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A Cursed Love


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Resources for Teaching

Prepared by Lynette Ledoux

Copyright © 2007 by Bedford/St. Martin’s All rights reserved. Manufactured in the United States of America. 2 1 f e 0 9 d c 8 7 b a

For information, write: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116 (617-399-4000) ISBN-10: 0–312–44705–1 ISBN-13: 978–0–312–44705–2 Instructors who have adopted Rereading America, Seventh Edition, as a textbook for a course are authorized to duplicate portions of this manual for their students.

This isn’t really a teacher’s manual, not, at least, in the sense of a catechism of questions and correct answers and interpretations. Because the questions provided after each selection in Rereading America are meant to stimulate dialogue and debate — to generate rather than terminate discourse — they rarely lend themselves to a single appropriate response. So, while we’ll try to clarify what we had in mind when framing a few of the knottier questions, we won’t be offering you a list of “right” answers. Instead, regard this manual as your personal support group. Since the publication of the first edition, we’ve had the chance to learn from the experiences of hundreds of instructors nationwide, and we’d like to use this manual as a forum where we can share some of their concerns, suggestions, experiments, and hints. We’ll begin with a roundtable on issues you’ll probably want to address before you meet your class. In the first section of this manual, we’ll discuss approaches to Rereading America and help you to think through your class goals. We’ll examine some options for tailoring the book to fit your interests and the time constraints of your term. We’ll also take up some pedagogical issues. We’ll offer advice on how to broach particularly hot topics in your class. We’ll explore in some detail how to get the most out of journal assignments and learning logs. And we’ll pass along some suggestions for setting up collaborative group work. The rest of the manual focuses more narrowly on the text’s chapters and the readings themselves; each of the chapters in the manual begins with a brief overview of the text’s chapter contents and structure. These overviews supplement the chapter introductions in the text, which offer much fuller treatments of the myths under consideration. We’ll touch on the purpose behind the readings presented and, whenever possible, suggest productive ways to pair them. We’ll emphasize crucial readings and suggest shortcuts and chapter abridgments in case you have time to sample only a few selections. When appropriate we’ll stake out additional themes that run throughout the chapter, and we’ll also address special problems that students may confront in dealing with the chapter readings. The notes on individual selections build on this overview, underscoring the purpose behind the piece, anticipating students’ reactions, and suggesting productive pedagogical approaches and strategies for dealing with problems of reading and interpretation. We’ll gloss key concepts for particularly challenging selections or offer thumbnail answers for some of the more difficult questions. The glosses, however, are meant to help you understand our reading of the selection in question, not to supply you with definitive or complete answers. In addition, in these notes you’ll find further suggestions for assignments, pedagogical experiments, and variations on questions and assignments that appear in the text. We’ll also highlight especially fruitful connections between readings within as well as between the chapters, suggestions you can use in order to construct a syllabus around a theme traced throughout the text.


Preface iii 1 1


Planning Your Course

Alternative Thematic Clusters

Addressing Sensitive Issues 5
Establishing Trust 6 Setting Ground Rules — Three Approaches Monitoring Classroom Dynamics 8 Understanding Differences 9 6

Building Journals into Your Course 10
Suggestions for Journal Responses 12

Making Collaborative Groups Work 13

1 Harmony at Home: The Myth of the Model Family
A Family Tree, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear 17 NORMAN ROCKWELL Looking for Work 19 GARY SOTO What We Really Miss About the 1950s STEPHANIE COONTZ Aunt Ida Pieces a Quilt 21 MELVIN DIXON An Indian Story 21 ROGER JACK 20 From Changing American Families JUDY ROOT AULETTE 22


Visual Portfolio 23 READING IMAGES OF AMERICAN FAMILIES It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good 24 RICK SANTORUM What Is Marriage? 25 EVAN WOLFSON

2 Learning Power: The Myth of Education and Empowerment
From Report of the Massachusetts Board of Education, 1848 27 HORACE MANN Idiot Nation 28 MICHAEL MOORE Against School 29 JOHN TAYLOR GATTO “I Just Wanna Be Average” 30 MIKE ROSE From Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work 31 JEAN ANYON v Visual Portfolio 32 READING IMAGES OF EDUCATION AND EMPOWERMENT The Achievement of Desire RICHARD RODRIGUEZ Para Teresa 33 INÉS HERNÁNDEZ-ÁVILA Learning to Read MALCOLM X 34 32



Contents Still Separate, Still Unequal 36 JONATHAN KOZOL

The Roots of Debate in Education and the Hope of Dialogue 35 DEBORAH TANNEN

3 Money and Success: The Myth of Individual Opportunity
From Ragged Dick HORATIO ALGER 37 Money 43 DANA GIOIA From Seven Floors Up SHARON OLDS 44


The Lesson 38 TONI CADE BAMBARA Horatio Alger 39 HARLON L. DALTON The Black Avenger KEN HAMBLIN 40

Framing Class, Vicarious Living, and Conspicuous Consumption [MEDIA SELECTION] 44 DIANA KENDALL Stephen Cruz 45 STUDS TERKEL 41 Good Noise: Cora Tucker ANNE WITTE GARLAND 46

Serving in Florida 41 BARBARA EHRENREICH Class in America — 2003 GREGORY MANTSIOS


4 True Women and Real Men: Myths of Gender
How the Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes 48 ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE Girl 49 JAMAICA KINCAID Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender 50 AARON H. DEVOR The Story of My Body JUDITH ORTIZ COFER 52 “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt”: Advertising and Violence [MEDIA SELECTION] 55 JEAN KILBOURNE From Fly-Girls to Bitches and Hos [MEDIA SELECTION] 57 JOAN MORGAN The Manliness of Men 58 HARVEY MANSFIELD The Hands of God 58 DEBORAH RUDACILLE Appearances 60 CARMEN VÁZQUEZ


Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering 53 MAYSAN HAYDAR Visual Portfolio 54 READING IMAGES OF GENDER

5 Created Equal: The Myth of the Melting Pot
From Notes on the State of Virginia 63 THOMAS JEFFERSON Discharging a Debt 64 ELLIS COSE


Contents vii Causes of Prejudice 65 VINCENT N. PARRILLO C. P. Ellis 67 STUDS TERKEL I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent? 67 SHELBY STEELE Talking About Racism: How Our Dialogue Gets Short-Circuited 68 PAUL L. WACHTEL Visual Portfolio 69 READING IMAGES OF THE MELTING POT Models of American Ethnic Relations: A Historical Perspective 70 GEORGE M. FREDRICKSON The Crossing 71 RUBÉN MARTÍNEZ Assimilation 71 SHERMAN ALEXIE The Pressure to Cover KENJI YOSHINO 72

Child of the Americas 73 AURORA LEVINS MORALES

6 One Nation Under God: American Myths of Church and State
Overture: Lily Pads ANNE LAMOTT 75 Afraid of Ourselves DIANA L. ECK 80


Killer Culture [MEDIA SELECTION] 76 DAVID KUPELIAN The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong 77 BILL MCKIBBEN The Bridge Builder: Kathleen Boatwright ERIC MARCUS Visual Portfolio 79 READING IMAGES OF AMERICAN MYTHS OF CHURCH AND STATE 78

Us and Them 81 MARIA POGGI JOHNSON Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments 82 JAMES MADISON Schools and Morals NOAH FELDMAN Reason in Exile 83 SAM HARRIS 83

7 Land of Liberty: The Myth of Freedom in a “New World Order”
The March of the Flag ALBERT J. BEVERIDGE 86 In Torture We Trust? EYAL PRESS 90


America the Beautiful: What We’re Fighting For 87 DINESH D’SOUZA The Oblivious Empire 88 MARK HERTSGAARD The War on Terrorism 89 JOEL ANDREAS Visual Portfolio 89 READING IMAGES OF AMERICA’S MEANING IN A “NEW WORLD ORDER”

Under the Sign of Mickey Mouse & Co. [MEDIA SELECTION] 91 TODD GITLIN Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience) 92 HENRY DAVID THOREAU Let America Be America Again LANGSTON HUGHES 93

Planning Your Course
Before meeting your students, you may want to make some decisions about how you’ll use Rereading America in your class. Because every reading in the text addresses a myth that dominates U.S. culture, the book provides you with a clear, consistent theme: by the time students finish your course they should be able to “read” the various texts that make up American culture. For example, they should be able to explore the impact of the dominant culture in poems, plays, essays, TV shows, movies, historical documents, textbooks, and so forth. They should also be able to read the imprint of these myths on their own lives and their own thinking. By learning how to read themselves and their culture in this way, they will also be learning how to think and write critically — the goal of most basic undergraduate education. (For a more detailed explanation of the connections between critical thinking, academic success, and cultural myths, see “Thinking Critically, Challenging Cultural Myths” in Rereading America.) You may also want to structure your course around a number of subthemes that are presented in Rereading America. One of the most interesting involves the tension that’s implied between the myth of individual opportunity and the myth of equality. The myth of success can be seen as inspiring a whole set of divergent tendencies in American culture: it prompts us to see ourselves as distinct individuals who compete to “move up the ladder” and better ourselves. The very existence of this myth assumes and legitimates the existence of social differences, including, we might suppose, gender and racial differences. In contrast, the myth of equality promotes convergent tendencies in U.S. culture: it works to bring us together, to make us hungry for community and for a sense of participation, or inclusion. This contradiction is so central to American culture that you’ll find evidence of it in selections in every chapter of the text. Actually, we urge you to let your students get involved in the process of shaping your course. Experience has convinced us that when students share in class decision making by helping to choose readings, structure their own assignments, and lead class discussions — or share power with the instructor in almost any other significant way — they also begin to take responsibility for their own growth as writers and thinkers. Instead of laying out a complete course plan before you meet you might let them caucus regarding the chapters they’d like to concentrate on during the course. We’ve found that students often have a stronger sense of ownership about the course if they’ve been involved in making such basic decisions. This is also a good first step toward eliciting student involvement if you are planning to do any collaborative group learning later in the course (see “Making Collaborative Groups Work,” manual p. 13).

Alternative Thematic Clusters
Of course, there are other themes that you might want to use as the basis for extended projects and papers. As with the existing chapters, groups could take responsibility for reading selections that deal with a particular theme, then summarize or critique the material for the rest of the class. To help you identify some of the major currents that run through the book, we’ve compiled the following lists of thematically linked readings. Some of these clusters of readings could serve as alternative chapters (e.g., media and popular culture, activism and social change, assimilation). Other lists are guides to materials in other chapters that are closely related to the readings in an existing chapter; for example, instructors who are particularly interested in gender or class may want to supplement the chapters on gender (Chapter Four) and success (Chapter Three) with selections from other chapters that also address these themes. Finally, we offer several lists of readings that focus on particular groups. However, we want to emphasize that we don’t claim to pres1


Planning Your Course

ent a comprehensive portrait of any cultural or ethnic group: the tremendous diversity within any given social group would make such a claim preposterous. These lists are useful primarily for students who are interested in doing some preliminary reading about their own or another group as a prelude to pursuing more systematic reading and research.

Selections That Focus on Media and Popular Culture
Todd Gitlin, “Under the Sign of Mickey Mouse & Co.” (p. 824) Diana Kendall, “Framing Class, Vicarious Living, and Conspicuous Consumption” (p. 334) Jean Kilbourne, “’Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt‘: Advertising and Violence” (p. 417) David Kupelian, “Killer Culture” (p. 646) Michael Moore, “Idiot Nation” (p. 132) Gary Soto, “Looking for Work” (p. 26)

Selections That Focus on Personal Development and Change
Sherman Alexie, “Assimilation” (p. 584) Horatio Alger, From Ragged Dick (p. 264) Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson” (p. 270) Maysan Haydar, “Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering” (p. 402) Inés Hernández-Ávila, “Para Teresa” (p. 206) Roger Jack, “An Indian Story” (p. 51) Anne Lamott, “Overture: Lily Pads” (p. 620) Eric Marcus, “The Bridge Builder: Kathleen Boatwright” (p. 676) Judith Ortiz Cofer, “The Story of My Body” (p. 393) Richard Rodriguez, “The Achievement of Desire” (p. 193) Mike Rose, “’I Just Wanna Be Average‘“ (p. 161) Deborah Rudacille, “The Hands of God” (p. 454) Studs Terkel, “C. P. Ellis” (p. 519) Studs Terkel, “Stephen Cruz” (p. 353) Malcolm X, “Learning to Read” (p. 210) Kenji Yoshino, “The Pressure to Cover” (p. 598)

Selections That Focus on Activism and Social Change
Ellis Cose, “Discharging a Debt” (p. 492) Harlon L. Dalton, “Horatio Alger” (p. 278) Melvin Dixon, “Aunt Ida Pieces a Quilt” (p. 48) Anne Witte Garland, “Good Noise: Cora Tucker” (p. 358) John Taylor Gatto, “Against School” (p. 152) Ken Hamblin, “The Black Avenger” (p. 285) Jonathan Kozol, “Still Separate, Still Unequal” (p. 239) Eric Marcus, “The Bridge Builder: Kathleen Boatwright” (p. 676) Rubén Martínez, “The Crossing” (p. 574) Bill McKibben, “The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong” (p. 665) Michael Moore, “Idiot Nation” (p. 132) Eyal Press, “In Torture We Trust?” (p. 814) Deborah Rudacille, “The Hands of God” (p. 454) Rick Santorum, “It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good” (p. 88) Studs Terkel, “C. P. Ellis” (p. 519) Henry David Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government” (“Civil Disobedience”) (p. 836) Evan Wolfson, “What Is Marriage?” (p. 98)

Planning Your Course Malcolm X, “Learning to Read” (p. 210) Kenji Yoshino, “The Pressure to Cover” (p. 598)


Selections That Highlight the Idea of Community
Dinesh D‘Souza, “America the Beautiful: What We’re Fighting For” (p. 768) Anne Witte Garland, “Good Noise: Cora Tucker” (p. 358) Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again” (p. 848) Jonathan Kozol, “Still Separate, Still Unequal” (p. 239) Anne Lamott, “Overture: Lily Pads” (p. 620) Horace Mann, From Report of the Massachusetts Board of Education, 1848 (p. 121) Eric Marcus, “The Bridge Builder: Kathleen Boatwright” (p. 676) Paul L. Wachtel, “Talking About Racism: How Our Dialogue Gets Short-Circuited” (p. 541)

Selections That Highlight Questions of Assimilation and Conformity to the Dominant Culture
[Many of these selections also confront the issue of the divided self — the internal struggle to reconcile different roles or versions of identity.) Sherman Alexie, “Assimilation” (p. 584) John Taylor Gatto, “Against School” (p. 152) Sam Harris, “Reason in Exile” (p. 738) Maysan Haydar, “Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering” (p. 402) Inés Hernández-Ávila, “Para Teresa” (p. 206) David Kupelian, “Killer Culture” (p. 646) Anne Lamott, “Overture: Lily Pads” (p. 620) Harvey Mansfield, “The Manliness of Men” (p. 450) Eric Marcus, “The Bridge Builder: Kathleen Boatwright” (p. 676) Rubén Martínez, “The Crossing” (p. 574) Bill McKibben, “The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong” (p. 665) Michael Moore, “Idiot Nation” (p. 132) Judith Ortiz Cofer, “The Story of My Body” (p. 393) Eyal Press, “In Torture We Trust?” (p. 814) Richard Rodriguez, “The Achievement of Desire” (p. 193) Deborah Rudacille, “The Hands of God” (p. 454) Rick Santorum, “It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good” (p. 88) Gary Soto, “Looking for Work” (p. 26) Studs Terkel, “Stephen Cruz” (p. 353) Henry David Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government” (“Civil Disobedience”) (p. 836) Carmen Vázquez, “Appearances” (p. 472) Evan Wolfson, “What Is Marriage?” (p. 98) Kenji Yoshino, “The Pressure to Cover” (p. 598)

Selections That Focus on Religious Diversity
Diana L. Eck, “Afraid of Ourselves” (p. 693) Noah Feldman, “Schools and Morals” (p. 724) Sam Harris, “Reason in Exile” (p. 738) Maysan Haydar, “Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering” (p. 402) Maria Poggi Johnson, “Us and Them” (p. 711) Anne Lamott, “Overture: Lily Pads” (p. 620)


Planning Your Course Bill McKibben, “The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong” (p. 665)

Selections That Highlight Gender Issues
(supplements to Chapter Four, “True Women and Real Men”) Stephanie Coontz, “What We Really Miss About the 1950s” (p. 31) Maysan Haydar, “Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering” (p. 402) Harvey Mansfield, “The Manliness of Men” (p. 450) Gregory Mantsios, “Class in America — 2003” (p. 307) Eric Marcus, “The Bridge Builder: Kathleen Boatwright” (p. 676) Norman Rockwell, A Family Tree, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear (p. 21) Deborah Rudacille, “The Hands of God” (p. 454)

