Lifetime learning activities
"How long should education last? For life." —Jules Michelet, as quoted in "The National Teacher", Columbus, Ohio: E.E. White, Publisher, 1872, p. 59.
The essay prompts below were originally written for grades 9—12; they are also suitable for discussion questions in adult reading groups and book clubs —or for starting conversations around the dinner table or over coffee!
Discuss some of the ways people think about the past.
What is most interesting to you?
What is hardest for you to understand?
In what ways do people ridicule the past?
Describe some ways you've seen history represented which would be considered bigoted or prejudiced if the same terms and caricatures were applied to a modern culture.
Now, imagine you are living in the year 2150. Write (or describe) a “history report” about the early twenty-first century. What aspects of twenty-first century life will be most interesting to people in 2150? What will be hardest for people in 2150 to understand about the twenty-first century? What will they think is funny, or look on with prejudice about the twenty-first century?
Discuss the following quote with your friends:
"Her life was a happy one. Bear this in mind—and don't forget that your conditions of happiness need not be her conditions also." —Wilkie Collins, Poor Miss Finch.
How might this quote apply to people in different cultures of various types —cultures of time, cultures of place, cultures of ability, etc.? How do people try to force their own conditions of happiness on their views of others? How might accepting that people have different conditions of happiness help us to understand and appreciate diversity?
Click on the links to read the historical articles, then answer the questions found below:
If you Would Be Happy (1887)
If You Would Be Happy (Part II —October 29, 1887)
Choose one of the pieces of advice from the above articles and write an essay on how it could be conducive to happiness.
Kitchen Love and Loyalty (Fiction—1888)
Research the political and economic situation of 19th-century Ireland. (Be sure to look up the mid-century Irish Famine.) Ireland's situation would have been commonly known in America at the time this story was written.
How do the factual events of Irish history add poignancy to this fictional story of Irish immigrants?
An Old Maid's Paradise (1889)
Compare single living in 1889 as described in this article to single living today.
Individuality and Equality (1894)
Explain the concept of equality of the sexes as discussed in this piece.
Women Inventors (1897)
After reading this 1897 article on women inventors, read the Priceonomics piece "How Micky Mouse Evades the Public Domain". (There is a link to this piece directly underneath the article on women inventors.)
How and why did copyright laws change in the twentieth-century? What have some of the ramifications been? How might copyright laws continue to change in the future, and what might the ramifications of those changes be?
A Burglar, A Bicycle, and A Storm (Fiction—1896)
—How did the protagonist of this story redeem himself?
A Cycle Show in Little (1896)
—Did any of the bikes described surprise you?
A Midwinter-Night's Dream (1883)
—What does this piece say about shifts in technology?
—Compare this piece with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. How is the piece an homage to Dickens' work?
A Modern Love Sung in Ancient Fashion (Poem—1884)
—How does the author of this piece use classical imagery to evoke the romance of cycling?
The Work of Wheelmen for Better Roads (1896)
—How did early cyclists achieve road improvements that still benefit people today?
Book clubs and other readers!
Be sure to check out Sarah's historical fiction series!
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