The Enlightenment was one of the most profound and significant periods in history. As scholars of history, we understand that much wisdom and many lessons can be learned from history. The philosophes of the Enlightenment Period were a group of free (different) thinkers who offered commentary on societal issues.

    Philosophes are different from philosophers. A philosopher is a student of philosophy or a lover of wisdom. A philosophe could be quite philosophical, but were often more like one of today's social commentators suggesting what is wrong with society, suggesting reforms for our political system. Since America during the era of the Revolution was seeking reform of what they thought was English opression, they looked to the philosophes
    for arguments to support their cause.

    Commentary and writings from Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau led citizens to question the alleged authority of their governments. There is much wisdom to be gleaned from the insights of the philosophes. At this time in our own history, we can most definitely benefit from the wisdom of these sages of yesteryear.

Task or Scenario:

    You are a member of a famous music group and a scholar of history. Your music is featured on numerous channels including M-TV and VH1. Your record label, Elektra-Epitaph, has offered you a very profitable recording contract to write a song about a contemporary problem, while presenting the wisdom of a particular philosophe. You also have learned that your song will be used as part of a global program to help solve the problem you have identified. You accept this lucrative offer because you want to help solve a very serious problem and you also know how talented you are in creating specialized music. You and your group are one of the few musical acts throughout the world that can successfully complete this project.

Step By Step Process:

    1. After you are divided up into groups of 4-5, you will need to assign specific jobs to each person. Each group will need a biographer, a philosopher, an historian, and at least one writer (lyricist). You will also need a catchy name for your group that represents your particular philosophe. For example, you might call yourselves Rage Against Rousseau, I Kant Get No Satisfaction, or Mandatory Montesquieu, etc.

    2. Next you will need to identify what you believe to be the most important problem facing the world today. Here are some possible ideas: drugs, alcoholism, violence, gangs, war (pick a recent one), poverty, AIDS, human rights violations, pollution, teen issues such as pregnancy or runaways. You may come up with some other ideas, but please check with your teacher before continuing on this project. The problem your group selects needs to be of major importance and one that you feel strongly about solving

    3. Once you have identified a problem, you will need to have your Lyricist(s) locate a couple current newspaper (printed or cyber) articles about the problem. You need to be able to briefly describe the problem and explain why it is a problem. What solutions have been tried? is a good place to start.

    4. While the writer is working on identifying the problem, the rest of the group needs to be looking up information to answer the following questions:
    (Biographer) Give an overview of the philosophe’s life. What kind of schooling did your philosophe receive? What were the most important contributions of that person’s life? What role did your philosophe play in the Enlightenment?
    (Philosopher) What kind of ideas did your philosophe have about: Wisdom and Thinking?, Liberty and Freedom?, Society and Government?
    (Historian) What was the Enlightenment? What was Europe like before the Enlightenment? What are some of the Enlightenment ideas?
    For the group that represents “Women in the Enlightenment”: You will need to have one person research and report on the following: What was life like for ordinary women? What was life like for wealthy women What role did women play during the Enlightenment?

    5. After each group member has completed his/her portion of the research, share your information to complete the “Mind & Music Matrix”. Turn this in to your teacher before you proceed.

    6. As a group, use your matrix to write a song that combines the ideas of your philosophe and the Enlightenment to discuss and pose a solution to one of today’s major problems. This song needs to have _____ lines of lyrics, not including any chorus you may include. The chorus repeats the main idea and/or the importance of your song.

    7. Your group will make their presentation to the class on ________.
    This assignment is worth ________ points. Your group grade will also be your individual grade.

    Click on the Matrix for a Larger/Printer Friendly Version!


    **See Electronic Enlightenment Resources for a listing of very useful web-based research sites. The pictures used in this electronic biblio-phile come from the first web-site listed.


    Brinton, Crane. et al. A History of Civilization: Prehistory to 1715. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1984.

    Futrell, Mynga & Paul Geisert. Different Drummers: Nonconforming Thinkers in History. Sacramento, Ca.: Instructional Systems, 1999.

    Gay, Peter. Age of Enlightenment. Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1966.

    Greaves, Richard. et al. Civilizations of the World. NY: Harper & Row, 1990.

    Larue, Gerald. Freethought Across the Centuries. NY: Humanist Press, 1996.

    Schama, Simon. Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. NY: Vintage Books, 1989.

