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Student A was among the bottom 1-3 students in the class.  He was an inconsistent participator on the discussion board, a non-participator in class.  He often seemed clueless about not only the reading assignments but also the discussion board project itself.  He even mentioned at one point that he was not aware of the response option documents.  He was, as they say, "in his own little world" most of the time.  He was the only student in the class not to be named as one of five students you would want to be in a group with -- indicating that even his fellow students saw no value in his presence.  K was "in" but also a bit "out."  He came to class regularly, and he posted regularly.  He was a slow, sluggish participator in class -- giving the impression of being unprepared or empty of ideas.  But I think that was just his reserved personality (because he actually had studied this literature before and knew a lot) and that he was one of those people who need to give something very careful consideration before they speak.  Thus, he was much better on the discussion board, where he often posted long and thoughtfully.  Overall, though, I consider him in the middle range in a class that was based on active community interaction.  He simply gave the impression of being energyless and that if you left him alone nothing would happen.  I was wondering what would happen if paired with a student who might leave him alone.  I was also trying to see what A would do when given the responsibility of initiating discussion.

Serve: Student A -- "max's serve"  (Tuesday)

hey ________, sorry about the delay on the posting.  i wasn't sure if you were going to post first or not. but i needed some time to think about this thick novel anyway.  every page and chapter is filled with tons of adjectives and detailed descriptions/ themes/ thoughts.  i couldn't decide on one specific thing, but i thought of a few good mention-worthy thoughts.  first, the names dimmesdale and chillingworth. hm....could hawthorne be hinting something?  i think he is, but i'm not sure what exactly.  possibly the overall personality or characteristics of each man summed up in his name?  so anyway i figured this thought might be a bit sketchy so i've got another.  Hawthorne wrote this book because he discovered manuscipts of these events in a record hall (or something of that sort) that he was working at.  at the time, he was thinking about his puritan ancestry.  he wrote this many years after the 'pure' religion became unpopular to america as a whole.  this process of trying to imagine another time and life style must have been very interesting to him.  he could imagine it, but i think he could also picture the harshness of this 'extinct' religion.  it probably seemed like myth to him, considering he was greatly distanced from it being born so far away from the time period.  but he ends this novel by kind of leaving it open, almost like a legend or myth.  the townspeople even saved the (sorry, can't think of the right name of it) podium that hester was displayed on as proof that these events actually did happen.  could this book simply be the 'idea' or 'image' that hawthorne created in his head about puritan society whether based more on historical events or his own personal beliefs and theories?  sorry this was such an intense 'serve,' but hopefully it'll give us some stuff to work from. good luck

Return: Student K  (Sunday)

________, im really sorry about not returning earlier, i was waiting for you to serve for a while and it slipped my mind.  anyway i'll be at the comp all day today so i'll try to make it up to you.  Firstly, it certainly seems like the names of characters have a bearing on their personalities.  I do not think that there is anything really symbolic about the names Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, but but they do allude to the nature of the characters.  Chillingworth is obviously a shady, dismal name that is reminiscent of the man's objectives and actions, whereas Dimmesdale is a name that makes me think of passivity and indistinctness, which I think Dimmesdale embodies.  In response to your other bit in the post, I am not really sure that Hawthorne was delivering his own idea of how puritan society was, I think there is enough evidence of the nature of the puritan people's ways to deny that, but he certainly was giving his opinion of their lifestyles and values.  I think Hawthorne makes a number of points about the injustices and hypocrisies of the Puritan society, and he certainly criticizes their opinions of the nature of love and hate, good and evil.  He contends that good and evil are not as different as the puritans thought them to be, and they are a lot closer related than they seem.  Dimmesdale loves his child but denies her exist in public; Chillingworth is a man turned from benevolent to malevolent determined for revenge with the passing of one event; Hester turns her scarlet letter into an object of reverance instead of embarassment and Pearl turns from being viewed as a devil child to one of the most saught after heiresses in New England upon Chillingworth's death.  So I think that the spin that Hawthorne puts on Puritan society is based on his views of how they live their lives, yet it is still very much based on the real values of this society.  ill be sure to respond as soon as you field this

