Introduction by Renee Shea It’s not just the kids we urge to take the rhetoric from class to their everyday lives. We teachers practice what we preach. I remember feeling so moved several years ago when a teacher who had taken one of my APSIs told me that when her father passed away, she delivered the eulogy—and put her rhetorical tools to work to pay a heartfelt tribute. I thought of her recently when my coauthor Robin Aufses shared her eloquent graduation speech, delivered on 11 June at her school, the Lycee Francais in New York City. From the personal narrative to the weaving of favorite authors to the powerful logic of kindness, Robin demonstrates with such grace how well she knows her audience — and how much she will miss them as she wishes them well. To the Class of 2019 by Robin Aufses Good afternoon class of 2019 and your families, good afternoon faculty, Ms. Peverelli, members of the board and special guests. I’m honored to address you today at your graduation from Lycee Francais de New York and to join the ranks of commencement speakers everywhere. I love commencement speeches; when they’re good, they’re so good. In preparing to write this one, I found some wonderful words of wisdom to pass on: Dorothy Wickenden, publisher of The New Yorker and an alumna of my college, William Smith, offered her perspective on the world we live in now. She said, “Every generation has terrors to stare down. My great great grandparents had the Civil War; my grandmother ...the Great Depression; my parents, World War II; the Baby Boomers ... had Vietnam and Watergate.” She advised graduates, “The best way to find yourself is by leaving yourself behind. Move out of your safe spaces, beyond self-care and selfies...We need to open doors, not shut them, and recall what all Americans have in common.” I read the francophile New York Times columnist Roger Cohen on his daughter’s recent graduation from USC. He quoted the commencement speaker, novelist and psychologist Jonathan Kellerman, who said, “Be nice.” Cohen adds, “That put me in mind of a line sometimes attributed to Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I could quote from one terrific commencement speech after another (check out David Foster Wallace’s famous address at Kenyon College or Nora Ephron’s 1996 speech at Wellesley), but you’re here to take something away from your own graduation speaker–me. Here's what I have to offer. Find things in your life that remind you of what's important. I'm not telling you to find your passion. You'll do that plenty. But find a couple of touchstones that take you both out of yourself and back in. It took me well into adulthood to understand how important this is and, oddly enough, it happened on the occasion of my daughter's graduation from high school–her prom, actually. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say I had foolishly agreed to host–and by host, I mean invisible host–the prom after-party. After a long frustrating day, fraught with the kind of first world problems that people like me are fortunate enough to have, I finally came to roost in a place where the sound system was playing a duet by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. It was “They Can’t Take That Away,” a song about savoring the small moments. It stopped me in my tracks. I took a breath and as if by magic I remembered what was important–this rite of passage, my healthy children, my lovely husband. And even more: it connected me to my parents who loved this music. It reminded me of the simplicity and democratic nature of jazz - the piano, two vocalists, the trumpet, all given equal time. It connected me to the common human experiences of love, of celebration, family and friends. I know it sounds like a lot to put on one song, but since then, when I need to feel grounded or appreciate the blessings I have, when, as William Wordsworth says, the "world is too much with us," I remember what’s important by listening to music like Ella and Louis or by looking at art. A mysterious painting that hangs at the Frick Collection, right here in our neighborhood, speaks to me similarly. Despite the title of Giovanni Bellini’s "St. Francis of the Desert," painted around 1480, St. Francis is hardly front and center, and the landscape is hardly desert. A scene of central Italy in early spring or late fall, the painting is beautifully executed–every detail transcendentally precise, but it also has a spiritual vision. Critics have said that looking at this painting of the enigmatic Italian saint makes you want to be a better person. I don't know if that's so, but when I stand before it, I'm taken out of myself–even though I live in the 21st century, I’m not religious, and I'm not even an animal lover. St. Francis reminds me of what's important: the search for beauty, and the common hope that a pattern or meaning to the world–maybe a higher good–can make sense of the joys and terrors of our lives. Another touchstone of mine, Seamus Heaney’s poem “Postscript,” describes a drive out to the west of Ireland, the beauty of a flock of swans on the wind-blown, slate-gray lake on one side of the road and the “foam and glitter” of the ocean on the other. He says it’s “useless to think you’ll park and capture it more thoroughly.” He ends the poem this way: “You are neither here nor there, A hurry through which known and strange things pass As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.” I think Heaney is saying what I’m saying: this drive, this scenery, reminds him of what’s important. It blows his heart open. So, my message to you on this milestone: when you're stressed by work, when you're homesick for the familiar life you led at the Lycee and with your families, when you're feeling the pressure to save the world, touchstones like these will ground you. When you’re staring down the world’s terrors, your touchstones will be there, eternally we hope, to remind you of what's important. And when you need a hand bringing people together or a reminder that everyone is fighting a hard battle, your touchstones will blow your hearts open and connect you to the most important human emotion of all: love. Feel free to get in touch with me if you need some suggestions, and congratulations, Class of 2019!
