Thursday, March 23, 2006

Personal Narrative

“Good morning, what can I do for you today?” a fat white lady stands behind the monotonous steel grey counter in the Admissions Office. “Yes”, I reply, “I’m new and don’t have a schedule. Um, do you know where I go?” I proceed to tell her my name, probably with a nervous shake in my voice. The fat lady was nice enough, but that’s all she was, “a fat lady”. Her face was official and her eyes never engaged mine. We walked, and I followed close behind her (watching her skirt swish swash swish and her big bum shake as her fragile heels looked like they were about to snap) to a room with about forty computers lined up in five rows of eight. They are black and new looking. I don’t remember signing up for a computer class; the fat lady explains that my schedule has not been processed, and blah blah blah. I don’t really care, all I hear is that I’m going to be waiting here until “they” figure out my classes. The room was still. Be still and know that we are taking care of you, over there in the office with the papers and the copy machine. There are other students here. Others. Strangers. Swirling eyes and dizzy glances. It reminds me of a circus, but not a real one, one depicted is some artsy independent film. When the screen is actually still, but then zooms into a nameless face of some clownish character. And then the freakish clown starts laughing and it’s like a horror movie. Not really though. Behind me sits a girl- she is by herself at one of the computers. She is petite and wearing a purple, red, and white striped shirt and jeans that are tight and big Vans shoes. Her hair is curly/wavy in a natural way and pinned half up half down. She has a light purple back pack slouching across the end of her chair, and she looks awfully bored and just as irritated as I. Why not, I think, and move my things over to where she sits. I’m a shy person, why am I doing this? Introductions made: Kim Carpenter from El Paso, Texas. She thinks its cool that I was home schooled. They’re making her schedule over in that there office and she’s just a sittin here and waiting, yeah. We will become best friends, forever, and be like oh my gosh! And tell each other everything. We will go and find boys we think are cute and talk to them about nothing and then they will feel us and we will go crazy wild with life; we will run through woods together, this Texas girl Kim and I, drunk but laughing and falling and oh, and oh we will cry and fight and hate and love and hurt. But not now. Right now we are in a room with computers waiting for our schedules. Tick tock tick tock. The unfriendly clock is passing away and, what? It’s almost noon. I eat lunch, and my grilled cheese sandwich is kind of like one of the rocks I find in the horse paster, except yellow and oozing and smelling like old mothballs. I have a stomach ache for the rest of the day. My first day at public school.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Personal Narrative

My father is an entrepreneur. He works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sixty miles from where we lived. He is the president of marketing and sales at Mecco Company. My mother teaches us. We have horses and chickens and a sheep and dogs and cats- on our ninety acres. My sister and I take ballet. My brother, 4 years older than me, takes classes at community college to graduate high school.
“Fuck that”, some grungy guy behind me with hair that reeks of old cat litter and stinky socks murmured. I am on a bus on the way to Mt. Pleasant High School. The bus is dark and odd and occasionally I hear a c and I’ll have a cough or a puff of cigarette smoke streams towards me. I wonder why I am going here. I am stunned that children like me do this everyday of there lives, and are ok with it. Why did I want to do this in the first place? This was so the wrong decision. I hate this, eww. Maybe this will get better and I’ll have a good experience- I step off the bus with an energetic boost. What will my teacher be like? Will I make friends? Will the cafeteria be good? Will I loose my way? Will I be late to class? Will I get lots of homework?
Personal Narrative

My father is an entrepreneur. He works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sixty miles from where we lived. He is the president of marketing and sales at Mecco Company. My mother teaches us. We have horses and chickens and a sheep and dogs and cats- on our ninety acres. My sister and I take ballet. My brother, 4 years older than me, takes classes at community college to graduate high school.
“Fuck that”, some grungy guy behind me with hair that reeks of old cat litter and stinky socks murmured. I am on a bus on the way to Mt. Pleasant High School. The bus is dark and odd and occasionally I hear a c and I’ll have a cough or a puff of cigarette smoke streams towards me. I wonder why I am going here. I am stunned that children like me do this everyday of there lives, and are ok with it. Why did I want to do this in the first place? This was so the wrong decision. I hate this, eww. Maybe this will get better and I’ll have a good experience- I step off the bus with an energetic boost. What will my teacher be like? Will I make friends? Will the cafeteria be good? Will I loose my way? Will I be late to class? Will I get lots of homework?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Personal Narrative- Intro

It’s like angel hair, this memory. It’s so light and ethereal and gleaming. The world danced around me, as I sat upon the top stair of my freshly painted wooden porch, turning the crunchy page of my latest reader The Secret Garden. As I look up from the page, the swirling spring breeze buzzes with comforting clearness. Following the terra-cotta brick side walk with dandelions inching their way to life: my own secret garden. The flowers sway whimsically from side to side, leaving a transparent magic with their paintbrush like petals: red, pink, yellow watercolors. I paint what I see. Daffodils and roses and Oh! A dainty hummingbird sucking some nectar! I jump up, float to the kitchen and retrieve some polished binoculars from the school supply cupboard. My lesson begins by skimming through the pages of my antiquated bird book and deciphering what bird could be so gleefully playing in my garden.
I am being educated.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Personal Statement
Writing Center Application

