Teaching Approaches: Introducing the Chapter The technique of classification delineates the relationship among groups of subjects—technical, personal, or abstract—by arranging them into categories or groups. In order to show how items in a group are similar, the writer first divides or analyzes a large subject into categories, then classifies individual examples within each category. It is important to stress to students that classification of ideas and objects is a natural process of sorting things out, and that for clarity it is necessary to have distinct divisions among categories. Outlining is a common academic application of classification.
Our minds are predisposed to classification; we're constantly grouping related items as we think and speak and analyze. Yet meaningful classification is a higher order thinking skill. It helps us sort not only objects but also thoughts and ideas, and it can help to bring order to confused or even chaotic mixtures.
Introduce the topic of classification simply and visually: if you dare, dump onto the desk the contents of your pocketbook or briefcase, and ask students to group the contents in some order. Many orders are possible—you can arrange items by size, by color, by utility (cosmetics, chewables, school materials, financial materials, and so on)—and the naming of the categories, once you explore possible variations, will help you discuss the importance of useful as opposed to banal or overly general or useless categories. We make the point in the introduction to students that products arranged by color in the supermarket would be ineffectual for shoppers looking for groceries, but you’ll want to investigate this point further. What makes one classification scheme more useful than another? Of course, the writer’s purpose is paramount here, and you should explore purposive classifications with students, who may tend to see the classification assignment as five finger exercise.
“Friends, Good Friends—and Such Good Friends” by Judith Viorst
Teaching Approaches: Introducing the Essay Viorst's essay has the quiddity of that wisdom that comes hard-earned with a lot of living. Since it's unlikely many students in class will be able to fill the role of, say, the friend-as-mother, one challenge in introducing this essay is to extend the students' experience of friendship to a sympathetic reflection on what may lie ahead for them as they get older, and have a broader range of experiences, including the experiences of a variety of friendships.
But of course the friendships of adolescence, in particular, are powerfully intense, and as Viorst says, often become life-long friendships in some form.
So the role of friendship in the lives of the students in the class is a good place to begin approaching Viorst's essay. Do they all have a "best friend"? Or do they have a group of "best friends"? Are these people of both sexes? What are the qualities of best friends? How are the current friendships of students in the class the same as and/or different from the friendships they had a few years ago, or as children? Do they maintain the friendships of childhood? Are friendships more or less or equally important as love relationships? How high up on the list of "most important for a full life" would students place friendship?
The class's answers to these questions can be set next to Viorst's "I once would have said" of paragraphs 1 and 2 to gauge whether "once" Viorst was exactly where the students in the class are as young people (assuming most of the class is more or less of "traditional" college age), or whether this generation of young people has a broader perspective on friendship than Viorst "once" had.
Reading the Essay Elaine (par. 7) suggests distinctions about what we as a society are likely to think of appropriate or safe personal problems, and what we consider to be possibly shameful problems. Do students agree that saying you are depressed, or saying you are sick over money, exceeds what's appropriate for public consumption?
Are the qualities of cross-generational friendships—mother/daughter and vice versa—sometimes present in friendships between friends of the same age? Under what circumstances?
Do students agree that in friendships between men and women there is always some sexual component? Compare Viorst's views with those of Ellen Goodman in "The Tapestry of Friendships" (pp.217-219).
Building Vocabulary 1.a. soft
2.a. New Latin: psych + logia
b. Latin: historia
c. Middle English: sib
d. Middle English: Christmasse
e. Latin: sexus Understanding the Writer's Ideas 1. She states that friends are those who "totally love and support and trust each other . . . no questions asked" and "share the same affections." She still accepts the definition, but with major modifications because she feels that it is too narrow a point of view.
2. Convenience; special-interest; historical; crossroads; cross-generational; part-of-a-couple; men; and friendships based on levels of intimacy.
3. They are not particularly intimate. They are important for "what was."
4. The fact that in cross-generational friendships one can play the roles without the complications of actual familial ties.
5. The first is often a "reluctant" friendship.
6. Yes, because as in all friendships, one can play the roles without the complications of actual familial ties.
7. Those who ultimately revert back to her original definition.
Understanding the Writer's Techniques 1. Pars. 1-2 comprise the introduction and are organized to give a wide-ranging view of the idea of friendship which can then be analyzed and categorized. In the second sentence of par. 3.
2. By emphasizing the ranges of intensity and need that define friendship.
3. She treats each category with equal effectiveness and examples. She includes men because those friendships can be "just as close and dear as those . . . with women."
4. She clearly illustrates each category with specific examples from her own experiences or from those of friends.
5. She begins each category with a working definition for that type and uses comparison/contrast to show similarities and differences among types.