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By Renée H. Shea Titus Kaphar is a young and rising artistic star. Named a MacArthur Genius in 2018, he’s making his presence known with his provocative paintings that “revise” canonical ones as he investigates who gets to speak and who gets left out. He’s done a brief TED Talk (about 12 minutes) on the subject. His painting “The Cost of Removal,” a commentary on both the forced migration that resulted in the Trail of Tears and our contemporary immigration politics, is an engaging way into the Conversation on the Statue of Liberty in our 9th grade book Foundations of Language and Literature. One interesting way that Foundations of Language and Literature addresses differentiation is through its use of visuals. As teacher education scholar Dr. Edwin Ellis says: “Visual prompts can enable teachers and students to see how learned information is structured as well as see how to engage in complex information processing tasks.” Enter Titus Kaphar. In a way, watching this TEDTalk offers two visual texts – the video of Kaphar and the Frans Hals painting he works with. To summarize: Kaphar opens by recounting a story of going to the Natural History Museum in New York City with his two young sons. The statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback near the entrance includes two figures, a Native American and African American walking alongside. One of his sons asks why they’re walking when the other guy is riding – and that sends Kaphar into a discussion of representation in art, what it says about who we are, and how it informs and forms our sense of our place in history and culture. This connects nicely to the Conversation in Ch7 on Poetry, “What Does the Statue of Liberty Mean to Us Today?” It’s an especially urgent question these days when monuments of Confederate generals and Christopher Columbus are generating heated debates and often violent responses in communities from coast to coast. And, like all good questions, it asks more than it answers. Kaphar goes on to use the 17th century painting Family Portrait by Frans Hals, asking what we see – and don’t see. So let’s start there. Even before you watch the video, you might ask students what they see in the Hals’ painting. It’s a pretty standard portrait of the time period, clearly a well-to-do family who can afford a portrait and believe they have a rightful place in the history of their time. If students are bored or go right for the technical structure, fine: the point is for them to be surprised by what Kaphar does with this work. Kaphar cleverly paints an additional figure, a person of color, and then paints over the others with linseed oil, pointing out that the figures will not be permanently erased, just temporarily obscured as he makes his point: “this is not about eradication….What I’m trying to show you is how to shift your gaze just slightly, just momentarily, to ask yourself the questions, why do some have to walk?” He ends by emphasizing that he is not advocating erasure but amendment, i.e., exposing and acknowledging what is missing – and then creating art that is “honest, that wrestle[s] with the struggles of our past but speak[s] to the diversity and the advances of our present.” In other words, he’s asking a similar question to the one posed to students regarding the Statue of Liberty. After students watch the video, leveled questions can engage them in analysis of Kaphar’s talk—his argument—moving from personal experience to more abstract ideas: Level 1: Why does Kaphar start with his son’s question about Teddy Roosevelt? Level 2: What point is he making by painting over certain parts of the Frans Hals painting? Level 3: What is the difference between erasure vs. amendment? These questions support students’ learning, as Dr. Ellis says, by “engag[ing] in complex information processing tasks.” If you like, you can press further with the rich rhetoric of this TEDTalk, particularly