ENG 123 11.2: Peer Review Workshop #1

Today’s Plan:

  • Resources for Surveys
  • Peer Review Sheet
  • Homework

Resources for Designing a Survey

Since a number of you are working on designing surveys or questionnaires, I wanted to spend a bit of time in class discussing them. Let’s take a look at Survey Monkey’s Best Practices page as a starting point.

Peer Review Sheet

Over the next few classes I will be developing and sharing the grading rubric for the final papers as we are reviewing paper progress in class. For our first session, I want to pay attention to two primary areas of the final rubric: argumentation and evidence.

Argument and Paragraphs

  • Every paragraph makes a claim and
  • Has a topic sentence (i.e., there is one sentence that tells a reader why they are reading that paragraph)
  • Every claim has some support or evidence backing it up and it is clear when that evidence is from a source (see below) or is the writer’s own argument (or anecdote)
  • Every paragraph ends with a sentence that connects back to the opening topic sentence (and that paragraphs don’t end on quotations)
  • Evidence and Sources

    • Sources are introduced (author, time, publication venue) and cited correctly in text (whether direct quotation or paraphrase)
    • Source material is integrated into the discussion and not just dropped into place because…
    • The writer provides sufficient context regarding a source that a reader understands its purpose and significance
    • The writer differentiates between what sources are saying and why they think that those sources are significant, important, or wrong

    Additionally, I see peer review as a way for you informing an author where you were head nodding (easily following along/agreeing with the argument) and where you had some dissonance–whether it is disagreement (in which case the author might need to consider different viewpoints/anticipate disagreement) or confusion (where you were having a hard time understanding what the author was trying to say).

    So, as you read today, please:

    • Underline topic sentences/claims in every paragraph. Be on the lookout for why you are reading a paragraph–what it wants to prove, what it has to offer. If you can’t find one, or think that a paragraph has more than one claim/topic/issue, then let the writer know.
    • Place checkmarks in the margins where sources are adequately introduced.
    • Place question marks in the margins where you have some questions about a source and/or need more information to judge it (ethos) or understand what evidence it is offering (logos).
    • Place an asterisk at the end of a paragraph that either ends with a quote or doesn’t touch back on the topic sentence–make sure the writer is “finishing off ideas” and not expecting a reader to do that work for her.


    Draft another five pages of your essay for peer review on Tuesday. Again bring 3 copies of your paper to class. In addition to paying attention to argument and evidence, make sure you have formatted your paper and your citations in a research format (MLA, APA, etc).

    If you are planning on using a survey or a questionnaire, make sure you have a draft of all the questions by Tuesday (include it somehow with your draft material–perhaps in the write up for your methods section).

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ENG 420 11.2: Surveys and Nussbaum

Today’s Plan:

  • Undergraduate Research
  • Surveys
  • Nussbaum
  • Homework

Continue reading

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ENG 123 11.1: Drafting Material

Today’s Plan:

  • Attendance
  • Annotated Bibliography Scores
  • Calendar Review
  • Workshop Groups
  • Drafting Expectations

Annotated Bibliography Scores

Two criteria: number of sources (11) and word count (2000). 4 people did not turn in an annotated bibliography.

Calendar Review

Week Eleven
Tuesday, Mar 21
Working with Sources (review).
Workshop group formation.

Thurs, Mar 23
MLA and APA Review
Workshop 5 pages of drafted material.

Week Twelve
Tuesday, Mar 28
Active Topic Sentences / Making a Claim.
Workshop 5 pages of drafted material.

Thurs, Mar 30
Writing Introductions.
Workshop 5 pages of drafted material.
Homework: Complete Draft of Research Paper.

Week Thirteen
Tuesday, Apr 4
Peer Review of Final Papers.

Thurs, Apr 6
Revising Final Papers.
Homework: Read chapter 14, “Visual Rhetoric,” (pages 330 – 43) and chapter 15, “Presenting Arguments,” (pages 344 – 60)

Workshop Groups

As you can see from the calendar, we will be spending the next 3 class workshopping writing. In preparation for class, you will write 5 pages (double spaced) of draft material. You will bring 3 copies of this material to class. You will break into groups of 3 and take turns reading through draft material. I will provide both a general checklist and specific criteria for workshop sessions.

The purpose of this format is to tackle procrastination and force productivity. In order to be qualified as “present” for the next few classes, you will need to bring these pages with you to class (otherwise you will be absent regardless of whether you are here). We’ve dedicated quite a bit of time to research and pre-writing (both the proposal and the annotated bibliography), now it is time to crank out a complete draft of the paper.

Working With Sources (Review)

Incorporating Sources into Academic Writing

First, I want to cover again the importance of using a transition that introduces and builds some credibility for a source. It can be really jarring to a reader when you just throw a quote at them. Taking some time to provide a summary of a source before the quote helps them digest it.

[Author’s] [time period] [genre] [title] [verb] [purpose].

As I indicated above, it is the verb that is the silent star of the show here. Consider for a minute the following example:

Malcom Gladwell’s 2005 book Blink exposes how subconscious part of our brain think in ways we are not consciously aware.

