Review of Week 5 (Jan 31, Feb 2)
by Cameron Brown and Jessica Gilchrist
The class was assigned two readings for Tuesday’s class: the reading from Acting Out Culture was an essay by Barbara Ehrenreich, the Introduction to her book Bright Side, which analyzed the impact of optimism on American culture. They Say, I Say provided the class with insight on how to respond to an argument, and also how to make sure that as a writer, you differentiate your own voice from someone else’s.
Professor Seaman started the class off by reminding us of what the plan for the week’s classes were, as well as things we needed to remember about completing our drafts for Project 1.
Then we moved onto They Say, I Say. The class started off with reviewing what we had learned from the book last week, in summarizing. We concluded that it is important to include details about what the author is trying to say. Also, not to overgeneralize, in risk of simplifying the author’s argument too much.
When making a response, there were a few things we thought were important:
- Be respectful: others’ views can be different but it doesn’t mean they are wrong
- Make sure it’s clear what your position is; otherwise, this can discredit your argument. Also, this is being responsible to the conversation between you and the reader.
- The more you can present your ideas in a familiar fashion, the more people will respond to your argument
After that, the class moved onto a sample essay written by a member of the class. We split up into groups of two to analyze the essay and discuss anything we found that sparked our interest. Then, we shared in class discussion what our findings were.
Here is a summary of the main points the class picked up:
- Topic sentences are an important topic – using main ideas instead of main “examples”
- Make sure that when you use a quote, make it into a quote sandwich
When discussing the structure of our essays, we talked about personal anecdotes – they can personify an argument, but they are not always necessarily effective
- How to properly format paragraph citations
Then, the class moved to our readings in Acting Out Culture. We noted that the author didn’t state her point immediately; however, it was an extended essay, so it was acceptable. We decided that the general sense at the beginning of the essay was that it was indeed a good thing to be happy. Also, the happiness of a nation has started to be computed in the “economic-well being” of a nation. After three or four paragraphs, the tone of the essay started to shift darker: the author pointed out that Americans aren’t actually all that happy. Consumer capitalism, the class determined, was the most complicated part of her argument. She concluded that our optimism keeps us from preparing even for incidents that we get warnings for, like 9/11 and Katrina. Thus, this stereotypical happiness is also a drawback for America.
On Thursday we had a very engaging discussion about the two articles “Then and Now: Feeling (In)secure” and “Sense Un-Sense: Political Protest.” The first article, “Feeling Insecure,” was about American fears and security. Recent fears of terrorist attacks have consumed American airports. Security systems have cracked down at airports so much that flying has become a hassle for everyone. But more than catching terrorists, the security at airports makes citizens feel safe. The mere performance of the thorough security checks makes Americans feel more comfortable flying. Not only does the security system make people feel safe, it also teaches Americans what exactly they should fear. Americans are taught what they should fear, how they should fear and who to fear most. (Mille.r 54) Today it is instilled in Americans that terrorists are our worst enemies and greatest fear.
Our enemies were not always terrorists, however; in the 1950’s Americans were taught to fear Soviet Communism and similar security measures were enforced to ease Americans’ fear. In the 1950’s it was media coverage, not airport security that enforced fear. Through television broadcast and newspaper headlines Americans were taught to fear Soviet Communism as well as nuclear attacks (55). To make Americans feel safe they were told to stock their basement with canned goods, build bomb shelters and student were taught the “duck and cover” drill at school. These precautions taken by Americans gave them a sense of security, but also taught Americans who and what to fear.
We compared airport security with the precautions taken in the Cold War and found many similarities. In both scenarios, Americans were taught to fear. People were taught what to fear and who to fear, and given ways to dull their fright. Sixty years have passed since the Cold War, yet little has changed in the way Americans fear.
The second article we discussed in class Thursday was “Political Protest.” The article talked about the great American tradition of protesting. The main goals of protests are to challenge a particular view or bring awareness to a cause. Different types of protests bring about different responses. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington protest proved that a peaceful protest can be very powerful (91). Dr. King also taught us that a protest’s strength came from its numbers. The March on Washington protest has been a platform for hundreds of protests since. Protesting of the Vietnam War, Gay Marriage, African-American male stereotypes, Anti-Abortion and most recently Occupy Wall Street have followed King’s ideas. Protests are what America was founded upon and will remain a way for voices to be heard and change to come.
“… certainly a serious concern for academics who are rightly skeptical of writing that is simplistic and reductive.” (They Say, I Say, 57)
“But do be aware that whenever you agree with one person’s view, you are likely disagreeing with someone else’s.” (They Say, I Say, 63)
“Less clear, though, are the particular anxieties and fears that these new security rituals have simultaneously normalized. Indeed, it could well be argued that all of these precautions and prohibitions have served to make air travel itself into a kind of extended tutorial in how and what we are supposed to fear. ” (Acting Out Culture, 54)
“…’duck and cover drills’ came to stand as the norm, the mid-century equivalent to the metal detectors and bonb sniffing dogs of today.” (Acting Out Culture, 55)
“…demonstration were designed to challenge the beliefs on which such norms rested, to offer up scrutiny the embedded practices and unspoken assumptions that justify the status quo.” (Acting Out Culture, 90)
Ambivalent: having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone
Reductive: tending to present a subject or problem in a simplified form, esp. one viewed as crude
Normalize: to make something seem so normal that people become unaware of it
Protest: demonstration of public opposition or disproval
Preview of Week 5
(by Dr. Seaman)
We shift over this week from “How We Believe” to “How We Watch.” We will start, on Tuesday, with Miller’s introduction to this section in Acting Out Culture. Consider what script he is turning his attention to here, and what he wants us to consider about this social script. What he is doing with the analysis of the luxury car ad? We will also read and discuss the first of the essays that will be the foundations for Project 2, Cusac’s “Watching Torture in Prime Time,” which will pick up with the topic we discussed last Thursday through the images of airport security and duck-and-cover drills during the Cold War. What is Cusac arguing about the way torture is used in the program, and perhaps about torture more generally?
Tuesday’s Fourth Hour activity is a Library Workshop, in Addlestone 120.
Thursday we’ll return to some They Say, I Say and look at strategies for conveying the significance of your ideas. We’ll also working on generating a topic for a researched argument, a very early step in working toward the biggest Project of the semester. We will discuss, too, Dyson’s essay ‘Frames of Reference” from Acting Out Culture. I’d like you to consider differences between this and Tyson’s essay and decide based on that comparison what kind of audience, what kind of “rhetorical situation,” the two essays reflect. (Note, for instance, the short chapters in Cusac’s essay and the much longer ones in Dyson’s. Why this difference, among others, do you think?) How, in the end, does he take the moral attack on black residents of New Orleans and turn it around on the larger culture?