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Week of Dec. 26th

Transgender children and the Catholic school system

Find interviews with Tracy, her parents, and the superintendent of her Catholic school.

Link:     Interviews

Focusing on the interview with the Catholic school superintendent,

1) Would you support Tracy or would you support the Catholic school on this issue? why?

2) What would be some clear issues that would have to be decided?



Continuing our in class discussion focus on the interview with Tracy’s parents.

1) How did Tracy’s father feel about Tracy at first?

2) How did Tracy’s mother feel? And how important was this issue to her?

3) When did Tracy’s father change his mind? what did he realize about himself?





Week of October 26th to November 2nd

Topic: willful blindness


Consider the following questions for discussion

1) What is willful blindness? what are some of the words contained in this phrase? what do these words mean? and what might the mean together?

2) In what situations might we find willful blindness?

Please read the following article:

In her 2013 TED Talk, business leader and author Margaret Heffernan presented her insights after examining willful blindness in the workplace sharing, “Companies that have been studied for willful blindness can be asked questions like, ‘Are there issues in the workplace that people are afraid to raise’?  And when academics have done studies like this of corporations in the US, what they find is that 85% of people said yes.  85% of people know that there is a problem, but they won’t say anything”.  Margaret works with companies all over the globe, and has found that while many organizations believe it is a unique issue to their company or their culture, it is an issue shared on a much larger scale—it is a human issue. Some people are blind out of fear of retaliation.  Some are blind out of the cynical belief that seeing is futile because nothing will change.

Though, the most pervading belief, Margaret has found, is the mythology surrounding ‘whistle blowers’ (aka those who choose to step out of a position of being willfully blind) and the backlash and stigma that attaches to those who speak up.  Now, there seems to be a systemic organizational and individual accountability element contributing to the suppression of “seeing”.  In the former, cultures of all types have unwritten rules and unchallenged assumptions that pervade deep into human behavior. When we go to the grocery store, the bank, or stand in an elevator, there are few written rules that say we have to behave in a particular way, and yet we often do model the behavior of the crowd.  The consequences of these behaviors are not harmful but other can be.  Have you ever seen A Few Good Men?  The films plot centers on the willful blindness of a fictional military platoon whose inability to confront their cultural norms resulted in the death of one of their own.  The men accused of the crime literally thought they had done nothing wrong—they were just following orders—until they breached the collective view of the group to the reality of the masses.  The movie The Firm tells a similar story of an entire ensemble of lawyers who vow willful blindness to their working relationship with the Mob.

From the perspective of individual accountability, there appears to be a linear connection between willful blindness and self-awareness in that when one decides to understand why they are willfully blind about an issue, they can then develop the capacity to transition into a new frame of reference.  From there we can see when a pattern of communication might be impeding productivity, and how holding on to a certain perspective, or even working towards a particular goal, may be ignoring what is right in front of us to see.

After viewing discussion questions

1) Is there willful blindness around you? at work? among friends? in your community?

2) What are some examples? why in each case is this happening?

3) What may be the results of such behaviour? and how would it contrast with “whistle blowing” behaviour?






Week of August 17th- 24th


Topic: Understanding Misogi through semiotics



Please review some key words for this week’s topic

semiotics / ascetics / sacred / divine / ceaseless

1) At our next meeting, please try to explain everything you know about Shinto. As compared to other religions, try to look at areas of creation (how the world was created) , myths ( interesting stories and legends that form the root of belief systems and ideas), holidays, concepts and symbols. I realize that most people don’t know too much, but try hard to tell me what you do know. Imagine you are teaching a foreigner about Japanese culture.

2) Generate 3 main questions about Shinto or misogi.

3) Read the following article about Misogi

Misogi and Diet

by Koichi Barish of Shinto Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America

Shinto ritual and practices have the ability to effect the KI. KI is primal causer…everything is started by KI. The Great Universe is started by KI. Your mood, decisions and actions are initiated by Ki. Of course negative Ki exists but we can purify ourselves to sense Ki and to receive positive Ki. This is the teaching of Sarutahiko Okami, Kami of KI, positiveness, grounding and progress in harmony with divine Nature who along with his wife AmenoUzume no Mikoto, Kami of Arts, meditation and joy form the principal Kami of Tsubaki Okami Yashiro.

We create our world and influence fate through thoughts, words and actions. This is natural law. Misogi Harai, the genius of Shinto offers us the sacred technology to purify negative energies that can be stored in our physical bodies as well as or subconscious.

In the literal sense Misogi Harai refers to the practice of casting off impurities and sharpening our senses and our ability to respond to the Ki of Divine Nature by ritual bathing in a river, waterfall or sea.

In practice Misogi-gyo can refer to a variety of activities of purifying the body/ physiological structure, the heart/ emotional body, the environment, and the spirit/ astral body.