________, being that I feel so guilty about not responding for a few days I wanted to add a bit more of my thoughts because I re-thought what you said.  I kind of relate what you said about Hawthorne being so removed from Puritan times to historical domuments.  By this I mean, when someone documents an event that they see with their own eyes, it is a primary document, but when it is retold by someone that was not there to witness the occassion, it is called a secondary document.  Secondary documents are generally not as reliable as primary ones because there is always some type of error when the information is relayed to someone that has not seen the event occur.  Thus, even if Hawthorne had researched the era that he wrote about it may not have been how he actually thought it was.  So I guess it is kind of like a Greek myth or saga because the information has been passed down many times.  There are obviously events in the novel that seem somewhat supernatural, like the "A" in the sky and the mark on Dimmesdale's chest.  However, I do think that for the most part it is a plausible description of Puritan times.

Fielding the Return: Student A  (Tuesday)

hey _______, sorry i didn't get to your return sooner.  i didn't think you were gonna respond, but glad you did.  this primary and secondary document info is pretty interesting.  being that hawthorne's documentation of the novel's events are secondary, he probably isn't too true to the facts.  but i think that his notes on the story seem like they could be acurate.  all of the characters in the book are very close to what i think of the posible puritan characteristics.  although, i don't know if my idea of puritans is valid or not.  i think that reading this book definitely directed my mind to think of puritans as i do currently.  i had learned about them in history and other classes growing up.  i always had the idea that they were extremely strict, but i have heard that they weren't as bad as most people make them out to be.  i'm really not sure though.  What do you know about puritans?  do you feel this book is semi-factual? thanks

Volley1: Student K  (Wednesday)

_______, I certainly agree that most of what Hawthorne describes in the novel is pretty in line with what we know about Puritans and their culture.  Being one of the first groups of settlers coming from Britain to really develop a full society, most of their ewxploits are pretty well documented.  My only real complaint with how the Puritans are portrayed in Scarlet Letter is that I think they may have been displayed in a less than favorable way, considering Hawthorne didn't really believe in a lot of how their culture worked and the customs they practiced.  I did a little research on the author and although I already knew he was part of the trascendentalist movement with Emerson and Thoreau, I didn't know that he actually participated in one of the utopian socialist movements called Brooks Farm.  This is ample evidence that he was somewhat biased about the Puritan way of life because his beliefs were mainly in opposition with theirs. The trascendentalists really were all about the greatness of nature and the omnipresence of divinity, and the Puritans generally thought that sin invaded all parts of life.  So to conclude I think that Hawthorne portrayed the Puritans in a light that really was as paralleled to their way of life as he describes; they were not bad people, they were just doing what they thought was right and practicing the religion that they were taught.  thats jus my opinion, i'll try to come up with some more later.

Volley2: Student A


My reflection:

Ha!  The interaction of these two ought to be a heads up about the issue of group formation that I raised in student work (1)!   Student A, kind of clueless, doesn't realize he is to serve (what does his title "max's serve" mean?) and start the discussion; Student K, receiving no stimulus, kind of goes to sleep.  Five days go by, but A does not bother to wake K up.  K, feeling guilty about his 5-day late return after A's late serve, returns twice in one day to assuage his guilt.  Not to worry, for A himself has kind of gone to sleep, and there is a 2-day lag before he fields K's return.  K, now with it, volleys right away, but, wouldn't you know it?, A has disappeared for good. 

The basic question is what to do with a student like A in a discussion situation.  It basically penalizes anybody grouped with him.  Poor K -- no whiz himself but a good student and a good soul with good information (Brook Farm etc.) --  thoughtfully and dutifully responds three times without reciprocation, without a fair meeting of minds.  He gets nothing out of this interaction but work.  After all A, I think, is kind of faking here.  The point about the manuscripts that Hawthorne finds that A raises in his serve was from the introduction to the Scarlet Letter that the students were expressly told not to read.  So A may be working from a prior reading of the book in high school, where many in the class had read it before.  In addition, the questions about the nature of the Puritans in his fielding are fluff questions that do not presuppose any intricate intimacy with the text.

A secondary question might be how to group K to best draw on his strengths.  K has potentially a lot to offer, but he seems to be the kind of person who needs motivation.  If he is in the wrong setting, perhaps neither he nor anyone interacting with him will experience the full possible value.  Idealism aside, the grouping dilemmas will quickly ground on the issue of grades.  How do you avoid groups that are dysfunctional?  And then how do you grade in groups that are dysfunctional?