when it comes to the way Kaphar establishes his ethos: what he’s wearing, his story about his visit to the museum, his backstory about meeting his wife, etc. Even if you don’t want to go into this kind of depth, however, just discussing those three initial questions gets to the main point(s). If you have time, you might look at some of his paintings (e.g. The Cost of Removal and Beyond the Myth of Benevolence) to see how he calls attention to erasure and suggests an amended viewpoint. These activities and discussion Could take one, possibly two class periods before you segue into Langston Hughes and the Conversation in the book. One way to transition from Kaphar to this Conversation is to ask a question on his terms: What would it mean to “shift your gaze” when you look at the Statue of Liberty? What might you see? Or what might you notice is not represented? As you consider how to sequence your discussion of the poems in the Conversation, keep in mind the three leveled prompts that reflect differentiation (p 554): Level 1: To what extent does the Statue of Liberty represent a belief that you hold about America? Level 2: Is the Statue of Liberty still an appropriate symbol of America? Why or why not? Level 3: What is the value of symbols, such as the Statue of Liberty, to a country or a group of people? How can they also be problematic? The Hughes poem is difficult, and will likely take some time to understand the “shifting gaze” that he offers. Or you might start by letting groups of students work on other texts. In increasing order of difficulty, I suggest the Oral History Remembrances, the essay by Michael Daly, “The New Colossus,” “Black Statue of Liberty,” “Slant,” and “lady liberty.” Students might begin their explorations by asking what “amendment” Kaphar would see each of these writers adding to the symbol of the Statue of Liberty. Of course, there’s much close reading and interpretation to be done as students move toward the summative assessment of the three differentiated tasks that each prompt represents. But Kaphar’s voice offers a pathway there.
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by Renee H. Shea
Take 90 seconds—really, it’s just a minute and a half—and treat yourself to “Words Matter,” a video made by outspoken activist and brilliant filmmaker Spike Lee (and not incidentally, recent Academy Award winner for BlackKKKlansman).
The motorcycle roars through the California desert toward the camera; the handsome cool guy skids to a stop, takes off his helmet, and it’s Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan! He looks around at the dystopian landscape, spots some rocks and picks them up: “evil,” “hatred,” “bigotry,” “lies.” He throws them away. Then, he walks (with a map?), sees a children’s swing set, and finds more words: “courage,” “truth,” “dream,” “love.” These are keepers. Helmet back on. And off he goes.
This man has changed the landscape.
Punchline: this is an ad for the pricey leather goods brand Coach, part of their #wordsmatter campaign. Make that marketing campaign? And, BTW, that iconic leather jacket Jordan is wearing can be yours for $1400.
What a great opportunity to have some fun while studying rhetoric! Here are a couple of conversation starters:
What’s the exigence?
Who’s the audience?
What’s the purpose (for Lee? Jordan? Coach?) – i.e., what’s being “sold”?
How does this video promote Coach’s "strong poetic narrative that speaks to Coach’s values of inclusion, optimism and courage" (according to their web site)?
Does this campaign name trivialize or celebrate #blacklivesmatter?
Why would Spike Lee and Michael B. Jordan do this? (Fame and money can’t be the answer for these celebrities.)
If the ad is an argument, what is the evidence that supports the claim? Any logical fallacies rearing their heads?
What has been the reaction to this video? It’s very current, and commentaries, especially on social media, are coming in at this minute.
