideas for themselves as they venture into adulthood.

I will be designing a curriculum unit for two 12th grade English Honors classes. The overall theme for the 12th grade year will focus on the exploration of personal identity. How do we become who we are? Each text that we read senior year will explore the various philosophical topics that were studied during the TIP seminar, but ultimately the conversation will always come back to the idea of identity. How much control do we have over our identity? Are we constructed by society? Our parents? Our classmates? Each text that we read throughout the year will not only ask the students to examine the idea of identity, but I will draw upon other material covered in the seminar as we read various novels.

So much of the material covered in the seminar ties in with preexisting School District of Philadelphia curriculum. For example, we will begin the year by studying George Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. During the study of those novels, I will incorporate the ideas of Foucault and Standpoint Epistemology into our readings. We will examine Politics, Rights, and Power and look at Hobbes and the social contract that we enter with each other as we give up our wills to a sovereign. We will examine the idea of the “social contract” and discuss how we allow sovereigns to set up laws and rules and govern our own behavior. A study of the ideas of Standpoint Epistemology will allow us to look at the characters within these two novels and study how they deviate from the norms of their societies. We will also examine how the societies in these novels maintain control within their created systems and how the “deviant” characters manage to successfully or unsuccessfully overthrow the systems and attempt to think for themselves. A discussion of Janet Frame and readings of sections of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest along with screening of a portion of the film will help promote discussions about how systems try to maintain control and tend to label someone whose behavior does not fit within the social norm as mental illness. We will ask questions such as: How do “sovereigns” create and maintain power within society? Why do most citizens follow laws? Does having knowledge mean you have power? Why do we change our behavior when we know we are being watched? Why do marginalized groups or “deviant characters” seem to have more knowledge than those in power?  How is technology used to maintain control with societies?

Upon finishing 1984 and Brave New World, students will read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. My unit is entitled “What is the Cost of True Freedom?” Simone de Beauvoir says, “One is not born, but rather, becomes a woman.” I will use this idea to study how gender is created in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and what happens when a woman decides to deconstruct her own gender in order to explore what it means to be truly free. Kate Chopin herself was marginalized by her peers in the Victorian Era and labeled as a deviant by many critics. Some essential questions explored will be: What consequences do individuals face when they choose to deviate from social norms? What is freedom? How is gender constructed? What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be normal? Should humans sacrifice their own desires for the good of society? We will discuss the following idea: What it means to be human is to be free and what it means to be free is to define your own self without anyone’s definition. Students will study how gender is constructed and look for examples of this in their own lives. They will explore the ideas of freedom and existential philosophy woven into the text, and of course connect their discussions back to the concept of identity.

Developing a curriculum unit for the year focusing on identity will greatly enrich my students’ learning experiences. Approaching lessons through intriguing essential questions that make them challenge their assumptions is the best way to start off any unit and hopefully promote self-motivated, deep reading and discussion. Throughout the year, students will be analyzing existing philosophical arguments, writing their own arguments, and challenging each other’s thinking. Students will also be making connections with the current world through exploring philosophical questions. My 12th graders take very challenging government classes and many of the discussions in our English class will also apply to what they are studying in government.

Each book in the 12th grade English Honors curriculum will draw upon material and essential questions posed in the seminar course.

The 12th grade English year will look something like the following (with additional texts added):

  1. Texts: 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Philosophical ideas explored: Foucault, Bell Hooks, and Social Deviance

  1. Text: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Philosophical ideas explored: Memory, Narrative

  1. Texts: The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Philosophical ideas explored: Existentialism, Moral Responsibility, Social Constructs, Gender Identity

  1. Text: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Philosophical ideas explored: Sanity, Morality

For purposes of this specific curriculum unit and due to limited space, I will outline lesson plans to set this overall unit of “Who Am I?” in motion and give a sample lesson to illuminate how I will connect philosophical material to T.S. Eliot’s Preludes in order to demonstrate how to connect philosophy to literature. The poem can be used as an entryway to teach Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.  