I am interested in applying to be a writing center consultant because I, first and foremost, love writing. I understand the writing process, and consider peer review an essential factor for producing a complete and well thought out paper. With that understanding, it is my goal to help other people write better. My goals line up with the sole purpose of the writing center, to help others work to improve their writing. Each time I go to the writing center I leave with the ability to revise my paper for a reader. Often times writers fail to write for readers because their thoughts become tangled and do not translate with coherence and cohesion onto paper. Going over writing with a peer renovates a draft into digestible prose. I am also interested in improving my own writing. I plan on majoring in English, and working at the writing center is a convenient way for me to make money while furthering my skills as a writer. Helping others write, and being constantly surrounded with a literary environment, would surely improve my writing. I believe I am qualified for this position because I engage the revision process and want to share the transformative power of revision with others. I am enthusiastic about this job and am ready to take on the challenge of being a writing center consultant.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Style Lesson 5
In Style Lesson 5, Williams helps his reader to understand the difference between coherence and cohesion. We judge sequences of sentences to be cohesive depending on how each sentence ends and the next begins. On the other hand, we judge a whole passage to be coherent depending on how all the sentences in a passage cumulatively begin. Sentences are cohesive when the last few words of one set up information that appears in the first few words of the next one. Williams teaches his reader how to diagnose and revise faulty sentences. First, begin sentences with information familiar to your reader. Readers remember words from a sentence they just read, and they bring previous knowledge to the sentence. When revision, a writer must trade off certain principles in order to make the passage cohesive. Give priority to helping readers gain a sense of cohesive flow from your writing.
Williams talks about coherence as being different from cohesion because it relates to a single idea of a paragraph rather than sentence by sentence flow. Contrary to what grammarians traditionally teach, the topic is what a sentence is “about”, and is not always the grammatical subject. To revise, start sentences with the subject and make that subject the topic of the sentence. Although these tips for revision are generally helpful, some writers might create monotonous prose by overusing and repeating the subject at the beginning of each sentence. This is no reason to resist revision- most readers are less judgmental of monotony than writers. Writers also sometimes fake coherence by using conjunctions to signal a new idea. A skilled writer creates coherent passages without overusing conjunctions.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Although certain aspects of the climate are setbacks for agriculture, virtually all Finland’s geographical features foster its forestry industry. Research conducted by the Institute for Cross-Cultural Research articulates that “About 71 percent of the total land area is covered by 54.5 million acres of forestland, which bolsters Finland’s position as one of the world’s great wood producing economies” (Stoddard, et. al. 183). Two main features generously encourage forestry: first, the snow, and second, the water (Reade 207). Cold, snowy winters may seem quite uninviting, but most parts of Finland receive just enough snow to make transporting logs manageable yet are shallow enough to not thwart the cutting down of timber. With giant waterway networks, logs easily float down to the sea-coast. With over 2,000 rapids, which are useful for producing water power, saw and paper mills incessantly dot the country (Reade 208). Consequently, saw- mills and paper-mills define Finland in a way unlike any other industry could.
With the help of the ice age, Finland’s agriculture and industry remain unique and extraordinary. The multitude of lakes make transportation and inter-regional trade convenient while improving the functionality of the logging industry. Leaving clay deposits which enrich Finish soil, the last stage of the ice age acted as an important factor in the development of agriculture. With a relatively short growing season, the climate in this area only allows for certain types of farming. Nonetheless, Finland has been blessed by a superior forestry industry which acts as a defining characteristic and provides an economy unique to this region.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Social Geography (more of Finland)
An investigation of climate proves that harsh winters and poor soil make profitable farming a challenge for Finland. According to Arthur Reade, professor at the University of Helsingfors:
The characteristic features of a Finnish landscape are forests, water and rock, and it is precisely from these and especially the two former that the wealth and the country springs at the present day and is destined to spring far more rapidly in the future (207).
Small independent farming, however, serves as the safeguard for agriculture. Although frost and droughts cause a variation of crops from year to year, in the early 1970s farmlands comprised approximately nine percent of the country. This farmland can be broken down into dairy, which produces 50 percent of agricultural output, meat production, contributing around 30 percent, and crops adding the residual 20 percent of output (Stoddard, ET. al. 182). Within Finland’s agricultural pursuits, dairy certainly remains the main focus and adds to the prosperity of the country. More notably than agriculture, however, and the greatest feature of this region, is the timber industry.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The last stage of the ice age left deposits of boulder clay, promoting forestry in Finland and providing farmers excellent soil for growing crops. Glacial till is unique because of its wealth of clay particles consisting of finely crushed minerals ideal for agriculture and forestry (Strahler 339). Regardless of the positive clay deposits and forestry here, the ice age failed to leave oil-bearing strata (Singleton 5). Consequently, Finland initially relied upon wood in the beginning stages of its industrialization, which provided fuel to heat furnaces and power trains. Eventually Finland began relying on imported fuels such as coal from Britain and gas from Russia, since wood hardly supplied the countries energy needs (Singleton 5). However, the Finnish government cleverly utilizes the mineral wealth of Finland, considering the copper, iron, zinc, cobalt, nickel, tin, gold, and silver deposits found here (Singleton 5). Thanks to the later stages of the ice age, Finland is a country rich in raw materials and ideal for industrialization.
In addition to Finland’s bountiful minerals and raw materials, this countries climate has been affected by the North Atlantic Drift, giving it a significantly milder climate than other countries lying on similar latitudes. From January to March, the south-western coast of Finland gets snow, but the northern areas have somewhat more severe winters with temperatures that range from extremes of on average seven degrees in the north to 26 degrees in the south (Stoddard, et. al. vii). Summers are generally warm, with long days consisting of about nine hours of sunshine. July temperature averages range from 63 degrees in the south to 55 degrees in the north (Stoddard, et. al. vii). Although the growing season lasts for just a few months, it is adequate for the cultivation of wheat, rye, barley, and oats (Singleton 9). The climate and geography surely imposes some limitations concerning the survival of Finns, but thanks to abundant forests which cover more than two thirds of the country, Finland exports and cultivates its wood-based industry with close attention (Singleton 10). As far as topography goes, the southeastern region of the country is heavily occupied by immense lakes, and the land slopes, on the south and west, leaning from relatively low northern mountains toward tapered coastal plains (Stoddard, et. al. vii). The climate and topographical features of Finland shape both the agricultural boundaries and possibilities of this country.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