Selections That Highlight Issues of Class
(supplements to Chapter Three, “Money and Success”) Jean Anyon, From Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work (p. 173) Judy Root Aulette, From Changing American Families (p. 61) Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again” (p. 848) Diana Kendall, “Framing Class, Vicarious Living, and Conspicuous Consumption” (p. 334) Gregory Mantsios, “Class in America — 2003” (p. 307) Joan Morgan, “From Fly-Girls to Bitches and Hos” (p. 443) Richard Rodriguez, “The Achievement of Desire” (p. 193) Mike Rose, “’I Just Wanna Be Average‘“ (p. 161) Gary Soto, “Looking for Work” (p. 26) Studs Terkel, “C. P. Ellis” (p. 519)

Selections That Highlight Lesbian and Gay Experience
Melvin Dixon, “Aunt Ida Pieces a Quilt” (p. 48) Eric Marcus, “The Bridge Builder: Kathleen Boatwright” (p. 676) Deborah Rudacille, “The Hands of God” (p. 454) Carmen Vázquez, “Appearances” (p. 472) Evan Wolfson, “What Is Marriage?” (p. 98)

Selections That Highlight Native History, Cultures, and Experience
Sherman Alexie, “Assimilation” (p. 584) Roger Jack, “An Indian Story” (p. 51)

Selections That Highlight Chicana/o and Latina/o History, Experience, and Identity
Inés Hernández-Ávila, “Para Teresa” (p. 206) Rubén Martínez, “The Crossing” (p. 574) Aurora Levins Morales, “Child of the Americas” (p. 609) Judith Ortiz Cofer, “The Story of My Body” (p. 393) Richard Rodriguez, “The Achievement of Desire” (p. 193) Gary Soto, “Looking for Work” (p. 26) Studs Terkel, “Stephen Cruz” (p. 353)

Selections That Highlight African American History, Experience, and Identity
Judy Root Aulette, From Changing American Families (p. 61) Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson” (p. 270) Ellis Cose, “Discharging a Debt” (p. 492)

Addressing Sensitive Issues Harlon L. Dalton, “Horatio Alger” (p. 278) Melvin Dixon, “Aunt Ida Pieces a Quilt” (p. 48) Anne Witte Garland, “Good Noise: Cora Tucker” (p. 358) Ken Hamblin, “The Black Avenger” (p. 285) Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again” (p. 848) Thomas Jefferson, From Notes on the State of Virginia (p. 486) Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl” (p. 381) Jonathan Kozol, “Still Separate, Still Unequal” (p. 239) Gregory Mantsios, “Class in America — 2003” (p. 307) Joan Morgan, “From Fly-Girls to Bitches and Hos” (p. 443) Shelby Steele, “I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent?” (p. 530) Malcolm X, “Learning to Read” (p. 210)


Selections That Highlight Euro-American History, Identity, and the Issue of Whiteness
Alfred J. Beveridge, “The March of the Flag” (p. 762) Gregory Mantsios, “Class in America — 2003” (p. 307) Judith Ortiz Cofer, “The Story of My Body” (p. 393) Shelby Steele, “I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent?” (p. 530) Studs Terkel, “C. P. Ellis” (p. 519) Malcolm X, “Learning to Read” (p. 210) Kenji Yoshino, “The Pressure to Cover” (p. 598)

Addressing Sensitive Issues
We’ve encountered instructors who argue that it’s inappropriate to give students materials that raise potentially volatile issues like race and sexuality because such topics are “divisive” and threaten to disrupt the classroom. We emphatically reject such arguments. While we agree that it’s important to create an atmosphere of openness and trust in order to facilitate learning, we’ve found that many assumptions about what makes a classroom environment “safe” or “comfortable” are based on the instructor’s sense of comfort, which may differ radically from the students’. For example, some well-meaning teachers ignore ethnic and cultural differences in an effort to be equitable and color-blind. However, this strategy benefits the instructor more than the students it’s intended to serve: it relieves the instructor of any responsibility to question or alter her approach, yet leaves students of color feeling invisible, frustrated, and alienated. Such a classroom will not be perceived as “safe” by those students whose experiences and histories are denied. Rereading America seeks to work against this kind of silencing and denial. We also believe strongly that intelligent conversation about difficult issues can lead to greater understanding rather than divisiveness. We’ve tried to structure the book to facilitate this kind of generative discussion and debate. The approach taken to critical thinking in Rereading America should help defuse some of the problems that arise when you discuss hot political or personal issues in the classroom. By focusing on dominant cultural myths — ideas, images, beliefs, and values — that shape our society, this approach makes the classroom a more comfortable place for most students. It shifts the emphasis from personal opinions, ideas, and beliefs and refocuses the class on the ideologies that help shape us and our experiences. When your class explores gender roles, for example, students should discuss their perceptions of the dominant society’s attitudes toward or portrayals of women, not their personal opinions about what women should or shouldn’t do, think, say, and so on. The distinction is crucial: students who are reluctant to expose their personal feelings are often quite willing to discuss the prejudices and stereotypes they find in their society. Still, you’ll want to be sure that your students understand this subtle difference in approach, so take the time to clarify it when you read and discuss “Introduction: Thinking Critically, Challenging Cultural Myths.”


Addressing Sensitive Issues

Of course, many of the selections in Rereading America are going to provoke students no matter what approach you adopt in the classroom, but they’re meant to. It’s hard to imagine writing that challenges dominant cultural myths that doesn’t also make heavy demands on the reader’s tolerance. And you’re sure to find students who clash with each other over some of the issues you’ll raise. The real question is how to create a classroom atmosphere that encourages healthy intellectual tension — the kind that leads to real growth as a thinker and writer, and discourages personal attacks. Here are some of the ways we’ve found for striking the balance.

Establishing Trust
In our experience, the best way to ensure the success of any class is to establish an atmosphere of openness and trust. Admittedly, trust is a kind of magic that depends to some extent on factors that no one can control, like the combination of personalities, experiences, and expectations (including the teacher’s) that come together in any given classroom. But we’ve found that the following practices foster a healthy atmosphere for learning and significantly increase the likelihood of that magic happening. Facilitate Sharing and Collaboration. Take some time on the first day of class to let students get acquainted with you and with each other. Since some students hesitate to talk about themselves in front of a bunch of strangers, have them pair up, talk for a while, and then introduce each other — and don’t forget to include yourself in the introductions. You’ll notice that many of the prereading activities and questions in the text either call for or lend themselves to small-group work. Studies of learning styles have shown that some students learn better collaboratively than on their own. Groups allow quiet students to participate and increase the chance that everyone’s voice will be heard. Moreover, when students work together frequently and get to know each other, they’re more likely to remain courteous and friendly even when they vigorously disagree. Encourage Personal Responses to Reading Selections. Although some teachers fear that asking for personal reactions risks turning a class into an encounter group, there are good academic reasons to allow space for personal responses. Some students must make an emotional or subjective connection to the material in order to be intellectually engaged. And when students have plenty of opportunities to respond personally to the material, they’re more likely to feel recognized as individuals and connected to the class. However, subjective reactions aren’t an end in themselves and don’t have to be accepted uncritically. If students’ responses to a particular selection threaten to be too explosive, let them vent such feelings in a private freewrite or journal entry and then move on to an activity that calls for a more reasoned response, like one of the exercises suggested later in “Understanding Differences” (manual p. 9). Be Flexible. In general, try to think of teaching as a matter of negotiation. Students will respond better to you and your class if they see that you’re more concerned with facilitating their learning than with imposing your own ideas and authority. Be willing to adapt your approach to the needs of the students rather than rigidly adhering to a meticulously planned syllabus, no matter how brilliant it may be. For example, we like the intellectual fireworks generated by a vigorous debate, and most classes seem to enjoy them too. One of us once had a small and unusually close class, though, that groaned and protested at the prospect of debate; when questioned about this reaction, students explained that they were uncomfortable with the emotional heat that their first debate had produced — it felt like a violation of the friendly relationships that they’d established. From then on, the class stuck to activities that built on those relationships rather than strained them.

Setting Ground Rules — Three Approaches
To avoid the appearance of having a hidden agenda, let students know up front that the course will ask them to read, discuss, and write about material that may challenge

Addressing Sensitive Issues


deeply held assumptions. Be as specific about this as possible: tell them that in your class they will be discussing these issues in small collaborative working groups as well as in larger group settings. Let students know that in order for discussion to be useful, they must feel free to express their opinions and explore new ideas. Make it clear that disagreements should always focus on ideas, not individuals, and that personal attacks are strictly out of bounds. Distinguishing people from their ideas isn’t always as simple and clean as it sounds, though, because who you are shapes what you think and vice versa. If more guidance for discussion seems necessary, consider setting some specific ground rules. We’ve encountered three approaches: the first grows out of traditional academic practices; the second out of the experience of instructors who deal extensively with issues of class, race, and gender; the third out of an experience one of us had with an exceptionally difficult, politically charged class. While each has its merits, we prefer the third option.

Approach #1: Adhere Strictly to Academic Methodology
In many workshops and discussions about using provocative materials, teachers have suggested to us that it’s relatively easy to address sensitive issues by rigorously enforcing academic standards of evidence, logic, and argumentation. Thus, purely emotional responses can be dismissed as lacking rationality or support, ad hominem attacks can be labeled and deflected, and so forth. Viewed simply in terms of maintaining control of the classroom and training students in the conventions of academic argument, this solution makes sense. It has the added attraction to many instructors of being comfortably familiar and reinforcing their authority. But this strategy ignores the wide variety of learning styles and academic backgrounds that students bring with them. Many students, particularly those who have historically been excluded from elite academic institutions, find traditional academic methodology foreign, constraining, and alienating. In fact, such an approach highly favors those already privileged and effectively silences others. We’re not suggesting that academic conventions should be withheld from students — that’s disempowering in a different way. But an exclusive reliance on “the rules” to preserve civility in the classroom will create as many problems as it solves.

Approach #2: Adhere to a Set of Shared Assumptions
This approach, in which the teacher presents a kind of contract to students, is favored by a number of instructors whose courses focus extensively or exclusively on gender, race, and class. One widely used model lays out ground rules like these: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Acknowledge that institutionalized forms of oppression (racism, sexism, etc.) exist. Acknowledge that we are misinformed about our own groups and others. Agree not to repeat misinformation after we have learned otherwise. Agree not to “blame victims” for the condition of their lives. Assume that people always do the best they can. Actively pursue information about our own and other groups. Share information about our groups with others, and never devalue anyone for her or his experiences. 8. Agree to combat myths and stereotypes about all groups. 9. Respect the confidentiality of classmates when they request it. (Adapted from Lynn Weber Cannon’s essay, “Fostering Positive Race, Class, and Gender Dynamics in the Classroom,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 1–2 [1990]: 126–34.) We have no quarrel with the content of this list, but we’re dubious about its efficacy as a contract. For some students, genuinely acknowledging even the first item on the list is


Addressing Sensitive Issues

a big step. We suspect that many students in a required writing course (as opposed to an elective in women’s or ethnic studies) would view this contract as an exercise in political correctness imposed by the teacher.

Approach #3: Adhere to Class-Generated Guidelines
We prefer to ask students to generate their own conversational ground rules for the class. For example, you might ask them to brainstorm in small groups and produce lists of situations in which they have felt silenced — ignored, cut off, belittled, or afraid to speak — and to identify the particular kinds of comments or behavior that made them feel that way. Ask groups to share the results of their brainstorming sessions with the whole class and to discuss ways to prevent such situations from arising. Work with the class to condense these suggestions into a handful of easy-to-remember principles; then type the principles and distribute them. For example, one class that had experienced some difficult moments early in the term came up with these simple guidelines for both speakers and listeners: Speakers • Keep disagreements focused on the issues (don’t get personal). • Speak up so everyone can hear. • Address the group, not just the teacher or another individual. Listeners • Respect the speaker (don’t interrupt or carry on other conversations). • Use positive body language. The process of producing such ground rules is usually more important than the product itself. Through discussion students become conscious of behavior they may not otherwise think much about (rolling eyes, interrupting, hogging airtime, etc.) and see the effect it has on others. Students understand the rationale behind guidelines that they’ve generated themselves, and they begin to realize that guidelines aren’t just arbitrarily imposed by the teacher. Once everyone becomes aware of the basic features of conversational politics, students tend to monitor themselves and each other, thus taking some of the burden off you. If the class occasionally forgets some of their agreed-upon principles in the heat of the moment, it’s easy for you to quietly remind students of what they’ve already discussed: there’s no need for a stern lecture, offenders are less likely to feel singled out or accused, and conversation can continue instead of coming to an awkward and embarrassed halt. A word of caution: if you seem excessively worried about maintaining decorum, you can inadvertently inhibit participation. One of the things we like about class-generated guidelines is that they can be developed as needed, depending on the tone and direction of the class. Many classes, in our experience, don’t require them at all; if students seem genial and responsive to you and to each other, don’t burden them with extra rules unless such guidelines become necessary.

Monitoring Classroom Dynamics
Try to be aware of who has and has not been speaking up in class. If particular individuals or groups of students tend to dominate the conversation, have students work in pairs or small groups and report back to the class in order to ensure that more voices and perspectives will be heard. Alternatively, invite more general participation (e.g., “A lot of men have been talking; let’s hear from some of the women”), or take a cue from facial expressions and body language and encourage students to verbalize visible reactions (e.g., “Javier, you’re shaking your head — do you want to respond?”). However, don’t push too hard or put a reluctant student on the spot, and never make the mistake of asking an individual student to speak for her or his entire group (e.g., “Jasmine, what’s the Korean American perspective on . . . ,” “Kim, as an African American woman, what do you think of . . .”).

Addressing Sensitive Issues


It’s a good idea to keep tabs on how students are feeling about class as the term progresses and to deal with discomforts and discontents before they become serious problems. Periodically, ask students to write journal responses to particular class sessions, especially if you’ve sensed unusual tension or if hostilities (as opposed to healthy disagreements) have erupted. If students seem hesitant to address such matters, they can write anonymously. Another way of getting at feelings that are hard to express is to have students draw a picture, either representational or symbolic. Subjects of pictures might include “a typical day in English 101” or “yesterday in English 101.” Look over the responses to see if any themes emerge. Isolated difficulties (“I just hated that last essay we read”) or personal gripes (“So-and-so is driving me crazy with his stupid comments”) are usually best dealt with in individual conferences. But if you see that several, or many, students are bothered by a particular issue, you need to address it. It’s usually best to deal with the issue directly in class. You may need to explain further your rationale for doing what you’re doing, or you may be able to adjust your plans in response to students’ suggestions while still meeting your own goals for the class. Alternatively, you might present the class with the problem, invite students to brainstorm with you about how to solve it, and discuss the pros and cons of various options. But most important, listen and let students know that you care about their concerns. Even if things are going well, it’s good to ask students for a mid-term evaluation of the class: What have they particularly liked and disliked so far? What has been most and least helpful in developing their ability to analyze clearly and write well? What suggestions or requests do they have for the second half of the term?

Understanding Differences
Learning to understand alternative points of view is essential to becoming a sophisticated thinker and an experienced writer. But before students can appreciate alternative points of view, they must hear them. So below are listed some techniques for encouraging students to broaden their perspectives by listening carefully to others and by imaginatively trying out other views of the world. Reflecting. Adapted from a technique used by counselors and therapists, reflecting involves having each speaker summarize or paraphrase what the previous speaker said before she or he responds. If the paraphrase is inaccurate, the previous speaker has a chance to clarify what she or he meant. Because this can become a cumbersome and timeconsuming way to carry on a conversation, you normally wouldn’t want to structure entire discussions like this. However, reflecting is an extremely useful tool in coping with occasional rough spots — especially when students get into a disagreement that appears to arise from a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or distortion of another student’s point of view. It’s probably best to practice reflecting in small groups early in the term in order to accustom students to think about listening to each other closely. For the purposes of writing instruction, this exercise can be a useful warm-up for working on written summaries as well as a means of underlining the importance (and difficulty) of communicating clearly and representing someone else’s ideas fairly. Moving from What to Why. If discussion threatens to become polarized, shift the focus of discussion from what students think about an issue to why they feel as they do (e.g., what direct experience, information, or authority an opinion is based on). Give students practice responding to each other by urging them to request more information: background and context, for instance. The trick here is for their questions to be genuine requests for information rather than disguised attacks (e.g., “Why on earth do you think that?!”). When students begin to understand each other’s backgrounds and values more fully, they’re more likely to be tolerant of differences. Once they see that divergent views make sense, they may be encouraged to take such views into account in their writing. You may also use this technique to help students develop a keener sense of audience.