As mentioned, the culminating projects of the year and main focus of the unit will be on the question of “Who Am I?” Ultimately, students will explore the idea of identity and look into their own personas. The year will culminate in the following goals:

  1. A scrapbook that students will keep throughout the year in which they explore their own personal identity. Are you the same person as you were when the year started? Who are you? This project will evolve as students work through the literature and examine the novels through philosophical lenses.
  2. A personal essay in which they construct their own philosophy about life.
  3. What is the external world calling you to do? Students will create a service project that they will complete based on their exploration of what greater good the world is calling them to do.
  4. What form will express your content? Once students have explored their personal identity, turned in their scrapbook, completed a personal essay and a service project, 12th grade students will create a seven to ten-minute creative presentation of their identity to the class. Throughout the year, we discuss and explore form and content in writing. Students will have to choose a form of their choice to express their content, which in this case, is their own identity. The possibilities are endless and it is up to them how they choose to express their own identity to the class. For example, they could create a music video, a documentary film, write a poem, write a short story, a song, etc.

Anyone interested in doing this curriculum unit can adapt these goals to meet the needs of their specific students. Feel free to work toward all of these goals or just one or two. For the purposes of my students at Masterman, it is important that they think about how they can get outside of their own specific worries about their grades and college acceptances and think about how they can utilize their gifted talents to help society.

Philosophy creates great entryways for studying literature and ultimately promotes active learning and intrinsic motivation to study. My hope is that through using philosophy to teach literature, students will question the world around them, their own assumptions, and challenge each other by engaging in deep discussion and textual analysis.

Background

Who am I? A seemingly innocuous question upon first glance. It may seem easy to answer and list a multitude of inarguable traits that define us and give us our individuality. When approached from different philosophical perspectives, however, this question is much more complicated. A human personality is born and built by a combination of factors and many philosophers and psychologists have differing views on how our identities are formed.

Existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre states that, “Man simply is. Not that he is simply what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives himself after already existing—as he wills to be after that leap towards existence. Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself” (Sartre 4). Sartre is of the belief that human beings decide who they are and all life choices are determined by the individual regardless of external forces. Sartre thinks that all human are authentically themselves and therefore the sole writers of their life. On the other hand, from a psychological perspective, Erik Erikson takes into account society’s influence on development of identity. “He was the first to illustrate how the social world exists within the psychological makeup of each individual. Erikson believed that the individual cannot be understood apart from his or her social context” (Sokol 140). Erikson believes that human identities are directly influenced by our environment. Simone de Bouvier also addresses the idea that social constructs impact our personalities. In her writing The Second Sex, she muses on what it means to be a woman. She determines that a woman is created by society and social constructs. De Bouvier asks, “What is a woman?” She argues that biological and social sciences “…no longer admit the existence of unchangeably fixed entities that determine given characteristic, such as those ascribed to woman…” (de Bouvier xiv), therefore science now regards any characteristic as a reaction dependent in part on a situation.” She is stating the women and the idea of what makes a woman is created by the world around them. “Sure, a woman has ovaries, a uterus; and these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her in within the limits of her own nature” (de Bouvier). De Bouvier feels a woman is trapped in what society deems to be “feminine” and therefore many women’s identities are formed based upon the social situations we are born into. Social constructs are largely important to address in the literature that the students read along with making sure they examine how social constructs in our current society play into the shaping of their identities. This is particularly important theory and reading to link to Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

In the discussion of how personalities are formed, it is crucial to define a person. What makes a person a person? There are various answers to this question from psychologists and philosophers. Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre says, “But what do we mean to say by this, but that man is of a greater dignity than a stone or a table? For we mean to say that man primarily exists—that man is, before all else, something which propels itself towards a future and is aware that it is doing so. Man is, indeed, a project which possesses a subjective life, instead of being a kind of moss, or a fungus or a cauliflower” (Sartre 5). Sartre believes that a person is a logical and sentient being that is conscious and thinks of the future. Like Sartre, John Locke argues a person is defined as a being with metacognition who is rational and aware of their own mortality (Locke). He argues that a child is not a person as they are not capable of rational thought and he would also argue that someone with brain damage is not a person for the same reason. He defines children and individuals with mental impairments as humans, but like Sartre, would say they are not persons as they are not fully aware of their actions. Therefore, he argues that individuals who are not persons cannot be held morally or legally responsible for their actions as the mind is responsible for decisions not the body.

