Monday, December 6, 2010

Education -- your culminating thoughts.

Throughout the term, your have read the assessments of many writers regarding "what is wrong with" public K-12 education in America today. Some of these problems include over-scheduling (boredom-promotion), over-reliance on standardized testing, segregation by class and race, and the persistence of a school "track" system that produces a workforce in line with students' parents' socio-economic status. Now, I want you to think about (and then answer) this question: if a student succeeds in getting to college, however many of the above-named problems might have hampered his/her education experience up to that time, are all of those problems non-existent in the college setting?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let's talk about the environment . . . again

Hi students. As I've been reading through your final papers, I have been impressed with the variety of topics you've taken on. Many of you have discussed problems with American education, a few have discussed various conceptions of the American family, and a few of you have tackled issues related to the environment. I want to ask you all a question inspired by some conversations in my American Nature Writing class today. Do you think "natural resources management" is an oxymoron? Can "wilderness" places be managed? In a corporatized, industrialized society like ours, how do we perform "cost-benefit analyses" on our uses of natural places and resources (meaning, how *do* we do this and how *can* we do -- and potentially justify doing -- this)? Some deep issues to ponder as we head into the final week of classes!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Final Papers . . .

Because I am always thinking about your writing, I am curious about two things. A) In what ways has your writing changed this semester and how has that change come about? Has it been a positive change, do you think? B) As you are working on your final paper, what is your biggest worry, in regard to your writing of your paper? What do you think you still "don't know how to do," as it were?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

As we sum up . . .

Which sequence from our class this semester -- family, environment, education -- did you find most compelling? Why? What ideas were you introduced to for the first time within the sequence that you found most interesting?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marriage is for...

In our discussions of the Prop 8 readings, we have discussed some of the reasons people use to support of Prop 8. Often, supporters contend it will help to "protect the institution of marriage" (language that is often used in this debate). As you see it, what IS the role, in modern American society, of the "institution of marriage"? How has this role changed over time? Or has it?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Extended families...

In Roger Jack's "An Indian Story," what many roles does his aunt play in his life? What sort of message does his text send about stereotyped American family structures and those who do and do not represent/embody them? What is the value, to him, of his aunt as guardian and culture-bearer?

Friday, November 5, 2010

What we really miss . . .

According to Coontz, what DO we really miss about the 1950s? Do you think, in America at present, that we are still nostalgic for the '50s? Are YOU nostalgic for a particular time in American history? Why? In regard to the American family, do you think future generations might look back in an idealized or nostalgic fashion on today?

Monday, November 1, 2010

American families

In the introduction to your book's "Harmony at Home" chapter, the author writes that "America is becoming increasingly ambivalent about the future of family life, perhaps with good reason" (20). What do you think are the most worrying phenomena to have developed over the last several decades that have had a negative impact on American families? Why? If you think many of the changes that we have experienced culturally have, in total, had a positive impact on American families, please give some examples.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Visual Portfolio

Of the images in the textbook's visual portfolio for the "Ah Wilderness!" chapter, which do you think presents the most provocative or powerful argument? What is that argument? How does the image itself make the argument so powerful?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I hope you all gleaned something regarding "ecocritical approaches" to literary analysis yesterday from Earl's presentation. Also, last week, we endeavored to detect the "environmental" ethos within certain essays (and I explained that "ethos" in this regard is not quite the same as the rhetorical appeal "to ethos" with which some of you are familiar). Our good friend Wikipedia tells us that "ethos," in the sense that I am using it to investigate literary texts, means "the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, a nation or an ideology." So, certainly, while Earl did not say this directly, he was investigating Dan O'Brien's "environmental ethos." This "environmental ethos" was informed by a comedic approach to the natural world, according to Earl. What else did you learn from Earl's ecocritical project about Dan O'Brien's "environmental ethos"? What makes it, according to Earl, significant and interesting?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hart Crane Paragraphs

You'll remember our exercise last week: groups of four students composed paragraphs to reveal the "environmental" message or content within the section "The Tunnel" from Hart Crane's poem The Bridge. I have compiled these paragraphs into a PDF, available here , and I hope you will read them all and then choose one upon which to comment here in the comments section. Choose a paragraph that you think is most effective on a rhetorical level and that is also interesting in terms of its "reading" of the poem. Why is the paragraph effective in your opinion? Give specific reasons and please comment explicitly on the authors' "craft" in writing their paragraph in the way that they did. What is worth emulating? Be sure to give the number of the paragraph upon which you are commenting.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Engaging "The Environment"

As we begin our section on American arguments concerning our environment, I want you to reflect on your own experiences engaging with the natural world around you.... or the built world. Natural landscapes and built cityscapes are both unique and communicative "environments." When you think of your own experiences with "environmental protection," about which kind of environment are you thinking? Can you relate an anecdote about this personal experience?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Learning to read/acquiring "education"

We had a very rich discussion on Friday of Malcolm X's self-education during his time in prison. We juxtaposed the freedom he experienced through his reading "travels" with the proscribed and restrictive educational situation many experience in formal schooling. In prison, he was "free," free to acquire an education. What do you make of this? What enabled him, pushed him, on this path, when so many with so much traditional freedom do not have the motivation or inclination to pursue their own "education"?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wanting to be average.

Mike Rose comments in his essay "I Just Wanna Be Average" that many students in the "vocational track" in high school take refuge in a commitment to "being average," like Ken Harvey, in his example. According to him, why does the vocational track breed mediocrity in students and squelch any desire in them to become remarkable? Or do you disagree with Rose's assessment?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Do we need school?

As you can tell, my question here is inspired by the John Taylor Gatto article you read for Wednesday. His question is as follows, "do we really need school," i.e. "forced schooling" that follows what he calls a "deadly routine"? What is your take on this proclamation? According to Gatto, what is the purpose of this education -- what does it train American students to be? Do you agree with his assessment?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Hi Students!

So, we've begun discussing education -- K-12 and university -- in our class. I think it's very beneficial to our in-class conversations that you all have attended so many different types of schools in your educational careers. Many of you indicated that you felt under-prepared for college in some way or another by your high school experience. Your focus for "blame" for this "under-preparedness" was on various entities (the school board, individual teachers, something more abstract, etc.). If you could go back and make one or two changes to the education-acquisition aspect of your high school experience (as this experience corresponded to you, your school, or something else), what would that change or those changes be? Why?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hello ENGL 112 Students!

I hope all of you had a nice summer and I am very much looking forward to meeting you on the first day of our class. I have posted our syllabus on my website ( under the "Courses" button.

During the first week of classes, we will get to know each other, we will review what you will be expected to accomplish in ENGL 112 at NMT, and we will do an in-class writing exercise that will help me to see what your strengths and weaknesses are at this time.

Our readings for this semester will cover a wide range of issues on topics that are "arguable" (what isn't!) in contemporary American society, including the promise that education supposedly holds for all young Americans, the dynamics of the present-day American family, and the various interpretations and perspectives on Americans' involvement with and use of our "natural" surroundings. These are the subjects about which you will write argumentative essays in this class and these are the subjects about which you will do scholarly research. You will also share your perspectives on this blog and in our classroom. I hope you are as excited as I am to get the semester going! See you soon.