Purification of the physical body involves the literal washing away of external dirt as well as purifying the blood stream (alkalinizing/ yangizing) through diet.

This kind of adjusted eating has the effect of raising the vibrational level and increasing intuition..this kind of grain-based diet rich in seasonal fruits and vegetables was at one time called ‘gyo” and is comprised of the most yang elements of the yin world to centripetalize or yangize our bodies. This diet was popularized in modern times under the name of Macrobiotics by Mr. Yukikazu Sakurazawa (western name: George Oshawa).

Shinto teaches us: everything in Nature is born, matures and perishes—everything has a beginning and an end. To live and grow as the healthy child of Okami we digest well, we are sustained by divine cosmic vitality through the sacred act of eating.

Being alive and being present is easily seen by relation to food– that which we receive from Divine Nature that directly connects us to the Sun, to the Seasons and to Daishizen no Meguri- the ceaseless movements of Divine Nature/ Kannagara.

It is important to realize that the two most important factors regarding a healthy relationship with the food that sustains our lives are 1) gratitude and 2) appreciation while avoiding extremes.

That being said to move towards a diet based on whole grains and seasonal fruits and vegetables while minimizing processed foods and stimulants would be helpful for almost everyone in general. For those wanting to build the health for themselves and or their families this is essential information. For those on a spiritual path the knowledge of how to refine one’s Ki and establish inner and outer harmony while increasing the ability to harmonize with the ceaseless flow of divine nature is a vital tool…and having access to knowledge how to use food as medicine in case of minor or major difficulties is also important in our current age.

Itadakimasu…All the trees and plants thrive and grow by receiving the blessings of divine solar energy. When we eat these sacred plants we receive the life sustaining cosmic vitality of Amaterasu Omikami. I will humble partake/receive………….

4) resource video

We will discuss the meaning behind certain symbols such as Straw sandals (waraji), white robes, conch shell, shrine gates (torii) and the practice of waterfall standing (takigyo)

Week of August 3rd- 10th

Topic: What is Jama kharchi?

1) Read the article

2) Find 4-5 new vocabulary, and prepare to explain

3) Explain how Jama Kharchi works

4) Prepare for discussion.

Tax-swilling phantoms haunt the trading ring

Calcutta, May 4: The last quarter of a financial year witnesses brisk trading in the shares of some companies that are listed entities on bourses but apparitions outside. And what’s more remarkable than the volume of deals, are the gyrations in their share prices.

At first sight, most of them would pass of as finance, investment or technology companies. But as the management of these companies would secretly admit, these are dummy firms used to reduce tax liabilities and, at the same time, clean hoards of ‘black money’.

A clique of stockbrokers holds the shares of these companies, and work as intermediaries between people who need to reduce tax liabilities and others who need to turn unaccounted cash — or ‘black money’ — into legitimate profits.

This is how ‘jama-kharchi’ — as the practice is known in market parlance — works. Brokers operating in these stocks manipulate the price of these stocks so that they move sharply.

People who need to book capital loss — or those who need to reduce tax liabilities — would buy such stocks when the price is high and sell when it declines. Those who need to clean ‘black money’ would do the opposite and profit from the deals.

However, the brokers would return the profits that arise out of these deals to the losers in cash, after deducting a commission for their service.

The losers in these deals would set off their capital gains against the loss, while the ones who gain, would use the profits to bring into their books formerly unreported cash.

The brokers typically charge around 4 per cent of the total amount from both parties, and pay about half of their commission to the promoters of the companies that decide to be a party to the web of manipulated deals.

While everyone, including stock exchanges, gains from this practice, it costs the central exchequer hundreds of crores in revenues every year. So why doesn’t it stop’ Haven’t the tax authorities woken up to it’

The onus to stop them lies largely with stock exchange authorities and Sebi, the securities market regulator. The tax authorities have asked bourses to pin down the brokers and nullify such structured deals, but they continue unabated.

Though Calcutta Stock Exchange happens to be the mecca of jama-kharchi, many of these phantom firms are listed on National and Bombay stock exchanges as well.

“The listing fee paid by these companies is a major source of revenue. If we were to ‘delist’ these companies, our income from listing fees would fall sharply,” a Calcutta Stock Exchange official secretly admits.

Week of July 13th- 20th

Topic: The Takedown of Osama Bin Laden

In preparation for this study unit, students should be able to listen to any video article and

Student generated feed back

1) Generate 2 -5 questions

2) Find 1-2 new words.

3) Answer 1-2 live questions

4) Generate 1-2 opinions or comments.

Read the following article

In the Esquire interview The Shooter reveals that once they were given their mission, the female CIA agent – portrayed by Jessica Chastain’s Maya in Zero Dark Thirty – told the team that bin Laden was ‘100 per cent on the third floor’ of his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

‘We got him,’ she told us. ‘This is him. This is my life’s work. I’m positive.’