Exposes. How does the meaning of the sentence change if I use the verb:

  • suggests
  • argues
  • questions whether
  • supposes
  • explicates
  • details
  • reveals
  • offers a theory of
  • explores
  • claims

Each of these verb choices subtly alters the way I approach the work discussed. Exposes suggests something secret and perhaps mysterious is being uncovered. Suggests suggests that an amount of doubt surrounds the issue. Supposes implies that I am hostile or at least quite skeptical toward the idea. This subtle indicator allows my an opportunity to softly align or distance myself from the source I am using. Good authors do this all the time to subconsciously prepare readers for their arguments.

Examples from Topic Research Assignment:

  • An Article written by Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Khan explains and discusses the pay gap and why there is such a gap.
  • In a CNBC article by Kate Rogers “Small Businesses look ahead to a trump presidency in 2017” Rogers talks about the optimism small businesses have for Trumps presidency.
  • In Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, a book from 1993, Takaki discusses the history of america through the perspective of multiple cultures.
  • ‘What Works’ rehabilitation programs work better in prisons that have a positive social climate?”, offers insight on whether rehabilitation programs can positively affect the lives of the prisoners in the programs.
  • John D. Rummel’s March 2016 Scientific article Planetary protection for human missions: Options and implications conveys to the readers the plans and long term goals and achievements needed for colonization of Mars
  • In Cris Rowan’s 2013 article “The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child”. Rowan argues that technology’s impact on the 21st century family is fracturing its very foundation, and causing a disintegration of core values that held families together.
  • In Jane Morris’s 2011 research article “A semi-quantitative approach to GMO risk-benefit analysis,” Morris argues that although GMOs are originally used as a way to help society, GMOs are doing more harm than good.

Just as important as what you do before a source (whether it is a direct quote or a paraphrase), is what you do after it. In They Say, I Say, Graff and Birkenstein provide a list of “templates” that can help writers respond to sources–either agreeing, disagreeing, contributing, etc. The reason you should never end a paragraph with a quote is because you should never leave it to a reader to interpret what a quote means or why it is important–be sure to follow up on all sources (again, whether a quote or a paraphrase).

With this in mind, I want to work today in class to craft introductory sentences for research material. I have distributed:

We are going to spend a few minutes with each. First, I will ask you to read the selection. As you read please identify the author’s purpose for the entire piece, and then focus attention either on a specific piece of evidence they use to support that claim/purpose, or a particular bit of advice they provide the reader for doing something.

I will ask you to write two sentences that both introduce the source and offer a paraphrase. We’ll write these sentences in the Canvas discussion forums.


Compose 5 pages (double-spaced) of your essay. Bring 3 copies of this draft to next class. NOTE THAT YOU SHOULDN’T TRY TO WRITE THE INTRODUCTION TO THE PAPER YET. You can’t write the introduction until you have written the paper. Instead, the first five pages should concentrate on another part of the outline that you generated the week before break.

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ENG 420 11.1: Dowd and Bensimon

Today’s Plan:

  • Proposal Expectations
  • Dowd and Bensimon reading notes and questions
  • CUE’s Syllabus Review Protocol
  • Reading Homework

Proposal Expectations

Original project description:

Around week 9 of the course, I will ask you to submit a 750 word proposal for a final research project. I will meet with everyone individually or in groups to discuss the purpose of their research and help them develop a research question. I expect research projects will have a primary and secondary component (meaning, you will read some things and conduct some research), though every project will be likely be different. Research projects can also go back and explore figures, ideas, or arguments identified in our historic readings.

My expectation is that you have read one or two sources (50-60 pages) beyond our course readings to inform your proposal.

In terms of formatting the proposal, I think this is probably a good time to familiarize you with the barebones components of a grant proposal form. Let’s look at Dr Karen’s Foolproof Grant Template. Let’s also look at some sample undergraduate proposals from Northwestern University. Finally, let’s look at unco’s Office of Undergraduate Research page (especially the Summer Stipend requirements.

Ok, now let’s work collectively to assemble a generic template for this proposal.

Dowd and Bensimon

Since this was a first read for me, I kept notes in Evernote.

CUE Syllabus Review Protocol

I wanted to spend a bit of time trying to put Dowd and Bensimon’s research protocols into practice. I believe chapter 3 gives us the best example of how to approach implementation. I found a copy of the Center for Urban Education’s Syllabus Review Protocol online. Let’s review a few key parts of chapter 3.

Working in groups of 3, I would like you to analyze some sample syllabi using the CUE’s SRP.


For next class, I would like you to read Nussbaum, chapters 3 and 5. Most of the research we have examined in this second part of the class is either quantitative or qualitative. Nussbaum’s is more hermeneutic, and I would like to expose you to a strong example of hermeneutic research before you draft your proposals.

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ENG 420 9.2: Giroux and Academic Freedom

Today’s Plan:

  • Calendar Update and Final Paper Information
  • Sharing Final Paper Ideas
  • Giroux and Academic Freedom

Giroux and Academic Freedom

In preparation for today’s class, I asked you to prepare papers that outline a potential research project. It is in that spirit that I approach writing this lecture on Giroux’s chapter “On the Urgency for Public Intellectuals in the Academy.” I want to pick up and provide evidence for some of Giroux’s arguments, to attempt to introduce you to the notion, history, and importance of academic freedom, to and point to some troubling and/or complicating incidents concerning academic freedom today in America.