6. She uses informal speech because she is discussing a topic which is based on personal closeness, and if the tone were too formal, the discussion would sound awkward. Examples: par. 2; "consider . . . friendship" (4); "the sexual . . . different" (27).
7. Category 8 (29)
Pars. 30-31 comprise the conclusion which is structured to return to and elaborate on the original definition. Parallelism is achieved by repetition of the infinitive "to be" in describing aspects of best friends.
Writing from the Essay As an additional emphasis for the Guided Writing exercise, especially for more ambitious students, consider adding to the assignment the incorporation into the student essay of a variant on Viorst's opening gambit: A great teacher, I once would have said . . . or, A good night out, I once would have said . . .
“The Men We Carry in Our Minds” by Scott Russell Sanders Teaching Approaches: Introducing the Essay As the issues introduced in this story are so universal, simply begin a conversation about who has it better in society—men or women. The delight of Sander’s essay is that he subverts the usual urban vision of gender politics. Gather as many opinions as possible, but challenge your students to think whether what they think is universally true or whether they are speaking from a narrow societal viewpoint. That is, encourage them to do themselves what can be accomplished from reading widely—gain a less solipsistic point of view.
Then expand the discussion—what about men and women in general, historically, and anthropologically? This essay is in large part a Marxist critique of gender politics, though not a doctrinaire one. How does economics play into these gender relations? What you are ready to read the essay, ask your students to try to identify Sanders’s own position.
Reading the Essay Do students agree that physical labor is worse than working in an office? Why? Many students will not think about the advantages of getting out of cubicles.
Why does Sanders speak of “fate” so much. What is the significance of this? Does Sanders think that it’s possible for people to have “a say over their future”? Do your students?
They were on the margins of society, without power.
Welding, working steel, carpentry, sweeping, digging ditches, mining, driving trucks, working on machines.
He was a boy, thus he would eventually share in the men’s work.
Boredom. There was no war at the time.
He was a toiler, but became an office worker.
He didn’t understand what goodness the earth brought to men.
They ran errands and went shopping.
People are slow to understand that we are more alike than we know.
Understanding the Writer's Techniques
Sanders suggests that reality is different from what we hold in our memories.
The last sentence of the first paragraph is a good candidate, because it sets up the opposition between the toiler and the one with the easy life, and suggests his image changed later.
Classification of men in a way for Sanders to introduce the idea of gender politics and how it can be flud. He starts with convicts and the gang boss and then goes on to laborers, soldiers, some male teachers, office workers, and then the well-off men. He introduces them in the order he himself discovered them.
AWV. Clearly his audience is educated, considering his use of language.
The tone is wistful and forceful but not polemical.
He pitied them. He expresses this, for example, in his descriptions of them in par. 3.
He is dramatizing his own questions at the time, his own indignance.
AWV. Sanders does a fine job expressing the common goal of all mankind: autonomy, satisfying work.
“The American Dream for Sale: Ethnic Images in Magazines” by Amy Rashap
Teaching Approaches: Introducing the Essay
Those subjects about which students have first-hand experience are at once an advantage and disadvantage to the teacher. They are an advantage because students can bring their own experiences to bear on discussion and analysis. They are a disadvantage because students, like the rest of us, may acknowledge that you can’t generalize from a single instance, while happily doing so anyway. In this case, moreover, the subjects are famously complex and emotionally charged. It seems prudent therefore to ask students what they understand by “The American Dream” and to write some definitions on the board (indicating, incidentally, that these are definitions, as in Chapter 7!). In this way at least some of the assumptions students hold can be brought out. Similarly, no one alive in the United States today is ignorant of advertising. What are students’ attitudes towards advertising, however? Is it fun? A seductive way to get you to part with your money? Cynical? Necessary? Does advertising inform people about what they desire? Or does advertising create desires? Or both?
This essay explores a possible “exploitation” by advertisers of a commonly held ideal. You might approach this practice by asking the class whether they have noticed any ads that do just this—say, that exploit people’s patriotism to sell a product. Is there a line that should not be crossed? Conversely, does advertising mainly reflect attitudes already established in the society at large? Is advertising therefore an excellent index of social attitudes, and a valuable piece of evidence in the history of changing attitudes?