Building Journals into Your Course

Role-playing and Debate. Ask students to assume the role of someone very unlike themselves and, in that persona, to write a journal entry or talk to another student or students about an issue that arises in the readings. In role-playing, assign students to represent specific characters or writers in the text, so that they’re less likely to resort to acting out stereotypes. In class debates assign some students (particularly those who are more vocal) to argue a side that opposes their own (this can also be done as a notebook entry or an in-class writing exercise). At first many students protest that they can’t think of anything to say, but after a little brainstorming they usually get caught up in the activity and surprise themselves by discovering some new ideas. Doubting and Believing. If an essay provokes intensely negative or positive reactions (or both), try a version of Peter Elbow’s doubting and believing game to complicate students’ responses. Ask students, working in pairs or groups, to generate all the reasons they can think of for accepting the writer’s point of view, then list an equal number of reasons for not accepting it. Once you or the students have listed all the pros and cons on the board, use the two lists to help the class explore the strengths and weaknesses of the writer’s position in a more systematic way. (Adapted from Elbow’s Embracing Contraries [New York: Oxford University Press, 1986], 254–300.) Researching Unfamiliar Perspectives. If students seem misinformed about, or unfamiliar with, perspectives other than their own, ask them to do some focused research on alternative experiences and opinions. They could interview people who have some expertise in the subject they’re writing about but whose views differ from their own (campus or community activists, public officials, professors or administrators on campus, etc.) Or they could do some quick library research — either individually or in groups — by reading articles and opinion pieces in publications that have a particular political slant. If you can spare the time, it would benefit the whole class to hear brief reports on each research project. At the very least, this exercise will push students to produce stronger, more complex arguments in support of their own views; at best, it may get them excited about what they can discover through research. Identifying Common Ground. Take a tip from psychologist Carl Rogers and ask students to work in groups to identify values, principles, and goals shared by those with opposing viewpoints. Then ask students to write in support of their own views based on this common ground. The goal is to build support, or at least respect, for their opinion among people who don’t share it — and it’s a good way to complicate the us-versus-them dichotomy.

Building Journals into Your Course
The journal is a natural place for students to explore their responses to the readings you assign and to their interactions with their peers. Journals offer students the chance to experiment with the dialectic between reading, writing, and thinking; they provide students with a relatively unthreatening forum for trying out new voices, new ways of writing, and new ways of responding. Unfortunately, many instructors treat journals as little more than reading logs, or places where students can keep notes summarizing assigned selections. We’d like to suggest a few ways that you can employ journals to help your students become more critical and more creative thinkers and readers. The Reading Journal. This is the most common type of journal assignment. Students use the reading journal as a place to record responses to selections they read for each class meeting. They can record personal impressions of a reading selection, sum up their understanding of a selection in a few sentences, freewrite in response to specific study questions, comment on readings that gave them trouble, or reflect on their reading process (for example, record how long they read at one sitting and what conditions make it easier or more difficult to read or give an account of what they were thinking as they read a particular piece). The reading journal can give you an idea how the quiet students are responding to

Building Journals into Your Course 11 class materials, provide a focus for group work on reading, allow you to suggest more effective reading practices, let you see what students are getting out of their reading, and pinpoint what kinds of reading give them trouble. Many or all entries may be done at the beginning of class sessions. The Writer’s Notebook or Learning Log. This type of journal is intended to motivate students to think about their own writing and learning processes. Whenever students plan a paper, write a draft, or revise, they should also write about it in this notebook. They can use entries to vent frustrations, think on paper, talk about what’s easy or difficult about an assignment, review what they like or dislike about their work so far, describe what they did when they got stuck, assess the usefulness of the strategies they’re learning in class when they actually sit down to write, and so on. If students are writing a research paper, the log can record their research process —what they’re learning about their subject, what strategies they’re using to find information, how their approach shifts as they find unexpected information or can’t find what they were originally looking for. Such notebooks can be useful for finding out where individual students are having difficulty so that you can intervene and offer alternative strategies. The Dialogic, or Double-Entry, Notebook. Ask students to use notebooks lined down the middle. In the right-hand column, they can record their impressions or thoughts about an event, object, or piece of writing (perhaps an essay they’re working on). Later on they can reread what they’ve written and amplify or comment on it in the left-hand column. This looping process encourages reflection and reevaluation, dramatizes how one’s thoughts develop and change, and serves as a good tool for helping students to generate ideas for essays (it may even get them to start writing earlier than the night before). You could ask students to make initial entries immediately after they’ve received a new writing assignment or read a new selection for class; after the class has discussed the topic, ask them to reread and comment on what they wrote earlier. If the class discussion has spurred some rethinking, or even a strong reaction, such entries would be a handy way to help students internalize the dialogue. (For more on dialogic notebooks, see Ann Berthoff, Forming, Thinking, Writing, 2nd ed. [Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1988], 26–37.) The Experimental, or Creativity, Journal. Students respond to readings, class sessions, or anything else that they see, read, or experience that’s related to course theme(s). This type of journal places a premium on insight and creativity and on stylistic and rhetorical play. Students don’t have to confine themselves to conventional linear prose — poetry, dialogues, drawings, maps, charts, cartoons, and collages are welcome. Such exploration and experimentation serves many purposes: encouraging students to make connections between course issues and their lives outside of class; helping to break down rigid preconceptions about legitimate forms of classroom expression (particularly valuable for students who are paralyzed by rules); motivating students to explore their strengths as thinkers and writers and often leading them to discover types of writing they never tried or thought they could do; rewarding variety, flexibility, and risk-taking, all essential ingredients of critical thinking. Some students are initially hesitant to try anything new, so it might be helpful to show them examples of what other students have done and perhaps even do some directed experimentation at first (e.g., suggest that they try writing a dialogue in response to a reading selection that has a very strong voice). It might be worthwhile every few weeks to have students review what they’ve done and write an entry talking about which experiments they liked best, which were easiest or most difficult, and so forth. E-mail: The Group Dialogue Journal. With e-mail students can share their responses to readings, class discussions, and the writing process. The computer allows students to carry on continuing dialogues and conversations with each other and with you. They can ask practical or rhetorical questions, debate an issue, request advice on their papers, and so on.


Building Journals into Your Course

Feel free to experiment with the kind of journal that works best for your students and makes most sense to you. Types of journals can be mixed and varied to suit your own purposes or the level and type of writing you’re teaching. Whatever shape they take, journals are for informal writing and thinking on paper and should be designed to promote fluency and risk-taking. They can be graded on how many entries or pages they contain, how much variety they include, how boldly they experiment, or how conscientiously they’re used. But they should never be graded on the same basis as formal papers.

Suggestions for Journal Responses
Personal Reactions
1. A personal memory triggered by the piece 2. A list of questions that came into your mind as you read and thought about the selection 3. A drawing or collage inspired by the piece, along with the explanation of the image(s) 4. A poem or story inspired by the reading

5. A conversation between two parts of yourself about a point that’s unclear, a passage that puzzles you, or an idea that you have mixed feelings about 6. An imaginary dialogue between you and the writer about his or her ideas or about why the writer chose a particular style and genre; this dialogue could take the form of a debate or a series of questions that you then try to answer as you think the writer would 7. An imaginary dialogue between this writer and another writer who discusses the same subject 8. A discussion of the writer’s ideas by two or more real or imagined people

Commentary and Analysis
9. A discussion of the writer’s argument. Do you agree or disagree? Why do you find the way the writer presents her or his ideas effective or ineffective? 10. A discussion of how this piece connects with one of the other selections read in the class or how it relates to something you’ve read elsewhere 11. A notebook entry that you think one of your other professors (or a former teacher, a parent, or a friend) would write after reading this selection 12. A prediction of how the world would change if everyone suddenly agreed with this writer’s ideas 13. A cartoon commenting on the writer’s ideas 14. A consideration of how the writer’s ideas relate to issues in the news or to matters of public policy

Stylistic Experiments
15. An imitation of the writer’s style 16. A translation of the writer’s argument into a different style or genre of writing. Examples: rewrite an academic essay as a short speech directed at a particular audience; rewrite a complex argument as a lively editorial; rewrite an extended personal narrative as a brief objective report 17. A rhetorical shift: If there’s a particular audience that you think would be bored or offended by the writer, rewrite a paragraph or passage in a voice the audience

Making Collaborative Groups Work 13 would be more willing to listen to; or rewrite a dull, stuffy passage to give it more pizzazz 18. A translation of one of your own previous notebook entries into another style or medium (e.g., take a response written in prose and convey the same message through a drawing, poem, or dialogue)

19. A response to one of your previous entries. Has your thinking changed? What would you add to what you wrote or drew earlier? What does that entry say to you now about what you were like as a reader, thinker, or writer when you recorded the original entry? 20. A comment on notebook entries so far. What do you notice? Do you see any patterns in your responses? Do certain types of responses stand out, that is, seem more interesting, express your thoughts more fully, or feel more forced? If you knew nothing about yourself except what you saw in this notebook, what conclusions would you draw about yourself as a student, thinker, writer, or person?

Making Collaborative Groups Work
We’ve designed the questions that follow each reading with collaborative group work in mind. In many cases the question will actually specify that you have students divide into small groups to engage in some kind of collaborative activity. We suggest the following general types of collaborative activity at various points throughout the text. But we don’t suggest every activity for every piece, so here’s a catalog for you to adapt to the selections you use as you see fit. Discussion Groups. Have students work in small groups to generate questions about an assigned reading selection. After the groups write their questions on the board, assign questions for each group to work on and answer later in whole class discussion. This is especially useful for difficult reading selections. (Variation: students can work in small groups to answer study questions that you provide.) Brainstorming. Students work in small groups to generate ideas for paper topics, metaphors, examples to support or challenge a point, and so on. Debates. Divide the class into smaller groups to work on various sides of an issue or to defend different solutions to a problem raised by a reading selection. Students need to anticipate arguments made by other group(s) and be able to respond. This is an especially useful exercise for broadening perspectives when students are arguing a position with which they disagree. Negotiation. Groups composed of students with different perspectives work to find common ground and to reach consensus on an issue or problem raised by class readings. Collaborative Writing. Students work in groups to write a stylistic imitation, translate a passage from one rhetorical form to another, compose a manifesto, or summarize a difficult paragraph or passage. Role-playing. Groups play the roles of fictional or real characters in hypothetical situations based on assigned readings. Or groups may play real roles, such as planners and leaders of class discussion or tutors of each other (taking turns) in a brainstorming or revising workshop. Dramatic Readings. Groups produce their own dramatic readings of poems or plays, possibly followed by discussion of how each presentation affects the interpretation or impact of the work. Joint Research. Groups take responsibility for different portions of a class research project, or define their own miniprojects that they then report to the class.


Making Collaborative Groups Work

Read-arounds. Students freewrite responses to a reading passage or discussion question, and label their papers with a code (e.g., birth date or last four digits of phone number). Groups of six to eight students exchange papers with another group. Students in each group quickly read through this new batch of papers, jotting down the ID numbers of the papers they like best. Then each group discusses individual choices and tries to reach a consensus. Finally, the groups read their favorite response(s) to the whole class and the class discusses what makes these responses effective. Peer Response Groups. Response groups are emphatically not edit groups. Peter Elbow distinguishes between criterion-based feedback and reader-based feedback: the former is text-centered, evaluating content, organization, diction, mechanics, and so forth; the latter is reader-centered, recording personal reactions rather than judging. A guide for peer response groups might include directions such as the following. 1. Read the first one or two paragraphs of the draft and stop. • What has the writer told you so far? • Based on what you’ve read so far, what do you expect the rest of the essay to tell you? • What’s your emotional response to the writing so far: interest? sympathy? boredom? anger? • What do you wish the writer would do next? 2. Read about halfway through the paper and stop again. • Describe, in as much detail as possible, what has been going through your mind as you read. • Point out sentences or passages that you especially liked as well as those that confused or annoyed you. • What do you expect in the second half of the essay? What do you want the writer to do? 3. After reading the entire paper, follow the steps below. • Briefly summarize the essay as if you were describing it to a friend. • Has your reaction to the paper changed? How? • What questions would you like to ask the writer? • What impression of the writer do you get from the way she or he ends the paper? • What metaphor or image would you use to describe the essay (or the writer)? (Peer response guidelines are adapted from Peter Elbow, Writing with Power [New York: Oxford University Press, 1981], 255–263. Elbow provides a much longer list of reader-based questions that can be easily tailored to fit particular classes and assignments.) If you’ve never ventured into collaborative group work beyond the usual editing group, don’t be daunted by an initial disappointment or two. We’ve found that students sometimes have trouble overcoming twelve years of conditioning that tells them to pay attention to their instructors and to regard their peers as either pleasant diversions or hostile competitors. We’ve also found that the following hints about group work, as obvious as they may sound, are always handy to keep in mind: 1. There are several approaches to organizing groups, each with its own rationale. Some instructors prefer to choose the group members, combining students based on their complementary abilities or differing viewpoints. This forces students to deal with the realities of negotiating and building trust in a group and can lead to better focus than might occur in a group of friends. Another approach is to let students choose their own partners. We find that students often resent teacher-created groupings. In general, students have a

Making Collaborative Groups Work 15 better instinct for the people they’ll be able to work with productively. You can always intervene in order to balance groups evenly and, of course, you may want to establish certain group formation guidelines. For example, you may on occasion want to require that students work in single-gender groups or in mixed-race collaborations. 2. Be sure that students are clear about the group’s task and the product they are expected to generate. Our experience has been that open-ended discussion groups often tend to degenerate into casual conversation, but students, like anyone else, like to see the outcome of their efforts. This outcome can be as simple as reporting a summary of their discussion to the whole class or as elaborate as a collaboratively generated paper, letter, survey, or picture. 3. We prefer not to delegate leadership roles in collaborative work groups. One of the benefits of small-group activity is that it frees students from the authority of the instructor so they can feel free to express ideas they would normally censor in class. Putting one student in charge, therefore, is guaranteed to reinforce student reticence. If you need to have someone report or summarize the group’s discussion, let a volunteer come forward. If you are going to attempt a long-term collaborative activity, like a multistage research project, you may want to have students include occasional reflections on “group process” in their class journals. Here they can mull over the problems they encounter with individual group members and group dynamics. 4. While giving students the freedom to control their own group process, you’ll still want to monitor their progress. Collaborative work groups can stall for any number of reasons: students may not thoroughly understand the assignment or task; they may approach discussion questions only superficially, yet assume they’re finished because they’ve addressed all of the questions assigned; they may reach an impasse because of a personality conflict — or because of a negative response to the reading or topic. To make collaborative groups work, you need to take responsibility for helping students overcome obstacles when they arise. Often it’s enough to circulate around the classroom, checking in with each group to clarify instructions or detail the purpose of the assignment. When groups stall or wander from the subject, try to jumpstart them by joining in and asking a few questions to help guide them back on track. Students need to see that you take their collaborative efforts seriously: if they sense you aren’t really concerned with their group’s progress, they’re likely to lower their own expectations. 5. Make sure that you allow groups enough time to accomplish the task you give them. Most experiments in collaborative learning founder on this point. Students need time to settle into any collaborative activity, figure out your expectations, and negotiate leadership roles among themselves. Be sure that you offer a substantial cushion beyond what would seem reasonable just to accomplish the work you have in mind. 6. Once you discover an approach to collaborative learning that seems to work for you, don’t get stuck in a rut. Student collaborative learning, like any class activity, needs to be varied if it is to remain effective: any method that worked for you once might work well again, but its chances for success will improve if you try something new first. Vary collaborative activities by alternating guided group discussions, group brainstorming sessions, debates, read-arounds, collaborative creative activities, and peer editing sessions. If you need some alternatives, see the list of possible collaborative activities offered on manual page 13. One particularly good use of collaborative learning strategies is to help students generate their own paper topics. Students usually need some guidelines or they’re likely to decide that they want to write about sports or sexism or another unmanageable topic that will doom them to hopeless abstraction. We see paper topics as a matter of negotiation between the teacher’s goals and the student’s interest and curiosity. Our first move in the negotiating process is to establish some initial criteria for paper topics: for instance, we ask


Making Collaborative Groups Work

that topics use course readings, that students reflect on their own values or experiences, and that their topics demand serious thinking (i.e., pass beyond restatement of an author’s ideas and tackle difficult questions). Next, we ask students to brainstorm in small groups in order to come up with some suggested topics. Groups then report their suggestions (or write them on the board), and we discuss them as a class. Discussion represents another phase of the negotiating process: we work to combine overlapping topics, to refocus topics that are too diffuse or ambitious, and to talk about which readings might supply information or evidence students could use to respond to each question. Less experienced writers may need more direction at first, while the experienced require less and less. Generating topics in class is messier than doing it on your own, but this method encourages students to make new connections between readings, gives them practice developing an idea from a vague glimmer into a clearly focused question, and provides them with a wider and richer variety of topics to choose from — and a better chance of having a real interest in their papers. Collaborative learning also suggests another approach for dealing with the number of selections you’ll find in Rereading America. You may want to approach a chapter by initially reading one or two selections as a class to establish a common vocabulary and some common themes for your discussion of the myth at hand. Then allow students to break into collaborative learning groups, each group focusing on different reading later in the chapter. After detailed reading and discussion, each group might then summarize and critique their reading and lead a large-group discussion of the ideas and questions that the piece raises. The whole class could then plan a major paper assignment based on the knowledge that the students had collectively taught each other. This may sound like an ambitious approach, but it does tend to work well. Students enjoy offering knowledge to the class, and they also enjoy the role of critic. This collaborative approach to reading the entire text (or more of it) also leads to some interesting student-generated assignments — more interesting than usual, perhaps, because they tend to invite students to apply ideas they’ve encountered in Rereading America to other texts they encounter in American culture.

