Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Update: 10/25

Here’s an overview of our current progress in pushing the boulder uphill:

  1. Through tomorrow, you are taking an old AP exam’s multiple-choice section in class as part of a pre-test; the scores will not count against you, but your performance will dictate how we approach this particular skill.
  2. You’ve just submitted letters to presidential candidates; these will be read, scored, and (hopefully) sent out in the very near future. Members of Ursus Ephemeris, our burgeoning school newspaper, will assist in cleaning these up and getting them to the right people.
  3. I’ve just shared a good deal of feedback with you: a document through Google Drive that delves into your adversarial scores; emails with every group detailing your collaborative quiz scores from last week; individual emails, when necessary, about recent assignments; and the scores for everything you’ve done recently.

I will continue to set up the physical space in our classroom, and if all goes well, you’ll have a place reserved by next week for your portfolios, scored work like those group quizzes, and other resources.


Moment of Truth: Letter Writing

Die Blitzkriegkinder,

You have 72 hours to answer the letter-writing prompt that is posted below. It has also been emailed to you. You will be in a computer lab for two days, so that you have access to a printer and Microsoft Word, in addition to Google Docs. The printed letter is due on Thursday at the start of class.

This, like the rest of your week, is really about applying to a particular task the skills and knowledge you’ve ostensibly been developing. You’ve studied logic and logical fallacies; you’ve studied the elements of effective writing; and you’ve been immersed in a collaborative atmosphere, whether working on quizzes or post-mortems. Writing this letter is as much about that collegiality as analysis and argumentation.

The rest of the week is about isolating your skills and knowledge to a certain extent:

Wednesday: Timed general argument essay | Given as a state pre-test, which means that it counts both as a grade this quarter and as a score for the state’s evaluation of us. If you’ve been doing what you should have been doing with those first essays, the course rubric, and the analytical portion of this political unit, you will write a timed response that reflects your abilities. You must write in black ink for this, so pens will be provided; you must also write using the lined response paper that will be set aside for you on Wednesday.

Thursday and Friday: Timed multiple-choice questions | Given as a local pre-assessment, which means it will not count as a grade this quarter, only as a score for the state’s evaluation of us. You will be given passages from various sources and asked to answer multiple-choice questions on rhetoric, style, and meaning. It will take two days to finish all 50 or so questions. You must have a pencil for this, as your responses will be keyed in on a Scantron.

Note that if you are absent for any part of the above two assessment, you will have to schedule a retake immediately.

The letter-writing prompt and rubric-driven outline are below.

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The Living Room Candidate

Keep reading this post and that one regularly; this is the framework for what you will do for at least the next three weeks (i.e., through Election Day). This week, while you are quizzed on that post-mortem and its attendant material, you will specifically focus on political campaign commercials. Load this site:

On Monday, after you’ve finished your collaborative post-mortem read-through, pick an ad from any era for us to study as a class. We’ll deconstruct four or five together on Tuesday. After that, you’ll be choosing a current campaign commercial for your group to tear apart for fallacies and manipulation, and this will be the first missive you send to the political campaign itself. For the moment, this is due on Friday, so that we can review and edit it as a class; you’ll then send your missive off over the weekend.

Political Adversaries and Adversarial Politics

Albany’s a-comin’, die Blitzkriegkinder, and that changes things. The short version of a very long and depressing educational tale is that, yes, you will almost certainly have to take a couple of state-mandated tests of dubious purpose and value; and, yes, you will almost certainly have to do this frequently and soon. Unfortunately, no one in Albany is willing to push back Election Day to accommodate us, so, if we want to continue to study logic and rhetoric in the real world, we’re going to have to balance that (and writing instruction and some zombie rhetoric) with a few soul-obliterating tests.

If you parse the parenthetical in that first paragraph, you’ll find that we’re actually balancing four things, and that we’re actually juggling, not balancing, and that what we are juggling might be chainsaws, and that those chainsaws are on fire:

  1. Real-time policing of logical fallacies in current local and national election campaigns
  2. State testing mandates spawned in the sulphurous bowels of Albany
  3. Writing instruction through the DAMAGES+ rubric
  4. Reading about interesting things like horror films, the uncanny valley, and zombies

The goal is to keep all that in the air without losing a limb—and to treat all of it as a learning opportunity, no matter how Kafkaesque public education becomes. Even that opening paragraph is tied to our current unit on logical fallacies: I’m reasoning sort of speciously and making sweeping generalizations, and I’m manipulating you through prejudicial language, especially with the “soul-obliterating” bit.

The point is that you can pick up the skills and knowledge you need if you invest in everything we do, whether it’s a surprise lecture or a presidential debate that surprised no one. So it is with the political artifacts you’ve submitted. And so it is with this circuitous explanation of what you are doing with them.

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DAMAGES+ Post-Mortem

We need to start with a quiz.

Many of you will panic at “quiz,” and a small percentage will answer that panic with an attempt to cheat; this is so common that is not really up for debate, nor is the systemic cheating in this building really the point. I bring it up only so that I can also tell you that this quiz will not be entered into THE ALMIGHTY GRADEBOOK. It is being given as part of a lesson on writing rubrics and grading.

The quiz: Write the eight categories that comprise our course’s writing rubric. Take no more than 60 seconds to do this. When you are ready, click to continue reading.

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Presidential Debate Analysis

Use this post to continue our discussion from Thursday’s class. I will fold these comments into the ongoing point aggregate that also includes your artifact analysis. Remember to stay focused on logical fallacies and other kinds of manipulative rhetoric; don’t turn this into a melee.