Before reading the poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman, I would use Chief Joseph’s conversation about communication to discuss the concept of truth and the idea that simplicity and silence often lead to deeper understanding in all walks of life. After reading the poem, students will make connections between Chief Joseph’s words and the speaker’s realization that looking up “in perfect silence at the stars” (8) is a better path to understanding than a convoluted lecture. I would also ask students to elaborate on how the message in this conversation and poem can be applied to personal relationships.
Level: Secondary English/Language Arts
Subject Area: American Literature/Poetry
Author: Tiffany Heitman