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Monday, April 07, 2008

More Star Wars in education: English teacher uses Original Trilogy to instruct about epic literature

A high school English teacher and football coach in Alabama is using the first three Star Wars movies in his classroom to teach students about the aspects of epic literature.

Luke Skywalker is not just a character in a series of films to David Golden, an English teacher and football coach at Hazel Green High School. The Jedi knight is an epic hero, whose rise, fall and redemption are part of a story rife with classic archetypes we all know through our collective unconscious as described by the psychologist Carl Jung.


Each semester, Golden's ninth-grade students watch the original trilogy of the Star Wars movies, with Golden pointing out the situational, character and symbolic archetypes as well as literary elements.

n the cave scene in "Return of the Jedi," Luke faces off against Darth Vader (which means dark knight in German, Golden told his students).

"It's foggy, dense," Golden said, pausing the scene. "What's the main color?" Gray, his students said. That's symbolic for confusion, which is what Luke feels at this point as he tries to learn to control "the Force."

The cave itself is also symbolic - "think back to 'Tom Sawyer,' Golden said - a place where the character undergoes change, emerging a different person than the one who went in.

It's also where Luke first sees that his connection to Darth Vader is more than just as an enemy.

"What literary element is that," Golden said before resuming the DVD. "Foreshadowing."

Ninth-graders study the epic, which usually means reading Homer's "The Odyssey." Golden, however, "fell asleep when I studied 'The Odyssey.' I don't remember much about it."

Golden, a self-professed "Star Wars nut," first got the idea of teaching the epic through Star Wars at a seminar at Western Kentucky University. He was teaching in Tennessee at the time, and attended a program to certify him as advanced placement English teacher...

There's plenty more at the above link.

Stuff like this, I gotta love! Years ago when we were co-workers at TheForce.net, head editor Josh Griffin and I would talk a lot about the educational opportunities represented by the Star Wars movies. And how we should be "playing these to the hilt" (as Josh put it) so far as relating lessons go. I know Josh does stuff like that with his ministry and last week while filling-in as a teacher for a middle school English class studying Greek mythology, I got to "tie in" how George Lucas was inspired to use the divine parentage of Perseus and Hercules when it came time to delving into Anakin's origins.

The kids automatically lit up when I started talking about the Star Wars movies. This is something that they understand and when you relate the classic in those terms, the students can't get enough of it.

There seems to be an awful lot of stories about Star Wars and education happening lately. Maybe this is a sign that the saga, at last, is growing into its own and becoming not just recognized as classic literature but utilized as such, as well.