From Gilbert Sewall, “Lost In Action: Are time-consuming, trivializing activities displacing the cultivation of active minds?,” American Educator (Summer 2000).
A sixth-grade social studies textbook suggests: “Imagine you are a television reporter covering the Roman assault on Masada. Prepare a news report on this event.” . . .
Consider the sixth-grade Live from Masada! project, an assignment that any ambitious teacher with the available technology can complicate, asking students to capture each classmate’s sound bite on videotape and camcorder. Such an activity could easily expand to eat up a week or more of social studies for 25 students.
Logistics aside, the exercise contains a whiff of showbiz. It sensationalizes and trivializes the subject. It cheapens the event. It deflects an opportunity to teach the epic struggle between Rome and the Jews in the early common era, paganism and Judaism set against the birth of Christianity in the first century. Live From Masada! suggests that events themselves are not sufficiently forceful or interesting to capture student attention. That the Roman siege and the deaths of 960 men, women, and children in the Judean desert requires a charade of Nightly News to make it interesting.