From a paper I'm writing for Social Geography:

The Society and Environment of Finland
Finland is located far enough north of mainstream Europe that it generally remains exempt from political, economic, and military activities of Europe. Unlike the Mediterranean, north-west coastlands, and central Europe, the customs and happenings of European life historically bypassed Finland, allowing for its own culture and customs to form. In A Short History of Finland, historian Fred Singleton provides that an example that illustrates Finland’s isolation from the rest of Europe is that Christianity did not develop here until the beginning of the thirteenth century, at least a millennium after it seeped into the British Isles (Singleton 4). Because of the geographic location of Finland, the history of this unique country can be found in legends and folklore, and is rich in ambiguity and obscurity. Furthermore, historians rely on tradition rather than evidence to explain such aspects such as the religious conversion that took place in Finland, which they argue increase with the help of Sweden in the twelfth century (Singleton 5). The lack of evidence considering Finland’s history reveals its evident geographic isolation from the rest of Europe; although the stark climate consisting of mere lakes and forests barely attracted traders and conquerors, but affected the lifestyle and migration patterns of the Finns (Singleton 5). The society and environment of Finland influences the structure and growth of its economy, and considerably the agricultural practices of this inimitable region.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Source Reflection

As I crafted this essay I used sources written by several different people holding various assumptions and biases. My most useful source was John Holts Teach Your Own: A Hopeful Path for Education. The introduction of this book explains that Holt taught at a prestige school and examined how children learn. In the book, Holt talks about ways children learn and can be taught, outside of school. Because Holt has teaching experience and has observed lots of students, I accept his opinions and trust him as an author. I figure he has been around children and is a professional teacher, so his ideas are most likely well thought out. Furthermore, Holt is widely recognized as an education professional and has written many books about education. In fact, I also used his book Learning all the Time to craft my paper. In this book he talks about how kids learn outside of the class room. He uses lots of examples and anecdotes which illustrate children teaching themselves new things. I accept the theories he presents in this book because he gives personal accounts to prove his credibility.
I got some ideas about education reform from the book Inside Charter Schools edited by Bruce Fuller. Although this source was helpful in giving me a look at some solutions to the education problem, it was really detailed and narrow so it was not as usual as I hoped. A lot of the information in this book seemed to “over prove” the thesis. Basically, I believe the argument because it seemed logical, and I did not go into depth and read all the proof.
Several of my demographics came from the book Home Schooling: Political, Historical, and Pedagogical Perspectives by Jane Van Galen and Mary Anne Pitman. Galen’s title is Foundations of Education, Youngstown State University, and Pitman’s title is Department of Education, University of Cincinnati, and just by looking at those titles I realize that this is an academic work and most likely reliable. At the end of each article is a list of references, so I can find where their research came from and check its reliability. This book included a lot of visuals, such as tables showing different home school patterns, so as a reader I noticed that the authors had scientific proof behind their theories. I accepted most of what I read in this book because of the bibliographies and visual aids.
About the other sources I used, I tried to refer only to ones that seemed “official” and academic. I stayed away from online blogs, and the only real mere “opinion” I got was from public school teachers that I emailed. Because these emails were opinion based, I could compare them to my own experiences and assumptions and throw out information that I disagreed with and keep information that seemed reasonable. For example, one email said that home schoolers are socially awkward. I did not buy into that because as a home schooler, I know that is just a stereotype and not necessarily true.
My favorite source was the book on education by Ralph Waldo Emerson. His quotes beautifully captured what I wanted to say, and because he said everything so beautifully I was willing to accept it. Furthermore his style is clear, so I was never confused as to what he was trying to communicate. I know Emerson is highly educated and an acclaimed writer and thinker, so I placed confidence in his writing and held on to most of his arguments.
Overall, I researched sources that I knew would be reliable, so I accepted most of the arguments I encountered. Additionally, because this was an Inquiry Essay, I was obligated to accept most of the arguments presented to me because each argument represented a different grey area within my controversy.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Revision of The Theories Behind Public School