First, a brief word on my conflicted relation to Giroux. As an undergraduate I majored in English and minored in Education. I attended Clark University, a school that works really hard to emphasize the liberal in the liberal arts. Giroux’s work of liberating pedagogy (inspired by Freire) and cultural studies held a powerful place in the education program’s curriculum. Furthermore, I would argue that the spirit of Giroux’s work dominated the mission of the entire University:

Clark’s academic community has long been distinguished by the pursuit of scientific inquiry and humanistic studies, enlivened by a concern for significant social issues. Among many other scholarly endeavors, Clark contributes to understanding human development, assessing relationships between people and the environment, and managing risk in a technological society.

Go Cougars


Part of that education–and the graduate study that followed it–stressed both research and scholarship in terms of evidence. And this is where I often find reading Giroux’s more recent work frustrating. Giroux is fond of making some pretty sweeping claims and generalizations. He rarely supplies evidence to support these generalizations, anticipating head-nodding agreement on the part of his readers. The only claim in last night’s reading that receives sufficient evidence is the one regarding income equality (see pages 132-135). But many of his characterizations of education are left at the level of claim. For instance, he makes the following two claims:

Tied largely to instrumental ideologies and measurable paradigms, many institutions of higher education are now committed almost exclusively to economic goals, such as preparing students for the workforce and transforming faculty into an army of temporary subaltern labor–all done as a part of an appeal to rationality, one that eschews matters of inequality, power, and ethical grammars of suffering. Universities have not only strayed from their democratic mission, they also seem immune to the plight of students who have to face a harsh new world of high unemployment, the prospect of downward mobility, debilitating debt, and a future that mimics the failures of the past. The question of what kind of education for students to be informed and active citizens is rarely asked. (136)


Questions regarding how education might enable students to develop a keen sense of prophetic justice, utilize critical analytical skills, and cultivate an ethical sensibility through which they learn to respect the rights of others are becoming increasingly irrelevant in a market-driven and militarized university. As the humanities and liberal arts are downsized, privatized, and commodified, higher education finds itself caught in the paradox of claiming to invest in the future of young people while offering them few intellectual, civic, and moral supports. (139)

I admit that I take a bit of offense to this statement, and I would like to see Giroux provide some evidence to support his claims (not because I think he is wrong, but because I think he is right). Let me try to explain these two different reactions.

First, I take some measure of offense because for nearly the last decade I have taught Professional Writing. While often housed in English departments, Professional Writing programs are often viewed skeptically as part of the corporate machine and therefore not a “real” humanity, merely a vocational or service course. This is piled on to a general, historically traceable tension in English departments between literature faculty and writing faculty, in which the latter were often seen as intellectual inferiors and/or a necessary evil (see Ong, Berlin). I admit that I am a bit sensitive here on this issue–and that Giroux’s invocation of vocationalism as pejorative just rubs me the wrong way. I would like to think that while I teach a number of courses that primarily aim to help students find jobs, I also infuse those courses with an ethico-rhetorical approach that orients them towards others in hospitable, constructive ways and engenders them to conceptualize themselves as one node in a larger network of ecological relations which must be maintained in order to sustain their own existence (there is no I without a we without an/other them etc etc).

Putting that aside (or, at least, trying to), I share Giroux’s concern that economic and political interests are actively interrupting the University’s mission to explore society and its problems. To understand this concern requires some familiarity with the concept and history of academic freedom. Early this semester, while we were reading Kant, I shared part of an essay I wrote on Kant and academic freedom. That essay worked through contemporary sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour’s call for academics to re-enter the public sphere and contribute to political deliberations. This, I argued, betrayed one of the implicit precepts upon which the University was built. The contemporary University follows the plan laid out by Immanuel Kant in the late 18th and early 19th century. Kant negotiated with the then king of Prussia to allow University faculty to have the freedom to read, write, and argue whatever they wished, so long as they agreed to allow a “higher” faculty to determine which of their findings should be passed on to the public or used to shape government policy. I do not highlight this because I think Kant was right and that this is the way it should be. Rather, I simply call attention to the fact that the origins of what we call “academic freedom” are caught up in notions of intellectual suppression and public filtering. As I noted, what allowed Kant to propose this bargain was the fact that most of the Prussian public was illiterate–therefore there was a technological issue helping to enforce and maintain the government’s control over scholarly information.

Of course, Kant’s bargain doesn’t translate directly to American Universities. Early 20th century America (when our Universities began to grow in size, power, and reputation) is quite different than early 19th century Prussia/Germany. Perhaps most notable is that America never had a centralized state religion that (attempted to) regulate speech and thought. America has, of course, freedom of speech. But let’s not misrepresent freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means that you have the freedom to speak in public without fear of imprisonment. It does not mean that you have the freedom to speak without fear of (private) consequence. As we see from time to time, you can still get fired for saying something that your employer (or, your employer after measuring public reaction) believes is out of bounds.

But I fear I begin to stray too far from my purpose today (as first drafts are want to do). I want to focus on the implicit separation of state and school–an understanding of academic freedom as a scholar and teacher’s authority to determine their course of research or course of study without interruption or critique from outside agencies. In higher education, this freedom is earned through the tenure process–a scholar is given a period of six years to research, write, and publish; after which time her work is evaluated by peers in her field. Those peers then make a recommendation as to whether the scholar has produced work worthy of the increased rewards and protections of tenure. Once tenured, a scholar has complete freedom to research, write, and publish whatever she choose without fear of reprisal. How else can scholars be free to investigate–and if need be condemn–their own society? Or to push for answers to questions that make most people uncomfortable?