1 Harmony at Home: The Myth of the Model Family (p. 17)
In teaching this chapter, it’s important to remember that while the mythic connotations of “family” are overwhelmingly positive, for some students “family” means divorce, abuse, or incest. Demanding that students talk or write about their individual families is an invasion of privacy (even the second Before Reading assignment, on p. 21, could produce stories or images that students would not want to share), and you should probably discuss the issues of privacy and confidentiality before you do anything else. Point out the difference between studying the family as a cultural phenomenon and delving into one’s unique personal history, and put each student in charge of what she or he will write about. Invitations to write autobiographical essays can produce remarkable work, but students — like the authors they’re reading — must be allowed to set the boundaries. The readings themselves include both personal narratives and broader historical and cultural analyses of the family; the former, pieces like Gary Soto’s “Looking for Work,” are the most fun to read, but don’t overlook the analytical essays by Stephanie Coontz, Judy Root Aulette, and Evan Wolfson, which provide useful models for student writers who don’t wish to reveal their personal lives to the world. In addition, though all of the selections challenge the myth of the model family, the analytical pieces typically do so most directly and explicitly. As a whole, the chapter points to a long list of realities that the myth denies: the experience of gay and lesbian people, the family structures of African American and Native American cultures, the history of violence against women within the family, and so on. Indeed, the repudiations of the myth may be so powerful that they threaten to obscure the myth itself. Thus a recurrent question in this chapter might be “How can the myth of the model family have maintained itself in the face of all the diversity, complications, and problems it ignores?” Finally, point out what a wide range of forums and strategies the writers in this chapter have found. Issues of family life are not the province of any single specialist — of the marriage counselor, for example, or the lawyer or the social worker. Instead, poets, historians, feminists, cartoonists, vice presidents, and “ordinary people” all have something to say, all help define what the family in America is and what it purports to be. Virginia Woolf once got her audience’s attention by claiming that no one really knew what a woman was; you and your class may want to find out if anyone knows what a family is. There’s no simple answer here, of course, but the readings should shed more than a little light on what many Americans consider their highest value.

A Family Tree, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear (p. 21) NORMAN ROCKWELL
We open this chapter’s selections with a series of pictures partly to emphasize how many different formats have been used to deliver America an “ideal” family vision. While your students are used to receiving a lot of information in the compact form of a visual image (in advertising, for example), you will probably find that most of them have not spent much (or any) time analyzing such images. In addition, pictures have a richness of detail and an economy of presentation much like that of poetry, so don’t be surprised if it 17


(text pp. 21–26)

takes some very pointed questions to get some of your students to move beyond the obvious in discussing these paintings. Once they do, though, we have found that students respond enthusiastically to the challenge of connecting these visual representations of American families to the verbal ones in the rest of this chapter. (As a side note: if your students are unfamiliar with Rockwell, it might be useful to bring in a book of his art so that they can see the full-color versions of the paintings we reprint.) Our first three questions are designed to get students thinking not only about Rockwell’s painting but also about the ways that a family tree is a concrete representation of a series of relationships. The typical purpose of a family tree (question 1) is record-keeping, though the written record may evolve in many different ways and for myriad purposes — both practical and emotional. Some families may have carefully registered generations of births, marriages, and deaths in a family Bible or other special book; others may have researched their trees relatively recently as a means of piecing together a family history obscured by events such as war or emigration; still others may require an accurate map of inheritance. It is interesting to compare, however, the differences between a family tree of a specific family and one that seems intended to represent the “typical” American family. This comparison should prove a thought-provoking way to get your students into a discussion of questions 2 and 3. Once they have identified individual figures in the tree, ask your students to consider how these figures work together to create a picture of a “representative” American family. Do the connections among these figures correspond to what your students know about American history? How accurate is it to have Union and Confederate soldiers in the same family tree? A mountain man and a tribal woman apparently married? Who are the couple at the base of the tree? Is it possible that she is an aristocratic European captured by this pirate? What would that suggest? Your students will likely be able to point out a number of historical conflicts that are here depicted as moments of peaceful coexistence. While this may be troubling and seem exclusionary to some students, it can be useful to have them discuss why Rockwell might have made such choices. Question 3 acknowledges that Rockwell seems to want to suggest that behind the “ordinary” 1950s kid there is a complex and diverse past; we think it’s also important to recognize the limits to what Rockwell is doing. Thus you might encourage students to discuss what images Rockwell has left out of this family tree (e.g., the Civil War is represented without the presence of slaves, there are no obvious Mexican or Asian faces). What does Rockwell’s version of American history suggest about the 1950s notion of family? In moving from discussion of A Family Tree to Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear, you may want to focus on the various roles of members within the family and/or on the idea of what the family’s home space signifies. Just as all the couples on the family tree seem to contain a man with a specific profession and a woman whose primary role is wife, the couples in Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear also represent strong gender stereotypes. In the former, we see the ideal of the dominant father (he’s taller and clearly the central, presiding figure at the head of the table) and the domestic mother (wearing an apron, serving the food, having done the work of the meal while the father will no doubt stand in for the ceremony of carving). Notably, everyone in the picture is happy, and no one is paying the slightest bit of attention to the mother who has done all this work. Similarly in Freedom from Fear, the father is the observer while the mother does the work of taking care of the children. Students who are not used to “reading” pictures critically may need some prompting to look carefully at the small but telling details here. Again, a question about what isn’t shown in these pictures may be the way to get students thinking about the assumptions that are at work. Question 6, which asks about the relationship between this family and the rest of the world, offers a way to get your students to discuss Rockwell’s idealization of the home as a safe haven from hunger, sadness, war, etc. How viable is this promise? You might ask students what they think about the titles of these paintings: What is significant about having freedom “from” something rather than the freedom to do some-

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thing? What do students make of the newspaper headline in Freedom from Fear given the title’s promise?

Looking for Work (p. 26) GARY SOTO
This is a wonderful story, simply told, filled with the particulars of life in Fresno circa 1960 and yet universal in its dramatization of a child coming to grips with the world. There’s nothing difficult about the story itself except that understanding it fully would mean understanding childhood, memory, ambition, friendship, and the influence of the media on the national psyche. The subtlety of the story and the complexity of the issues it raises combine to make our apparently innocuous questions hard to answer. With question 1, for example — the effects of TV images on the narrator — it’s probably clear enough that TV depicts preternaturally attractive families who all conform to roughly the same values and who never face problems that “Father” can’t solve in thirty minutes. But why is the narrator alone in his discontent with a life more complicated than that depicted on TV? Is he merely young and naive? Is he more open to Anglo values than his mother? Is he looking to TV to solve some problem in his life, or do TV images create the problem? Is the apparent absence of a father a key issue here, or merely incidental? Question 2 asks if the meaning of work has changed by the end of the story. It seems to us that it has, that the narrator is seeking the dime that “would end the day right,” but no longer the dime that would make him wealthy. But the text itself isn’t very specific about any of this: we’re responding to nuances like the phrase “suddenly alive” at the end of the story contrasted with “killing ants” (routinely, endlessly) at its beginning. Our questions invite speculation and interpretation, so focus on the process of exploring and extending our questions; ask students to use specific references from the selection to support their claims. Questions 3 and 4 call for this kind of textual support. It may also help to read part of the story aloud, as you would poetry. Soto has a great sense of humor; in reading his own work he achieves wonders with a pause, a smile, or an unexpected word — like “evilness,” applied to children who litter. If students have hurried through the story focusing on plot, they may have missed a good deal of Soto’s artistry and humor. Teach them to savor sentences like “There would be toads, and rocks to smash them” (para. 30). Questions 6 and 7 ask students to compare and contrast “Looking for Work” with a handful of other selections. A few students might be capable of handling these topics without much help, but this is a good time to make sure everyone knows how to approach a compare-and-contrast essay topic, a perennial favorite for instructors in any department. Are the adults in “An Indian Story” (p. 51) wiser, more caring, or more in touch with their children than Soto’s mother is, or not? If you work with question 7, which focuses on the connection between school and family, you might follow up a discussion of two or more of the pieces by soliciting students’ ideas for organizing a compare-and-contrast essay. Show how an approach that works well to compare two narratives (e.g., alternating the focus paragraph by paragraph) might be unwieldy for comparing four or five pieces. Questions 9 and 10, which call for personal analysis and personal narrative, can produce excellent writing, but may also produce narratives that seem flat and tedious next to Soto’s. Be sure students understand what makes Soto’s tale effective, and remember not to grade them on how interesting their own families have been. A fun exercise that might help students add a little stylistic energy to their narratives is to have them select a favorite sentence or two from Soto and attempt an imitation. This can be done in various ways, but one


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proven method is to ask them to mimic the sentence’s structure as precisely as possible while changing all of the vocabulary.

What We Really Miss About the 1950s (p. 31) STEPHANIE COONTZ
Many of your students may not yet (or ever) be in a position to feel the nostalgia for the 1950s that Coontz describes. Thus you might want to introduce this essay with a brief discussion during which students can brainstorm a list of the many forms this nostalgia takes in our culture (e.g., the family-values politicians or the fact that the cable station Nickelodeon spends its prime-time hours in reruns of 1950s family sitcoms like Ozzie and Harriet). Such a list is exactly what the first part of our question 7 asks for, though you may wish to reserve discussion of whether students find this nostalgia dangerous until after they have read Coontz’s essay. Armed with evidence of our culture’s nostalgia, students may be more agreeable to the idea that “we” miss the 1950s — although if they still resist this inclusive pronoun that could also generate a good discussion. Coontz herself is careful to point out that not everyone misses the 1950s, despite the popular myth that we all should. She argues (question 1) that we miss the optimistic sense of promise provided by the expanding economy, the growing availability of jobs that offered a comfortable living wage, and greater job security. She explains our longing for a time in which there was a “coherent ‘moral order’” (para. 2) and a less-complicated environment in which to raise children. Your students should appreciate how careful Coontz is to explain that these things came with a price — based as they were on a whole host of repressive conditions including racism, sexism, disregard for the elderly in families, silence about “personal” problems such as abuse and incest, and a lack of resources to help victims of such problems. Students who are interested in politics will likely find question 2 provocative, since it encourages them to compare 1950s and current government and social policies: Coontz explains that job programs, family subsidies, limits on corporate relocation, higher corporate tax obligations, union job availability, and subsidies for higher education conspired in the 1950s to help people stay off public assistance. Given the historical factors she also cites, how do students respond to Coontz’s accusation that “politicians are practicing quite a double standard” (para. 37)? Does it seem to students that if only government today would revert to many of those 1950s policies, we would be better off? Here you might introduce the second part of question 7: we see unconditional nostalgia as presenting the danger of reverting to the sexist, racist, repressive conditions of the 1950s. Do students see any way around this? In talking about the dangers of current nostalgia for the 1950s, you may wish to point students toward a consideration of Rockwell’s paintings, which evoke that time period. They leave out or gloss over a number of complex issues in the images they present of the “American” experience. We think Coontz would find them nostalgic in the sense that they portray an idealized picture of the 1950s, as they sidestep racial tensions and privilege images of economic prosperity and homemaking (question 5). Clearly Coontz’s account makes obvious that many groups of people had no freedom from want or freedom from fear. What do students think it means that there are groups today nostalgic for a cultural image that was itself, in many ways, nostalgic? Soto’s essay provides an interesting perspective that both supports and complicates the nostalgia Coontz discusses (question 6). Soto’s comic tone and child’s point of view suggest that he is writing about a simpler time when children could safely run free in the neighborhood and “serious” conflicts consisted of minor disagreements and power struggles with one’s siblings. It is important to recognize, though, that even as a child, Soto was painfully aware that the TV ideal family had little in common with the reality of his life. To

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us, it seems that this tension mitigates his nostalgia somewhat: while we (and Soto) may be nostalgic for the innocent world of childhood, it is not likely that Soto simply longs for a time during which he felt his family to be in some respects inadequate. Encourage students to wrestle with these tensions: how does Coontz’s argument work with or against the more complicated forms of nostalgia expressed by other writers?

Aunt Ida Pieces a Quilt (p. 48) MELVIN DIXON
The chapter continues with a beautiful poem. Don’t skip this even if you’re behind schedule. It speaks to African American family traditions and to the tragedy of AIDS; it shows a young gay poet capturing the point of view of an elderly woman; it rewards careful reading and reveals the power and economy of poetry. The poem stands up well to the close scrutiny suggested in our more ambitious questions about it, but begin with the basics: What happens in the poem (and how do you know)? What is the speaker’s attitude? What does the poem say about AIDS and family life? The Engaging the Text questions offer avenues to explore these issues. Remind students that because poetry often works indirectly, it’s a good habit to begin with the literal meaning of the poem (question 1); this can eliminate misreadings like thinking that Aunt Ida is still stitching for the AIDS quilt at the end of the poem. Another approach is to reread line by line and think out — or talk out — any perplexities. This is a good poem for such analysis because it is compressed, but not to the point of obscurity. In retelling the story students may recognize how much may be suggested by details (Afro Sheen, moving north, sackcloth). Certainly they will be able to comment on how Aunt Ida’s attitude changes as the poem progresses, and they will have some ideas about what Junie’s clothes represent (questions 2 and 3). Here’s an example of what can be done in response to one of these simple questions (number 4): Aunt Ida is about to make a quilt for Maxine’s baby. (In a wonderful phrase evoking Aunt Ida’s extended family, Maxine is described as “cousin May’s husband’s sister’s people.”) This quilt “ain’t no showpiece, it’s to keep you warm” against the Connecticut cold that “cuts you like a knife.” Yet we sense the quilt is also a tribute to Junie (“We need Junie here with us.”) Junie’s death is balanced against the newborn child, who is perhaps a patch “waiting to be pieced” into the quilt of the family. The quilt, an eminently practical work of art, extends to a new generation a tradition that goes back, at the very least, to Aunt Ida’s “mama’s mama.” Once students have a good grasp on the poem itself, you might spend a few minutes on questions 5 and 6, connecting the poem to earlier readings in the chapter. We’re fishing in these questions for some quick insights, not for the kind of extended analysis that would support a full essay. If you are looking for a substantial writing assignment, tailor question 7 or 8 to your needs.

An Indian Story (p. 51) ROGER JACK
Many of the structures and ideas of community prevailing in Americans’ past seem to hold true for modern families in certain contexts. Jack’s family, for instance, retains an expansive sense of responsibility for each other: when he decides to live with his Aunt Greta, the decision is respected by all the parties involved. Even a father’s closer blood ties to his son are not more important than the sense of connection the boy feels with his aunt (and she with him). This move out of his father’s house and into his aunt’s clearly goes


(text pp. 61–80)

against the claim that today’s families are ruled more by blood connections than by any other. The story works subtly enough that it’s worth having students explain the action in some detail. Questions 1 and 2 point in this direction, asking students to discuss problems in the narrator’s family and the choices he makes: below are lists of “Problems” and “Choices.” Problems • in the past: the mother’s death and the father’s remarriage • the narrator’s drinking and fighting in Calgary • Greta’s disapproval of the narrator: their temporary alienation • the narrator’s separation from Greta and his father • Greta’s health crisis Choices • where the narrator will live • what college and career he will choose • his Indian name The last choice listed leads toward an important but subtle strand of the story that probably deserves class discussion. The narrator is repeatedly associated with stars in the story. Aside from sleeping in Star Wars sheets (para. 40), he receives vague information from his father about a half-forgotten Indian name — “something about stars” (para. 43). The second visit to Stonehenge is a bust because of the clouds (para. 60), but on the third visit Aunt Greta rushes the narrator to the center of the mystical circle after they have seen a falling star (para. 61). At the time he doesn’t think anything special has happened, but the way he tells his story indicates that he has since come to see a special meaning in this moment and that it may well be connected to his Indian name. One of the most interesting aspects in the story is seeing how the nonnuclear family really works, not as a theoretical abstraction but as a practical and human institution. The story should help make concrete the notion that there’s no such thing as “the family.” It’s hard to deny after reading this story that alternative family models can be highly useful.

