Thursday, April 26, 2012

Titanic tragedy centennial anniversary forms framework for Randolph history class


When John d’Entremont realized 2012 would mark the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking, he decided to turn it into a teachable moment.

“I knew it had to be a course,” said d’Entremont, the Theodore H. Jack professor of history at Randolph College. “The issues the Titanic raise are so wide-ranging and universal that the disaster could elicit class discussion about a host of questions that all sensitive people, especially in a democracy, must ponder.”

This semester, d’Entremont taught a course that dug into the historical setting and the social issues surrounding the Titanic tragedy. He used a scale model of the ship to illustrate the stories and help students visualize the vessel.

The Lynchburg News & Advance recently featured the class in an article published shortly after the anniversary of the tragedy.

The class explored what the history of the Titanic, the actions taken during the sinking, and the public’s response revealed about race, class, and gender relations, tackling questions such as:

  • Does technological prowess make a nation or people great? At what point does pride in that prowess become arrogance?
  • How does, and should, social class determine our behavior, and our treatment of others?
  • What responsibility do we have for one another? Are we obligated to take risks for others, even strangers?
  • To what are we entitled, and what is the just source, if any, of these entitlements?

“In the end, the Titanic—which some have called the “world’s biggest metaphor” — turns out to be about everything. Or, at least, almost everything that matters,” d’Entremont said.