This brings me back to Giroux. In his third chapter, Giroux notes how corporate transformations to University funding and power structures are creating a generation of gated intellectuals. There is, in a sense, two meanings of this. The first we can trace back to Academically Adrift: the idea that Universities are increasingly basing tenure decisions on higher numbers of research publications. The modern, disciplinary structure of the University has contributed to more arcane and intricate forms of research (since faculty write for an audience of fellow faculty in their own specialized fields–increased specialization leads to increasingly focused scholarship that becomes more impenetrable to the outsider). So, one way in which intellectuals are “gated” is by their own narrow, disciplinary norms.

But, in researching my article on Latour, Kant and academic freedom, I was surprised to learn how other gates were being imposed upon faculty. Perhaps the gates metaphor won’t hold here–it isn’t so much that faculty are being “kept in” as external agents (politicians) are intruding upon areas that were previously marked as faculty’s sovereign territory.

The first thing I turned up in my research lines up almost too perfectly with Giroux’s argument that contemporary neoliberal forces oppose critical pedagogies; that is the 2012 Texas Republican Party Platform’s direct objection to teaching critical thinking, a practice they see as “challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” The Lone Star state has inordinate influence over education in the United States as textbook publishers, in pursuit of the state’s tremendous market share, often tailor their nationally-distributed materials in response to Texas’ curricular guidelines. And as Gail Collins (2012) explained, curricular changes approved in Texas in March of 2010 are particularly troubling. These approved changes include minimizing the historic importance of Thomas Jefferson and rejecting the first amendment’s separation of church and state (Collins, 2012). Other changes included minimizing discussions of slavery and segregation, including completely erasing mention of the Klu Klux Klan, and valorizing the McCarthy trials of the 1950’s. Beyond the accuracy of these appalling changes, what should concern academics is who is making them: “There were no historians, sociologists or economists consulted at the meetings” (McKinley, 2010). Two hundred plus year later, Kant’s lower faculty is no longer consulted; the curriculum was authorized by the Texas State Board of Education, a 15 member panel of elected officials, and every vote on every amendment followed straight party lines (10 republicans, 5 democrats–most of whom had no educational experience).

Colorado went through a similar experience in 2014, as the Jefferson county schoolboard found itself in controversy over changes to the College Board’s AP history exam. The Washington Post reports:

Here in Jefferson County, controversy over the new AP standards boiled over in recent weeks after the school board’s recently elected conservative majority pushed back at the College Board. The school board plans to set up a new committee to review the curriculum with the goal of assuring that courses — in the words of board member Julie Williams — “present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” and “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system.”


Kara Johnson of Arvada, who has three children in Jefferson County schools and who majored in history in college, said she was concerned that the new curriculum was “reviewed by college professors, and college professors are, by and large, on the left. . . . American exceptionalism is something our kids need to believe in, and that exceptionalism is absent from this new framework.”

Ms. Johnson is correct, of course, that the new curriculum was written and reviewed by college professors and that college professors are by and large liberals. But they are also virtually unanimous in their belief that American exceptionalism is an ideological construct invented to justify unethical expansion, subjugation, and exploitation. That finding is the result of years of scholarship. Let me stay focused. My point here is that challenges from outside of faculty expertise and research end up suppressing faculty research. In the case of Colorado, while the AP initially defended the integrity of its work, it eventually caved and rewrote the curriculum, including American Exceptionalism as a core topic and removing language overtly critical of white American actions. Reflecting on the changes, high school student Addie Glickson wrote in the Colorado Independent:

I am a senior at Denver East High School, and a student in the first class to be taught the new AP United States History curriculum. My school has required me to buy the revised $30 edition of the textbook, and teachers have had to plan new lessons that teach the updated curriculum. What I learn this year likely will differ from what my peers – many of whom took the class as juniors – learned last year.

Whereas students who took the class last year learned about the World War II-era atomic bomb, I’ll learn about the war with greater emphasis on America’s fight for global freedom – a side of history that’s much more pleasant than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which had combined death tolls exceeding 200,000.

Whereas students learned last year that Manifest Destiny – the belief that it was Anglo-Saxon America’s providential right to expand westward – was built on a belief in American cultural superiority, I’ll be taught that it was mainly a matter of natural resources.
And rather than learning that the Cold War ended due to multilateral diplomacy and “significant arms reductions [on both sides],” I’ll be taught that the war ended thanks to “Reagan’s diplomatic initiatives” – an assessment that recognizes only American efforts.

The newly revised course will emphasize American military victories, encourage “national identity” and endorse free enterprise. What’s more, the term “slavery” is used significantly less in the revised class reading than in the old text.

Opponents of these revisions claim that the changes intend to erase negative moments from American history – and, to some, this erasure amounts to full-on censorship.