From Changing American Families (p. 61) JUDY ROOT AULETTE
In this essay, Aulette both confirms and challenges common myths about social class in the American family. Your students may not find this page-turning reading, but it is likely to provoke some interesting discussion. As you introduce this essay to your students, ask for a show of hands. How many of them grew up in a poor family? A rich one? A middle-class one? Chances are, most people will place themselves in the middle class, both because most college students are middle class and because many of those who aren’t are still likely to identify themselves with this group. Although Aulette notes that relatively little “is known about the private lives” of upper-class families (para. 4), your students are unlikely to be surprised that one of its primary functions is to reinforce class boundaries (question 1). Contrary, perhaps, to certain stereotypes, Aulette notes that upper-class women are not useless trophies who sit around and spend down the family’s wealth on tennis lessons. According to Aulette, women play a crucial role in maintaining a family’s social standing (para. 7). Through their volunteer work and their hostessing duties, they are able to ensure that their children encounter a limited and homogeneous social circle, one that keeps the family wealth and status within

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the proper sphere. Do your students see this traditional role as having real power, or do they see these women deriving power from their wage-earning and (inheriting) spouses? You might ask your students to give examples of this behavior from literature, popular culture, or (if applicable) from their own personal experience. Many of your students will have read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as well as the 2002 novel The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. In what ways do the characters in these works (or any other common references) support or refute the findings reported by Aulette? F. Scott Fitzgerald once noted to Ernest Hemingway that “the rich aren’t like you and me,” to which Hemingway agreed only that “they have more money.” That anecdote is often told as yet another example of Hemingway one-upping Fitzgerald, but Aulette’s description of the middle classes reveal that perhaps Fitzgerald knew what he was talking about. As you discuss the characteristics of middle-class families (question 2), you might note on the board how well the experiences of your self-identifying middle-class students match Aulette’s findings. Certainly it is likely that at least some of your students will have moved as a result of a parent’s job. How many of them agree that financial needs are met through work and bank loans (if necessary) and not through reliance on other family members? Once you assess how much your students’ families are “typical” middle-class families, you might ask them how they feel about these findings. What is gained and lost as a result of this physical mobility and self-reliance? Question 4 asks students to consider the Moynihan Report. Many of your students will not have heard of this influential report, but most likely they will be well aware of its conclusions. Though the report is over forty years old, if asked, Americans will agree that black American culture is matriarchal and that black men are largely absent from African American family life. (You might take an anonymous class survey about your students’ assumptions on these subjects.) How do your students account for the lasting influence of this report, given its flaws? Do they agree with Aulette’s statement that “where the civil rights movement saw these same problems and found their cause in racism . . . Moynihan blamed the victims” (para. 46). Do they view these two conclusions as mutually exclusive? Questions 5, 6, and 7 ask students to apply Aulette’s reported findings to other texts. A close attention to detail will make for the best comparisons. Regarding Roger Jack’s “An Indian Story” (p. 51), ask your students to interpret Jack’s tension between the lack of financial resources and the emotional support of his extended family, especially his grandmother. How important is family and heritage to Jack’s identification? Jack’s reliance on his extended family and his family’s emphasis on education and success more closely resemble the African American families described by Aulette than the Native American characteristics she mentions (para. 65). By the memoir’s end, however, Jack resembles the white middle class, deemphasizing family and moving away to follow financial opportunity. The variations from the “norm” found in this and other memoirs, as well as in your students’ own experiences, will serve as a good reminder of the uses and limitations of statistics in getting at an objective “truth.”

If your students are unfamiliar with working with — or “reading” — visual images, they may be surprised at just how much there is to say about the images we’ve included here. You may wish to ask them questions in addition to the ones we’ve supplied, such as: What is going on in these images? Is there an obvious story? Who is present? Who or what is absent? Who is the audience for the image? What elements included are surprising? How would you describe the image, starting with the upper left-hand corner and working your way through it section by section? For instance, what is the impact of the Samsung television advertisement including


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such features as “(1080i resolution), 55” widescreen (16:9 display design)”? What kind of consumer is interested in such information? You may ask your students to consider where such an ad might have appeared. (It caught our notice in the February 2000 issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine.) The image of the mother washing her child captures a moment just prior to when a Brownsville, Texas, subdivision was supplied with running water. You may wish to have your students compare this image to the images presented by Sharon Olds’s poem “From Seven Floors Up” (p. 332). Aside from the wash tub, what class markers are present in the image? Based on the evidence in this photograph, how would your students characterize this family? Ask your students to consider carefully the image of the descendants of Thomas Jefferson. Have them examine each of the figures in turn. How are they placed in the image? What is the expression on each of their faces? You may wish to have your students research information on Jefferson and Sally Hemings. This image from Life magazine shows one of the 163 gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco who came to city hall to register as domestic partners one day in 1999. Jan Stafford (left) shown here with her partner of twelve years, Maxine Kincora, commented that the day “shows how much we cherish each other.” You may wish to ask your students how this image compares to a traditional wedding image. What effect does city hall in the background have on the photo? For question 8, your students may be aware that there is a certain amount of historical information that they need to know to understand fully the Rockwell paintings. Yet they may not recognize how their knowledge likewise informs their interpretation of the contemporary images. What information would the people of Rockwell’s time need in order to interpret the contemporary images? Do your students see the contemporary images as more or less sophisticated than Rockwell’s? How so? What are the purposes and functions of the two groups of images? How successful is each of the images at what your students see as their purpose?

It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good (p. 88) RICK SANTORUM
Students will probably have a lot to say about Santorum’s argument, for they can compare his assertions to their own experience. For example, question 1 asks students to list the reasons why Santorum claims that the best place for a child is to grow up with a happily married mother and father. In short, Santorum argues that communities consisting of happily married mothers and fathers have lower crime rates and less delinquency among young men, and generally foster stronger, healthier communities. To back up these reasons, he often brings in statistics, not about communities consisting of happily married mothers and fathers, but about single-parent families. Likewise, he downplays the roles that poverty, education, unemployment, median income, and race play in crime rates, delinquency, and the health of a community. Do your students agree that the latter factors are not as important as happily married mothers and fathers? Can they think of qualities that contribute to healthy homes apart from the number and sex of the parents? For questions 2 and 3, students can examine the evidence Santorum supplies and discuss whether it necessarily leads to the conclusions he draws. In the case of government social workers, does establishing paternity necessarily discourage marriage? Is the testimony of Jason Krofsky of Families Northwest sufficient to establish that most religious organizations consider the institution of marriage bankrupt? How would our lives be dif-

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ferent if we lived only according to “nature”? In other words in what ways is life in the twenty-first century “unnatural” or “artificial”? Is “natural” always better than “artificial”? To tackle question 5, you can unpack Santorum’s definition of “liberal understanding of marriage.” How does it differ from the “traditional” understanding of marriage? You may want to direct students to Santorum’s definition of marriage (para. 33). Does substituting the word “people” for “man and woman” or “parents” for “mother and father” radically change the structure, as Santorum claims in paragraph 34? How might the union of man and man or woman and woman detract from caring for the needs of children? Santorum also brings up the need for children — that is, the need to have children — as an argument against the legalization of same-sex unions, the implication being that having children is not one of the primary reasons gay couples get married, as it is with heterosexual couples. How does the photo of two men and a stroller (p. 83) contradict this claim (question 7)? Questions 9 and 10 are both excellent ways for students to gather their own evidence to support or refute Santorum’s claims. Students could analyze the survey results from question 9 and write a short argument on the impact of family structure on kids’ lives. they could also expand the survey to determine other factors that positively or negatively impact children, if they wish, focusing on areas such as attitudes, behavior, and performance in school.

What Is Marriage? (p. 98) EVAN WOLFSON
While anyone — whether married or unmarried, single or part of a couple — can live together and have children, Wolfson argues that the legal and economic “protections and responsibilities” that accompany marriage are what make it a desirable and viable institution (question 1). He quickly lists these in paragraph 7 and details them in paragraph 35. What it comes down to is financial and legal security in practically all areas of a couple’s life, including health, parenting, inheritance, taxation, insurance, and property. Opposition comes in the form of broad proclamations about “drastically changing the face of marriage” or “making a mockery of the institution,” with little or no acknowledgment and discussion of the ever-changing face of marriage that is, in fact, its history, as Wolfson demonstrates in paragraphs 14–20. America is slow to change, though change it does. For example, were your students surprised that residents of South Carolina and Alabama voted to keep the ban on interracial marriage as recently as 1998 and 2000, respectively? If so, might their children be equally surprised that as of 2006, same-sex unions were still banned? Simply put, the purpose of Wolfson’s extended definition of marriage (question 2) is to show how thoroughly the institution and the identity pervade our lives — not only as a county, but as a species. Getting married, or not getting married, is an integral part of being human, argues Wolfson. Can your students think of another choice that carries an equal weight of personal, social, financial, legal, and spiritual significance? How, for example, do the choices of college or career compare? The situations of the couples Wolfson describes support several aspects of his argument (question 3). In paragraph 45, Wolfson claims that the denial of marriage most adversely affects couples that are “poor, less educated, and otherwise vulnerable.” Maureen and Cindy and Alicia and Saundra are probably middle- to lower-middle class, given what we know about their jobs and, thus, what we can assume about their level of education. Likewise, both Maureen and Cindy and the Goodridges have suffered from the inability to receive joint healthcare, which Wolfson discusses in paragraph 35, while Tony


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and Thomas provide a real-life example of the immigration issue discussed. In addition, both Maureen and Cindy and the Goodridges lament the fact that they have had to explain their relationship, which is something married couples are spared because people understand what that means (para. 8). You might also want to ask your students in what ways these couples’ lives refute criticisms often leveled at homosexuals. For example, in each case, what is the first piece of information Wolfson gives us about these couples, besides their names and where they live? Questions 4, 5, and 9 can be grouped together. the strength of Wolfson’s argument comes from his detailed knowledge of the law. He first outlines then explains in-depth how same-sex couples are wronged, each day, by the denial of a right that is afforded practically everyone else in this country, including people who have willfully broken the law, that is to say, prisoners. Because Wolfson is so thorough in most respects, it is interesting to note what he leaves out. For example, some might argue that homosexuals, too, are criminals, if they live in a state that still has sodomy laws on the books. Also, in paragraph 35, Wolfson claims that an economic and legal equivalent of marriage cannot be worked out via lawyers or private agreements, but he does not explain how or why this is. In addition to the things that question 9 asks students to research, you may want to have a few students find out exactly what a good family law, estate, or civil attorney can do for homosexual couples.

2 Learning Power: The Myth of Education and Empowerment (p. 113)
We like teaching “the myth of education” because it connects so directly to both student experience and the central concerns of this text. Having undergone many years of formal education, whether in the United States or elsewhere, all college students bring a depth and variety of experience to this subject that they can claim in few other areas. For most, too, the contrasts between high school and college are still fresh and furnish a range of specific pedagogical styles, curricular models and social settings for students to analyze as they read these selections. Students can assume the role of experts in assessing education: with your guidance and with writers like Mike Rose and Richard Rodriguez as models, they can learn to blend the worlds of personal experience and rigorous intellectual inquiry, and that’s what this book is all about. The Before Reading exercise (p. 120), which asks students to reflect on their best and worst experiences in school, usually produces some wonderful material (the horror stories are the most popular and the most revealing). The discussion that this exercise generates can be a valuable source of examples and points of departure for many of the readings that follow, since the students’ observations often anticipate those of the writers in this chapter. More specifically, the exercise urges students to consider the quality of their own educational experience before they read John Taylor Gatto’s critique of schooling’s hidden agenda. A free-association exercise can also be productive. Ask students to spend five minutes jotting down every word or phrase associated with education that comes to mind. Have students compile a master list on the board, then ask them to cluster related items and try to draw some tentative conclusions about the class’s views on school and learning. When we’ve done this activity, the list has been heavy with terms describing the mechanics of traditional education and the physical details of classrooms (tests, grades, desks, pencils); interspersed were terms that suggested the intellectual and emotional dimensions of school (knowledge, growth, accomplishment, boredom, pain). The collective drawings (suggested as an alternative Before Reading exercise, p. 120) tend to follow this pattern too: many include far more images of school social life than of academic activities; when classroom images do appear, they often depict student passivity and boredom. Such responses can dramatize the multiple levels of experience on which school operates and pave the way for the idea of the hidden purpose of public schools.

From Report of the Massachusetts Board of Education, 1848 (p. 121) HORACE MANN
Students may feel that Mann sees the powers of education as almost limitless (question 1). He argues that education can ensure the security of the nation by creating informed citizens who will participate thoughtfully in government, by giving children the means to move out of poverty, by instilling moral values and inculcating a respect for religion, and by promoting the ideals of democracy through providing a model of them at work. The question of the role of religion in the schools is perhaps the most loudly contested today,



(text pp. 132–150)

although students will likely have strong opinions if asked to differentiate between what schools ought to do and what they actually do. (Question 9 gives them a prompt to think through this distinction in more detail.) They should be encouraged to note that Mann does not advocate teaching a specific religion in schools; rather, he values an education that teaches students that high moral standards and the possession of religious beliefs are important — and then leaves them to make informed decisions about what their beliefs ought to be (question 5). Considered in light of Mann’s claims, the debate about prayer in school that we propose in question 8 might even produce some original claims on your students’ parts. Questions 2 through 5 invite students to consider specific aspects of Mann’s position on the role of schools in American society. Does your class feel that schools have a different set of obligations today than they did in 1848? What might be the modern version of educating students to be good citizens, for example (question 4)? And is there still a need for “sanitary intelligence” to be a goal of common education? That is, teaching principles of good health and hygiene might have been a major focus of schooling through the latter half of the nineteenth century, as homes were slowly acquiring indoor plumbing and the science of diseases was first being understood (question 2), but can’t we assume that the value of running water is universally accepted in this country? Of all the issues Mann mentions, the relationship between wealth and education (question 3) gets the most attention from the majority of today’s public figures. In light of recent, complicated evaluations of the efficacy of school vouchers, of the inherent inequities of basing a school’s income on its district’s property taxes, and of the burdens facing teachers in overcrowded and violent schools, Mann’s notion that democratic access to education will resolve differences in poverty and wealth may seem woefully naive. It could be useful to discuss these issues in the context of questions 6 and 8, which ask how your students would suggest updating Mann’s ideas to account for current difficulties in realizing them. Such a conversation should help your students see Mann as more than simply an out-of-date educational theorist; the issues he raises are in fact still widely debated, although the context in which they are of concern has changed dramatically. Though these questions ask for student opinions, encourage them to provide evidence and specific examples to support their claims when answering question 6 as a take-home essay. Students may find it difficult to account for the ideas expressed by all these authors in a single essay. Options for addressing this question could include using the other essays to develop a definition of class differences in terms of how they might affect educational policy, and then evaluating Mann’s program in light of that definition; choosing one or two of the other essays to provide specific scenarios against which to measure Mann’s goals; or picking one of these authors and writing an essay that makes an argument about what he would say about applying Mann’s ideas to our current social situation.

Idiot Nation (p. 132) MICHAEL MOORE
We think your students are going to enjoy reading and discussing this essay. They may not agree with all of author Moore’s conclusions, but they are likely to respond positively to his irreverent tone and lack of condescension. Your students may be familiar with Moore’s Academy Award–winning documentary, Bowling for Columbine (2002). If so, you may ask them to connect the ideas in this essay to some of the issues of teen violence presented in his film. If your students are familiar with Moore’s film, they are also likely to be aware of his controversial antiwar comments at the 2003 Oscar Awards ceremony in which he admonished, “Shame on you, Mr. Bush.” Readers may be biased in favor of or against this essay depending on their views about the war with Iraq, so it may be best to address

(text pp. 152–161)


the matter up front, encouraging your students to evaluate his claims in this essay as objectively as possible. Like Gatto, Moore describes a school system more dedicated to stamping out nonconformity than to educating its students (question 8). Both authors leave readers with a bleak picture of life in an American school. Moore goes so far as to compare the American high school experience with life in a “totalitarian dictatorship” (para. 99). Your students will no doubt have a number of examples from their own schooling (question 2) that support this description, and soliciting these examples will unearth a wealth of resentment. You might want to push them to look beyond the anecdotes of high school oppression, just as Moore challenges his own conclusions at times. For example, he describes his high school principal, whose career Moore himself helped destroy, as “good at [his] core” (para. 56). Even so, Moore sees the man’s defeat as an example of the underdog beating the system at its own game. Are your students sympathetic with Moore’s high school principal? Are they able to separate the individual from the system that creates him? How much power did their own high school teachers and administrators really have? Despite his criticism of individual teachers and administrators, Moore’s chief objects of derision are politicians who make teachers the scapegoats for the nation’s poor education system. At the same time, the failure of these politicians to fund the nation’s schools and libraries leaves a revenue vacuum filled all too easily by corporate interests. Chances are, as you discuss this essay in class, many of your students (or you!) are wearing or carrying a visible corporate logo. What, if anything, is “wrong” with this? Many of your students might argue that companies such as Campbell’s and Coca-Cola are giving schools much-needed money. Ask your students where they think schools should draw the line in trying to generate money for books, teachers, and other expenses. Unlike many writers who expose a problem, Moore actually gives suggestions on ways students might challenge the educational system while still protecting themselves legally (para. 105). Do your students think these actions could make a difference? As an exercise, you might ask your students to suggest other ways to resist institutional oppression. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such resistance?