The next question that is necessary to address is: What makes an individual the same person over time?

John Locke’s Theory of Personal Identity embraces the idea that “I am the same person as the states of consciousness from my past that I last remember.” For example, one who remembers how they felt when they were eight makes an individual the same identity as that eight-year-old even though they seem like a completely different person.

In his article An Argument for Animalism, Eric Olson defends the biological view of personal identity sometimes called animalism that states that we are biological organisms. This view of personal identity would state: I occupy the same biological life, so therefore, I am the same person over time even though my body continues to morph (Olson).

Another theory is called the Anthropological View. This view states that “we are human beings, with ways of life organized around a particular paradigm: We are creatures who typically develop in certain ways and are treated in certain ways not only with respect to our inborn biological and psychological features but also with respect to our socially shaped capacities (e.g., being empathic and sociable requires nurturing)” (Shoemaker).

While there are many ideas of how personalities and individuals are formed that have been mentioned above, the most important for purposes of this unit plan is Marya Schechtman’s idea that she elucidates in her book The Constitution of Selves. In this reading, she presents her view on how a person creates their own identity. She states, “I develop a view according to which a person creates his identity by forming an autobiographical narrative – a story of his life” (Schechtman 93). This is called the Narrative Self-Constitution View.

Schechtman thinks that exploring one’s identity by weaving our lives into a narrative will
“…explain our intuitions about the relation between personal identity and survival, moral responsibility, self-interested concern, and compensation” (93). The narrative in which we tell our story can change form over time as we change with the days, but it must remain consistent and truthful with reality. This presents a problem that students can debate. What happens if the person constructing their narrative is self-deceptive and creates a story that is inconsistent with reality?  Also, how does social construct play into the creation of our personality narratives? Students will be forced to confront these questions as they examine their own personalities and try and define who they are.

It is Schechtman’s idea of creating an identity by forming an autobiographical narrative, that drives the creation of this curriculum unit as students will be asked to keep a narrative scrapbook of their senior year which will culminate in a philosophical essay and creative project about their identity.

Schechtman argues that we construct ourselves, and while there are some issues with Schechtman’s theories as there are with all philosophies, this is a notion that is important for students to embrace as they are in the crucial stages of forming their own adult personalities that encompass their moral and ethical views. Students can argue and debate about Locke and Schechtman, but in this unit, students will hopefully embrace Schechtman’s ideas as they embark on the process of creating their own identity narrative.

Objectives & Strategies

As stated in the Rationale, the year will culminate with the following objectives:

  1. A scrapbook that students will keep throughout the year in which they explore their own personal identity. Are you the same person as you were when the year started? Who are you? This project will evolve as students work through the literature and examine the novels through philosophical lenses.
  2. A personal essay in which they construct their own philosophy about life.
  3. What is the external world calling you to do? Students will create a service project that they will complete based on their exploration of what greater good the world is calling them to do.
  4. What form will your express your content? Once students have explored their personal identity, turned in their scrapbook, completed a personal essay, and service project, 12th grade students will create a seven to ten-minute creative presentation of their identity to the class. Throughout English, we discuss and explore form and content in writing. Students will have to choose a form of their choice to express their content, which in this case, is their own identity. The possibilities are endless and it is up to them how they choose to express their own identity to the class. For example, they could create a music video, a documentary film, write a poem, write a short story, a song, etc.

Breakdown of specific objectives:

  1. Students will be able to connect philosophical ideas to texts they are reading in school in order to create their own identity narrative. They will do this by keeping a scrapbook throughout the year in which they explore their own personal identity. Essential questions focused on will be: Are you the same person as you were when the year started? Who are you? This project will evolve as students work through the literature and examine the novels through philosophical lenses. This will culminate in a personal essay in which they construct their own philosophy about life.
  2. Students will be able to discuss and debate literature through philosophical lenses in order to write strong analytical essays on chosen texts. 12th graders must be able to head to college with the ability to write a strong analytical essay. Students have to be able to make an argument about a text and get their point across in a succinct and scholarly manner. The study of philosophy is rich with topics to argue and debate about. Using philosophy in the classroom will enable students to engage in all kinds of discussions, from Fishbowls to Socratic Seminars, discussion throughout the 12th grade year will be commonplace. It is through reading philosophical texts, applying the texts to the literature we are reading, and discussing ideas with classmates that students will get ideas for essays. Students will choose their own essay topic with each text and be tasked to write at least one scholarly analytical essay with each book that we read.
  3. Students will be able to explore the concept of form and content in order to present a creative project to the class in which they express their own identity.

As a 12th grade English teacher, I am very aware of how stressed out my students are about applying to colleges. I am also aware from a pedagogical standpoint of how important creative projects are for engaging students and elucidating deeper understanding and knowledge of a text. Students will be tasked with creative projects throughout their entire 12th grade year. In my classroom, we make group movie trailers for each book that we read. We write creative poetry once a week. We work in groups to teach chapters to each other. I also stress the importance of form and content in literature. I always ask students: Why did the author choose this form to express this content? Were they successful? Why or why not? What form would you choose to express their same content? Why? So, it is no surprise that their 12th grade year will culminate in a creative presentation about their own identity. Students will choose a form to express their own content. The sky is the limit.

  1. Students will be able to discuss personal identity theories in order to begin to determine their own view on what makes a person, moral responsibility, and identity theory. This objective is broken down in great detail in the lesson plan section. It is important to start the year off with readings and discussion on what makes a person, moral responsibility, and identity theory. These concepts can be connected to the start of my curriculum which is 1984 and Brave New World. I explain in this objective in great detail in the lesson plans below.

This unit will require students to develop and make use of critical thinking, debate, and writing as we examine a wide range of philosophical texts and connect them to classroom literature. Students will be asked to note personal connections as well as make their own inferences throughout the unit.

Students will engage in a wide-range of activities including, but not limited to:

Fishbowl Discussions

In a Fishbowl discussion, the teacher arranges four to five chairs in the middle of a circle. Students in the center discuss, while other students listen actively or take notes. One chair is left open in the center and students from the outside circle can insert themselves into the conversation. One student must leave when another student enters.

Close Reading and Annotations

Throughout the unit students will constantly be close reading texts for connections to philosophical ideas. Many short analytical papers will come from these close readings. Students are often asked to purchase their own copy of texts or we provide photocopies when we can so that they can develop their annotating skills by engaging with the text as they read.

Videos/Songs/Poetry

I use creative means almost daily in my classroom to engage my students. Learning comes in all forms and I try and use different ways to engage the diverse community of learners. Also, students will create their own videos and creative pieces often throughout the unit.

Carousels

Students will use this technique often. This can be done in small groups or independently. A carousel is when students respond to a question on a piece of chart paper. Groups then circulate the room and look at responses. They can add or comment to a chart paper. This can be done in a variety of ways.

Project-Based Learning

The unit will culminate in a big project and we will do many little ones throughout the year.

Classroom Activities

Lesson Plan #1: Personal Identity – Who are you?

A Note:

This lesson will be done toward the start of the school year. The 12th graders will be applying to colleges and deep into writing personal essays for their applications. It will be interesting to get them thinking about how their identities have been constructed as they are about to leave Masterman and enter the “real world”. Discussing social constructs in advance of reading Brave New World will be helpful, and the role that social constructs play in shaping our identities will be an ongoing theme with the seniors throughout the year. The 12th graders will be tasked with keeping a scrapbook of their year that will also be filled with writing assignments. At various points throughout the year, I will check in with them and get them to reflect on their identity. Are they the same person they were in September? We will apply philosophical ideas to this question and see if their identity shifts throughout the year. Who were you just a few days ago?

Materials Needed:

-Smartboard/Projector

-Slideshow

-Scrapbook project assignment (Teaching Materials A)

-Scrapbook project rubric (Teaching Materials B)

-Chart paper

-Markers, different colors

Timeline for Completion:

This lesson will take one class period. The scrapbook assignment is ongoing throughout the entire year.

Stated Objectives:

Short-term: Students will be able to write a personal essay identifying who they are are in order to discuss and apply philosophical theories about identity to their own lives.

Long-term: Students will be able to reflect on their own identity and philosophical ideas of the creation of self by keeping an identity scrapbook throughout the year.

*These beginning lessons are used to get conversation going at the start of the year on subjects that the students will return to with each novel that we read.

