Pre-assignment: Before I assign any reading in Ishmael I have students collect, review, and analyze images and messages offered in local magazines and newspapers (local rather than national or international because I want them to relate to their own community). They create a collage out of the clippings and consider the priorities and values suggested by the images. The exercise not only prepares students for later discussion of Mother Culture (and reconsideration of their initial interpretations) but also encourages application of the ideas presented in Ishmael to their own upbringing and sense of community.
Reading assignments: Students read the entire book before we begin discussion and analysis. I assign one of the 13 sections each night for a couple of weeks and give weekly quizzes. This encourages all to keep up and provides an opportunity for clarifying questions about things that come up in their reading, like terms and metaphors they come across in the text (e.g. Mother Culture, teacher, student, captivity, culture, Takers, Leavers, certain knowledge, peace-keeping laws, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the airman and the craft of civilization, and Bwana). Then, when they’ve finished reading the book, and are equipped with their notes and questions, we launch into a series of discussions, using the Socratic method.