Against School (p. 152) JOHN TAYLOR GATTO
Gatto contends that the traditional school system is modeled on passive learning, such as the rote memorization of facts, which is neither useful nor stimulating (question 1). The less we demand of students, the less they are apt to give. Moreover, grouping children together fosters childish behavior, and the only adults they come in contact with are their equally bored teachers who were themselves schooled in this system and who are forbidden to delve into materials outside the standardized curriculum. What might be an alternative to going to school (question 3)? Homeschooling, which usually requires a two-parent household with one of the two acting as the teacher, thus foregoing a regular paycheck, seems an unlikely choice. What if our strengths and weaknesses were determined early on, and a career path chosen? What if we were then trained to do that particular job? But the latter presupposes a person remaining in a single career path for his or her entire life, a trend from which Americans have been moving away. Then again, each industry could become responsible for its own training, so that a person leaving a similar type of work could easily move into another. Implied in the question of whether we need schooling, however, is the question of whether what we really need is an education, which presumably involves Gatto’s recommendations for raising children (question 4). A place to start would be to encourage a


(text pp. 161–173)

healthy and wide-ranging reading habit, as well as curiosity and the drive toward discovery. Rather than shooing a kid away from expensive equipment for fear he might break it, why not show him how to use it, while emphasizing the need for care and responsibility? America’s youth have gotten a raw deal, goes Gatto’s argument. But all hope is not lost. With patience and a willingness to engage, parents can create a detour around the morass. Question 5 asks students to compare Horace Mann’s argument with Gatto’s. Mann claims that all citizens, not only the privileged, have the right to be educated. Further, education should be standardized, to provide youth with a foundation from which they can think critically and make their own decisions. Gatto, writing a century and a half later, claims that this foundation hinders, not enables, critical thinking and individual decision making. Standardization has turned young people into drones; they’re taught the same things, so they think the same things. In terms of mass marketing, they’re told what they should want, and they believe what they’re told. Has Mann’s vision led to Gatto’s nightmare? When deciding on the curriculum for the school proposal (question 8), students might wish to debate whether or not it is possible to receive a standardized education and make the leap to critical thinking. Conversely, is it possible to be a critical thinker without first receiving a foundation from which to base our thoughts? Be sure they give concrete reasons to justify their responses.

“I Just Wanna Be Average” (p. 161) MIKE ROSE
Rose provides a compelling firsthand account of life in the traditional dumping ground for high school misfits — Vocational Education. In the process he offers a sympathetic and detailed analysis of underachievement. As his own experience suggests, some students, particularly the children of immigrant and working-class parents, simply fall through the institutional cracks; when parents are uneducated themselves, unfamiliar with the intricacies of the school system, or exhausted by long hours of hard physical labor, they can offer their children little assistance (para. 2). Teachers themselves may compound the problem by damaging students’ curiosity and self-confidence: in describing the faculty at Our Lady of Mercy, Rose portrays a virtual rogues’ gallery of weak, incompetent, and brutal teachers. But the essence of Rose’s analysis lies in his meditation on Ken Harvey, the classmate who declares, “I just wanna be average” (para. 15). Rose catalogs the difficulties that high school students face. Inevitably they run into conflicts between home values and school values, conflicts intensified for students whose families don’t belong to the dominant culture or the middle class. Adolescence is a time of physical and psychological upheaval as students begin to come to terms with their sexuality, define their ethical values, and find their place in the world. In the midst of this inner turmoil, the “ordinary” conditions of academic competition can sap the confidence and motivation of weaker students. Moreover, working-class students like Ken often contend with low expectations from their teachers and stereotypes among their peers. Such students may cope with all this by rejecting the values of the institution that frustrates and belittles them. But in doing so, they betray themselves, confirming the school’s (false) assumptions about their lack of ability. Looking closely at Rose’s analysis of Ken (question 3) can be a revelation for some students because, while they’ve all seen or even engaged in the kind of denial that Ken practices, few have thought through its causes and consequences. Jack MacFarland offers Rose a route out of this trap (question 4). He embodies a kind of power that Rose has never encountered — the power of language and intellect. Moreover, he insists on challenging all of his students with serious intellectual work and

(text pp. 173–189)


actively mentoring those who, like Rose, show interest and talent. MacFarland also fosters the development of an intellectual community: the informal literary gatherings at his apartment introduce Rose to the powerful ideas that knowledge and inquiry can bind people together and that intellectual growth can be a vital, social process — not the empty, frustrating exercise that classroom learning had been so often for him. Question 5, which asks for a comparison of Gatto’s and Rose’s critiques of schooling, makes a good paper topic. Gatto’s analysis focuses on the hidden purpose of public schools, while Rose’s suggests the complexity of the educational process for students — the interaction of institutional, social, psychological, and emotional forces that shape a student’s ability or willingness to be educated.

From Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work (p. 173) JEAN ANYON
Despite the length and rather dry academic style of this selection, students always seem to find the account of Anyon’s research not only accessible but riveting. She describes classroom activities in working-class, middle-class, and affluent professional and executive elite schools in enough detail that students can easily identify the kinds of schools they themselves have attended. Plan to devote some class time to discussing the patterns of instruction students have experienced, perhaps after they’ve done some freewriting on this subject. Most of our students report that they’ve attended working-class or middle-class schools, though a few have gone to private or magnet schools that more closely resemble the affluent schools of Anyon’s study. Some have also moved from one type of school to another or encountered more than one of these models within the same institution. Discussion usually provokes a range of responses among students, from anger at the discrepancies that Anyon describes to shock that they’ve been shortchanged by their own schools. Progressing beyond the initial jolt of recognition can take a bit more work. Question 1 asks students to generalize about the classroom strategies and attitudes of teachers in all four types of schools and to look for patterns in the distribution of such schools in their area. Question 2 asks them to connect the kind of training students are receiving in each school to specific types of work. Students quickly see how regimentation and rote learning promote the kind of obedient passivity that’s desirable for, say, assembly-line work (desirable from an employer’s perspective, that is). In order to achieve some critical distance on Anyon’s argument, ask students who attended middle- and working-class schools whether they think that their own career opportunities have been limited by their educational backgrounds. Some students see their presence in college as sufficient evidence that they’re not restricted in the ways Anyon suggests; others note that the large majority of students from their old schools have followed the route Anyon would predict for them. Question 5 asks for a comparison of Anyon and Gatto that might be repetitive if you already discussed this pair when you taught Gatto’s essay. Students should notice the details distinguishing the two authors. Where Gatto’s whole essay elucidates a general schema of education’s goals and strategies, Anyon reduces that overview to a few sentences explaining that school socializes students to suit particular roles in relation to capitalist production. Then she spends her time exploring the detailed differences between the messages schools send. Once students have a sense of where they do and don’t think Gatto’s claims fit Anyon’s findings, you could move to the question of whether all students should follow the professional and elite models (question 8). Ask students to brainstorm in small groups about what kinds of social changes might occur and what other institutions might have to change if all students were treated with respect and taught to be cre-


(text pp. 190–206)

ative, independent thinkers. For instance, who would want to pick up the garbage every week? How could such work be structured and compensated in order to attract workers? How would American politics and democracy change if all citizens were taught to analyze the news and think through problems for themselves? Pairing Anyon with Mike Rose (p. 161) also leads to some interesting complexities. While most of the teachers Rose encounters at Our Lady of Mercy would be most at home in Anyon’s working-class schools, MacFarland might have stepped straight out of the executive elite school (question 6). This discrepancy points to an omission in her model: she doesn’t take into account that different tracks, offering very different curricula and pedagogies, may exist side by side in the same institution. Is this a major flaw in her analysis, or is MacFarland merely an exception, or does tracking itself confirm her general point that children from more privileged backgrounds have access to a better education?

If your students are unfamiliar with working with — or “reading” — visual images, they may be surprised at just how much there is to say about the images we’ve included here. You may wish to ask them questions in addition to the ones we’ve supplied, such as: What is going on in these images? Is there an obvious story? Who is present? Who or what is absent? Who is the audience for the image? What elements included are surprising? How would you describe the image, starting with the upper left-hand corner and working your way through it section by section? You may wish to turn to the commentary on the set of Norman Rockwell images that open Chapter One for more information. Your students may need to do some research in order to help them understand the historical background for these images. You will find many Rockwell images online.

The Achievement of Desire (p. 193) RICHARD RODRIGUEZ
Rodriguez’s idea that a good student can be, in another sense, a bad student is a key idea in this essay (question 2) and in Chapter Two as a whole. He believes that “education requires radical self-reformation” (para. 33). The change is particularly dramatic for students like himself, whose class and culture differ from those of his teachers. In contrast to the intimacy, emotion, and spontaneity of home life, school offers intellectual solitude, rationality, and calm reflection. Success to the young Rodriguez appears to depend on embracing these new values and rejecting the old —abandoning his family, his past, himself. He becomes ashamed of his parents’ imperfect English and lack of formal education, and in the effort to transform himself, he parrots his teachers’ language and opinions. His success in school is thus a personal betrayal and a mockery of true learning (question 1). His experience as a “scholarship boy” raises complex questions about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. If Rodriguez’s desire to resemble his teachers represents an internalization of the dominant culture’s values, are his motives really his own? Question 9 asks students to consider their own motives for studying. Do they feel, like Rodriguez, that there’s a conflict between school values and home values? Does school require that they sacrifice part of themselves to succeed? If so, what do they feel they’re giving up? Questions such as these make good prompts for journal entries or for in-class writing; written responses can then serve as the basis of class discussion. The issue of acculturation and personal change is difficult and compelling for immigrant, working-class, and culturally diverse students; allow the class plenty of time to debate whether Rodriguez

(text pp. 206–209)


made the right choices. Many of our students are outraged by his behavior and see him as a cultural traitor. Rodriguez’s experience of intellectual community is precisely the opposite of Rose’s. While Rose discovers a sense of belonging and shared excitement in learning, Rodriguez finds only loneliness and nostalgia for the past he has rejected. He speaks less to his mother, leaves the house when relatives gather, and many years later, in the reading room of the British Museum, discovers that the small, impersonal “‘community of scholars’” he has joined can never replace the lost intimacy of home (paras. 36–40). Yet despite his pain, ultimately Rodriguez believes that his education was worthwhile (question 5). Because the emotional weight comes down on the other side of this question, however, many students overlook his brief defense of what he has gained (para. 43). Does his abbreviated defense suggest that he’s merely rationalizing, or does the eloquence of the writing itself, as some argue, justify the price Rodriguez paid for his education? To extend the consideration of Rodriguez beyond Chapter Two, have students take a look at “Stephen Cruz” by Studs Terkel (question 8), an oral history of a man who was educated and successful, yet deeply dissatisfied.

Para Teresa (p. 206) INÉS HERNÁNDEZ-ÁVILA
Some students think that all poems sound like “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (“Haply some hoary-headed swain may say . . .” and so on) or that studying poetry means memorizing rhyme schemes. All you need to do to disabuse them of such limiting notions is make sure they read and discuss a number of the poems in Rereading America. These may not outlast Donne or Milton, but for most students they present a more enticing introduction to reading verse. “Para Teresa” is a good place to start, since it defies many students’ notions of what poetry is and happens to be a very powerful, engaging piece as well. We have also noticed that some instructors are more reluctant than their students to tackle poetry; we can only ask you to trust yourself, trust your class, and give it a try. This powerful poem offers a clear counterpoint to the selection by Richard Rodriguez (p. 193). In a sixth-grade confrontation between two young Chicanas, Teresa charges the narrator with being the kind of assimilated, eager-to-please student that Rodriguez was — trying to impress the teachers and distance herself from her culture. The narrator’s angry response suggests that the kind of cultural alienation Rodriguez experienced in school is far from inevitable (question 4). The narrator studies for her family, showing none of Rodriguez’s shame about his background; far from being a slavish imitator of her teachers, she portrays herself as a “rebelde” (line 43), fighting for her people by defying the assumption that as a Chicana she’s inferior. The poem is an affirmation of solidarity as well as an act of defiance. As the narrator looks back on her encounter with Teresa, she understands the common ground shared by pachuca and poet: fierce pride in their origins and refusal to accept Anglo society’s definition of them. Hernández-Ávila celebrates the power of symbolic acts of cultural resistance, whether they take the form of a defiant shade of lipstick or a bilingual poem. Because the language is an essential part of the poem’s point, it’s important to hear the words as well as read them. If any of your students speak Spanish, by all means stage a reading, or if there are several Spanish speakers, ask groups to present different stanzas or passages. One of our classes gave a particularly effective performance by assigning separate speakers to read the English and the Spanish lines, thus dramatizing the narrator’s internal cultural borders by giving a distinct voice to each of the two cultures she inhabits.


(text pp. 210–219)

Learning to Read (p. 210) MALCOLM X
Like the selections by Mike Rose (p. 161) and Richard Rodriguez (p. 193), this excerpt from Malcolm X’s autobiography gives us a closeup look at an individual’s intellectual development. For students who assume that grades and material success are the primary motives for learning, Malcolm X offers an impressive array of intrinsic rewards, including self-discovery, cultural awareness, and the political power to liberate minds. Like Rose, Malcolm X stresses the exhilaration that comes with new knowledge; unlike Rose, Malcolm X makes this discovery on his own. Initially motivated by envy of another inmate and a desire to communicate with his spiritual leader, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm later comes to see his “homemade education” as an act of political resistance: he aims to free black history and culture from the distortions and omissions it has suffered at the hands of a racist society. The nature of his project shifts from individual self-improvement to a desire to liberate all African Americans from the “deafness, dumbness, and blindness” that divorce them from their rich heritage, block consciousness of their historical oppression in the United States, and repress their intellectual and political strength. Questions 1 and 2 direct students to these central issues, while question 3 asks them to consider how Malcolm X’s experiences might be relevant to America’s public schools. Question 5 asks students to consider Malcolm X’s unconventional but highly successful self-education in relation to Rodriguez’s elaborate formal schooling and sense of failure. Students notice immediately that while education drives a wedge between Rodriguez and his culture, it strengthens Malcolm’s ties to his community. A close reading is required to develop an explanation for this dramatic difference. Note the contrast in their reading materials: Would the texts Malcolm X found most influential be included in standard school or college curricula? To what extent does each identify with the dominant society and why? The comparison makes a good — and usually popular — paper topic. Question 8, which challenges students to test Malcolm X’s claims about the “whitened” curriculum, might be a useful class project for students who get fired up over his condemnations of institutionalized racism. To make the task manageable, students should agree in advance on a particular focus for their investigation. For example, they might concentrate on textbook treatments of a particular event or period, such as Reconstruction, or examine illustrations in children’s readers to see which races are depicted and in what contexts (students with younger siblings could collect the evidence). Alternatively, students might choose to compare the treatment of race in college history or literature texts to that in texts designed for the secondary level; or they might focus exclusively on college material, perhaps comparing texts published five or ten years ago (the library should have some old editions) with current editions. This project leads naturally to a substantial essay requiring students to grapple with difficult questions of evidence and interpretation. Question 6 suggests that students play the roles of several writers in Chapter Two and propose a plan for educational reform. This exercise works best if you ask students to do some preparation ahead of time. For instance, have them decide at the previous class meeting who will play what role and ask each person to bring in several specific proposals for educational reform based on the issues raised by the writer she or he is impersonating.