Again, my point concerns the credentials of the revisions’ opponents, and would highlight that they are not the people with advanced degrees in history. The insistence upon (neoliberally aligned) American exceptionalism in Colorado, the opposition to critical thinking in Texas–it is hard to read of these things and not see them of evidence of Giroux’s claim that “we live in a world in which the politics of dis-imagination dominates, such that any writing or public discourse that bears witness to a critical and alternative sense of the world [or our history] is dismissed” (141). There is evidence to suggest an active movement to ask the kinds of questions, to face the kinds of facts, that force us to question our relations, motivations, and selves.

I would highlight, however, that the examples above come not from Universities as much as from secondary schools. But, as I argued in my article on Latour and Kant, it would be a mistake to think that these movements will not encroach upon higher education as well. Giroux makes the claim in 2012 that they already are. To support his claim, I would turn attention to a few events. Taken individually, they might seem innocent enough. But when looked at collectively, they reinforce Giroux’s assertion that neoliberal forces are at work to squelch a critical, creative social imagination. First, there is Mitch Daniels’ (former governor of Indiana and current president of Purdue University) “Open letter to the people of Purdue,” in which Daniels condemned professors for “spending too much time ‘writing papers for each other,’ researching abstruse topics of no real utility and no real incremental contribution to human knowledge or understanding” (n.p.). One might argue that Daniels echoes Latour’s insistence on academics returning to public spheres and/or Giroux’s argument that academics have “gated” themselves. But this is likely an overly charitable interpretation. More likely, his letter is just another condemnation of the humanities, be it more subtle and implicit. This reading seems more likely if we put it into conversation with Rick Scott’s, governor of Florida, statements on the usefulness of humanities majors.

While President Daniel’s subtly avoided naming names, leaving readers to infer which disciplines he found irrelevant, Governor Scott took an even less subtle approach than the Texans. Governor Scott told radio host Marc Benier:

We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on, those types of degrees, so when they get out of school, they can get a job. (Lende) (emphasis added)

In December 2012, Governor Scott further marginalized the humanities when he announced his plan to steer college students towards STEM disciplines by freezing tuition for “job-friendly” majors like engineering (Travis, 2012). Those disciplines that emphasize critical thinking and provide no “real” benefit to human knowledge would become more expensive. It’s a counterintuitive move given the lower projected incomes for those students majoring in history, psychology, and so on. But counterintuitive moves seem to be the order of the day when it comes to Florida, the state legislature, and the university system (more on that later).

Governor Scott has also proposed a “10k bachelor’s degree challenge,” a move that feeds STEM education initiatives, again at the expense of the humanities. On its surface, Governor Scott’s proposal reads like an egalitarian one. A similar initiative has led to the Texas Science Scholar Program (2012). This program targets top high school juniors, through dual enrollment that ensures little, if any, exposure to humanities classes (Hamilton, 2012) and requires students to major in Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Information Systems, or Mathematics. Only the very best students are eligible to participate, though, so the cheapest degree may be out of reach for those who need it most (Seligman, 2012; Hamilton, 2012). But, again, I would stress that designing these kinds of “cost efficient” degree programs often requires severely reducing, if not entirely eliminating, the liberal arts and/or general education requirements.

Finally, I would turn to the recent events in Wisconsin under staunch conservative and neoliberal governor Scott Walker as my final evidence to support Giroux’s claim. In May of 2015, Wisconsin’s state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to eliminate tenure and shared governance (the latter is a complicated term, but essentially marks off how a faculty has an earnest role in determining the shape and assessment of their programs). Giroux makes the claim above that universities are turning faculty into “subaltern labor” (136) and I scoffed a bit at the hyperbole. But deteriorating faculty governance does reduce the extent to which faculty expertise informs university policy and programs. Compelled to institute the law, the chair of the U of W Madison board of regents invokes the kind of neoliberal language that draws Giroux’s ire:

“I do not believe the academy is precisely like a business,” Regina Millner, board president, said at the meeting. “But we cannot have quality, serve our students, have quality faculty if we do not have a sound financial system. This is a different century, this is a different time …. We need to protect that quality by making certain critical decisions.”
Repeatedly during the meeting, Millner and other regents cited the need, in an era of tight budgets, for “flexibility” to close programs — and eliminate faculty jobs in the process. The votes here marked the near-end of two years of debate over a tenure policy that saw the university system’s tenured faculty go from having among the strongest protections in the nation (written into state law) to having a system that many professors fear will make it too easy to dismiss them and eliminate programs they believe should be preserved.

One has to wonder how long before changes in tenure policy make acts of critique into acts of rebellion into critical decision regarding financial flexibility.

Of course, sometimes in an argument one can be lucky enough to have an opponent who is incompetent, and says the stupid thing you *think* but can’t necessarily prove he believes. In this case, as way of conclusion, I turn to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.

“If you want to teach the Civil War across the country, are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns’s Civil War tape and then have those teachers proctor based on that excellent video production already done?” Johnson said. “You keep duplicating that over all these different subject areas.”

Johnson also criticized what he called the “higher education cartel” and said he wanted to know why, if “we’ve got the internet,” there need to be different instructors to teach the same subjects in the first place.

Let’s not even begin to discuss the merits of such a proposition. Ok, let’s, for maybe a minute: everything we know about education suggests that learning is not only a process, but a struggle. Learning requires someone push past their limitations. Such a heroic feat on the parts of students require support, acknowledgement (and sometimes a good hard push) by another human being who can respond to stress, progress, and inertia in a meaningful way.