So if homeschoolers think public school is such crap, why did societies structure the education system the way it is in the first place? John Dewey, an academic whose writings cover the subjects of psychology, epistemology, ethics, and democratic politics, wrote one of the most influential documents on education, Democracy and Education. Published in 1916, Dewey outlines the social role of education as the source of a society’s identity through the grounding of youth in mature society. Throughout the book, Dewey discusses the methods that are necessary in a progressive democratic community, and explores the definition of education concluding it as a process of growth and change. As he defines education, he links it to democracy by explaining democracy as a unique society in which individuals are encouraged to grow and socially participate not only in their government, but in their community, allowing the realization of skills and talents. Dewey describes growth, experience, and activity as the tying of learning to social, communicative activity that allows for the flourishing of democratic society.
Additional support for the connection between a communicative education and a cooperative democracy pours in from public school teachers across the nation. Public school teacher William Malesh, a retired elementary teacher, believes that “only well educated, vastly dedicated parents with financial resources, tons of time, constantly updating their knowledge base with current research and not impeded by ultra religious censorship of the current body of humankind’s knowledge can stay the course” (Malesh, William). Mr. Malesh argues that few parents truly have the capability to teach their children, juxtaposing the home schoolers that feel fully (or better) equipped to teach their children. Mr. Malesh explains that throughout his years as a teacher, almost every home taught student entering his classroom (and public school in general) felt frustrated with the difficulty of the school work. Because parents consider it their job to encourage and support their children, many parents are overly encouraging to their children and give them a false sense of accomplishment. Because a goal of home schooling is to learn through activity rather than regurgitation (go to the library rather than take a test), students often times have trouble keeping up in public schools. Another deficit Mr. Malesh saw involved the social skills of home schooled students. Evidently, “In public schools you do need to deal with all types, the saints and the slimes. Learning how to deal with people with major flaws in a controlled environment is a skill to ‘die for’” (Malesh, William). Mr. Malesh’s experience with teaching home schooled students provides further support for Dewey’s argument that education must directly connect to the cultivation of a democratic society.
In Characters, the fourth lesson of Style, Williams talks about understanding the importance of characters, including how to diagnose and revise characters, reconstruct absent characters, use abstractions as characters, when to use passive verbs, how to choose between active and passive, the “objective” passive, and passive characters and metadiscourse. Near the end of the chapter Williams teaches revision of long compound noun phrases, and finally sums up with how to use the professional voice. Williams explains that readers like reading clear prose. Clear prose comes when the subjects of sentences names characters and verbs name actions. The first step in diagnosing style is to look for main characters in the subject. To revise make those characters the subjects of verbs by naming their actions.
Next, Williams articulates that when dealing with absent characters and abstractions as characters, make the subjects of verbs tell a story and that will turn the abstraction into a character. When using passive voice (which is often the best choice, although most students were not taught this) make sure your readers know who is responsible for the action and ask yourself if the active or passive verb would help the reader move more smoothly from one sentence to the next. Therefore, use the passive voice when you do not know who did an action and your readers do not care, or when you do not want them to know. Also use the passive voice when you want to focus your readers attention on one or another character. Williams main point is that although some scholars believe using the first person is immature, when used correctly phrases with the first person, such as I believe, are entirely correct and in fact useful.
Lastly, Williams talks about rewriting lumpy compound noun phrases to make them more effective. Although some grammarians believe that writers should never modify one noun with another, that would role out several common phrases such as stone wall, brick house, and book bag. Reassemble overly wordy noun phrases by reversing the order of words and finding prepositions to connect them. Williams relates noun revision to the professional voice, clarifying that writing clearly is more important than writing professionally. Professional voice can rule out moderately well-educated readers, and must be revised for conciseness. Thus, do not make simple ideas more complex, and revise complex ideas by giving characters actions.
RMC blog. This post is for Monday, March 13th.

