Pushing your own "Dawn Treader"

I went to see the new movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on my birthday and I was sorely disappointed. I liked The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and I was a little disappointed with Prince Caspian — if the pattern continues I wonder what depths of disappointment I might sink to if they ever make The Silver Chair.
But my disappointment itself is quite another matter — the point of this post is why I’m disappointed: I’m disappointed because they removed most of the wonder and innocence of the book. They decided their version would be more exciting or interesting or mysterious, but in the end they just made it LESS than it was before. Many of the scenes of the book with the most meaning and feeling for me were cheapened by the film-maker’s agenda. And as to some of my well-loved characters — like the Dufflepuds — the film-makers thought that merely including them somewhere was the important thing, but I think it would have been better not to include them at all rather than the half-hearted cameo they got.
But what has this rant got to do with Maths or Learning or living in the Maths Learning Service? Well here’s my thought — how often do we, with our students, do the same thing to the subjects we teach?
In order to serve some agenda — say the usefulness of a particular bit of maths to some obscure application — we remove the wonder and innocence of our subject. The joy of discovery and learning, and the meaningulness that comes from an encounter with something rich and wonderful are lost in the agenda we must keep.
And we keep some things in our courses in order to appease the people who say it must be there, but it would be better to leave it out entirely than leave behind the shameful passing wave they have — like “informal induction” in the current South Australian year 12 maths curriculum.
But what are we to do?
If we have the choice to change our curriculum we are like the writers of the film — we have a responsibility to capture the wonder of the original and not push our own agenda.
If we must teach the curriculum we have, then we are like the actors in the film who have to do the best we can with the script they’re given, even if it is only a hollow copy of the original story. We can put as much emotion and feeling as we can into our delivery.
And if we are neither and like me aren’t directly involved in the curriculum at all, what then? Well the film did remind me of the book, and made me think of all those things I did love about it (even if they weren’t in the film), and it will probably inspire many who have never read the book to read it now. In the same way, maybe I can work with those students who are involved. I can tell them about the story I remember that is similar but so much better than the version they have seen; I can encourage students to have their own moments of wonder; and I can encourage them to investigate the half-hearted cameos further and gain a true love for the characters they missed out on the first time.

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One Response

  1. Julia Miller says:

    After many years of wondering what The voyage of the Dawn Treader symbolised, I finally found the story of the voyage of St Brendan, a 5th/6th century Irish monk who travelled to many different islands, with adventures similar to those encountered by the crew of the Dawn Treader. I knew there had to be a parallel somewhere!