The Wayfarer and the pathway to Truth

"The wayfarer, / Perceiving the pathway to truth, Was struck with astonishment. ."   Stephen Crane

"And this is why friendship or,  let me say love,  is the most potent enemy of war.  " Chris Hedges

This is the opening lesson for the year, for the course.  It sets the tone - and it (and the ideas contained within) gets visited again and again.

Lesson Overview 

 We begin by asking the students "What is truth?" - they write down their individual answers (a single honest sentence).  I then give them time to write while I begin my first ever attendance for the class - I will stop and ask them how to pronounce their name, what they like to be called (nicknames) and if they have a preferred pronoun.We then walk to the parking lot or a far part of the school.  The students give their answers, one at a time - and with each answer, we take some steps back to our classroom.  This will serve as a metaphor for the entire year.  By the end of the year we will not have definitive answers - but perhaps we will know more than we did at the beginning (I certainly have every year for certain).    We then read Stephen Crane's poem "The Wayfarer" - and we discuss what it means - what they see in it and talk about some of its ideas.  Is it hard to take the path to truth?  Who are some famous people who have gone through the painfully sharp weeds that Crane describes.  We then watch a short video that I have put together of Chris Hedges's commencement speech he made at Rockford College - the Iraq war had just begun and was seemingly over without any substantial losses.  Hedges a war correspondent gives a sober view which went against what most in our country thought about the war at that time - and for that, he was attacked (literally) and booed throughout.  The connections to "The Wayfarer" are mostly left for the students to put together themselves (like any good lesson I suppose).

My Lesson Notes (2016/2021) - two pages and last used 2021 - (my final year)


Most Recent Handouts & Quizzes

Handout #1  DOC x  PDF  A space for students to write "What is Truth" / The poem "The Wayfarer" by Stephen Crane, the first assignments and first book to be purchased.

Handout #2 DOCx   PDF Chris Hedges's commencement speech at Rockford College along with a short article setting the context of the speech from The Progressive Magazine (07/03).

Older Versions of Handouts (a folder's worth - these will mostly be in the old doc format of Word)

Audio Visual Content

Chris Hedges and the Wayfarer - A Video -  this is a video that I made  that puts some ideas together (Chris Hedges's commencement speech at Rockford College right after what was thought to be the very short, very  casulty free end of the Invasion of Iraq with the poem The Wayfarer and of course the students' own answers to "What is Truth"?


Remote Enhancements 

What is Truth - Opening Day  -A PowerPoint Presentation -
This is a  presentation designed to help  the focus of the class during our video meet - it takes us from point to point - often with the text that is referenced and keeps the class organized and moving forward.



Chris Hedge's speech at Rockford College -

Class Recordings (for registered members)



What's Next - Unit Homepage

"The Night Face Up" by Julio Cortazar - now that they've learned that truth is often "hard" - they will next take a look at how it is often ambiguous.


  Every other English Class they've ever had.

Thoughts on the Lesson 

I'm not sure when I first started doing this lesson (at least 1996 so say my notes, but perhaps earlier than that).  I do know it makes sense for the class - that day - to get a feel for the students, for the class, and for them to get a feel for me.  The students will not get definitive answers during the course of the year - but I hope, and I do believe it's true that we will know more than when we came in.

Recently (01/22),  I was watching a film, "The Hurt Locker" which began with the Chris Hedge's quote: The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.   I recognized it immediately as coming from this speech and his subsequent book: "War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning".