Serial Season Two vs. Dave's Brain!

Last year, I taught Serial Season 1 to my high school seniors-- I couched the podcast within a process analysis unit, and the kids really enjoyed it; Serial Season 2 is a bit harder to get a grip on, but I like it even better than Season 1, perhaps because it reminds me of all the things I learned when I lived in Syria, and-- despite the difficulties, I am teaching to my seniors and (with the threat of constant quizzing) they are doing a fantastic job with a dense and difficult story . . . this time I've embedded the podcast in a compare/contrast unit, because that seems to be the main structural trope that ties the story together . . . here are some of the topics that the podcast invites you to compare and contrast:

1) the liberal interpretation of Bergdahl's story vs. the conservative perspective . . . Katy Waldman (on  the Slate's Serial Spoiler) calls the tone of the podcast "radical empathy" while many of Bergdahl's fellow soldiers consider him a deserter and a traitor;

2) Bergdahl and Jason Bourne;

3) Bergdahl and a "golden chicken";

4) Bergdahl and a "ready made loaf";

5) Bergdahl and and a "free-floating astronaut" with no tether;

6) the American Army and a "lumbering machine" and an AT-AT;

7) the Taliban as a mouse running beneath the machine's legs;

8) Pakistan as "home base," the mousehole in the wall in Tom & Jerry;

9) the rumors about Bergdahl vs. the reality of his captivity;

10) The Haqqani Network and the Sopranos;

11) Bergdahl's imprisonment and treatment vs. the imprisonment and treatment of Muslim detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib;

12) the feelings about infidels of moderate Muslims vs. radical Muslims;

13) the code of conduct required for POW videos vs. actual military expectations for POW videos;

14) the sovereign state of Pakistan and the tribal area of North Waziristan;

15) the captivity of Bergdahl and the captivity of David Rohde . . . Rohde was kidnapped and held for three months by the Haqqani network in the same area as Bergdahl at nearly the same time, he is a civilian journalist and not a soldier, and he wasn't blindfolded and isolated as much as Bergdahl, but his story is still very helpful in understanding what happened to Bergdahl;

16) the entire story and the children's book Zoom;

and these are the issues that I think will surface in the future-- I'm speculating, of course, but that's necessary when you're teaching a piece that's not finished yet . . . it's like teaching a book that hasn't been finished, it's exhilarating and exhausting, but also really fun; I can teach Hamlet and Henry IV in my sleep because I know what happens, while doing this is really keeping me on my toes, and this is where I imagine the story is going:

17) there will be comparisons drawn Bergdahl's endurance in captivity and the hero's journey . . . the fact that Mark Boal was interested in interviewing him for a movie and the fact that he is the longest held captive since the Vietnam War and the fact that they are viewing him with such empathy in the podcast leads me to believe it will head in this direction;

18) good leaders vs. toxic leaders . . . if Bergdahl is going to be portrayed as heroic, Serial is going to have to provide a reasonable story of why he deserted his post, and I think they are saving that portion of the narrative and I also think that it is going to open a whole crazy can of worms about the military and it's purpose;

19) the motivation behind Bergdahl's decision and the Pixar film Inside Out . . . which I have promised to show to my students if they survive the podcast;

20) the reaction you should have when you think about how long Bergdahl spent in captivity and the following clip from Grosse Pointe Blank (and while I realize that it doesn't connect exactly in a mathematical sense, the tone is perfect).


zman said...

I thought you resolved to write shorter sentences in 2016.

Dave said...

no, i gave that up years ago . . .

A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.