This activity alone could lead to some interesting discussion and writing. But those of us who work on The Language of Composition are always looking for ways to connect our carefully curated texts, many of them iconic, to contemporary discourse. So you might go right to the Conversation in this thematic chapter on “The Value of Celebrity Activism.” Adding this video might lead to some fruitful exploration of, first, whether this “advertisement” is indeed “activism.” Does knowing that Lee involved his children, Satchel and Jackson, in the making of the video change students’ sense of the purpose and interpretation? Does knowing that Lee and Jordan, first-time collaborators, chose the words themselves?
Another strategy is pairing this – motorcycle jacket and all – with the essay in our Pop Culture chapter “How the Motorcycle Lost Its Cool and Found It Again” by Troy Patterson, a 2015 article on the history and cachet of the motorcycle jacket through the past decades, actually since it debuted in 1928.
The questions in TLC3e following the essay lead to a provocative analysis of Patterson’s purpose and style, its structure and argument. (My favorite asks how Patterson supports his claim that “the motorcycle jacket is an international uniform impervious to obsolescence.”) So what does that jacket that Jackson is wearing and Coach selling have to say about our current moment? What if he were wearing an L.L. Bean shirt or a hoodie? Is the moto (as it’s called) code for macho? Power? Taking a stand?
If you want to dive a little deeper, add “The New Power Blazer,” a very recent article in Fortune magazine subtitled “How a symbol of rebellion found its way into the boardroom” – via the ladies! Apparently, the new CEOs and captains of industry and Congress, are ditching their blue blazers for swanky black leather motorcycle jackets. Why? Read the article.
And then put those three pieces together to stimulate analysis:
Is the moto still cool? (or in AP parlance, “to what extent is the moto still cool?”). Do you want one? Why or why not?
What kind of power does that black leather jacket signal in 2019? (Think about the logic here: what’s the premise – unstated? -- of a jacket that can cost upwards of a thousand dollars being a symbol of power… or rebellion?)
Is fashion political? Should it be? (“Should Fashion Influence Politics and Culture?”)
Or, if you want to get into the rhetorical weeds, then this activity could be just a warm up to reading the superb Central Essay in Pop Culture – “Hip Hop Planet” by the wonderful James McBride. It’s a sophisticated analysis of the history, artistry, and cultural significance of Hip Hop.
These are the kind of connections we hope that our selections in TLC3e will generate as you tailor readings to your own classroom. All exam prep need not be, well, totally exam prep. Enjoy!
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by Renee Shea
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant advises to “argue like you’re right, but listen like you’re wrong.” And he’s not advising our budding rhetoricians in AP® Lang but high powered leaders of business, industry, and government. His message is the same, though: listen to multiple perspectives and listen to learn, even when it’s not what you expect or want to hear.
A Grant google will yield multiple books, podcasts, Ted Talks, and publications you’d expect from a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, but I met him when I watched a Brief But Spectacular segment on PBS. He’s just there on the screen in a gray t-shirt telling his story, yet it’s a terrific little story that demonstrates in its own way the ethos, pathos, and logos introduction in the opening chapter of TLC3e. The bonus is that it strikes the right chord for all of AP® Lang when it comes to paying attention, thinking straight, and listening actively.
He starts out by citing a study that shows “that highly creative adults grew up in families where their parents argued in front of their children.” Counterintuitive? You bet. But the research leads to the conclusion that if you never hear your parents argue, you think there’s only one right answer; seeing them argue helps you see multiple perspectives. The caveat: all depends upon “how constructively they argue.”
So, he says: “argue like you’re right, but listen like you’re wrong” – and you might become better at hearing criticism in the bargain. At this point, he’s using logic, logos, and bringing reason into his story.
He continues adding some pathos by telling stories about Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, who, he says is “obsessed with feedback.” (Full disclosure: she’s his coauthor on a recent book.) Anyway, he describes some of her strategies for eliciting feedback, and it’ll be the rare one of us or our students who doesn’t hear some resonance in Sandburg’s behavior.