Standards Addressed:

CC.1.4.11–12.M Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events.

CC.1.4.11–12.S Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research, applying grade-level reading standards for literature and literary nonfiction.

CC.1.5.11–12.A Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on grade-level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CC.1.5.11–12.D Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective; organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

CC.1.4.11–12.S Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research, applying grade-level reading standards for literature and literary nonfiction.

CC.1.5.11–12.A Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on grade-level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Evaluation Tool:

See rubric in Teaching Materials (B)

Strategies:

Project Based Learning – Students will determine the form in which they express their final project at the end of the year. Some options: create a movie, a documentary, a poetry book, a comic book, etc. The options are endless. Students will keep an artistic scrapbook throughout the year.

Lesson Steps:

  1. Do Now: Who are you? Take five minutes and write a short biography about yourself.
  2. Pair and share short biographies.
  3. Break into small groups. Answer the following question and then create a definition of a person:

What is a person? What have persons got that non-persons don’t?

  1. Chart paper around the room with the following questions:
    1. What is a person? What have persons got that non-persons don’t?
    2. What makes a person the same person over time?
    3. What evidence can we call upon to find out who is who? How can we tell, for example, that the person standing before us now is the same as the person we believed she was yesterday?
    4. How different could I be while still remaining myself?
    5. Why do we care about identity?

Each student group gets a different color marker. Student groups will stand in front of each chart paper and discuss and answer the questions on the paper. Groups will rotate when instructed and add to the written discussion on the chart paper. (Directions: check mark for agree, x for disagree, exclamation for something exciting, and write questions and additional thoughts in writing)

  1. Whole class discussion and reflection.
  2. Focus on: Why do we care about identity??

Direct Instruction – Slideshow:

  1. I care about what others think of me. Agree or disagree?
  2. I care about what I think of myself. Agree or disagree?
  3. Why do we care about identity?
  4. Do we care just for metaphysical reasons? Do we care about it for moral reasons?
  5. Elucidate Schectman’s reasons for caring about identity. This will be an introduction to tonight’s reading. We care for ethical reasons.
    1. Self-preservation: I have concern for myself that is different in kind from the concern I feel for others.
    2. Survival and the future: I what to enter an experience in the future in a certain way. Need to figure out who I am in the past so that I can live in the future and move forward. Future concern and desire to survive in a particular way.
  • Compensation: If I work hard then I ought to reap the benefits. I should receive something from my efforts.
  1. Responsibility: I ought to be held responsible for my actions, not someone else.
  2. Homework: Identity Scrapbook Begin scrapbook about personal identity. See handout in appendix. For your first entry, write a history of yourself in the scrapbook. Due in three days. Read Locke and Schechtman selections. Be prepared to discuss. Please look in the Resource Section to see the final project assignment. Students will ultimately be exploring their personal identity all year and then will be asked to write a paper and complete a project upon completion of the year and the scrapbook. (Teaching Materials A, Teaching Materials D)

Lesson Plan #2:  Fishbowl on Locke, Schechtman, and Personal Responsibility

Materials Needed:

  • Locke reading
  • Schectman reading
  • Scrapbook for homework
  • Slideshow
  • Four chairs
  • Question slips

Timeline for Completion:

One class period. Homework due following day. Discussion about what makes a person, personal responsibility, and identity is ongoing throughout the year.

Stated Objectives:

Students will be able to discuss personal identity theories in order to begin to determine their own view on what makes a person, moral responsibility, and identity theory.

Students will begin to explore the concept to form and content in order to determine how best to express their own autobiographical self.

Students will be able to reflect on their own identity and philosophical ideas of the creation of self by keeping an identity scrapbook throughout the year.

*These beginning lessons are used to get conversation going at the start of the year on subjects that the students will return to with each novel that we read.

Standards Addressed:

CC.1.4.11–12.S Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research, applying grade-level reading standards for literature and literary nonfiction.

CC.1.5.11–12.A Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on grade-level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CC.1.5.11–12.D Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective; organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

Evaluation Tool:

Teacher observation. Student-made questions (it is important to go over what makes a good question with students prior to this lesson).

Strategies:

Student-driven discussion via Fishbowl activity. Questioning techniques (Bloom’s Taxonomy).