What a beautiful weekend! It might be Monday, but after a weekend of sunshine and warm weather, Monday’s don’t seem too bad. As I sit at my desk in my dorm, windows wide open with spring time winds washing into the room, I realize how much I really do love that southern weather. Because this weekend is the freshest in my mind I will start there and work my way back. Friday was awesome- 80 degrees and sunny. I had class, went on a jog, went to work, and eventually left town for Charlottesville, home of University of Virginia. My family foxhunts with Rolling Rock Hunt in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and this weekend was a joint meet with Keswick Hunt in Virginia. Both my parents came down for the weekend, but just my Dad and I hunted. On Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. I met my parents at Farmington Country Club, drove over to Keswick, and met the horse that I would be riding that day. The horses name was Rhapsody; a retired racehorse that was eager to run fast but calm enough for me to handle. The foxhunt lasted from 10 till about 4 pm, and let me tell you, today I am so sore. I ride my horse during breaks so I have not ridden for about a month. Anyways, to sum up I had an awesome weekend and, although I am sore today, it was definitely worth the trip to get to spend some time with my parents. To relate this to college life, being without your parents is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, it brings a lot of freedom to make decisions and do whatever, but sometimes I miss having my laundry folded and a me cooked meal on the table. It was great getting to visit them for a few days.
As far as school goes, the past week was extremely busy. I stayed in all last weekend (the weekend of March 4th) and did homework. I had two papers due, two tests, and a few quizzes, all on top of my other homework. Furthermore, I had applications to fill out, one to live in Thomas Branch and one to work at the Writing Center. Thomas Branch is unique type of living for upperclassmen. The dorms are really nice, and people want to live there (or don’t want to live there) because its substance free and an academic setting. This means that there are study rooms all throughout the dorm, and the Higgins Academic Center is located here (where all the tutoring takes place). Definitely a good place for students trying to get good GPAs.
So this week I have two more papers due, a Spanish presentation, and a few books to read. On the bright side, its Dance Marathon week! Dance Marathon is the biggest philanthropic event on campus, and is on Saturday the 18th. There are fun events all week, but mostly on Saturday. Since I have never been here for it I do not know a whole lot about it, but I will definitely write a new post when I get to experience the fun!

P.S.- 10 days till Spring break!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dear Brenna, March 6, 2006
After reading your essay The Lower Ninth Ward: Should It Be Rebuilt?, I feel well informed about the situation in New Orleans and the controversies within this community. I got a sense of the intricacies of this controversy, and I liked that you added your personal experience with the Ninth Ward issue. I also like your writing style; it is clear and concise and reflects the Style lessons. Although you used a clear writing style, some of your essay was confusing and made me do some guess work as a reader. You don’t have topic sentences for most of your paragraphs or transitions between paragraphs, so as I reader I had to play catch up and guess what was coming next. About your thesis, you didn’t state your purpose for writing but you did (and the other essays I read didn’t do this) explicitly state the controversy that you talk about in your essay. Nonetheless, you need to be bold and straight up state the purpose for writing. Your purpose is to provide an in depth examination of the communities and explore the controversies and the intricacies of the controversy. You did a good job of summarizing the key components of the controversy, but you need to add some sentences (or a paragraph) about the central areas of agreement and disagreement. For example: both this part of the community and this different part of the community agree that this should be done and why. Because of your personal experience with this controversy, as a reader I felt that you are credible and understand your controversy. I am glad that you don’t add your opinion; you stay unbiased and just explain that you do have some opinion. The main suggestion I have for your essay is that you really need to crack down on those topic sentences and transitions. I know it’s hard at the beginning stages, but definitely look at each paragraph, think about what you are trying to say, and sum that up in one sentence. Your quotes could use some more support, for example in some instances you leave a quote at the end of a sentence, bad! Your essay is exploratory rather than persuasive, but a little too much assessment rather than inquiry. You need to add some open ended questions. I feel like you’re too set in stone in this essay, and you’re not really looking for a conclusion.
Good job so far on your essay!
Sincerely,
Krista Speicher

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Added paragraph for Arguing to Inquire