But, since I have only minutes until class, I rush to a conclusion. Recently Besty DeVos criticized university faculty, arguing that they were indoctrinating students into leftist political orientations. I believe that Vos’ accusation, and Johnson’s representation of the ideal classroom, both come from a perception of education purely as transmission–DeVos cannot imagine an education that does anything but impose values upon a student; Johnson cannot imagine an education as anything but a transfer of information. Both perspectives elide the kinds of imaginative, creative, enabling educations we have explored thus far this semester: an approach to education that seeks to present how to ask a question more than it aims to provide an answer.

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9.1: Looking Back (and Giroux)

Today’s Plan:

  • Looking Back
  • Giroux
  • Homework

Looking Back

A passage regarding assigning difficult texts got me thinking. The passage:

An example of what I believe education should look like is teaching important skills while urging creativity is English classes that require the students to read a handful of books during a semester. The educator will select books that will improve the student’s ability to read challenging text, search for deeper meaning in the text, and offers harder vocabulary to improve the student’s critical skills. Through the use of these selected books, students will gain intellectual skills they may have not had before the class. However, the educator can also use these books to urge creativity in the students by asking them what type of concepts resonated with them after reading the books. This lets the students engage with what they are learning, by letting them create their own reality through their individual understanding of the books. By not narrating students, they will engage with the text through their own everyday experiences and prior knowledge. Freire discusses how students are often oppressed, resulting in them becoming dominated and unable to critically think for themselves. The end goal of education should be to creative individuals who are able to critically think for themselves, shaping their own world through their own knowledge and gained skills.

And my response:

There is certainly an art to reading difficult texts. Some of it is mechanical (not sure if that is the proper term): can you scan difficult sentences to pin down the characters and the actions (which may or may not be the subjects and the verbs)? Can you distinguish when a writer is praising something from when they are critiquing something? Can you isolate the claims of a piece and distinguish it from the evidence (or note when there’s a string of claims without evidence, etc). This stuff is more “skills-y.”

There’s also, I believe, a more psychological aspect to reading difficult texts: can one endure being confused? How long can you read something and say “ok, I have no fucking idea what this is about?” I think everyone who begins reading theory and philosophy goes through this struggle. You have to cultivate a kind of fortitude that let’s you power through.

I’d also say that it is a bit of a terminology thing too, that there is an epistemological dimension to reading difficult texts. Every field has its own specialized language that can amplify confusion. For instance, when I started reading phenomenological theory, I struggled with a set of difficult terms: being, becoming, noesis, ontology, subjectivity, ipseity, etc etc.

I think there’s a big difference between teaching theory so the students “get it right” and teaching theory as developing a process through which students can get it wrong.

The came the question of morality, and I think there is an implicit proposition that teaching difficult texts, in a format that allows every student to develop their own perspective, can help us approach moral conflicts. The paper:

Higher Education should make students view the world around them differently through opening them up to topics that do involve moral issues and let the students take away their own insight, which then steers them in the right direction to their passions, truths, etc. The knowledge I take away from a book might be completely different than the two other students sitting next to me, even though we all read the same material. The same applies with education and morals. Using this English-420 class as an example, I have had many different views than my classmates. We have all read the challenging texts, and have gained more skills that we can all use in the future while examining more difficult papers. However, the concepts from these do differ from each student, as I can assure each of us have a different meaning of what we believe education is. This is an example of creating a baseline for skills, and then letting each student’s take away their own understanding from a class and applying it to deeper understanding. I believe morals can be taught when they are not being forced upon the students, and the students can evaluate each moral for themselves.

And my response:

Cool, and I think you are right. I do wonder what happens when we move to a topic in which there is more at stake.

To explain: I think we can all enjoy these books, and our differences regarding them, because there isn’t much at stake here. We can explore some ideas, consider some different perspectives, etc. But when the class ends, nothing happens. To be clear: I think such intellectual wandering is essential to developing smart, productive people (if for no other reason than because it helps develop the kind of fortitude I mention above).

But I wonder if this ability to *civilly* hold differing views translates into other discussions in which much more is at stake (say a discussion of the future of the Affordable Care Act or the Immigration Ban). Those are subjects that carry what we in rhetoric would call “affective weight.” They are drenched in pathos. I cannot even mention them without the skin crawling a bit, without feeling my nerves rise.

Maybe I’ve strayed too far. Let me pull back a bit. What I am wondering is whether classes in which we allow every student to develop their own idea and opinion adequately prepare us for political situations in which “there can be only one.”

I think this comment has a lot to do with the other paper I graded, in which I reraised what I want to call the Kant question (as opposed to the Q Question, though they are related!). This paper initially worked to distinguish Huxley, and by extension Emerson’s by way of Petrarch’s, individualism from neoliberal prioritization of the self-interested self-subject:

It was by the refinement of himself, the quest undertaken to know himself and to make something of that knowledge, that Petrarch educated perhaps more people throughout the centuries than have been educated by nary another—for, in discovering himself, he incited that very field which claims to be the basis of so much education at all. He improved himself first, and, as Huxley’s maxim would predict, others were improved in turn.

To which I quipped: “Trickle Down Humanities.” I am quite proud of that quip.

