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Wednesday, 19 August 2009 05:49

Lesson 2: The Enlightenment Salon

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In this lesson students will work in groups to research and present the various philosophes of the Enlightenment Lesson includes group research and oral presentation, as well as a roundtable discussion.

(inspired by Alice Kwong-Ballard and created by Kristin Lubenow-Lindsey)


  1. Students will compare the major philosophers and their effects on the democratic revolutions in England, the US, France and Latin America (CASS 10.2.1)
  2. Students will research a enlightenment philosophe and analyze what he/she would have thought about our world today.
  3. Students will present their research in a clear and concise way.
  4. Students will take on a role/position and be able to defend it.


(This lesson can take anywhere from 3 – 5 days)

Step 1:

Play Mozart’s The Magic Flute and then proceed to give a short lecture on the Enlightenment.

Step 2: Lecture Notes: The Enlightenment

  1. Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment
    1. Outcome
      1. Creation of new world view
        1. shaped the modern mind
        2. scientific method; used to examine all aspects of life
      2. Reason
        1. nothing should be accepted on faith; everything should be subjected to rational, critical, scientific way of thinking
        2. brought conflict with the church; question authority of the bible and the church
      3. Scientific Method and the laws of human society
        1. method to be used for human nature not just nature
        2. social science was born
    2. Progress
      1. humans could create better society and better people
    3. Expanded the secular view of the renaissance
      1. concentrated on worldly explanations
      2. intellectualism of enlightenment had a large impact on middle class and aristocracy
      3. was resented by poor and peasants who were preoccupied with survival and didn’t like their traditional beliefs being challenged
  2. Enlightenment
    1. Intellectual and cultural movement
      1. reached its peak in 1750
      2. antireligious implications: many destructive wars of religion had been fought b/c religious freedom was intolerable idea
      3. Protestants and Catholics thought religious truth was absolute and worth dying fighting and dying for
      4. Skeptics: nothing can be known beyond all doubt
      5. Travel and exploration had brought into question many of traditional practices in
        1. Europe: men grew their hair and shaved their faces; Turks shaved their heads and let their beards grow
        2. Men bowed to women out of respect in Siam men turned their backs to women b/c it was disrespectful to look directly at her
        3. Questions their own practices: truth was relative not absolute
  3. Influential Writers and Thinkers
    1. John Locke essay 1690
      1. Treatise of civil government: new theory about how human beings learn and form their ideas
      2. Rejected prevailing view that people were born with certain basic ideas and ways of thinking
      3. Instead they were a blank slate on which the environment writes the individual’s understand and beliefs; human development was determined by nurture/education
    2. Philosophes
      1. French word for philosopher
      2. In France that the enlightenment reached its peak
      3. These philosophers were asking fundamental questions about the meaning of life, God, human nature, good and evil, cause and effect
      4. They were not free to write as they wished; direct attacks would have been banned or burned
      5. wrote novels and plays filled with satire and double meaning to spread their message to the public
      6. manuscript form or spread thru salons of the wealthy class
  4. Enlightenment Spreads
    1. Paris Center
      1. people came from all over to listen to the ideas of the Enlightenment
      2. ideas spread to a growing middle class; wealthy merchant class with little power
      3. liked the ideas of equality and challenge to nobility
    2. Enlightened Despots
      1. because some enlightenment thinkers believed that monarchy was the best form of government; rulers could rule fairly
      2. some monarchs followed these ideas; Frederick the Great (Prussia) Catherine the Great (Russia)
    3. Influence on American Revolution
      1. American colonists struggle with a distant monarch
      2. British attempts to control
        1. mercantilism; colonists could only trade with Britain
        2. taxed for wars (French and Indian War)
        3. struggle and conflict
      3. 1776, Declaration of Independence
        1. based on ideas of the enlightenment
      4. 1787, US Constitution
        1. based on ideas from the enlightenment
        2. Mont: separation of powers
        3. Locke: power in the hands of the people
        4. Voltaire: freedom of speech and religion
        5. Beccaria: fair justice system

