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The Use and Misuse of Power

Produced by Bill Younglove, Long Beach Millikan High School, 2000

I. Unit Description:

The Use and Misuse of Power: one semester, grade 10. The unit examines, through literature, the uses and misuses of power in selected parts of Europe and Russia during much of the twentieth century. The literature includes George Orwell's (Eric Blair's) Animal Farm (1946), Elie Wiesel's Night (1960), and Zlata Fillpovic's Zlata's Dairy: A Child's Life In Sarajevo (1994). The inclusion of Zlata's diary will permit students to study yet another dimension in European power struggles. The students will be able to see, via biography,how the continuing fragmentation of Yugoslavia and the Balkans reveals a spectrum in the abuse of power.

[Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "There is properly no history, only biography."]

II. General objectives, based upon Long Beach Unified District (CA) and state language arts content standards, include:

  1. Given developmentally appropriate instruction and materials, students will become fluent readers.
  2. At developmentally appropriate levels, students apply the essential strategies and skills necessary to construct meaning from a wide variety of literary and expository texts.
  3. Students access, evaluate, organize and use information from a variety of sources in all curricular areas.

Major thematic concepts will include:

  1. Defining power, an ongoing process during the readings and discussions.
  2. Locating examples of the good and bad uses (need to be defined) of power.
  3. How power is obtained -- and lost.
  4. Who gets it; who needs it.
  5. The effects of power uses upon the lives of all people.

Periods of time and geographical locations to be looked at:

  1. Animal Farm: Rise of Soviet power--early 1900s - mid-1940s in the Soviet Union; by extension to the present.
  2. Night: Rise of Germany's Third Reich--circa 1933-1945 during Germany's primarily Western and Eastern European conquests; by extension, to the present.
  3. Zlata’s Diary: circa 1991-mid October 1993 in former Yugoslavia and the Balkans; by extension, to the present.

III. Procedure:

First, students will be reading Animal Farm in class periods and for homework during a four week period. In-class group work will include summarizing chronologically each chapter (9 groups of 4 students each for chapters 2-10); chapter I will be provided as a model). After the chapter summaries are completed by the groups, the summaries are shared with and critiqued by the class. Revised summaries, collated, are then distributed by the teacher to be used as a test study guide by the students. Class discussions center about the philosophy of Animalism, the pigs' usurpation of power, the uses of propaganda, the workers' plight, Interfarm relations, and the outcome, including the fable's possible message(s).

Then the teacher will read the satire behind the fable, the historical parallels. As each chapter is read, one at a time, the students will provide oral parallel responses and take notes, in outline form, on the events in Soviet Russia circa 1900 -mid-1940s. These notes become the basis for an evaluation on the historical parallels of Orwell's satirical fable. Class discussions center about the all-pervasive philosophy/system of communism, via Lenin; the struggles of Stalin and Trotsky, State controls upon media and movement, human sufferings and losses, and the rapid disintegration of the State in the early 1990s. Finally, the 1953 Halas and Batchelor animated version of Animal Farm (72 minutes) is shown and contrasted to the book, particularly the significantly changed ending. Including a test, this satirical analysis takes up to two weeks.

Secondly, students read Night in the same in and out of class fashion, during a four week period. In-class group work will include summarizing each of the 7 sections (3 groups of 4 for shorter sections; 4 groups of 6 for the longer sections). After section chronological summaries are completed, they are shared with and critiqued by the class. Revised summaries, collated, are distributed by the teacher to be used as a test study guide. Class discussions center upon Wiesel's Sighet location (Transylvania In Hungary, alternately Romania), his Jewish heritage and devotion, his family, the ghettoization, the cattle car train deportation, life in the concentration-death camp Auschwitz and Buna, and finally Buchenwald; camp roles (prisoner categories--political, religious, "racial," asocial; Kapo, Dr. Mengele, the SS) and conditions, the Russian and Allied fronts, and liberation.

During the next two weeks, the CD interactive software, Survivors' Testimonies of the Holocaust (produced by Steven Spielberg/Shoah Visual History Foundation) is used by students in computer groups. In addition, the web site: http://welcome.to/anne frank created by an 18year-old Weilmunster German girl is used. Finally, the Elie Wlesel: Witness to the Holocaust 22 minute video (Nobel Prize series by IMG Educators) of Wiesel's Peace Prize acceptance speech is shown.

Third, students read Zlata’s Diary in the same in and out of class fashion, during a three week period. In-class work will include groups summarizing 16 or 17 diary entries apiece (9 groups of 4 each for the 146 dated entries). After chronological summaries are completed, they are shared with and critiqued by the class. Revised summaries, collated, are distributed by the teacher to be used as a test study guide. Class sessions center upon Zlata's (10 years old at outset) Sarajevo location (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Serbia's encroachment, deteriorating living conditions, the growing Croatian war and destruction of Dubrovnik, the March 30, 1942 Anne Frank Diary reference, shellings and shootings, evacuations, growing shortages, the added Muslim element, Geneva Conference and Vance-Owen Peace Plan, the growth of the black market and smuggling, 16,000 dead in Sarajevo (3000 of them children), 50,000 permanent invalids, 300 grams of bread every 3 days, and conditional acceptance of Geneva Agreement (September 28, 1993). On December 23, 1993, Zlata and her parents left Bosnia-Herzegovina for the safety of Paris, France. [Particularly apt are two entries: page 62, June 18, 1992: "Yes, I know politics is to blame for it (death and destruction) all. I said I wasn't interested in politics but in order to find out the answer, I have to know something about it." and page 102, November 19, 1992: "I keep wanting to explain their stupid politics to myself, because it seems to me that politics caused this war, making it our everyday reality."]

Afterward, overview notes on the background information from Barisa Krekic will be shared with the students: Evolving history of the region, differences in development, Muslim and Catholic Influences, migrations, World War I changes, establishment of Yugoslavia (1929), the Tito years, establishment of new Independent states; start of killings In May 1991. Students will then view the film, Romeo and Juliet In Sarajevo and discuss the ramifications for the Muslim girl and Serbian boy who fell in love with each other.

Finally, students will explore at least two web sites (e.g., www.latimes.com and www.worldviewmagazine.com) to produce a short analytic summary of Allied Intervention in Croatia in which NATO bombed Bosnian Serbs who had been laying waste to Srebrenica, in order to bring them to the bargaining table.

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