(text pp. 219–238)


The Roots of Debate in Education and the Hope of Dialogue (p. 219) DEBORAH TANNEN
We have long found Tannen’s work to appeal to students because it is based in solid academic research yet written in a style that is accessible without being condescendingly oversimplified. In many ways, Tannen’s essay reflects the practices she values in the classroom: putting a range of writers in dialogue with one another, setting up positions and counterpositions without requiring that one position “win” over the others (e.g., she places her experience with students who felt defeated by criticism alongside that of a colleague who found criticism to stimulate intellectual conversation). Still, as question 4 acknowledges, on some level Tannen does think that she is “right” in criticizing American education for so heavily privileging one style of learning over others, and she does a lot to demonstrate the problems with this approach without spending equal time on exploring its potential benefits. Question 3 invites students to compare their own experiences with Tannen’s examples and conclusions. Her argument that today’s classrooms reflect their allmale religious and philosophical heritage is one about which many students are likely to feel strongly. The fact that they are in college may signify that these are students who thrive on this kind intellectual challenge; or you may find that your students have already experienced the kinds of disadvantages Tannen describes because they are less comfortable with the confrontational classroom mode. Tannen posits that the heritage of debates, quests for scientific proof, and militaristic discipline has created an educational system that values male styles of argumentation over modes of communication and learning that females tend to prefer (question 1). Obviously, this argument focuses on a different set of biases than the “hidden curriculum” Anyon examines (question 5); however, your students may take issue with how Tannen genders her claims, noting that just because formal education used to be reserved for males doesn’t mean that educational methods based on those old models necessarily favor “male” modes of communication. (In other essays, she focuses more explicitly on how she has reached conclusions about how gendered differences in communication and learning strategies come about.) Question 2 offers students the chance to consider what evidence they have to support a gendered construction of how knowledge is acquired or valued. In discussing the issue of whether argumentation is a “male” style of gaining knowledge, students should not lose sight of Tannen’s larger point: that the value the American system of education places on being able to critique and provide counterevidence grows out of a long tradition in Western cultures but is not universally accepted as the best mode for learning. To make this point more clear, it is worthwhile to ask if any of your students have spent time in a school anywhere else in the world; examples from their own experience can illustrate how methods of teaching and learning differ in their assumptions. Questions 7 and 9 encourage students to gather evidence for their own generalizations of how American classrooms work. Do students find evidence to support the argument that gender-based preferences influence classroom teaching and learning styles? Are there other factors students can identify that affect how and when students speak in response to a teacher? How might those factors interact with or modify the influence of gender? In discussing questions such as these, you might also find it useful to talk with your students about the role of expectations or assumptions in classroom interaction — that is, do teachers assume certain students will have more or less valuable responses, and how do those expectations influence the ways the students act and what they value?


(text pp. 239–256)

Still Separate, Still Unequal (p. 239) JONATHAN KOZOL
You may want to approach question 1 with care. It could prove to be divisive, depending upon the racial and socioeconomic makeup of your classroom. One way to approach it could be to have the students write about their experiences and then share their work in pairs or small groups. You may want to ask them what choice they had in where they went to school and, if they could do it all over again, if they would go to the same schools and why. Be sure to listen in on students’ pair or group discussions, noting individuals who can provide contrasting experiences to share with the entire class. Most of your students were probably children when apartheid fell in 1994. Before discussing questions 3 and 4, you may want to define the term and give a brief history. Resources such as the apartheid Museum on the Web (http://www contain educational resources in addition to providing fast facts. South African apartheid was institutionalized across the board and openly acknowledged. what does it say about our society that while segregation is against the law, it is happening anyway — and according to Kozol, that no one is talking about it? Do any of your students feel as fatalistic as Fortino (paras. 72–80)? Do any feel they benefited from a segregated school system? Often, the language used by Gatto and Kozol is strikingly similar (question 5), particularly when discussing the potential for the standardized curriculum to turn students into passive, obedient, harmless robots. However, Gatto’s argument does not address race or class. In fact, Gatto claims that all students are being exposed to this mind-numbing curriculum, while Kozol asserts that it is only minorities who are forced to take, as one student put it, “retarded” classes (para. 65). White students are offered practical, college preparatory courses (para. 66), and the language of corporate America is not employed in their schools (para. 84). Is it that one of the authors is right and the other wrong? Is Gatto guilty of overlooking or denying segregation? Also, is the language of corporate America being employed in inner-city schools to prepare these students to enter the corporate or white-collar world? To what extent is the corporate world integrated? To what extent is the world of the laborer integrated? To answer question 7, encourage students to write up their findings and report them to the class. To facilitate the search, you can divide the class into groups, having one group focus on newspapers and the idea of segregation; another on newspapers and the inequalities of public education; the next on magazines and the idea of segregation; the next on magazines and the inequalities of public education; and so on. After all their research has been presented, the entire class could discuss practical ways to help solve the problem of segregation and inequalities in public schools and America’s implicit participation.

3 Money and Success: The Myth of Individual Opportunity (p. 259)
The myth that each individual shares equal opportunity is the American Dream. Consequently, this chapter can be readily linked to every other chapter in the book. Discussions of gender roles, cultural assimilation, and racism, for example, are all enriched by an appreciation of how Americans define and strive for success. For this reason, we have often taught this chapter first in our classes, and we used it to open the second edition of Rereading America. Virtually every college student is interested in the topic because most view their degree as a stepping stone to a successful life. The theme of success and the prevalence of personal narrative combine to make this chapter one of the most accessible in the book. It’s an ideal candidate, therefore, for independent student study, but we think you’ll find many of the readings so engaging that you’ll want to cover them with your class. The readings range from those centering on individual life stories — fiction, biography, and arguments based on personal narrative — to those whose arguments rely on statistics and data compiled from a number of sources. We have organized the chapter so that the selections that lay out the American Dream in its most positive light come first. Once the Dream has been defined, you can move students through the various selections as they complicate the Dream, question its validity, offer to update it, or threaten to dismiss it altogether as a dangerous myth. Issues of downward mobility, racism that persists despite personal success, and deep ambivalence toward one’s achievements complicate the simple formula for success suggested by the mythos of the power of hard work. Even the selections that seem to celebrate the Dream offer possibilities for students to use their own experience to critique the authors’. Because the Dream is ostensibly offered to all Americans, students often react in highly personal ways to the issues raised in this chapter. If things become too personal, it can be useful to take a step back to discuss selections in terms of the strategies authors use to make their points. Where and why do students find them effective? We’ve had success with discussions of the wide variety of forms “evidence” takes throughout this chapter. Some students are more convinced by personal experience, others by numbers. You might explore their perception of how reliable different kinds of evidence are: Are students more or less persuaded depending on the voice and identity of the author, the level of sympathy they bring to the essay’s argument before they read it, the kinds of claims that are being made, or other factors?

From Ragged Dick (p. 264) HORATIO ALGER
Stories like Ragged Dick were intended to be inspirational in their insistence that hard work always produces the reward of upward mobility. Yet students will be quick to point out that Dick’s success relies as much on his luck at rescuing the drowning son of a rich man as it does with any effort he’s put into becoming literate and well-mannered. Students may be interested in complicating question 1 somewhat by discussing the relationship between hard work (Dick’s bootblacking industry), good character, honest intentions, and luck. The forces contributing to Dick’s success are complicated, including his ability to 37


(text pp. 270–278)

keep a budget, modesty, bravery, ambition, swimming skills, intelligence, literacy, fairness, optimism about the future, and the luck of being in the right place at the right time. Do students feel some of these factors are more salient than others in helping Dick succeed? The contemporary — somewhat cynical — maxim on this subject says that “It’s not what you know but who you know.” Does this seem accurate? Although students have not read the entire novel, the section we’ve excerpted makes pretty clear the changes that Dick has undergone (question 3). He’s become literate, improved his penmanship, stopped living on the streets, opened a savings account that is already impressive, and lost his tendency to swear and use slang. In becoming financially better off, he has also become more conscious of the need to exercise self-control, to dress carefully, and to change his name to something “respectable.” As this list makes clear, the process of improving himself requires not just learning new skills but also repackaging himself so that he looks like someone who is successful. How do students respond to this wholly positive portrayal of Dick’s self-improvement program? How are appearances and material success connected today? How far should people go to mold themselves to suit others’ expectations? If students are interested in this discussion, you might move to question 6 — unless you want to save it for a paper assignment. Soto’s narrative suggests how difficult it is to try to realize middle-class aspirations when you are situated outside of them. What are the benefits and drawbacks to having a community support network like Soto’s? Is complete independence — being an orphan on the streets like Dick — really an advantage? The questions about money (2, 4, and 7) offer students some avenues to discuss the implications of Alger’s sense that money is a just reward for virtue, a measure of selfworth, and a sign of hard work. Many Americans today find that despite working fulltime, they cannot make ends meet; does this suggest that times have changed, or do students think Alger was only telling part of the story? Regarding question 4, because Dick didn’t hear the offer of $10,000, we know his motives are pure; we also know that he is in some way getting cheated by Mr. Rockwell’s offer of a job instead of the reward money. Can students think of contemporary parallels to Dick’s situation with Mr. Rockwell? For purposes of discussing question 7, you might ask students to find out what today’s equivalent of Dick’s $100 would be.

The Lesson (p. 270) TONI CADE BAMBARA
The best advice we can give you is to know this story well and have it fresh in your mind — in short, to rehearse the kind of close reading we’d like students to engage in with this story. All of the details in a short story are supposed to be significant, right? Encourage your class to test “The Lesson” against this standard. The results, while unpredictable, can be fascinating. One of our classes went to town on a discussion of why Sylvia initially compares Miss Moore to the winos who “cluttered up our parks and pissed on our handball walls and stank up our hallways and stairs” (para. 1). They spoke of how Miss Moore made them uncomfortable, reminded them of unpleasant truths, invaded their space. You can start with some of the details we point out (the fur coat and microscope in question 3), with phrases you’re ready to explicate, or, best of all, with language that your students select as interesting or unusual. Remember that you don’t need a pat answer for every word in the story! Question 1 addresses the most obvious issue — i.e., the story’s lesson — and most students will be able to say something about social inequality or an unjust economic system. Things quickly get more complicated, however, as our next questions try to suggest. Note that Sylvia, the narrator, resists Miss Moore’s teaching and even considers Sugar treacherous when she answers as Miss Moore desires. The trip to F.A.O. Schwarz apparently affects

(text pp. 278–284)


Sylvia the most of all the children, threatening her self-confidence and her air of superiority. At the end of the story she is going to “think this day through”; her complacency, or perhaps just her childhood innocence, has been shaken, and she’s looking at disturbing truths about race and success, at social and economic hierarchies. How likely is Sylvia to own a yacht someday when the toy boat is far beyond the reach of her family? By the time she tells the story, reflecting on this key day, she seems to appreciate the lesson that once angered her. We’ve tried to write Engaging the Text questions that will help you to open up the story; if time is limited, cover one or two thoroughly rather than all of them hastily. For example, don’t stop with the assertion that a microscope symbolizes science or education or that a paperweight symbolizes the business world. How are these children being educated? What is their attitude about learning, as gleaned either from school or Miss Moore? What does all this have to do with success? Is Miss Moore’s scheme of education likely to produce practical, material rewards, or is it aimed at something different? Questions 8 and 9 are substantial but, we trust, self-explanatory. The show-and-tell exercise (question 8) can vividly dramatize how much money some Americans apparently have to waste. Note that if several students write the biographies mentioned in question 9 (describing Sylvia’s life since the day of the lesson), you can analyze these responses in interesting ways. For example, did male and female students write equally optimistic stories?

Horatio Alger (p. 278) HARLON L. DALTON
We admire how clearly and succinctly Dalton articulates his objections to the notion that America is a meritocracy. Students should note that he assumes readers’ familiarity with the reality of racial bias in the United States. He then argues that this reality makes it impossible for anyone to be judged solely on the basis of merit — that it is impossible to separate race, money, and family connections from how people are judged in our society. Some students may note the conspicuous absence of gender issues in his analysis: Is this a troubling oversight or do students assume this is just one of many other factors affecting Americans’ success that Dalton simply chooses not to address? His evidence that the merit myth “flies in the face of reality” may seem weak to some students, since it consists primarily of anecdotes (e.g., the “best Black” recommendation letter) and a brief history of racial inequalities that have plagued this country. If students are disturbed by the lack of data and statistics, they could be encouraged to research this question themselves to provide support or refutation for Dalton’s claim. While question 1 focuses on whether merit is the primary tool for evaluation in American society, question 3 asks students to consider the complexities of evaluating merit. Although Dalton doesn’t explicitly identify who defines standards of merit, he seems to imply that those in power set the standards. The obvious concern about this power is that standards are often predisposed to favor the abilities of whoever set them. Can students offer evidence from their own lives to support or refute this concern? While Dalton acknowledges that optimism is often a key ingredient to success —and he therefore sees the appeal of the Alger myth — he is also careful to point out that this myth implies that if you don’t succeed it’s because you didn’t work hard enough and therefore didn’t deserve success. This corollary to the myth sidesteps the more complicated issues that affect upward mobility — poverty, environment, lack of health care, and so on — and thus is dangerously attractive to many whites and problematic for blacks because it supports “the racial pecking order.” Dalton might say that the Boondocks cartoon (question 7) exemplifies the disjuncture between the possibilities of achievement and the odds against actual success. A career play-


(text pp. 285–294)

ing professional basketball or football, or as a film or music star — while the dream of hundreds of thousands of young boys and girls — is open to only a miniscule number of them, and thus the “plan” in question relies as much on luck or other factors as it does on the ability to “apply” oneself.

The Black Avenger (p. 285) KEN HAMBLIN
This essay raises touchy subjects in ways that are likely to provoke strong reactions from students. Some may be deeply offended by Hamblin’s claims and/or by the language and ridicule in which he couches those claims. Others may agree wholeheartedly with Hamblin and end up offending their classmates. We’ve found personal investment in the issues raised by this reading, though, can touch off a great in-class discussion — when it’s channeled productively. If you find that students need some time to “decompress” before discussing this essay, have them freewrite for several minutes about what they find most compelling and/or offensive in Hamblin’s essay. Then try opening the discussion by making two lists of these items on the board and asking students what they think Hamblin’s purpose was in being so incendiary. Question 3 extends this exploration of Hamblin’s purpose by offering students the chance to define some of his most provocative terms and discuss why he might have used such language. You may find there are other terms students would like to add to this list for critical examination. Obviously Hamblin’s intent is not to enrage people to the point that they refuse to read on; do students see any value in knowingly writing things that will make people angry? Discussing this text in terms of rhetorical strategies should help students engage critically with Hamblin; you will likely find that question 1 gets answered in the course of this conversation. The main assertions students might take on include: (1) the number of “Angry White Men” in America is much smaller than the number of guilt-ridden whites; (2) whites have honestly tried to make reparation, and blacks should acknowledge this; (3) it’s legitimate for whites to feel frustrated and wish blacks would just “get over it”; (4) it’s demeaning to capitulate to being patronized by white guilt; (5) the best thing African Americans could do for themselves is stop complaining about a history of inequality and start exercising the equality they now have; (6) being black doesn’t make you less American or less able to reach for the American Dream. Hamblin isn’t arguing that racism doesn’t still exist, but he makes a pretty strong case for why it’s empowering to be bigger than the bigots. Most students will be familiar with the issue of white guilt, whether or not they agree with Hamblin’s more provocative claims (question 2). What forces can students identify that encourage this guilt? What forces challenge it? Are there any ways students can see to avoid the problem Hamblin identifies of seeking to get beyond this guilt without suffering accusations of racism (as most outspoken conservatives do, he notes)? Do students feel this guilt should be laid aside, or does the guilt seem necessary in order to avoid the possibility that America’s racist extremes might eventually be forgotten? Our Exploring Connections questions (5–7) would make great paper topics if you want to encourage students to make a careful argument on the basis of specific evidence. Remind them that a good compare-and-contrast paper does more than just lay out the perspectives of the two authors being examined; it also includes the student’s own argument about how those perspectives can most usefully be reconciled, or why they should not, or what they suggest for a larger context. Students who feel that class discussions haven’t wrestled with some of these issues to their complete satisfaction often find that the process of formulating and articulating a specific argument about a controversial text is the best way to achieve some closure on these issues. Your students should be able to write the kind of comparative essay we ask for in question 6 on the basis of all the kinds of comparison

(text pp. 294–324)


to other texts we’ve suggested throughout the book. You may choose to allow your students to compare Hamblin’s claims with those put forth by other writers besides Dalton or Bambara, who similarly suggest that there is more to success than simple motivation and hard work. For example, they might compare Hamblin’s claims to those put forth by Gregory Mantsios. Question 7 would make an excellent group project, if you are inclined to assign those. After they write their own version of the story, your students could work together to write a more critical paper evaluating how those stories challenge or support Hamblin’s claims.

Serving in Florida (p. 294) BARBARA EHRENREICH
The restaurant workers who populate “Serving in Florida” are literally going nowhere. Your students may find their lack of opportunities puzzling. After all, with the exception of George, all of the people she discusses were born in America, speak English, and should be able to “pull themselves up from their bootstraps” à la Ragged Dick. Ask your students why Ehrenreich might have chosen the descriptions in question 2. Are they effective? Is there room for hope in the bowels of Jerry’s? For someone like George? A glib response might be, “Well, they should just get a scholarship and go to school.” What specific barriers do these individuals face? You might point out that working two exhausting and degrading jobs leaves little time for scholarly work. How about psychological barriers? Consider Carlie, the housekeeper with no health insurance who is missing all of her teeth. Why are opportunities not available to her? (Or are they?) Many of your students may be uncomfortable with Ehrenreich’s undercover work. As question 3 points out, she was essentially a “tourist” in the world of the working class. Ask your students whether they think Ehrenreich’s forays into the world of poverty were ethical. How might the knowledge that she could leave that world at any time prevent her from really understanding the problems of the poor? Do your students admire Ehrenreich’s willingness to experience physical and emotional hardship in order to expose what she sees as unjust inequality? How emotionally involved does she get with her coworkers? Many of your students have probably worked in the service industry as waiters, fastfood cashiers, nannies, and so on. They may wish to bring their own experiences to your discussion of this essay, and they should be encouraged to draw comparisons between their own experiences and those of Ehrenreich. Like her, did they see themselves as only temporary visitors to the world of low-wage work? Have any of your students ever identified with servers like George, Gail, or Ellen (question 5)? If so, how did they break away from that sense of hopelessness? Do any of them fear that, despite a college education, they may face life in an unpromising job? How optimistic are your students about their future? How tied is education to their prospects of success?