The Theories Behind Public School
So if homeschoolers think public school is such crap, why did societies structure the education system the way it is in the first place? John Dewey, an academic whose writings cover the subjects of psychology, epistemology, ethics, and democratic politics, wrote one of the most influential documents on education, Democracy and Education. Published in 1916, Dewey outlines the social role of education as the source of a society’s identity through the grounding of youth in mature society. Throughout the book, Dewey discusses the methods that are necessary in a progressive democratic community, explores the definition of education concluding it as a process of growth and change. As he defines education, he links it to democracy by explaining democracy as a unique society in which individuals are encouraged to grow and socially participate not only in their government but in their community, allowing the realization of skills and talents. Dewey describes growth, experience, and activity as the tying of learning to social, communicative activity that allows for the flourishing of democratic society.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More from my activist essay...
The second piece, A Dry White Season by Andre Brink, an initially upper-class, white, na├»ve South African man named Ben Du Toit becomes involved in activism when his black friend Gordon Ngubene “commits suicide” while in South African police custody. This highly political novel takes place in South Africa during the 1948-1950’s Grand Apartide, which denied voting rights to all but whites, determined where people could live, and determined where people could work. While Ben lives and works in the city of Johannesburg, Gordon works there and must be bused out of the city and into the South West township of Soweto at the end of the day. Although Ben is the main example of activism, Gordon first becomes an activist when his son Jonathan disappears after the Soweto school riots. As Gordon investigates his son death, he becomes imprisoned and murdered by South African police officers who cover his death by claiming that he committed suicide. As Gordon’s close friend, Ben investigates his cause of death and eventually gathers enough evidence to prove his murder. Similarly to Clare Savage, Ben Du Toit becomes an activist through a process of embracing the problems of the South African community.
Everything wholly strange. Children who say ‘good morning’ and whose faces you see without recognizing them or knowing why they are addressing you. A bell that sends you from classroom to classroom and which you obey without knowing the reason. When you open your mouth it is without any foreknowledge of what will follow. It happens by itself. Your own words seem unfamiliar to you, your voice comes from far away. Every building, every room, the tables and benches, the blackboard, pieces of chalk, everything is strange. Nothing wholly dependable. You have to assume that, previously, you managed to pick your way through it all, that in some mysterious way you ‘belonged’, but it is inexplicable now…You’re on the other side. And how can I explain it in the words of ‘this side’? (Brink 158).
In this passage, Ben is reflecting on his experience with becoming an activist. Similarly to the bullet metaphor, Ben feels he no longer has a choice in whether or not he should act. He is part of the South African community, and by recognizing this he has become an advocate for change and justice within it. To explain the process of becoming an activist, there are a few subtle stairs to climb while reaching the level of activism. This passage argues that no real grey area exists, Ben was one a bystander and is now wholly part of the anti-Apartide movement, “It has begun. A pure, elemental motion: something happened- I reacted- something opposed me. A vast, clumsy, shapeless thing has stirred…But what? Perhaps simply to do what one has to do, because you’re you, because you’re there.” (Brink 161). As the bullet springs forth with the pull of a trigger, so is ignited and disintegrates into the action which is being done. In the example of Ben Du Toit, activism is not a direct choice but rather an involved and intimate calling.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More to my activism paper...Should follow previous post.

In No Telephone to Heaven, Michelle Cliff writes about poverty, racism, and colonialism in 1970 Jamaica. The central character in this novel is Clare Savage, a light skinned Creole. Clare lived in Jamaica as a small child, and moved to New York with her family to escape the political turmoil disfiguring their Jamaican lifestyle. Clare becomes an activist through a specific process, which surely starts as soon as the audience meets her but becomes evidently clearer as the novel progresses, showing Clare studying at the University in England and then eventually reconnecting with her friend Harry/Harriet from Jamaica. The initial stage of activism for Clare is when she begins to realize that she cannot live a divided life between her Jamaican roots and her European life and education. As one point, Harry/ Harriet argues this separated life, reiterating that Clare is destined for activism and can no longer ignore it, “I mean the time will come for both of us to choose. For we will have to make the choice. Cast out our lot. Cyaan live split. Not in this world.” (Cliff 131). This is Clare’s initial stage in the process of becoming an activist because she realizes that she cannot fight against something that is so a part of her; that she is already a part of the movement and must accept it.
Although at this point Clare already has begun to realize that she needs to be an activist, events continue to pull her closer to the movement happening in Jamaica. Clare befriends a soldier named Bobby, and his experience with war directly mirrors and symbolizes her connection with activism:
Bobby’s nightmares, once confined to sleep, were let loose. Engaging his mind when he was awake. He had tried to protect her from them before this- the depth of them. The war slid in whenever his effort to will it away let down. Incessant. He took extraordinary means to stay it. Sometimes reciting the words to every poem he could dredge, things he had spoken as a boy. The poems ran together into nonsense (Cliff 158).
As Bobby struggles to disconnect himself with something which is entirely integrated into his very being, similarly does Clare have to embrace the terrors taking place on Jamaican soil, the soil from which her very soul developed and sprang. Harry/Harriet again explains activism when he writes Clare a letter saying “We got to do something besides pray for the souls of our old women.” (Cliff 160). Clare eventually responds to this call to action, when she admits “I am in it. It involves me…cruelty…resistance…grace. I’m not outside this history-it’s a matter of recognition…memory…emotion.” (Cliff 194).
Thus, Clare Savage first becomes an activist by realizing her connection with the Jamaican community, and then understanding that connection to be more than a thin floss wire connecting body to movement, but the very intricate thread of her being.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Introduction to a paper I'm writing for FYE...This is the very first draft.

Krista Speicher
Dr. Sheckles
FYEC How We Move People
"How does one become an activist?"

