Saturday, April 17, 2021

Black-and-white TV...on the island of Alaska

We're on the final stretch. It's the end of the school year (we have 11 school days before we hit our 180 mandated days). It's been a good year, I think. Time will tell. Literally. 

I have to do some nationally-normed testing for Miriam and Benjamin this year, so we'll see how they do.

Anyway, we've read a lot of good books and have had a lot of good discussions together. Currently, we're reading The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo. My cousin Shannon heartily recommended it. I thought it would be a nice, light read after we'd finished up our Shakespeare unit (which, I believe, ended on a tragedy...but now I can't remember). Anyway, as it turns out, the book is not all that light. It began with a poor little mouse being sentence to death by his own family and community. Miriam was like, "Ah, yes. A nice, light read. Good job, Mom."

So it hasn't always been light, but it is very good (as DiCamillo's books tend to be) and we've had some good discussions while reading it. 

One of the questions I asked the kids (on our first day of reading, I believe), was, "So, the mouse community didn't want Despereaux fraternizing with the humans and the king didn't want his daughter fraternizing with a mouse. Can anyone think of any examples from our own human realm where we forbid certain communities from associating with each other?"

Benjamin surprised me by speaking up first.

"Yes! I can!" he said. "Like, back in the 19-somethings they only had black-and-white TV."

"Black-and-white TV?" I wondered. 'How does..."

"Well," he explained, "They had Black TV for Black people and white TV for white people because they didn't want the actors to mix."

"Okay," I said. "But...that's not quite what black-and-white TV means. You know when you see a very old show and there's no colour to it. Everything is just..."

"Grey." 

"Exactly. Everything is greyscale."

"That's just old TV."

"That's called black-and-white. They didn't have the technology to record and broadcast colour yet."

"I know!" Benjamin said. "They had to discover how to use other elements like europium to create colours like red on screen first!"

"...Sure..." I agreed, although I was not sure.

"It's true!" Benjamin assured me. "I read it in our element book!"

"I believe you," I said. "But, see, that's the reason it was called black-and-white TV. Because of the absence of the other colours of the rainbow, red among them. They only had the technology for images in black-and-white (or greyscale). It didn't really have anything to do with segregation, although television certainly isn't innocent when it comes to segregation. And you're right that Black people and white people were—and sometimes still are—forbidden or discouraged from associating with each other..."

It actually turned out to be a wonderful conversation and Benjamin is proud of having had such a brilliant "Alaska Moment." We've never quite gotten over Rachel thinking (her whole life) that Alaska was an island and now whenever anyone makes an erroneous assumption about life we call it an "Alaska Moment."

We have a whole list of things that we say are true...on the island of Alaska.

It's become a fun way of alerting one another that we've been mistaken.

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