Students will be asked to draw corollaries between the novel 1984 and their own lives, exploring different aspects of privacy, both through Winston’s fictional perspective and through nonfiction readings that explore the link between privacy and technology. The novel will form a point of comparison to look at the ways in which governments and other powerful entities in the world today are encroaching on and redefining the rights of citizens’ privacy. When all is said and done, students will have to decide if the fiction of Big Brother is a possible outcome of the technological path we are headed down as a society. Has our desire to keep up with accelerating technologies forced us to willingly give up our own personal privacies in exchange for the allure of digital convenience?
Each week’s readings and discussions during this unit of study are guided by a different question and focused on a different aspect of privacy. At the end of each week, students will be required to write a brief (1-2 pages typed) response to that week’s question which will be due at the beginning of the following week. In doing so, students will consider each aspect of privacy separately before facing the final task of responding to the overarching essential question: to what extent should we relinquish our personal privacies in order to gain convenience from digital devices? The goal of this approach is that students will build their final written response from the various components that make up the unit of study and will thus have a much more well-rounded response for the final task, built on the array of readings and discussions they have studied.
At the same time, it is a hope in developing and implementing this unit that the results will go beyond the written work for the class. In considering the evidence before them, I am not attempting to convince students of any particular mindset. On the contrary, I want students to honestly consider the materials presented as well as each other’s additions to the topic before deciding for themselves how much privacy they are willing to give up in order to keep moving forward in the digital age. One of the major goals of this unit is simply awareness.
This unit of study asks students to look critically at the issue of privacy as presented in a variety of sources across genres. In doing so, students will focus on two key reading standards from the Connecticut Core Standards (CCS) in English/Language Arts. First, students must “assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text” by looking for bias particular to a work and using their understanding to discern differences in multiple approaches. Similarly, they must also “analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.”
In writing both their weekly responses to the guiding questions and in their final argumentative essay responding to the unit’s overarching essential question, they will receive instruction and feedback on their ability to “write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” These writings will also provide opportunity for lessons on using textual evidence which draws on the CCS: “Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.”
Finally, throughout the unit, students will be expected to “prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.” These discussions will compose the majority of instructional time throughout the unit.