Since happiness is rightly regarded as the same as acting well, the best way of life is an action-oriented one. Yet the action-oriented way of life need not be in relation to others, as some suppose. Nor are only those thoughts action oriented that occur for the sake of what results from the action. Much more action-oriented are those sorts of contemplation and thought that are complete in themselves; after all, acting well is the end, so that [those sorts of contemplation and thought] must be a kind of action. But especially we say in the most definitive sense that people are “acting” who by thoughts are architectonic of external actions.
-Aristotle

From Ignorance to Activism: The Process of Becoming Involved

As Aristotle argues here, within the realm of activism exists a conflict between action-activism and quiet-activism. For surely a certain type of thinking is action- oriented, and although this is most definitely its own end and comprehensive in itself, it produces actions outside of itself. Therefore, thoughts may not be directly acted out, but thoughts generate and channel actions. Think of it as a gun- a gun is undoubtedly a weapon in itself, but the trigger must be pulled in order for an action to occur. Nonetheless, even a pulled trigger is not enough to result in anything, or for the gun to complete an action. After pulling the trigger, air encompasses and solidifies the bullet with its graceful transparency, and soon enough that bullet becomes part of something more than itself; it becomes means to an end, wholly integrated into its surrounding. The air surrounds the bullet and holds it up, and there is no turning back or falling or swirling or faltering for this bullet- its destination predetermined with the pull of a trigger. In order to further the idea of activism, it is beneficial to look different characters that exemplify activism, analyzing the process whereby these specific characters become activists.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

This is a reflection on the book "Whores On the Hill"


First of all- I love this book! I love the bluntness of language, how the author uses such authentic and plain characters to get her message across. There is so much to talk about with this book, but as I read "Whores on the Hill" I started to notice that throughout the story the role of family members is basically non existent. The main characters act solely on their own motivation, with little influence from adults and their parents. Perhaps the author does this to make a statement about the disintegration of values in America, especially the increasing divorce rate. I feel that Curran is maybe tackling some bigger issues here by purposely excluding any maternal influence on the main characters. Furthermore, excluding the mothers, or making them insignificant roles, seems to represent the infrequent involvement of parents in the lives of teenage girls.
On the other hand, Curran could be excluding the mother simply to revolve the stories around the girls, and just the girls. The scenes in which the mothers appear portray the mothers as uncaring, applying little or no discipline. In the chapter titled "Let's Be Careful Out There", Astrid and her mother bond, but only after Astrid’s negative experience at the motel and her mothers break up with her "pot smoking boyfriend". This clearly exemplifies the situation driven mentality of the relationship between mother and daughter, in other words the author is telling the audience that girls only go to their mothers when they're in emotional need, rather that using their mothers as actual friends and mentors. In the same sense, the situation driven mentality of this relationship further enhances Curran’s theme of people using each other only when they are in great need. Even in the relationship between Astrid and Thisbe, both girls use each other to fulfill some need or to boost each others self esteem. Curran successfully shows the reader how girls use each other, emotionally feeding off each other to feel more popular, more acceptable, or more loved.
Curran does include a specific chapter called “Our Fathers” about the different girls fathers, exemplifying the role, or lack thereof, of fathers in these girls lives: “Dads were nowhere, mostly. This was the suburbs. They were busy with the nine-to-five. They wore white shirts, heavy on the starch, and boxy suits. Most of them had a variety of ties. Juli’s dad had super money. Like, he inherited it…they each had their own extramarital affairs- my parents- but nobody had ever talked about it. When they lived together, our house was silent, like a crypt, like a tomb and just as cold” (56, 58). This description of the girls’ fathers at least makes it apparent that the fathers existed, but also reinforces the idea that the fathers were not a significant part of the girls lives, but played a major role in their interpretation of sex and love. Thisbe’s parents cheated on each other, which gives Thisbe the signal that sex is something that can be taken lightly, and furthermore something that can be separated from love and marriage. Therefore, it is understandable why Thisbe does not respect her body and her sexuality, and gives herself freely to boys.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

March 4, 2006
Style lesson 3
In Style Lesson Three, Williams discusses actions, explaining to his audience how to make judgments on clarity, and relating telling stories about characters and actions. As he uses a fairy tale as a typical example of subject and action, Williams applies his principles to academic writing. He explains that readers find sentences where the subject does the verb less wordy than sentences where the verb is done by the subject.
Williams goes into detail about nominalization, which he explains by providing examples such as using the verb discover as discovery, careless as carelessness, or proficient as proficiency. When writers nominalize verbs their writing becomes abstract and indirect. Williams teaches his reader how to diagnose bad writing by looking at the first several words of each sentence, and how to revise accordingly by checking for the elements he feels are important.
After specifically explaining how subjects and verbs should be used in sentences, Williams gives his reader more tips about solving the problem of bad writing. As most writers know, writers see their own work quite differently than a peer reader does. The more a person (either reader or writer) knows about a subject, the less clear the writing needs to be. Because writers know more about their writing than readers do, writing that looks clear to the author often looks unclear to the reader. Williams gives his reader a tip about revision- to look first at passages that were difficult to write. When writers have trouble expressing themselves, they usually write in an unclear manner.
In lesson 3 of Style, Williams pinpoints how subject and verb affect clear writing. He teaches his reader how to make subject and verb active in order to create straightforward and clear writing.

Friday, March 03, 2006

My currently crappy conclusion...