Learning Advice for Students:

    The first, and probably most important, piece of advice for this assignment is not to let the idea of creating a song intimidate you. A song is really only a piece of poetry that has been set to a rhythmic beat. A poem is your chance to paint a picture with words. Remember, not all poems rhyme, but all poetry does have an identifiable beat. Concentrate first on finding and understanding your research about the philosophe's and the Enlightenment Era. You will probably have no trouble identifying a current problem, but you must have an understanding of current issues to find workable solutions.

    As you and your group sit down to write your song perhaps you will find it helpful to do a “group-write”. One way you can do this is by having the lyricist(s) write one line (each) then pass the paper to the historian who writes a line. The historian passes the paper to the biographer who writes a line and passes the paper to the philosopher. The philosopher writes a line then passes the paper back to the lyricist. Using this process, each person only has to write 4-5 lines. As you are passing the paper around, please consider that all ideas relating to the philosophe and/or the current problem are good ideas.

    The time for editing your work comes later. If you want your song to have a rhyming pattern, that part also comes later, in the editing phase. The most important thing is to get your ideas on paper. Editing will come after you have more ideas than you need down on paper.

    If you get to pick your own group for this assignment, you will want to choose group members who are hard working and come to school on a regular basis. You want to be part of a group where everyone does their fair share of the work. If you end up in a group that messes around, this assignment will be much more difficult than how it was designed. If your teacher organizes your group, and you discover that there are group problems, try to resolve them as a group. You might try reminding your group members that everyone in the group earns the same grade for this assignment. If you cannot resolve the problems on your own, discuss the matter with your teacher within the first day or two.

    Here is a word of advice from former students who have participated in this type of assignment. Read through the entire student section before you get started. This will give you a clearer picture of the assignment and how you will be graded. Once you have done this, it is very important to get started and to work diligently. These web-based assignments are interesting, but there is no time for goofing off.

Evaluation Criteria:

    Your grade on this assignment is based upon completing the “Mind & Music Matix” and writing the lyrics for your song. The song your group creates needs to meet the following criteria:

    1. Have a title and at least _____ lines. Your song must address a contemporary problem, the ideas and/or life of your particular philosophe, and at least one main idea from the Enlightenment Era. Your song will be evaluated with the Enlightened, but Rational Rubric. You may set your lyrics to music and turn in a cassette and/or videotape for _____ points of extra credit.

    2. Your group must present your song lyrics to the class on time. The
    due date is ______.

    3. You and your group also need to complete the “Reflection” and
    “Conclusion” portions of this lesson.

Click Here for the Enlightened, but Rational Rubric


    1. What do you think was the most important idea from the Enlightenment Era? Why did you choose this idea?

    2. How did your particular philosophe (or women) influence society?

    3. How might the Enlightenment ideas solve current problems?

    4. Which Enlightenment ideas are still with us in modern society?

    5. How is the Enlightenment Era important to history?

    6. If you think the Enlightenment Era was unimportant to history, please explain this position.

    As a group, please answer these questions with 1-2 complete sentences per question. Turn in your answers along with your song lyrics on the due date.


    This section is very important, as it lets me know how to make this assignment more “user-friendly” for future students. Please have each student in your group complete this section on his/her own.

    1. The most interesting part of this lesson was ____. Why?

    2. The most difficult part of this lesson was ____. Why?

    3. I learned the most about ____ from this lesson.

    4. My group experience on this lesson was ____. Why?

    5. My advice to future students doing this lesson is ____. Why?
    Please turn in your Reflection answers along with your group’s Conclusion and song lyrics on the due date.

Extension Notes:

    If you have decided to go for the extra credit and make an audio recording of your song, previous students have had great success (and fun) with a Karaoke machine. If you go for this option, you will need to make the syllables of your song match the familiar song. Some students have made acappella (voice only) recordings. For this option, all you will need is your song, your voice(s), and a tape recorder. One group of my former students had a band; they wrote and recorded their own music. If you decide to make a music video of your song, you will need a camcorder, a cameraperson (with a steady hand), and a few props. Perhaps you will want to design an album cover to represent your band and its Enlightened Song. This could be a poster or a prop for your video. You could perform your song live and “unplugged” in front of your classmates. If you want to perform your song live, you will need to practice making your lyrics loud and clear. Perhaps you have the expertise to design a web-site to feature your song and group.