Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Last-Blog-Posting!

So, for your final blog prompt, I have a doozie of a question for you, but it is one that hearkens back to the essential themes of our course, as denoted by the very title of our course: "Identifying American Argument: Race, Gender, and the Rhetoric of Identity."  Based on your understanding of the various argumentative essays, taken together, that you've read over the course of our term, how would you describe what the "rhetoric of identity" is, in the context of present-day America and, in particular, in regard to "American" argumentative writing?

Friday, November 21, 2008

FInal Paper Thesis Statements

Please post your proposal argument as a comment here!  I look forward to reading everyone's thesis statement.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

John Schilling's group

Paul L. Wachtel states in his essay, "Talking About Racism: How Our Dialogue Gets Short-Circuited," that the real problem with society is the indifference towards discrimination which stems from the overuse of the power words "Racist" and "Racism." This indifference affects everyone in one way or another because it leads to a lack of communication and a lack of progress towards resolving issues. The terms "Racist" and "Racism" have become weapons that shoot down any chance of ever overcoming our miscommunication. Therefore in order to combat discrimination and the related ills of society, we must leave our tradition of arguing about generalized buzz-words and enter into open, specific communication to resolve our differences over time.

It should be evident why one cannot change the attitudes of 300 million
people overnight by any means. Racism however, naturally dissipates over
time, making other efforts useless. George Fredrickson's essay, "Models of
American Ethnic Relations" discusses the concept of an ethnic hierarchy,
integral to the concept of racism. In his essay, he clearly shows the
alleviation of racism over time by citing social groups throughout U.S.
history. Initially, immigration laws only accepted "White" immigrants,
however the Irish were clearly discriminated against and not seen as
"White." Over time however, they were integrated sufficiently into society.
Later in history, the concept prevailed that Northwestern Europeans were
innately superior to those from the Southern and Eastern parts of the
continent; a concept that again has vanished as time progressed. History
clearly shows that racism dissipates over time.

Jon Schlavin's Group

The problem that Paul Wachtel addresses in his essay “Talking About Racism” is the causes of racial inequality in America. He states that the word “racism” no longer is clearly defined or has the same negative connotations that it used to possess. He continues to say that this has caused a general indifference among Americans. To deal with this problem, Wachtel proposes that we, as Americans, need to “retire the rhetoric of racism” and whites need to acknowledge and take responsibility for their indifference (554). Wachtel, however, fails to provide any tangible means of implementing this solution in the real world. He probably intended this essay to be read by the general American public, particularly those who might suffer from indifference. Wachtel's proposal, while it would help with the problem, fails to offer any workable solution. A more feasible solution would be to stop bringing up racism and educate people on how to judge people fairly based on their own character and not on their race, culture, or ethnic background.

“In the socialization process, individuals acquire the values, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of their culture or subculture” states Vincent Parillo in his essay “Causes of Prejudice” (514). This shows that the socialization process has a big influence on an individual's attitude towards different races. It is important that we realize this powerful tool that we have as a culture and use it to shape the next generation in a positive manner. Parillo continues and says that “prejudice, like cultural values, is taught and learned through the socialization process” showing that as a culture we could do away with racism if we were willing to shape the next generation to be tolerant of all races (514). If we teach the next generation to be more tolerant of other races then they will imbibe this ideal and progress towards actual harmony and mutual respect with all races. As Parillo says, “the child usually accepts these concepts without questioning. We thus learn the prejudices of our parents and others, which then become part of our values and beliefs” (514). This is a more specific aspect of Wachtel's vague solution to the problem with racism, educate the next generation and wait for time to heal the wounds that racism have caused.

Alan's Group

In Paul Wachtel's essay, "Talking About Racism,"
he addresses the problem of our inability to effectively
communicate on the subject of race because of the
over-use of the word "racist," which has led to
a lack of understanding and indifference towards the
word. Wachtel's proposal in that we should understand
the difference between racism and indifference. While his proposal
seems to strike at the psychological root of the problem,
it would be near impossible to bring about a change in
attitude for the entire nation. However, if we adopt
more specific vocabulary for the issue, then we can
deal with the roots of the issue rather than group them
together and deal with them all at once.

