Metaphor as Technology, Module 3: Teaching Instructions

In the reading from Lakoff and Johnson for this module, one can see an instance of a metaphor being defined by an official in power: President Jimmy Carter began treating the energy crisis as if it were a war. The war metaphor has been used for other public problems as well by subsequent presidents: the war on drugs; the war against terrorism. These articles should suggest to students that terrorism might not literally be war (at least war as we understand it and practice it physically). One article changes the terrorism is war metaphor by insisting that a war is really a war of ideas: war = ideology clashes. Another article insists that terrorism is just a new kind of war, and that our literal definition of war is changing to include it. The important thing to do in this unit is to look at all the metaphors and ask, what kinds of implications do they have in deciding upon actions that should be taken in response to these problems? That is, instead of asking, are Rabbi Waldoks's ideas about what one should do to "combat" terrorism good ideas -- instead of asking that political, partisan question, ask, do his ideas about what should be done fit in with a conception of terrorism as war?

LEVEL DESCRIPTORS:

First-year student / AP English or History (High School)

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

Here the goal is for students to understand that metaphors or models imply notions of agency, of who does what to whom, and of who CAN do what to whom.

DISCUSSION POSSIBILITIES:

Given recent events, you will probably spend some time discussing whether war is a metaphor for terrorism or, in contrast, terrorism is really, literally war. I think there is room in any classroom for both conclusions. Ideally, point out that political camps probably differ in whether they see terrorism as literally or metaphorically war. Ask students what "victory" over terrorism would mean to the two different parties. Get them to see that two sides are operating with different models that have different implications. Again, ideally, you will turn away from confrontations between opposed points of view and back to the question, "how is each point of view crafted? using what intellectual and linguistic means?

ASSESSMENT:

In grading assignments 1 through 4, look for moments when the student says, in effect, "If X is the model of a problem, then that model implies that people are capable of / responsible for Y, and therefore Z ought to be done."

 

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