Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Response 6

This past fall, Ballet Oberlin staged a production of How To Train Your Dragon, the ballet. It follows a young, clumsy viking named Hiccup as they befriend a fearsome dragon. The scene where they first meet is fraught with tension, each scared of the other, and for good reason–each bring distrust and a history of war, each is vulnerable. They have a moment of trying to frighten off the other, but the dragon falls to the ground, it is too wounded to continue. Hiccup sees the dragon’s vulnerability and offers it a fish. The dragon greedily snatches it up and recognizes that Hiccup means it no harm. They begin a soaring friendship, and eventually unite the vikings and dragons; one friendship that reconciles everyone. Unfortunately, the video I have is of the entire ballet, and is spilt in 2 parts, right in the middle of Hiccup and the Dragon’s meeting. You can watch the first few minutes of their dance at this link: (starting at 15:45-end) and the last minute and a half here: (0-1:34)

One way to institutionalize friendship is to incorporate group work into pedagogy. As a TA and hopefully a professor in the future, I think a lot about alternative ways of presenting, teaching, and reinforcing course material, and I’ve thought a lot about how to break up the dichotomy of One Lecturer at the Front of the Classroom Disseminating Information. I think that one way to break that up is to encourage more discussion, small group and large group, focusing on student to student interactions rather than student professor interactions. But I think that it goes deeper than that. We need to restructure the way we think about course material and goals of learning, especially for a course on friendship. In all courses, we need to focus more on personal development, development of team interaction skills, leadership type and skills, accountability, initiative, and those kinds of soft skills. As it stands now, most group projects ask members to rate other group members on a numeric scale and mostly focus on how much time and effort were put into the project. But what if instead, our group projects focused not only on material, but also on soft skill building. You know those things are going to be necessary in the personal and professional worlds of tomorrow. What if each class member met with a course professor or TA before, during and after the process of a group project to set goals and really evaluate their soft skills. This shouldn’t be associated with a grade (necessarily) because we do want people to be honest. I think that shifting classes to focus on actually teaching people how to be good group members, rather than just asking people to evaluate themselves based on criteria they may or may not understand, would go a long way not just towards institutionalizing friendships, but building a more just and peaceful world.

Please find a text of my Friendship Resolution located at this URL

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