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I think that Ben Ross would have an interesting wish list of gifts for his birthday. One gift that Mr. Ross could very easily ask for would be a copy of the film, Dead Poet's Society. I think that this gift would be something that Mr. Ross would want in order to remind him of the high level of commitment needed in order to be an effective teacher. Mr. Ross wishes to be the type of that embodies what it means to be transformative in "the way he (gets) so interested and involved in a topic that they (can't) help but be interested also." The late Robin Williams's portrayal of Mr. Keating would be one gift that would enable him to stay the course in seeking to enhance the minds and understanding of his students.
Another gift that Mr. Ross could ask for would be a copy of the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Mr. Ross could give this book to Robert Billings, who is an outcast but then is "born again" as a result of the Wave. Anderson's book reflects a similar condition with Melinda, who must also be "born again" as a result of her own social ostracizing. I think that this book would be helpful for Robert as it articulates how individuals can reclaim their identity in a worthwhile and authentic manner. The gift of this book could help Mr. Ross reach out to Robert as they "grab a bite to eat." Robert could benefit from reading about Melinda's condition and this would be why it could serve as a gift that Mr. Ross would request.
The next two gifts would be items that Mr. Ross could use from a pedagogical point of view to enhance his lesson. A copy of the Milgram Experiment would enable the students who so easily embraced the Wave to understand how the banality of evil and the perils of obedience can be disastrous. The experience with The Wave was one in which students lived out the ideas from the Milgram Experiment. After enabling them to recognize the reality and implications of their behavior, the Milgram Experiment would assist in giving students a historical and sociological frame of reference that would help them understand why human beings are able to do such terrible things even in examples of "civilized" society. Another similar gift would be a copy of the song, "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" from Cabaret. The song is a great example of how something that seems beautiful and harmless and yet is predicated upon collectivity can embody the worst in human nature. These two gifts would allow students to understand how the social experiment of the Wave contains historical validity.
I think that Mr. Ross would want to give a gift to Laurie. The intestinal fortitude she demonstrated and was willing to display in the face of the conformity of the Wave was distinctive enough to receive gifts, and Mr. Ross understood her symbolic importance in any democratic setting. The first gift would be a copy of All the President's Men. Being able to give her a book that showcases how important the role of the media is as a "fourth branch" of government would be valued. It would be effective in conveying Mr. Ross's sense of respect for her. Another book that could be a good gift would be Cervantes' Don Quixote, a work that praises the value of those who dream outside of social expectations and conformist notions of the good. Laurie was one of the first to understand that The Wave needed to be stopped because it sought to silence people's voices. Cervantes and the work of Woodward and Bernstein articulate the importance of dissent, no matter who shrill it might be to to the conformist reality, in a democratic setting. Mr. Ross would ask for these two gifts to give as a testament to her spirit.
Finally, I think that Mr. Ross would want to give a gift to his administration who did not immediately fire him when it was evident that the Wave was leaving his control. Being able to give the administration a copy of Kennedy's Profiles in Courage could help convey how good things happen in teaching students when there is courage and conviction behind the need to increase student awareness. When administrative leadership does not immediately capitulate to weakness and stands for a sense of courageous vision, there can be a great lesson learned by students. To be able to stand for something to help students understand something is why Mr. Ross could appreciate such a gift to his bosses. Finally, I think that Mr. Ross might want to give all of his students a copy of Thoreau's Walden or a book of poetry from Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson. It might be highly worthwhile for students that were so committed to The Wave and collective conformity to embrace individual identity and the individual voice apart from social notions of the good. Thoreau, Whitman, or Dickinson desired to impart individual voice away from a social and collective notion of reality. I think that this is where such work would serve to be great gifts to the student body who believed in The Wave and sacrificed their own voice for collective homogeneity. Mr. Ross would ask for such a gift to give to these students so they never forget the lessons that his demonstration sought to impart.
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