Once he locked eyes on his target, the SEAL remembers being surprised at his appearance. Bin Laden was much taller than he expected him to be – taller than any of their guys, and skinny with a short beard and shaved head.

He was holding his wife Amal in front of him as a shield and though The Shooter could see exactly what was going on through night vision goggles, bin Laden was in total darkness and could hear but not see.


He also said he feared she might try to blow them up. He added: ‘I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both.

‘I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].

‘In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! Same place.


‘That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.


‘And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him. Holy sh**.


‘His forehead was gruesome. It was split open in the shape of a V. I could see his brains spilling out over his face.’


The Shooter, a father-of-two, then describes the moments after the shooting and how the al Qaeda leader’s wife Amal launched herself at him screaming.

After zip tying her to the bed, he then realized bin Laden’s youngest son, who was about two or three years old at the time, had also witnessed his father being shot.

‘He was standing there on the other side of the bed. I didn’t want to hurt him, because I’m not a savage. There was a lot of screaming, he was crying, just in shock.


‘I didn’t like that he was scared. I picked him up and put him next to his mother.’

He said the third-floor action lasted for about 15 seconds


Part two -watch the following video from timecode 08:00 – 10:34


– the written article appeared in the media first, the video appeared second

– both stories are told by the same person

– the interviewee i using special make up, and a fake name. His voice has also been                     changed

Special words to discuss include – (point man, stack, suicide vest, martyr)


1) What do you notice about the two stories? ( what are some key differences?)

2) Which story do you think is true? why?

3) Student generated feed back

– Generate 2 -5 questions

– Find 1-2 new words.

– Answer 1-2 live questions

– Generate 1-2 opinions or comments.

Week of June 29th- July 6th

Topic: What money can’t buy

This week we are enjoying another lecture from Professor Michael Sandel from Harvard.

Consider the following questions as you listen to the lecture.

What is marketization?

What is the effect of marketization on material goods?

What are the effects of marketization on social values? i.e. non material goods.

In the context of this talk please consider the meaning of the following words

market, market economy, market society, incentive 

1) At time code 05:30 begins a discussion about paying young school children to read books.

2) What do you think about this idea? Why do you think so?

Explain describe the effect of marketization on community. (time code 29:00)

Week of June 10th-22nd

Topic: Internet surveillance 


Vocabulary list – wiretap (v), surveillance (n), warrant (n), seize (v), detain (v), eavesdrop (v), infringe (v), whistle blower (n)

We will be talking about the issue of personal privacy and national security this week. As you read through the material below, please imagine what things would be like this was happening here. As always, please prepare comments and questions. i am not posting any questions or talking points this week as we will discuss as we go through the material at our next meeting.

Click on the link below for a history of America’s surveillance on their own citizens. When you arrive at the page there is a blue arrow on the right and left side of the page, this arrow moves the time slider through time and we can read about the key events taking place.

A history of American Surveillance on citizens

This issue has been very controversial and because of that President Obama has made a short speech to tell us his point of view, please watch:

A recent speech by President Obama about his decision to do internet surveillance

Week of June 1st- 8th

Topic: GMO


Read the following article

Written by: Priya Advani

I spent the past month speaking to random people everywhere that I went. I asked all of them the same question, “Do you know what GMO stands for and what it is?” While some people either knew what it was or at least had heard of it, I was surprised by the number of people who had never heard of GMO. This article is dedicated to those of you who looked at me with wonder, and then shook your head “no.”

A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Since this involves the transfer of genes, GMOs are also known as “transgenic” organisms.

The genetic engineering technology was developed in the 1970s. In the early 1990s, the tomato was one of the first to be victim of this technology. The anti-freeze genes from an Arctic fish were forced into tomato DNA, allowing the plants to survive frost. Fortunately, this type of tomato was not introduced into the marketplace. Actually, it never left the lab.(1)

In 1976, a major biotechnology company manufactured an herbicide called Roundup. When the farmers sprayed this herbicide on their crops, not only would it kill the weeds, but it would also kill the crops. This biotech company developed genetically modified crops after finding bacteria in a chemical waste dump near its factory that were not dying in the presence of the herbicide. The bacterial gene that produced the protein that allowed it to survive in the presence of herbicide was inserted into soy, corn, cotton and canola.(2)

In 1996, this company introduced genetically modified soybeans, and slowly introduced genetically engineered corn, cotton and canola. When these crops are sprayed with this Roundup, all plants except the resistant crop are killed. As a result, some 258 million pounds more herbicide have been used in the last 11 years.(3)

In 1992, the FDA declared that GM crops are GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) as long as their producers say they are. Therefore, the FDA doesn’t require any safety evaluations or labeling of GMOs. A company can even introduce a genetically modified (GM) food to the market without telling the agency. The official FDA policy stated, “The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.”(4) In contrast, an internal FDA report stated, “The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks.”(5)

Internal memos made public from a lawsuit showed that GM crops can have unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects including allergies, toxins, nutritional effects and new diseases as potential dangers. The FDA doesn’t require a single study, and the complex biology of GM crops may produce far more side-effects than drugs. GM foods are fed to the entire population, and they are not labeled or monitored, so symptoms are difficult or impossible to track.

Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include: soy (91 percent), cotton (71 percent), canola (88 percent), corn (85 percent), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50 percent), zucchini and yellow squash (small amount) and sugar beets (90 percent).

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reported that, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods.(6)

A recent study published in the journal, Reproductive Toxicology, examined the blood of 30 pregnant women and 39 non-pregnant women. The authors looked for Glyphosate (brand name Roundup), Gluphosinate (a broad spectrum herbicide), AMPA (aminomethyl phosphoric acid, a metabolite of glyphosate), 3-MPPA (3-methylphosphinico propionic acid, a metabolite of gluphosinate) and Cry1Ab (the BT toxin of gluphosinate) in the blood of these women. Both glyphosate and gluphosinate were detected in non-pregnant women, but neither were found in the pregnant women and their fetuses.

Watch the following interview

Give some information about the speaker .

1)  What is a GMO? (0:30)

2)  What is Monsanto? (0:48)

3)  Why Stop Monsanto? (1:01)

4)  Do you think Monsanto is unethical? (1:33)

5)  Do you believe we can stop Monsanto? What can we do? (1:48)


Week of May 11th to 18th

Topic: Understanding Abenomics!

This week we are looking at Abenomics, many people often use this new word, but do we really understand what it means? Please remember that many ideas in this topic may be things that you already know, the goal is to be able to explain it in english. Try to use and follow the questions to organize your explanations.


While reading the following article on Abenomics think about the current economic situation. Many people say we are in an economic slump, but what does this really mean?

1) what is Abenomics? Describe the three fold plan

2) What is the meaning of monetary policy?

What is the benefit to businesses?

What is the benefit to households?

3) What is the meaning of fiscal policy?

What is the benefit to business?

What is the benefit to households?

How does Abe’s choice compare to the US? Or to the last DP government?

4) What are some ideas proposed for Abe’s structural reform?

5) What are the risks  of Abenomics?


Week of March 23rd to 30th

Topic: North Korean schools in Japan 


As with all discussion topics, students are encouraged to bring their own knowledge to the table. The resources below were put together for students who maybe don’t know much about the topic to begin with.

Please watch the following video from CNN

(there is a transcript below the video)

Discussion points

1)Who is Hakubun Shimomura and what is his new shogakkin system? What is the main purpose of this system? (describe and explain)

2)Describe the discrimination against North Korean schools in Japan in this case. What is the government doing? Is this discrimination? Why or why not?

3)Describe the background of Koreans living in Japan, talk about the past and the present.

4)What does the DJP government say or think about this issue?


The Teacher should read the following article in preparation for discussion. The article provides some background information which students may or may not know. Students are also welcomed and encouraged to read the article below.



Week of March 16th to 23rd

Follow up to Racism in Japan Topic

After our conversation last week regarding Racism in Japan, please watch this follow up video and prepare some comments.


Week of March 9th to 16th

Topic: Racism in Japan

Next meeting we will discuss the issue of racism in a country where everyone is of the “same” race. We will talk around the following 5 question points.

1) Do you think there is racism in Japan?

2) If yes, is there a lot of racism, or is there a little?

3) Read the following article


4) List some areas in society where there is racism, describe some examples.

5) In this article, Miki Dezaki (the teacher in the video) experienced some trouble after he posted his video. What troubles did he have?( please describe his problems in detail)

6) Who or what is “Net Uyoku?” and What did they do to Dezaki?

7)What exactly did Dezaki do? How did “Net Uyoku” feel about it? How did Dezaki’s principal feel about it?

8) What is “ni channeru”? go there and have a look.

9) How do you feel about Dezaki? what do you think he should do?


Week of March 3rd to 9th

Topic: Home schooling

1) Please watch the following 11 minute video.

2) Consider the following questions

a) According to Logan LaPlante (the boy in the video), what do parents really mean when they ask the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”

b) What are the 8 practices necessary for being happy and healthy?

c) Are these 8 practices being taught in schools today?

e) Watch through the video and try to describe what homeschooling is like for Logan LaPlante. What kind of activities does he do? And how does he study?

f) What are the good points and bad points of home schooling?

g) Is home schooling a realistic option in society?

h) Post a short comment below.