The morning after Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968, third-grade teacher Jane Elliott changed her lesson plan. She needed to find a way to help her rural Midwestern white students respond to a violent racist tragedy. For three days her class became test subjects in a social sciences project that has intrigued and tormented viewers of A Class Divided ever since. Watch it at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/. Then, if you wish to pursue the matter further, take the following multicultural awareness challenge.
Read Lies My Teacher Told Me (New Press) by James Loewen while viewing the HBO video Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and the Native American film Skins (First Look Pictures). If possible, attend a powwow—they're easier to find than most people think.
Concurrently, begin reading a chapter a day from the fine anthology Asian American X (University of Michigan Press), produced by college students who are the product of migration, adoption, or refugee status. Rent The Namesake (Fox Searchlight) on DVD, and settle in for a moving testimony of life and identity.
Next, immerse yourself in Timothy Tyson's gripping personal history, Blood Done Sign My Name (Crown). Take half an hour to watch Charles Guggenheim's award-winning 1994 documentary A Time for Justice (Teaching Tolerance). Then go to your public library to get three PBS videos, together called Race—The Power of an Illusion.
Turning your attention to Hispanics, the newest major minority group in North America, read either Jose Ramos's The Other Face of America (HarperCollins) with its mesmerizing journalistic storytelling, or Roberto Suro's Strangers Among Us (Vintage), which offers fascinating sociological analysis.
Finally, make your survey fully contemporary by reading American Crescent (Random House), authored by Hassan Qazwini, who heads the American Center for Islam in Dearborn, Michigan. Watch David Stacey's journey (available on hulu.com) from a West Virginia evangelical Christian community to Qazwini's neighborhood in 30 Days: Muslims and America.
Externalize your conversations by inviting your friends or family over for a viewing of either Crash (Lions Gate, rated "R" for sexual situations and violence) or The Visitor (Anchor Bay). Be sure to put on the coffee for a long night of discussion. You will never see the world in the same way again.
by Sarah Vowellreviewed by Phil Christman Jr.Author and NPR commentator Vowell's look at the Puritans is smart, funny, pithy, and fair—four things the Puritans themselves aren't exactly associated with. However, Vowell corrects many of the stereotypes that bedevil these flawed Calvinist geniuses, examining the story of John Winthrop and Massachusetts Bay—and how that story has echoed from colonial times till now—with equal parts hipster humor and moral passion. If you think learning essential American history has to be dull, give this book a try. (Riverhead)
by William Neilreviewed by Randall EngleThis two-CD set showcases the magnificent Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ of the National Presbyterian Church of Washington, D.C. The substantial collection was recorded with the newest digital technology that captures the enormous space and versatile instrument in all their grandeur, from the whispery celestes to the thunderous 32-foot bombard pedal stop. Mr. Neil renders these 60 well-known hymns in such a way that they sound new again, in ear and in soul. (MSR Classics, MS1183—2 CDs)
by Etienne Delessertreviewed by Sonya VanderVeen FeddemaIncessantly consuming creatures, Wolf spreads fear wherever he goes. The other animals band together with their own kind to stop him, but they are unsuccessful. However, when the various creatures—birds, badgers, cats, beavers, rabbits, and pigs—use three pigs to lure Wolf, their combined wits and efforts destroy the oppressor. In this brilliant retelling of "The Three Little Pigs," Delessert's humorous illustrations belie the seriousness of his theme—that tyranny is most effectively dealt with through communal creative endeavors. (Houghton Mifflin)
by Sally Armstrongreviewed by Sonya VanderVeen FeddemaIn this sequel to Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan, Armstrong shows that, though women are marginally better off than they were under the Taliban, formidable problems remain. Warning that Afghanistan "cannot prosper until they alter the status of women," she explores the nation's bitter roots, which are the cultural, political, and religious traditions that approve of and promote misogyny. She also explores emerging tender shoots: girls' education, female change-makers, artistic renaissance, and the involvement of the international community. (Viking Canada)
reviewed by Ron VandenBurgWoogiworld.com is a website where kids adopt a "woogi." They can engage in any number of activities with their woogis, including playing educational games that train them how to use the Internet or improve their English, math, and science skills. Children can also download music, participate in Bigwig's Blog, or chat with other woogi children (parent monitoring tools are available). Encouraging children to live on both sides of the computer screen, Woogiworld allows users to earn woogi money by doing acts of kindness or playing outside.
by Christian Smith, Michael O. Emerson, and Patricia Snellreviewed by Phil Christman Jr.Sociologists confirm what you may have suspected: American Christians, with more money than any group of Christians in history, don't give away much of it. But this well-organized, readable book doesn't scold; it explains the institutional and social reasons while offering solutions. Its detailed description of what we could do if we all tithed will make you want to reach for your checkbook. To all Sunday school classes, small groups, clergy, stewardship committees: you've gotta read this potentially world-changing book. (Oxford University Press)
For the Kids: Disney's film Bolt lightly probes the difference between television and reality with the real adventures of a canine TV superhero. On DVD this month. (Disney)For You, Too: U2 fans are rejoicing this month as the band's twelfth studio album, No Line on the Horizon, is finally released. (Interscope Records)Paradise for the Rest of Us: The Parallel Prose Edition of Paradise Lost lays out John Milton's original work with Dennis Danielson's modern prose. (Regent College Publishing)Crossing the Divide: Linking Arms, Linking Lives by Ronald J. Sider, John M. Perkins, Wayne L. Gordon, and F. Albert Tizon promotes partnerships between urban and suburban churches in joint ministry efforts. (Baker)