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Winston of Churchill

By Jean Davies Okimoto

Summary

The polar bears of Churchill, Manitoba live their lives in fear from global warming, which seems to be the greatest threat of all. One bear, renowned for his leadership and bravery, rises above them all to take charge and save their homes on the ice; this bear is none other than Winston. Winston proposes that Global Warming is not the fault of polar bears at all; in fact, there was nothing that they could do to make it worse, except for Winston's smoking habit. He and his polar bear followers decide to take initiative and protest to the humans. The plan is accepted and under way, but Winston’s wife refuses to join until Winston can quit his smoking habit. His wife assumes he is no better than the humans who have contributed to the wreckage of their home. The next day when the plan is enacted and the tourists gather to see the bears, all the bears show up with their "save our home" banners and their leader shows up with a twig as a cigar substitute. The tourists took pictures to show their friends and family.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Three keys themes of Leadership, Blame, and War can be explored during the facilitation to introduce politics to a younger audience in a way that is not largely controversial.

Leadership here is presented as a flawed concept. Firstly, Winston is the apparent leader simple because he is the strongest. There is no form of election or representation of other bears as possible candidates which suggests that Winston's leadership is similar to that of a dictatorship in which he determines all the actions of the other bears with their full cooperation. Winston's position as the ultimate form of power can be used to demonstrate to children, who are most likely more exposed to democracy, another more left wing perspective in political theory. Secondly, Winston's ultimate leadership is never questioned by any polar bears except for the ones who are closest to him. Winston’s wife and cub are the only ones to oppose Winston and from this significant changes are made. They could be seen as being representative of the voice of the minority. This is especially relevant to children because it promotes their importance in the way decisions are made around them. Children themselves are a minority because they are often sidelined by the decision making done by adults.

Blame here is shown as being a shared guilt. It is not solely the fault of humans that global warming has increased; it is also the fault of the polar bear's leader, Winston, whom also shares blame because of his smoking habits. If the children are able to acknowledge the transition from Winston's smoking habit to a much greener alternative they will have just learnt the ability of self realization in which they themselves can revise their own positions in the light of someone else's criticism. Furthermore, the polar bear's projection of blame onto unsuspecting tourists resembles the inability to take responsibility for one's own action or the inability to identify the actual source of causation and mistaking the causation as something that is 'most likely' the culprit. When identified, the children learn not to jump to immediate conclusions and instead they should appreciate the process of responsible action, free from blame and guilt.

War here is a metaphor for the polar bear's struggle against the humans in a fight to preserve their homes. Overlaps between the historical Winston Churchill and the fictional Winston of Churchill as well as current leadership, such as Stephen Harper,can be explored to identify the traits prominent in a real leadership figure during a wartime and a peaceful setting. In this way the children can compare the leadership they know to previous leaders to really understand the measures that were taken during the war without actually having to know the atrocities that happened.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Leadership

Winston was a fierce, brave bear, and when Winston spoke, every bear listened.

  1. How did Winston get so important?
  2. What qualities does Winston have?
  3. Do the other bears listen to what Winston says? Do they have a choice?
  4. Was it embarrassing for Winston to be questioned by his wife and cub? Did the wife and cub make a good point?
  5. Would it be okay for Winston to do bad things? Would other bears follow if he did bad things?
  6. Who's the most important bear in this book? Would you say that this bear is the leader?

Blame

Ice is melting because it's getting too warm around here and only people are doing it.

  1. Was it right for the bear's to say that global warming was the fault of the humans?
  2. If Winston had not changed his cigar into a twig, would all the blame still be on the humans?
  3. The polar bears protested to the nearby tourists. Are those people to blame?
  4. Would the polar bear's still protest if it wasn't the humans fault? Was there really a point to protesting?
  5. Is it possible for the blame to not belong to the humans or the bears? Were the bears mistaken?

War

We will fight for our ice. We shall never surrender.

  1. There is a recurrent use of the word "fight". Why is this specific word used so often?
  2. Winston Churchill was actually a wartime leader. Do these Winston's share common traits?
  3. Was the Bear's protest/'defence' actually effective?
  4. Would Winston still be a strong leader if there was no global warming issue?

This book module deals with ethics, specifically the environment. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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