Reading the Essay
What are the connotations of “for sale”? What is the difference between “Potatoes for Sale” and “Love for Sale”? As a society, we love “sales” and have made salesmanship and business competition international ideals. So shouldn’t the American Dream naturally be associated with the idea of selling and buying?
used in the sense of social mobility, the idea that each person should have an equal chance to rise or gain a place in society through his or her talents
the activities of the skilled and devoted housewife who “manages” the home as her husband manages a business; the cheery outlook of the homemaker, ostensible happy with sharp gender distinctions, has given this task and word a negative connotation
a stereotypical or characteristic image, using the word “stock” as in “stock in trade,” meaning the defining practices or standard equipment of a person or group
the “five and dime” was a general store where you could buy more or less anything at a modest price, and a wooden statue of an Indian in full headdress, sometimes holding something for sale in his hand, would frequently be found outside the front door; once one might have said that these were five and dime Indians and not the real thing, but today these statues are recognized as demeaning
like apple pie, meaning composed of qualities essentially American but maybe too much so, including an implication of race or ethnic exclusiveness
Understanding the Writer’s Ideas
“How to live the perfect American life” (par. 1).
Commonly held stereotypes (par. 4)—e.g. the courteous but subservient black railroad porter (par. 5).
The production of “a plethora of ready-made goods,” all seeking mass markets, and the availability of low postal rates, improved type-setting, etc. which prompted the growth of popular magazines as ideal vehicles for sales messages (par. 2).
The mass audience required creation of “an average person” (par. 3). Ethnic groups were often depicted through commonly held stereotypes (par. 4).
Those from ethnic groups are depicted as subservient (par. 5), in a service role (par. 6), or by the broad-brush stroke of simple external attributes (Chiquita banana, the Scotsman in kilts) (pars. 7-9).
Magazine fiction (par. 9)
In addition to whites, other American groups were targeted in advertising.
Advertising is now directed at specific minority groups; these ads reflect the difficulties of attempting to reconcile being “accepted” into the mainstream and yet sustaining ethnic identity.
Understanding the Writer’s Techniques
In the opening paragraph, the writer lays out a many-faceted thesis, the gist of which is that images of ethnic groups in magazines reflect the economic and social changes of the last century, changes characterized by conflicting attitudes about ethnicity and the relation between ethnicity and the American mainstream.
To place the depiction of ethnic groups within the broad story of the rise of advertising and its causes.
The subservient Negro; the Noble Savage; the colorful foreigner. ISR.
It may not have relied as much on the pictorial evidence; it may have used less accessible (more professionally-directed) diction, and more scholarly references. An op-ed piece implies a more popular audience than an exhibition, and might be written in simpler English.
She offers examples organized by chronology and type. Her transitions underscore the chronological development, while also using helpful linking words: “An advertisement . . . reveals another way . . .” (par.6).
Literary images are not often as succinct, or as “graphic” as visual images, especially those in advertising. Advertising, as the writer says, necessitates simplification. Literature aims at the greater complexity and ambiguity of life. The image of Jim in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, for example, is made up of a complex of actions and events, not just one snap-shot. And to this day opinions vary as to how Jim should be viewed—as a portrait in depth, or as a stereotype.
In three ways: first, the conclusion brings us to the present, ending the chronological sequence; second, it brings the story full circle, from the targeting of whites only to the targeting of ethnic groups as well; and finally, it notes the complex implications and conflicts of the present state of affairs, as compared with the past.
“How Do We Find the Student in a World of Academic Gymnasts and Worker Ants?” by James T. Baker
Teaching Approaches: Introducing the Essay Baker's essay lets students eavesdrop on teachers talking among themselves, and so gives students a glimpse of what teachers see when they look at students. Consequently, this is a good essay to use if you want to get right down into the base discussion of what actually goes on within the polite structures of higher education. Just as there can be a war between the sexes, so there can be a war between teachers and students. And so why not, by means of Baker's good-humored essay, talk about it and get it into the open as part of the classroom experience?
To set your students' minds at rest, or to demonstrate just how far you're willing to go, begin by asking your students to turn the tables on Baker. Ask them to take a few minutes of class time to write down some stereotypes, affectionate or malicious, of teachers. (Or you could do this at the blackboard, or this could be done by students in groups.)
Since Baker's essay appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and expected an audience of professors and not students, your students' portraits should assume a student audience, and be written within the world of reference, and in the language, of students.
You can use the occasion to point out once more that different situations require different manners and decorum, in life as in writing.
The collection of student stereotypes can serve as the start of a discussion of what students expect from teachers as compared to what they often find; as well as, finally, a discussion of what students ought to expect both from teachers and from themselves if true learning is to occur.
Reading the Essay What do students think of France's and Hutchins' notions of teaching and education? Is this the kind of teaching and the kind of education that they seek?
Why does Baker put the odd locution "personhoods" in quotation marks? What is implied by this "word" (see question 5 in Understanding the Writer's Techniques)?