Wachtel says that by using the word "racism," we
shut down all forms of communication regarding the issue
because it no longer has inherent meaning to anyone,
therefore everyone is indifferent to the issue. Instead,
the issue can be broken down into several and more
meaningful subcategories that give rise to the issue.
Issues like prejudice, bias, discrimination, stereotyping. etc
all lead to racism. Unlike "racism," the issues above
are tangible, because, according to Wachtel, people know
they exist as problems and can actually deal with such problems

Monday, November 3, 2008

Race, Spectacle, and Performance

Today in class we approached the subject of "performed" behaviors in American society with regard to the "race question" (following our reading of Wachtel).    It appears that, according to the class, people in America are taught to self-police their speech (we heard several examples of this in class, "Oh no!  You can't say that!") and to perform a kind of tolerance in keeping with what might be a mythological dream of what American is and represents.   We seem to espouse racial harmony and to respect, in a culturally relativistic sense,  ethnic and religious diversity.  Nevertheless, it appears that many of you think that, a) there is something of a "race problem," and b) the only way the situation concerning this "problem" will be improved is by the passing of time.  So, if that's what many of you believe, why "perform"?  By performing, do we in any way move closer to actual harmony, honest mutual respect, tolerance, and acceptance?  In essence, through performance do we move closer to not needing to perform?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Race and Causality

Hello students.  We've discussed two kinds of arguments in the last week: rebuttal arguments and causal arguments.  For your next essay, you have to chose to craft one of these kinds of essays (although, please remember, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive).  In this blog posting, I am going to pose a provocative question, and since everyone needs to mandatorily post a comment to this, I want you to think in terms of causality here.  In Shelby Steele's essay "I'm Black, You're White, Who's Innocent," he early on uses the expression that a party of his was doomed as a result of "an abrupt and lethal injection of the American race issue" (603).  I am going to ask you a question that might at first seem vague but will perhaps help us to come to a better understanding of something that still very much concerns us an Americans precisely because of its enigmatic and inarticulable nature.  What is "the American race issue" today?  And, secondarily, as this issue exists today, what causes its perpetuation as a "topic" of continued relevance in our society?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Based on our in-class discussion today, it seems to me that many of you think that advertising images at the present time are less "sexist" than the ones that Kilbourne published in her article.  Many of you did find offensive many of the images she used that depicted women as the victims or potential victims of violence but you believed that we see fewer such images now, in 2008.  Please try to find examples of advertisements that DO show women as any of the following: a) recipients of the male "gaze" (this was the idea that it is men who are painting or photographing or producing these images), b)  open targets for sexual advances, c) inviting sexual advances, d) persisting is the role of "inferior," in terms of power, to men, or e) themselves in the position of power over, or ownership of, the "gaze." Please also explain your choice of advertisement.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Devor Group

Devor's Claim:  Children learn to identify genders by the roles of those in their environment and by the norms enforced by society.

Rebuttal:  Though a child's recognition of gender is inspired by roles played in society, a child identifies him or herself with a particular gender because of an inherent disposition towards that gender.

(Note from Newmark: I will say that surely Devor's claim is a bit more elaborate than this, but this is a concise rendering.  Please consider what this group means, in their rebuttal, by "inherent dispositions towards [a] gender."  Be sure to evaluate the rigor of this argument and determine whether it is or is not a clear "rebuttal" of Devor.  Review the Rebuttal Argument Worksheet that I have posted online.)

Cofer Group

Cofer's Claim:  Ideals and perceptions of an individual change from culture to culture.  Talents and abilities do not change, but appearances do, depending on the time and place.  In order to cope with these changes, one may choose to either be a part of them or to isolate him/herself from them.

Rebuttal:  While it is true that perceptions chance, Cofer too becomes brainwashed about appearances and she ends up being no better off than everyone else.