Lesson Steps:

  1. Do Now: Which statement do you agree with more and why?
    1. “I am same person as I was when I was five because I have the same intuitive soul that I had from birth.”
    2. “I am the same person as I was when I was five because I have been in the same biological body my whole life.”
    3. “I am not the same person as I was when I was five because my experiences have changed and shaped me.”
    4. “I am same person as I was when I was five because I remember exactly what it was like to be that five-year-old kid.”
  2. Pair and share. Students should have read Locke and Schechtman selections the previous evening and come up with questions to discuss in class. Students should write down their questions onto slips of paper.
  3. Review: Locke implies that the self is “a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places” and continues to define personal identity simply as “the sameness of a rational being” (Locke).  So long as one is the same self, the same rational being, one has the same personal identity.
  4. Moral Responsibility. Show movie trailer and clip from Explain the main character’s situation to make sure students fully understand. After viewing ask: Who is he? Can he be held responsible for his actions if he cannot remember what he has done? Is he a person?
  5. Introduce concept of reindentification: Who are you in the past? What are you morally responsible for in the past?
  6. Fishbowl: Place four chairs in the center of the room. One chair must be empty. Take student-made questions on the readings and place them into a cup. Teacher selects question at random. Three students jump into the seats to discuss the question. One chair remains empty. At any time, a student from the outside can get up and place them self into the conversation. One person must leave the conversation and a chair empty again. This process continues. Teacher may determine how to grade the fishbowl according to their own classroom.
  7. Have students summarize Schechtman’s views
  • We construct ourselves
  • People’s lives take narrative form but there is a wide range of narrative forms to account for a wide range of life.
  • I asked you to write a history of your life. What narrative form would you choose to tell your story? Introduce idea of form vs content in writing:
    • Content: What you want to express.
    • Form: How you want to say it.

Homework: Look at the history of yourself from the other night. In your scrapbook, determine how you would want to tell you personal history. Choose three possible forms and explain why. There are no guidelines other than that. (Examples: documentary, action film, poetry volume, nonfiction book, etc). Also ask students to reflect on the Schechtman and Locke readings. What theories in their philosophies do you agree with? Do you disagree with?

[Please see PDF attached above for additional lesson plans & appendices]

Standards

CC.1.2.11–12.B Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly, as well as inferences and conclusions based on and related to an author’s implicit and explicit assumptions and beliefs.

CC.1.2.11–12.D Evaluate how an author’s point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

CC.1.2.11–12.E Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.

CC.1.2.11–12.F Evaluate how words and phrases shape meaning and tone in texts.

CC.1.2.11–12.G Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

CC.1.2.11–12.L Read and comprehend literary nonfiction and informational text on grade level, reading independently and proficiently.

CC.1.3.11–12.H Demonstrate knowledge of foundational works of literature that reflect a variety of genres in the respective major periods of literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.

CC.1.4.11–12.G
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics.

CC.1.4.11–12.M
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events.

CC.1.4.11–12.S Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research, applying grade-level reading standards for literature and literary nonfiction.

CC.1.5.11–12.A Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on grade-level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CC.1.5.11–12.D Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective; organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

Resources

DeBeauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968.

Harding, Sandra. The Feminist Standpoint Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies. New York and London: Routledge, 2004.

Locke, John. “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Perry, John. Personal Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. 33-52

Nimbalkar N., (2011), John Locke on Personal Identity. In: Brain, Mind and Consciousness: An International, Interdisciplinary Perspective (A.R. Singh and S.A. Singh eds.), MSM, 9 (1), p268-275.

Olson, E.T. (2003) An Argument for Animalism. In: Martin, R. and Barresi, J., (eds.) Personal identity. Blackwell Readings in Philosophy. Blackwell, Oxford , pp. 318-334. ISBN 0631234411

Satre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism Is A Humanism. Trans. by Philip Mairet. Public Lecture, 1946.

Schechtman, Marya. The Constitution of Selves. Ithaca and Lond: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Shoemaker, David, “Personal Identity and Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Sokol, Justin T. (2009) “Identity Development Throughout the Lifetime: An Examination of Eriksonian Theory,” Graduate Journal of Counseling Psychology: Vol. 1: Iss. 2, Article 14.