A Thought Provoking Journal Entry

By on April 1, 2013

Last year, my senior AVID students and I researched social classes in America. We read five articles and wrote four papers. The last paper was a synthesis essay.

Our readings came from a fantastic college anthology Rereading America. We explored concepts like hidden classes, ruling versus working class, and American myths about moving up the social ladder. 

One of our discussions focused on the following question.

"Do we compromise or change our principles based on our personal or social context?" 

My students had a great time with this question. I had to explain what "context" meant, but once they understood, they had a great time moving in and out of perspectives.

I wanted to share this question with you because it applies to so many stories we read and moments in history we teach. This question is applicable to most content area teachers.

My hope is that you can use this question today or tomorrow to get your students thinking about and discussing ideas at a high level.

If you do decide to use this question, post a comment and let me know how it goes. 


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The Conversation

Andrea Woodward Andrea Woodward 4/3/2013

What a great question! I just finished discussing a recent article called "The Bacon-Wrapped Economy" by Ellen Cushing that deals with this question in the context of the booming tech world of Silicon Valley. The article followed our reading of The Great Gatsby and watching of a PBS documentary called People Like Us: Social Class in America that delves into the American class system. I have adapted your prompt for an AP style argument essay:

Is it beneficial to change our principles based on the social context?" To make this argument consider using evidence from your life, literature, current events, recent class readings, and documentaries.

1. Students brainstormed within the given categories for about 10 minutes, and they all had a lot of ideas that came easily from our readings. I followed the first brainstorm with a more structured progymnasmata, or rhetorical exercise and had them write within the following categories (they are familiar with the below terms):

2. Write paragraphs using tagmemics. See below.
Particle- Can you define the terms in different ways and can that cause you to qualify your stance?
Wave- Can you show how something has changed or stayed the same over time? Can you talk about a hypothetical future to prove a point?
Field- Make a list of people, industries, and common groups (ie scientists, feminists, emerging nations, pragmatists). You may use the list we made on the board. Write at least two arguments from those perspectives. Please use specific evidence.

Step 3 (day2): Progymnasmata/topoi
Now think about impressing the reader with your writing ability and not just your ideas. Write or adapt you current paragraphs to include at least 3 of the following techniques.
Repetition: consider using anaphora, epistrophe, tricolon, or a list
Rhetorical question
Hypothetical Example or description
Hyperbolized visual or situational example
Cause and effect/If then..
Values/Ethics- what is good, moral or / lawful, just
Other? Look over rhetorical strategies in the recent articles your annotated (“Bacon-Wrapped Economy,” “Nerds,”) and list other techniques those authors used that you could “steal.”

Next week, students will compose a final essay stemming from this drafting work. I'm excited to see how it all comes together. The class discussions and paragraphs that they have shared so far have been thoughtful.

Comment Callout
Mr. LeMaster Mr. LeMaster 4/4/2013

Fantastic work! Wow. I am impressed. I am an AP Language and Composition teacher, too. Thanks for sharing your assignment with LTA Members. I wasn't familiar with some of the ideas listed under step two. I will have to investigate and teach some of these terms to my AP students. Social classes is such a great topic to study. There are wonderful texts in Rereading America. I recommend picking up a copy. Keep up the outstanding work my fellow rhetorician.

Comment Callout

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Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
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