(Note from Newmark: this writing suffers a great deal from vagueness!  So, those of you who are responding, do your best, based on your reading of Cofer, to decipher the vague language that this group uses. Also, please be sure to consider whether the group does or does not offer a viable "rebuttal" argument here, based on the parameters laid out in the Rebuttal Argument Worksheet that I have posted online.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

American Gender

So, we had a lively, if somewhat erratic, first discussion about American gender, and gender expectations, on Wednesday.  Thank you all for your contributions!  I think our discussion of whether young men could envision themselves as, in the future, "stay-at-home dads" really set some of the deeply entrenched American attitudes about gender roles into stark relief.  We briefly landed upon the issues of ideal physical appearance for men and women, "sexism"in general, men and women in politics, and societal expectations for the roles of men and women in "American culture."  What specific issue that falls beneath the larger heading "Gender Relations and Expectations in America Today," is of the greatest concern, or is the most interesting, to you?  Why?  I am anxious to read your ideas!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Everyone please post! Politics and American Myth

Please look on YouTube at a few political advertisements from this presidential campaign.  In your post please provide the link to the advertisement that most interests you.  In light of the readings we've done during this sequence, about American "myths" of educational empowerment, please discuss how the ad you've chosen addresses some of the same themes.  If possible, mention the essay that the advertisements reminds you of.   Do these ads, in general, promote American myths or refute them and declare selected myths "bankrupt"?  How so?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Delia, Eric, Ian, and Danny's group

Today's generation of students has access to an immense variety of technology and entertainment. How do you think the media and society's perspective on education influences the attitudes of young people towards education? Do you believe this huge media presence provides too many distractions for students, particularly in regard to their education?

James, Alex, and Michael's Group

According to "Social Class & the Hidden Curriculum of Work" by Jean Anyon, how do the discussed social classes affect the educational opportunities presented to those in lower social classes? What can be done to allow for more opportunities without inhibiting the opportunities of those in higher social classes?

Matt, Sam, Tim, and John's Group

In the US, our current school system is predominately structured around a "one size fits all" curriculum. Recently, this system has been criticized for being inflexible. Some school districts are implementing a more dynamic system which caters to the individual student's interests and needs. Discuss how you think such a system should be put in place, if at all, and theorize on some possible outcomes.

Nikki, Dunte, Sam O, and Alan's Group

Thus far, the readings have noted the importance of outside influences (parents, inspirational people, media) in motivating the authors through school. How could the public educational system provide similar stimulation for individual success without defeating the pursuit of an improved general standard?

Rory, Dan, Kimber, and Jon's Group

Today, one needs a Bachelor's degree or higher to receive a "well paying" job. Thirty years ago, a high school diploma was all one needed to do the same. Why do you think that the educational standards have changed, and what does this mean for the future? Draw your answers from the materials from class up to this point.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Education and the American Dream

The first section of our textbook that we're going to read is titled "Learning Power."  The introductory pages consider some of the ways that attitudes have changed about education in our nation over the centuries.  The chapter also asks the implicit question, via the readings included, "does education empower us"?  We will discuss this question over the course of our classes in the next week.  I want us to consider here on our blog another weighty topic, one relevant to millions of young people today.  Is our public education system here in America "broken"?  Some people argue that it is (and I know some of you already touched on this in your previous postings).  Can we ever expect all schools in America to equally prepare all children -- of all races, be they rich or poor, rural or urban -- equally, so that all share the same shot at the American dream?  How might this come to pass?  Or why might it be impossible?  Please weigh in, on any side of this issue!  I look forward to reading your comments.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Welcome to English 112!

Welcome to our class blog.  I look forward to reading your comments, which you will post after I have posed a question or invited your inquiries about a particular class topic or a paper subject.  Here are some ideas for you to mull over and perhaps respond to.  As a class we will read many essays that deal with "hot-button" issues in America, among them race, gender, immigration, and education.    We will look at the ways in which writers have crafted argumentative essays to engage with these broad topics.  Which of these HUGE topics is most interesting or important to you, as it pertains to present-day life in America, and why?  What particular element of this topic interests you and why?