The paper then turns to consider the Rickert issue that we discussed last week–the issue of indoctrination (the potential tyranny of teaching, sliding into a banking model):

But the question remains: one might still easily inquire how such a mode of education— of actively expending one’s efforts for the cultivation of efforts in another to be expended in turn—can be actualized. And indeed, what if one’s ultimate intentions are, certainly nobly so, to educate the world foremost, but if said one is induced by reading this argument to the conclusion that they must refine themselves first? It might easily happen that one wishes simultaneously to educate but not to incur any tyranny nor imposition of ideas upon their pupils, smothering their possibility to refine themselves and refining in them instead a crude effigy of whatever ideals are deemed worthy of learning.

To which I responded:

This is a strong paragraph that asks a meaningful question. I would suggest that question if from the position of the teacher, who finds themselves in something of a paradox.

I would also suggest that the paradox appears more forceful to those who want to live in a world of purity and absolutes (as the rhetorician Kenneth Burke says, humans are “rotten with [the idea of] perfection”). Those who see either total freedom or total tyranny in every action will eventually fall victim to paralysis by analysis.

I actually have a fairly different question. My question comes from Kant, and I have been thinking about it quite a bit given our contemporary political divides. What do we do with the students, the people, who have no desire to “know themselves”? To commit themselves to the hard work, often uncomfortable work, of introspection? I am thinking specifically of Kant’s line in “A Question Concerning Enlightenment” that “the people want to be duped.” This, of course, is also a dominant theme in Plato’s Republic.

But beyond our classical readings, I think this question is bubbling under the surface of some of our contemporary readings as well. Nathan noted the opposition to intellectual pursuits in My Freshman Year, and I don’t think one has to leap too far to draw a similar proposition from Arum and Roksa’s empirical data.

So, instead of thinking about the paradox of a teacher’s imposition on individual students, I might reframe the question as one of an institution force feeding liberation on students who aren’t feeling oppressed by anything other than the force feeding of liberation.

This isn’t a question I have an answer to, but one that haunts me quite a bit.

And upon further reflection, I wrote:

Thinking a bit about our ontological differences, and about how those differences would manifest themselves: I think a subject is very much a production of her environment. The self isn’t an essence, or an entity, that then comes into relation with others. Rather, the self/subject is an ongoing production of a socializing process. “I” is a re.articulation of the surround. Some of the surround is ideological force (religion, politics, etc). Some of the surround is passion and pathos. Etc. My point is that what surrounds us shapes us, sets our horizons (a Heideggerian term I am borrowing and riffing off).

So, the problem I have with a theory such as Emerson is that it assumes that an individual’s surround has prepared them for self-reliance, that there is a willingness to take the leap toward “questions.” My research into rhetoric leads me to be quite skeptical of such a belief. Ultimately, I think people want security, They want to feel safe. And what scares them more than anything is *not knowing* something. It takes a particularly strong character to admit our limitations. Those are the people who want to be duped, as Kant says, who will believe anything so long as it promises to keep them “certain.” Certainty, ultimately, is the enemy of the Good (which I would define as the ability to encounter the strange without hostility, to suppress the desire to kill what is other).

Ultimately, I find much to laud in Emerson the person. I would get along fabulously with Emerson. I would want everyone to read Emerson, and appreciate Emerson, and to replicate his inquisitive nature and intellectual bravery. But I would suggest that there are few Emerson’s in the world. As few Emerson’s as there are witches in a classroom. And my ontological position–that we are through a relation to the other–means that I am more interested in reaching out to others than dwelling with those who are the self-same.


In Thursday’s class, I will update the syllabus and lay out the final paper project. We have two books left to read (Dowd & Bensimon and Nussbaum), and after that you will have time to research your paper.

In preparation for Thursday’s class, I’d like you to write a one page paper on a potential topic. Bring enough copies for everyone in the class. Organize your paper according to the following section headings:

  • Question / Problem
  • Methods & Readings
  • Expectations / Hypothesis / Thoughts

Not everyone will need all those categories. For instance, if your question concerns Petrarch’s influence on the humanities, and you want to read more about the Italian Renaissance (Vico, Bruni, etc), then you don’t need to tell me about your research methods as much as you need to tell me about your reading list. If, however, your question is about whether or not students want to pursue the intellectual life, or to test whether Academically Adrift’s information on student time management is accurate, then you would need some more background research on how students spend their time, examples of past surveys, and perhaps a few readings on how to develop a survey in addition to thinking about how you would deploy your survey (when, to whom, etc).

YOU ARE NOT COMMITTED IN ANY WAY TO THIS PROJECT. Rather, I just want a sense of what people are interested in pursuing and hope that sharing ideas spurns invention.

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ENG 123 8.2: Sentence Outline Assignment

Today’s Plan:

  • Attendance
  • Reminder: Conference Schedule
  • Textbook Review: Types of Arguments
  • Sentence Outline Assignment
  • Homework

Conference Schedule

Remember we will not be meeting in class next week. Instead of class, I will be meeting with you to discuss the Sentence Outline assignment. The idea is to have a document that maps out your entire paper so that you are ready to begin drafting the paper when we get back from spring break.

Make sure you have signed up for a meeting time. Missing a meeting will count as two absences.

Textbook Review


Sentence Outline Assignment

This assignment works in preparation for our meetings next week. The idea is for you to generate an outline of your paper using complete sentences. The outline should include sources. You should be writing the topic sentence to every paragraph. Every topic sentence should be making some kind of claim, and indicating what evidence you have gathered to support it.

