In my continuing effort to connect our study of rhetoric to the real world, we will spend the first few minutes of class taking a look at the underlying rhetorical implications of the health care debate. Specifically, we will look at how much the name influences people's perceptions, as shown by comedian Jimmy Kimmel on his late night show.
In this video, a correspondent asks people whether they are more supportive of Obamacare or the Affordable Health Care Act, and why. Through this comedy bit, he makes the argument of how absurd it is that the debate is more about how the idea of "Obamacare" has been portrayed to the public, rather than the actual implications of the act.
With the students, I will talk some about how influential rhetoric can be, and also how Jimmy Kimmel makes his argument. The building process is particularly interesting, as it goes from quick laughs to longer clips that emphasize the issue the people are not well-informed. So we'll address these organizational aspects of the video as well before getting back to our education discussion (this video shows how important education of public issues is!).
Today twenty-five percent of the class is missing due to a field trip from another class—not enough to not teach a lesson, but enough to structure it in such a way that I’m strengthening or practicing skills or knowledge rather than covering a great deal of new material. However, I also want to maintain a commitment to make what they do at home meaningful, so we will continue the discussion of yesterday by utilizing their homework free-writes. With only 8 or 9 people, there is pretty much a quorum for a Socratic seminar anyway, so we’ll continue with that type of discussion for a bit today, with students entering the conversation by explaining how they connected the ideas of Shop Class as Soul Craft specifically to the concept of “true education.” This probably won’t last too long (it is hard to pick up a Socratic seminar discourse the next day), but it will be a way to remind everyone of some of the topics discussed yesterday, and move us to the next part of the lesson where we try to define “true education.”
When it seems like we’ve exhausted discussion specifically about the book and “true education” (either the comments will get repetitive, or the air will leave the room. . . probably the latter), we will move to some group work. Specifically, I will ask them to try to define “true education.”
They will split into three groups of two or three each (today I will let them put themselves in groups), and there task is to define true education, with the emphasis on “true.” While discussing this, I will tell them to refer to Shop Class and Soul Craft, and also integrate their own experiences and knowledge. They will talk about this for about ten minutes or so in non-structured fashion to allow them to put their ideas on the table and process the question before giving them more specific instructions. As they talk, I will listen and perhaps join some of the conversations, mostly to help them integrate the text, modeling how to integrate the complex ideas of a text with their own ideas.
After about ten minutes, I will ask them to brainstorm a specific list of words or phrases that they think of/help define the idea of true education. I like to do brainstorms in small groups before gathering thoughts as a class because it yields better results. I actually read about a study (I think in the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain) that showed brainstorms yield much better results when first done independently or in small groups; from personal experience, I think there is some truth in that. Additionally, when done in small groups first, more students are likely to participate.
The final segment will be for groups to share some of their words while I write them on the board, so we can analyze patterns and ideas to develop a more collective definition.
Next Steps: Tonight students are reading the cover story from this month’s Atlantic Monthly titled “The Case Against High School Sports” by Amanda Ripley and completing a “Reading Sheet” which asks them to write down thoughts about the rhetorical situation and appeals. When we address this in class tomorrow, we will come back to this big question regarding true education.