Step 3:

  1. 1. Pass out the Enlightenment Salon (Handout 2.2.1) project sheet. Read through the requirements with the students, and then allow them to choose their groups and their philosophes.
  2. 2. Pass out reading sets to the appropriate groups. (I have readings from books, but found these sites to be useful for this purpose.)
    Cesare Beccaria:
    Mary Wollstonecraft:
    Thomas Hobbes:
    John Locke:
    William Goodwin:
    Baron de Montesquieu:
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
  3. 3. Students should have time in class to work on their presentations.

Step 4:

  1. Pass out the Enlightenment Philosopher Chart (Handout 2.2.2)for the students to take notes on during the presentations. Tell them that the charts will be collected and graded after the roundtable, and that the information from the presentations will improve their grade on the roundtable.
  2. Each group has approximately 3 minutes to present their information of their philosopher while the rest of the students are taking notes on their charts.
  3. When all of the presentations have been completed I explain how the roundtable will work the following day, and give them any remaining time to prepare. I collect their posters, but allow them to keep their note cards for the Roundtable.

Step 5: Enlightenment Salon/Roundtable

  1. Before the students come into the room, I have the desks set up so that there is an inner circle of 8 desks (I call these the hot seats), one for each of the philosophes. I have also taped the poster board from the groups’ presentations on the front of the hot seat as an identifying marker. I then group the remaining desks around, but behind the inner circle to accommodate the group members of each philosopher. I explain that one group member needs to be sitting in the hot seat, and that only that student may speak for the group. I also explain that each group member must make it into the hot seat at least once.
  2. After students have seated themselves I explain the procedure.
    1. First we will quickly go around the inner circle (again only person in the hot seat may speak) reintroducing themselves as their philosopher. I have them state their names and one important accomplishment for the class.
    2. Then I pose the first question (taken from the sample list of questions at first and then later from the additional questions on the teacher resource page; Teacher Resource 2.2.1) and have each philosopher respond to the question. I instruct those students that are not in the hot seat to be taking notes on what the other groups are saying so that they may challenge the other members in the challenge round. Some questions will be easy for the students to respond to because it will come directly from their research, while other questions will require a little more critical thinking and insinuation. If a students cannot respond to the question, it is the responsibility of the group’s other members to tap out and replace that student with a member who can respond, otherwise the group loses points for that round.
    3. Once each philosopher has had a chance to respond, I tell the students that they have one minute to come up with a challenge for one of the other philosophers based on the information they got from the presentations the previous day. (Some philosophers will be in agreement on some questions and some will not, the point is to see whether students really understand the philosophers and can defend their positions.)
    4. After the minute is up I ask for challenges, usually taking volunteers in the opposite direction around the circle. Students may switch in and out of the hot seat for response and challenge rounds. I remind students that more points can be gained through challenges. Once a challenge is posed, the challenged group is offered a chance to respond.
    5. After the challenge round, we move on to another question and repeat the process until time runs out. I usually like to get through at least 4 questions, so sometimes we continue the roundtable the following day. However, sometimes the momentum is lost so you have to gauge it.

Step 6:

  1. Continue the Roundtable or Debrief. I also collect their note cards and their charts.
  2. As part of the debrief we talk about which concepts/philosophers they personally agreed with most. This can lead to a discussion of the influence these philosophers had on the American Revolution. This could be a writing assignment. We also talk about how it felt to be challenged. This is a good place to talk about how the philosophers themselves were challenged and forced to defend their position and how difficult that can be.


Work days: 20 pts (prepared for and contributing to discussion)
Note cards: 25 pts
Oral Presentation: 10 pts
Poster: 10 pts
Salon/Roundtable Discussion: 25 pts (bio, response to questions, equal
Challenges and Questions: 25 pts (raising good questions and good responses)
Enlightenment Philosopher Chart: 10 pts

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:14

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