I like Grant best, though, for the ethos. He introduces the research at the outset by referring to his own experience as a dad, so already we have some shared values. The last story, though, is a clincher. He recalls leading a motivation seminar when he was 26 for generals and colonels in the Air Force. By his own admission, it was disastrous. One of the feedback forms declared, “I gained nothing from the session, but I trust the instructor gained useful insight.” Ouch! Most of us have been there, maybe not in the military but with our colleagues or classes. Grant returned the next day – and changed his approach after having “listened” to those feedback forms. Take a listen to how he did it and what he learned by “admitting [his] limitations.”
Explicitly, it’s a Brief But Spectacular lesson in giving and receiving feedback; implicitly, it’s a study in that triumvirate of rhetorical appeals. And it’s only four minutes long. Who knows? It might inspire your students to do their own Brief But Spectacular episodes.
Grant bio: https://mgmt.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/grantad/
PBS Brief but Spectacular: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-to-give-feedback-so-people-hear-youre-trying-to-help
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Throughout the fall, we've encouraged you to use the rhetoric from the 2016 presidential election in your classroom. In our author event (watch it here: Video Link : 1086), we talk about ways to keep the discussions balanced, and how it is applicable to AP* Language students.
This article continues this discussion. What are the pros and cons of discussing politics with your students? How does not discussing politics affect your students' development as a well-informed member of society? What are some more ways to bring politics into the classroom without causing issues?
Read more here: https://www.fastcompany.com/3061993/most-creative-people/have-politics-become-so-ugly-that-educators-are-afraid-to-teach… , and tell us how you effectively teach politics in your classroom in the comments!
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Today we're going to take a look at the syntax of our presidential candidates. Kenton Murray, a PhD student at Notre Dame University, analyzed all the presidential candidates speech patterns during the primary debates. He looked at their use of imperatives, indicative and conditional phrases. He also provides visuals for other parts of syntax: syllables, periodic sentences, and sentence types. Kenton provides graphs for each of his analyses. You can read the article here: A Computational Linguistic Analysis of the 2016 Presidential Candidates
You can use this with your students in a variety of ways:
Jigsaw -- split your students into 3 groups: syllables, periodic sentences, and sentence types. Ask them to analyze and share with their students
Writing -- assign your students to write a speech mimicking certain speech patterns, then ask them to read them in front of the class
Media -- find clips and transcripts online of the candidate's speeches that Kenton examines. Split your students into groups and assign one to analyze the syntax through listening to the audio, and the other to analyze through reading the transcript. What are the differences in their analysis?
If you've done this with your students, let us know in the comments below!
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This week was the first presidential debate; it was schedule 46 years and 1 day after the first televised debate -- the now-famous one between Nixon and Kennedy.
You can download a Debate Scorecard to use with your students here if you'd like to give them a rhetoric assignment for the next presidential debate. Or, you can use the Debate Scorecard to look back at time to that first televised debate. Find a video of the debate on YouTube here, and then tell your students to analyze the candidates. Here are 3 ways to use this video with your students:
Split your students into 2 groups. Ask one group to watch the debate with no sound, ask the second to listen to the audio only while they complete their scorecard. Compare their answers and discuss.
Split your students into pairs. Ask one to focus on Nixon, and the other to focus on Kennedy. What are the differences in their scorecard?
Ask your students to watch the debate, and write a quick reflection it; then ask them to read this article from the National Constitution Center on how it changed history. Tell them to continue their reflection after knowing more on the history of the debate.
Did you use the debate scorecard with your students? Let us know how it worked in the comments!
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This article is a great jumping off point when talking about persona. A social media profile is the very personification of the concept of "persona." Tell your students to examine recent tweets from presidential candidates (maybe without showing which candidate has tweeted!) - what are the differences between the two persona's? Look at some celebrities, authors, and other common figures - what does each their social media say about their personality? Ask your students to think how characters in recent novels would portray themselves on their social media accounts. How does that persona differ from their personality?
The New York Times
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