To Conclude
The debate of choice within the education system is a hot one, formed between homeschoolers on one side giving up on public schools, and public schools on the other side debating what must be done in order to improve the education system. Whether the conclusion is a tuition voucher, homeschoolers using their school taxes to fund their own education, or further decentralization of schools, the home-school community deserves a hand in deciding the future of choice in schooling. In Waltz v. Tax Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tax deductions and exemptions for churches are constitutional, as are tax deductions for personal contributions to support religious worship (Kirkpatrick 63). With this in mind, “There is, really, only one method of financing education which can bring about approximate equality of educational resources…This is a return of resources to each family, in the form of tuition vouchers (Coons, Clune, et al.) (Kirkpatrick 72).” After closely examining the home-school community, the history of controversy within the education system, and the need for change, hopefully some resolution will result, whether it is legal action or a continual push towards better teachers.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More of this paper...


The Need for Educational Change
Over the past decades, parents have been continuously dissatisfied with the public education system, causing tension within and around the public school. According to the Fast Response Survey System available through the National Center for Education Statistics, less than half of American teachers report feeling “very well prepared” to teach (NCES). In 1998, the FRSS showed that all teachers had a bachelor’s degree, and 45 percent had a master’s degree. Only 1/3 of teachers agreed strongly that parents supported them in their efforts to educate their children (NCES). These are current statistics, and though they may not necessarily prove anything about the public school system, they certainly deserve a further inquiry of how schools have evolved and changed throughout the years, and what changes are being argued about now.
In the upcoming paragraphs, a look at the evolution of the idea of choice in school, starting with the “Role of Government in Education”, and following with a 1970 court case, will provide a tangible ground for deciding the future of the home-school vs. public- school controversy. In 1955 Milton Friedman wrote about “The Role of Government in Education”, found in Economics and the Public Interest published by the Rutgers University Press (Kirkpatrick 47). As Friedman tackles some major controversies concerning education, he proposes tuition vouchers and long-term loans for students. The essential point here is whether parental incompetence is greater than governmental incompetence, and whether the government has the right to make that choice for parents. On the public school side, the argument is that parents make mistakes just as easily as teachers. Although it is guaranteed that parents will make mistakes also, these mistakes are easier to fix because they only affect a few. Furthermore, even the most caring teacher does not come close to how caring a parent is. A teacher sees the result of a lesson by a grade; a parent sees that result every day of the child’s life, in everything that the child does. Therefore, the argument that mistakes may be made should not even be relevant in this debate, because mistakes are already being made (Kirkpatrick 49). Ultimately, the “Role of Government in Education” debate has many complexities, and is being responded to by eager to be free home-school families.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More about my controversy...

History of Education Controversy
Education is involved in countless major social problems, problems that go far beyond simply whether or not a child learns anything at school. Parents place an immense amount of pressure of the school system by interjecting their own politics about schooling. Not only does society expect education to edify its values, both spiritual and moral, but it also expects education to readjust for subcultures and nonconforming cultures (Bartkey 235). These problems create controversy between the system and the society; parents do not feel like schools are doing their jobs. The first problem apparent in the education system is the problem of values- moral and spiritual. Therefore, the controversy here is whether it is the purpose or responsibility of the school to teach children good moral conduct. Moral and spiritual values are determined by what society sees as good and desirable. Although the education system should theoretically reflect the views of mass society, when so many different sub cultures interact, it’s virtually impossible for the school to determine a code of conduct (Bartkey 238). Furthermore, when family is still the most important unit, shouldn’t parent be directly involved in crafting the moral fiber of their children? Thus, a controversy within the education community exists between home-school families that take initiative and purposely invoke certain morals and the school system that continually struggles to take the place of parents.
(This post is from 2/28/06, but I had technical difficulties and am posting it now!)

Part of my Arguing to Inquire paper....

Home-School Community

Although it is necessary to see the education community as a whole, let us first look at the home school community. The home school community consists of students, generally ranging from grades K through 12, and their enthusiastic parents. This particular community deals with homeschoolers in the United States. Factors defining the group include the group’s tendency to settle in rural areas, a broad age range but mainly youth and their parents, interests in having complete control over their education, and similar values concerning education. Some evidence suggests that the average income of home-schooling families is around the national average, and many families have low-incomes and are raising their children in rural areas with the support of small-businesses and farming (Holt 15). Researchers have collected data indicating the demographics of the home-school community, looking at home-school associations, home-school magazine subscribers, and those that have registered with state and local officials. The home-school community includes a group made up of patriotic American two-parent families, more likely white than other, more likely rural than urban, typically of a higher education than the average American, and typically Protestant (Galen, Pitman 14). The homeschoolers community came into being for many reasons. Parents pull their children out of school when they feel their children are not receiving a good education, fear their children could get hurt, or feel entirely responsible for the well-being of their children. This community gets countless objections from the outside education community. Although grey areas exist, many people argue that home-schooled children lack diversity because they do not meet many children from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and grow up anti-social and cannot fit into mass society. Outsiders also direct their frustration at the parents of the home-school community, arguing that some parents are not qualified to be teachers, some impose their biased beliefs on their children, and some shelter their children from the harsh realities of the outside world (Holt 45-55). After looking at who makes up the home-school community, detailing geography, age, interests, ethnicity, values, controversies, and objections, one can see that this is a very complex community.