The outline should cover the main parts for your argument. While the textbook chapters will reveal different requirements, I expect each outline to reveal the following:

  • A Statement of a Problem
    • Evidence to indicate that the problem is real
    • Acknowledgement that some people might not see it as a problem (maybe?)
    • Explication as to why the reader should care about the problem
  • Research Question / Thesis statement
    • This is something that we have already addressed, via the Booth readings (I am studying X in order to learn more about Y in order to help my reader Z). YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE THAT EXACT PHRASING.
    • This section also often includes a discussion of your methods–your approach. If you are doing more of a scholarly project, then you want to talk about what kinds of sources you have been collecting. If you are doing a research project, then you want to talk about what kind of study you are designing. NOTE that studies are often designed to reflect other studies–so, for instance, if you are designing a survey to collect freshman attitudes toward required research courses, then you should find other surveys that have already done that and mirror/adapt their questions.
  • Address opposition
    • At some point your paper needs to address whoever might be opposed to your study/solution. THIS CANNOT BE A STRAWMAN. You have to do research into the opposition’s position and be able to cite their sources and present their evidence in such a way that doesn’t insult or undermine them. It is ok to call their research methods into question, or suggest that there might be factors that their research overlooks, etc. (We can talk about ways to respond to opposing research after the break).

I have put together a sample outline for an article that I have published.

I made a second one of these.

Of course, my sentence outlines are quite long (8 pages) because I am working from essays that are already written. But I do think you should be able to produce something in the 5-6 page range.


I have decided to make a change. The annotated bibliographies will be due Friday, March 10th. I make this change because I want to give people more time to work on the annotated bibliography and more time to work on the sentence outline.

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ENG 123 8.1: Annotations, Characters and Actions (Part 2)

Today’s Plan:

  • Attendance
  • Topic Proposals (Check Canvas)
  • Style: Characters and Actions (pgs. 46-50, Ex. 4.1)
  • Workshop: Annotations
  • Homework

Topic Proposals

Please check Canvas to ensure that you have (or haven’t) gotten a grade and seen the feedback on your proposals.

Style and Workshop

In class we will read a bit from the Williams and Bizup book on Style and workshop (read, revise) a few sample annotations.


Read one more scholarly article or book chapter and compose an annotation.

Remember that the annotated bibliography needs to be completed by Monday, March 6th.

Also, remember that we will not be meeting in class next week. Instead, I will be meeting with each of you for 15 minutes or so to discuss your progress thus far. I have created a schedule for meetings, please sign-up for a time. In preparation for this meeting, you will create a Sentence Outline. I will cover the sentence outline in Thursday’s class. Please bring your textbook to class on Thursday.

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ENG 123 7.2: Jim Corder and “Argument as Emergence”

Today’s Plan:

  • Attendance
  • Another Paper Outline
  • Promoting Healthy Argument
  • Homework

Promoting Healthy Argument

I want to start off today by suggesting that argument in America is quite sick. There’s a number of pieces that I could point to in support of this claim. We might look at this piece in the New Yorker that “Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.” Or we could turn to examine this Conversation article on how “Republicans and Democrats Live in Different Economic Realities.” We could look at the Wall Street Journal’s project Blue Feed / Red Feed, which compares how republican and democrats’ facebook feeds differ on the same topic. But I don’t want to frame this merely as a “public” problem (or blame it all on social media), we can look at the increasingly partisan behavior of our congress in this short Business Insider video. (And another BBC video on polarization).

Today I want to share with you one of my favorite essays, one that changed my orientation as a scholar. That essay is Jim Corder’s “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love.”

So, let’s talk about a story in my newsfeed.

And let’s talk about what else you can do.


Keep at it with those annotated bibliographies. Add new entries into the existing Google Doc.

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ENG 123 7.1: Annotated Bibliographies

Today’s plan:

  • Attendance
  • Review: Annotated Bibliography Assignment [Syllabus Changes and Due Dates]
  • Homework

Annotated Bibliography Assignment

First, let’s review what I shared last class:

We have spent the first 1/3 of the course identifying and developing a topic. Now it is time to invest the majority of our energy into researching that topic. For the next several weeks you will produce an annotated bibliography, or a collection of research writing that will provide the bulk of the content for your papers.

My expectation is that you will read 75 pages of research per week for the next several weeks. For each thing you read, you will write up an annotation. I have a sample format that you will be required to use for the annotated bibliography.

Today I want to highlight a few changes to the syllabus and specify a total a count for annotations:

  • 3 annotations from your proposal expanded/rewritten into my annotation form
  • 2 annotations from Thursday the 16th’s computer lab session / homework
  • 1 annotation for homework Tuesday the 21st
  • 2 annotations for homework on Thursday the 23rd
  • 1 annotation for homework on Tuesday the 28th
  • 2 annotations for homework Thursday the 2nd

So that adds up to a total count of 11 sources. The final due date for these annotations will be on Monday March 6th. March 7th and 9th will be one-on-one meetings to go over proposed paper outlines.

A few comments from some of the annotations I’ve read thus far:


I would like you to do another annotation. You should have 6 annotations in your bibliography by Thursday. At least 3 of these should be scholarly articles.

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