Is there something wrong with majoring in accounting? Is the notion of a "Good Time" Charlie accountant shared by many students?
Each of Baker's miniatures contains an unhappy ending. Are we to conclude that Baker thinks that most of his students will come to a bad end?
What do students think of Baker's conclusion--is it unintentionally condescending? Does the contrast between the terrible banality of his stereotypes and the delicate genuineness of his one true student suggest a failure of sympathy on Baker's part? Or has he captured something to which we all aspire but rarely achieve?
Building Vocabulary 1.a. a person who is tired from all the "combat" of being an academician
b. the seven-year itch is the reputed urge that men get to have extramarital affairs every seven years; seven years is also the time span between academic sabbatical leaves
c. become completely overwhelmed by facial acne
d. make himself physically and mentally exhausted
e. making a big deal about finding professors with leftist politics
f. getting a performance together
g. pays almost no attention to
h. a very "macho" type
i. spending one's time trying to pick up girls in local teen hangouts, like ice cream shops
one must pay special, careful attention to develop that person.
2. a. Reserve Officers' Training Corps, a combination of college studies and Army officer training
b. Central Intelligence Agency
c. a men's cologne
d. a chain of soft ice cream stores
e. a person overly devoted to Christian dogma
f. what Gospel freaks call those who are not Gospel freaks
g. the most infamous of Stalin's forced labor prison camps
Understanding the Writer's Ideas
1. Good Time Charlie/Charlene: a partier, although basically conservative
General Patton: a right-wing extremist
Egghead: an obsessive scholar, to the exclusion of real life
Academic Gymnast: underachiever, professional student
Medal Hound: seeker of honors rather than knowledge
Worker Ant: overachiever
Lost Soul: student with no direction in life
Saved Soul: Jesus Freak
Happy Child/Determined Child: come with few expectations and so achieve them
Student: dedicated to realistic learning, professor's protégé
2. French Nobel Prize-winning author and man of letters (1844-1924). His quote describes the process of teaching, which is, after all, Baker's main concern. Baker thinks France's sentiment is an idealized one which unfortunately does not correspond to his own recent experience.
3. He has been teaching for nearly fourteen years, and he is beginning to feel "battle fatigue."
4. Probably late middle age. He is declining physically, but his "eye" for understanding the ways of life is becoming more accurate with experience.
5. ISR. Check for completeness.
6. In general, Baker seems to believe that students all have some alternative motive for attending college--that is, an alternative to the artful awakening of the intellect which is Baker's underlying attitude toward what a college education can ideally be.
7. Because there are, indeed, a few real students who have a "vital capacity for growth" and are "able to fall in love with learning."
8. At first, a bit lost; distressed by what passes for education; has a vital capacity for growth and is able to fall in love with learning; acquires a taste for intellectual pleasure. To himself, because he feels that he still possesses a true love for knowledge and the learning process.
Understanding the Writer's Techniques
1. The thesis is not directly stated but can be summarized as follows: There are many students who do not know or care the first thing about learning, but the few who do, the true students, make the job of teaching worthwhile. His purpose is to amuse, but more than that, to praise true intellectual pursuit.
2. The stereotypes are fond conglomerates of the different types of students which one is likely to find on college campuses. Surprisingly, they are a fairly representative sample, even for today. The stereotyping allows Baker some room for humor and irony, as well as for comparison with his ultimate love, the real Student.
3. Certainly, he was "preaching" to the converted: those who could understand his humor and frames of reference. Had he been writing for another, nonacademic audience, he probably would have been more straightforward and might have avoided such stereotyping.
4. He is ironic and somewhat sarcastic throughout. The various names for student types alone illustrate his irony, which is further developed by his descriptions of each type. A shift in attitude occurs at the end, where he writes about the true Student, and, by extension, his own love of knowledge and intellectual pursuit.
5. Because it has become "fashionable" and "politically correct" to eliminate sexism of language, particularly in academia. Baker seems a bit sarcastic about this trend.
6. He capitalizes the various categories in order to make them separate entities. Truth is capitalized for its importance to Baker as universal.
Both of them signify a type of finality. In the case of the Worker Ant, it is his or her extinction. Par. 17 signals the end of the category-by-category analysis and the beginning of the development of what is really the core of this essay--true intellectual pursuit and what it can be.
Definition is used to explain each category of student; description makes those definitions particularly vivid. Process analysis is used to show transformations of various types from one stage to another in their overall categories. For example, the Young General Patton (6) changes from an R.O.T.C. red-baiter to leftist to fundamentalist right-winger. Process helps to define the terms in which Baker understands these types.