Class in America — 2003 (p. 307) GREGORY MANTSIOS
Through his discussion of myths and realities, Mantsios contends that the United States has clearly delineated classes, and that people’s class, which is often the class they’re born into, has a huge impact on most areas of their lives, including their health, who their friends are, where they live, their education, their career choices, and their chances for success (question 1). Which statistics do your students find most surprising? Do they have any ideas as to why more people aren’t aware of the disparity between rich and poor? Can they


(text pp. 325–330)

provide their own examples to support or refute some of Mantsios’s claims? For example, have they evidence of the well-dressed poor or the dressing down of business people (para. 23)? Do they know people like Cheryl Mitchell, Bob Farrell, or Harold Browning, people whose paths were dictated to them by their class? Do they know anyone who has moved up or down the class ladder? How was it done? Question 2 is difficult to answer, but your students will most definitely have strong opinions one way or the other. The key is to keep them focused on the essay to see if they can decide what it is actually arguing. At the very least, Mantsios points out that our capitalist economic system does what it was designed to do: make money for corporate owners (para. 43). To what extent are people who work for these owners being exploited? What actions could these corporate owners take to ensure a more even distribution of wealth? Questions 3 and 4 provide excellent opportunities to solidify some of the lessons of Mantsios’s essay, and to be creative in the process. For question 3, have the students initially work in pairs; then in groups of four, or two pairs, they should compare their budgets and revise them according to what they all agree is reasonable or realistic. Be sure to give students a chance to share how easy or difficult it was to make the $15,260 stretch. How did they choose what to include and what to give up? For question 4, ask the students to tell each other how they chose which person to write about. Listen in on the students’ discussions and encourage individuals to share especially poignant details or passages with the entire class. Focusing again on paragraph 43, the case could be made that Mantsios feels that our problems could be solved by changing our economic system (question 5). Would socialism, for example, increase the distribution of wealth and opportunity? What do your students know about life in either formerly or currently socialist countries such as China, Sweden, the former Soviet Union, and Venezuela? Would they like to live in any of these countries? or is doing away with capitalism too extreme? Are there more practical ways we could help all citizens live healthy, comfortable lives? Again, students should compare their solutions, and as a class you can come up with a master list. You could segue to question 10 from question 5. You might have your students do some research into inheritance laws. When and why were they created? How is inheritance taxed? What does the government do with the money? Question 11 might be expanded to look at several different magazines to determine their target audiences along class, racial, or gender lines. How does the content differ for each? How is it the same? What assumptions do the writers and editors make about what interests their audiences? Are their assumptions mostly correct? Do they ever miss the mark? Do the magazines dictate interests, or do they merely reflect what audiences want?

If your students are unfamiliar with working with — or “reading” — visual images, they may be surprised at just how much there is to say about the images we’ve included here. You may wish to ask them questions in addition to the ones we’ve supplied: What is going on in these images? Is there an obvious story? Who is present? Who or what is absent? Who is the audience for the image? What elements included are surprising? How would you describe the image, starting with the upper left-hand corner and working your way through it section by section? In what ways does the image of the 1950s father handing out money portray the ideal or mythic family?

(text pp. 330–332)


You’ll find that your students, though constantly exposed to advertising, may not have looked carefully at these images. However, they should know that they have been carefully put together. The Simmons mattress ad, taken from People magazine, conflates images of money and sexuality. Some questions for your students to consider include, What is the purpose of the pillows on the bed? Do they appear as though they’ve been used for sleeping? What is on the chair next to the bed? What does the fact that the money is in packets of one-hundred-dollar bills, along with individual bills, mean? Consider the position of the camera that took the photo. Why was it placed there? What is missing from the image? The image of the urban scene framed by a broken television set, from the book Black L.A., is a favorite of ours. In many ways this image interrogates the idea of a constructed image, where, as in the Simmons ad, elements are included and excluded for a particular effect. Consider the way that the four figures are positioned in the frame of the television set and the attitudes of the figures in the screen. What are their expressions? What else is inside the frame? What is outside? Ask your students to consider what they think would be included and excluded from this scene if the television were actually broadcasting an image. The irony of the words on the man’s shirt, “Freedom by any means necessary,” and the work in the image of the man repairing novelty items struck us immediately. The expression on the man’s face, too, is intriguing. He appears rather sheepish and somewhat embarrassed at being photographed while undertaking vocational training.

Money (p. 330) DANA GIOIA
Students may be aware of, but unaccustomed to using much of, the slang in this poem. Questions 1 and 5 ask them to think about where these terms come from and how to research common expressions. If they have trouble locating sources that will offer clues about the history of these terms, you might suggest the following: the Oxford English Dictionary, which offers history of word usage; the Dictionary of American Regional English, which focuses on colloquialisms; and encyclopedia or dictionaries of slang or common expressions. It could be interesting to give each student in the class one word or phrase from the poem and have them research and report on its evolution as a term for money. What theories can students come up with to explain why specific words for money evolve at a particular time? We suggest the exercise in question 6 to help students think not only about the construction of a term but also about how to construct a poem; encourage them to consider that they might employ similar strategies for choosing the language of the poem without necessarily adopting the same tone or critical intent. Where this poem uses the repetition of synonymous terms to critique our fascination with money and our sense of its omnipotence (question 2), other poems might use this strategy of repetition for purposes of praise. What in his techniques, then, enables the author to achieve the purpose of questioning the value of money in our culture? The poem certainly ends on a powerful note that helps establish the poem’s critical point (question 3). After listing all the great things we say money can do and all the cavalier ways we talk about it, to end with the quiet assertion that “it talks” links exaggeration with reality. Although it can’t literally talk, money has tremendous power to make things happen in this country and to make people pay attention. Invisibility — like silence — is a condition based on one’s lack of money. A comparison with the Olds poem (question 4) will also help make this point, as the homeless man has no voice at all in the poem, while the speaker comes from a position of enough financial privilege to choose when she will go without the amenities of a home. Do students find


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the tone of sudden realization or of cynical observation more pointed as a comment about the relationship Americans have to money? Why?

From Seven Floors Up (p. 332) SHARON OLDS
In this poem, Olds emphasizes the social position of looking down on the poor from a position of privilege by locating the visual position of the speaker seven floors above the homeless man with his shopping cart (question 1). At the same time, however, the content of the poem resists the symbolic implication of that physical position by aligning the sensibility of the speaker with the homeless man: she has just come from a camping trip in the desert that enables her to appreciate what it means to have “no sink, no water, / no heat.” Still, students may argue that the speaker offers a kind of sympathy that is somewhat condescending. In effectively worshiping the toilet and shower she returns to, the speaker not only shows that she knows what it’s like to live without the comforts of a home but also that she can choose to forsake those comforts temporarily to go camping. Although she implies that homelessness could “happen to me,” the speaker is not homeless, and the gap between being seven floors up and being a homeless man is notable in the thankful yet fearful tone in which the speaker expresses both sympathy for the man and relief that she does not occupy the same position (questions 3 and 4). In this context, one might understand the “easy birth” as identifying the moment at which she first became aware of the threat of homelessness — a birth of consciousness. You may find a range of student interpretations of this birth, and it could be worthwhile to talk about multiple meanings for this metaphor; it could also indicate, for example, that the speaker’s actual birthday is in November and represents an annual reminder of introduction into an easy kind of life that this man doesn’t have. Student reactions to the speaker’s position might reflect their own sense of how real the threat of homelessness is to them (question 5): it might be useful to ask them to seek out statistics about who makes up the homeless population in various parts of the country and what precipitates this condition. The speaker tries to imagine being homeless and to relate to its hardships (question 6). She retains a certain distance from the people who represent poverty, and this distance seems to be fed in part by the guilty recognition that it’s nice not to be homeless. By contrast, Ehrenreich experiences firsthand the role of low-wage worker but realizes that she can return to a more privileged lifestyle whenever she chooses (question 7). It can be worthwhile to ask students which position they find themselves most sympathetic with and why — although you may need to judge whether this should be a written assignment or a class discussion, based on whether your students are likely to become antagonistic toward those who try to create distance between themselves and those less fortunate.

Framing Class, Vicarious Living, and Conspicuous Consumption (p. 334) DIANA KENDALL
There is little doubt that the media influences the American public (question 1). The extent of that influence is what is up for debate. One of Kendall’s most provocative arguments is that the media has the same bottom line as other for-profit corporations: they want to make money. Thus, the media serves the interests of the upper class, that is, the men and women who run and invest in these corporations (paras. 30–34). But what about other influences in addition to the media? For example, how much time to individuals spend with those of different classes or races? According to Mantsios’s “Class in America —

(text pp. 353–358)


2003,” not much (p. 307). Chances are, our friends and family, as well as the people in our schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces, are similar to us in race and class. It’s hard to learn about different sorts of people if we are always interacting with people “like us.” Similarly, it is possible that there are other reasons besides media influence that many Americans live beyond their means. Maybe parents and schools aren’t focusing enough on fiscal planning and responsibility. Why don’t high schools require students to take a course in money management? In addition to listing hedonistic consumer goods, you might have students list necessary consumer goods (question 2). How do they distinguish between essential and nonessential? Encourage them to think of concrete reasons to justify items that may at first seem excessive but that they consider necessary. Is the difference between necessary and unnecessary somewhat relative? How? Questions 3 and 4 can be grouped together. For both questions, students can analyze Kendall’s examples and compare them to other shows that they’ve watched. How strong is Kendall’s argument when she takes on the portrayal of characters in shows that are meant to be satirical, such as The Simpsons and Roseanne? For example, does The Simpsons limit its use of stereotypes to the working class, or does it make fun of all social classes, including the rich? Likewise, who is Jeff Foxworthy’s audience? Members of the upper class who want to distance themselves from the working class, or members of the working class themselves? What exactly is her objection to Malcolm in the Middle and Arrested Development? Do your students feel the need to defend satirical programs against Kendall’s accusations? Why or why not? When discussing question 5, you may want to ask what organizations Kendall has left out. Do PBS and NPR experience the same constraints as the privately owned stations? Is what they do civic journalism, or some kind of combination of civic and traditional? Why does Kendall omit public stations from the discussion? Questions 7, 8, and 9 can serve as extensions of 3 and 4. Question 7 can be done as an in-class activity to ensure students understand and know how to talk about framing. Questions 8 and 9 can be combined and assigned for homework. Students should decide on the one show they’re going to watch before they leave class. You might have them write up their findings in a short report or as a class presentation. Encourage students to draw some conclusions about their findings. What does the presence or absence of these frames say about the particular show? The show’s genre? The show’s target audience? Society in general?

Stephen Cruz (p. 353) STUDS TERKEL
We were teaching this piece before we knew we had a book on our hands; it’s one of our favorite tried and true selections. Although the narrative is fifteen years old, it speaks to issues that still concern Americans, especially those (like your students) who must contemplate the costs of “success.” Although the interview is quite easy to read, it can generate discussions of tough issues that students face as soon as they contemplate a particular major in college. Does economic success guarantee fulfillment? Might upward mobility have hidden costs? Is tokenism in hiring and promotion likely to affect women and minority students? Cruz’s honesty and intelligence spark this powerful cautionary tale about the perpetual dissatisfaction that can result from perpetually striving to better oneself. In addition to clarifying a few main points in the narrative, questions 1 to 4 invite students to voice their own opinions. Our classes have generally been diverse enough that simple questions such as “Is Cruz’s solution the one you would recommend?” (see question 1) can generate a good deal of valuable discussion. Let people talk a little, and encourage them to talk to each other, not just to you. Question 2, about “not losing,” may have


(text pp. 358–369)

the greatest hidden potential; students can begin to discuss fear of failure along with desire for success and to see differences between the two. (You might keep your eyes open for gender differences here. Do male and female students perceive failure in the same way?) Note that this can be an emotionally charged topic for students from certain backgrounds who feel tremendous pressure to avoid ruining the opportunity that others in their family never had — they’re in a position where they’re not supposed to lose. For other students, of course, their family’s assumption that everyone should excel in college can be just as intimidating. Question 5 requires students to recognize that “success” doesn’t always bring satisfaction. Cruz probably has more advantages than Dick had starting out, and he seems to find material comforts and success much more easily than the others do — yet he also feels far less contented with his position. Dick is both fictional and extremely lucky. Cruz, on the other hand, may be more representative of ordinary experience: he works hard without playing games and slowly moves up the ladder. What do students make of the malaise that Cruz feels despite his success? Question 6 is a good compare-and-contrast paper topic. Depending on when you teach this selection and how sophisticated your class is, you can turn them loose on the full question — comparing Cruz to Richard Rodriguez (p. 193), Gary Soto (p. 26), and Mike Rose (p. 161) — or ask them to focus on a single pair. Each of the comparisons is illuminating: Rodriguez is as successful as Cruz but, unlike Cruz, “stays the course” despite some misgivings; Soto, at least the way we read his narrative, learns at an early age that there’s more to life than amassing wealth; Rose seems to see education as the ticket to a better life and hints broadly that, while the pursuit of success is fraught with danger, it beats the alternative to pieces. You can handle this topic by asking small groups to study one pair of “subjects” (e.g., Cruz and Soto) and then drawing on their conclusions for a more comprehensive discussion covering Cruz, Rodriguez, Soto, and Rose. Question 7 sends students to the library to find information on minorities in business. (Minority representation has improved, of course, since 1969, but your students may be surprised to find that major differences between whites and other groups still exist.)

Good Noise: Cora Tucker (p. 358) ANNE WITTE GARLAND
After essays that focus on the problems of discrimination in America, this biographical sketch offers an upbeat, even inspirational note, so skipping this piece would be a mistake because of the balance it provides. The reading extends the discussion of success by showing a woman who is highly successful, but not in traditional ways. For question 1, on how Cora Tucker might define success, students should note that Tucker lives an engaged, active, productive life, one that is devoted primarily to helping others. She makes progress on issues that matter to her, and she wins the recognition of her community. Her house and her food, however, will never grace the covers of Architectural Digest or Gourmet. The answer to question 2, about what motivates Tucker, may ultimately remain a mystery, but students should be able to identify some important elements in her development. Chief among these would be her personal knowledge of what working-class lives are like. She had a tough childhood, witnessed her mother’s struggle with welfare, saw sharecroppers and garment workers who lacked what most of us consider basic necessities. Like Mike Rose, she had a good teacher in high school, one who obviously had a lasting impact on her values. Finally, she mentions that she grew bored with her life when she wasn’t really involved; maybe there’s a lesson here for bored teens. What she learned about organizing (question 3) should also be easy to pick out of the text. She learns that change requires the power of numbers, not merely individual voices;

(text pp. 358–369)


on the other hand, she learns that an individual can galvanize others into taking action, such as registering to vote. Activists need to know the facts, but they can also benefit from humanizing issues (e.g., in showing up with live bodies at a meeting about a teen center). Laws can help, the federal government can help, public-relations efforts can help. You can extend this assignment by picking a worthwhile task and seeing how much an individual or small group can accomplish. For example, pick a precinct with traditionally low voter registration levels and see what kind of an impact one can have. Whatever the results, students will have something interesting to write about. We don’t know the answer to question 4, about whether people in small towns or rural communities have more power than urbanites to affect political decisions. Having spent a lot of years in Los Angeles, we feel overwhelmed by the size of the city and the number and complexity of political forces that do battle in it. But maybe it’s a myth that we lack control. After all, you don’t have to know the mayor to influence your own community. Certainly, Cora Tucker provides an example of an individual for whom institutional forces are not inaccessible (question 6), although she herself would probably agree with Mantsios that she does not have much “control” over these forces. While Tucker’s influence — what she calls “raising hell” — is significant in Halifax County, she cannot ultimately control how lawmakers will respond to her efforts. Still, she would probably disagree with Mantsios on the power of the individual; with her efforts at organizing people, she clearly has a direct effect on community improvements. This question and question 5 ask students to compare visions of success in several selections in this chapter, using textual evidence. These can be answered in class discussions or as a paper. If you’re planning on discussing these questions in class, though, it can be helpful to let your students know ahead of time; even a hasty review of other readings in preparation for class will save a lot of time and boost energy levels. Question 8 offers students a chance to do some Internet research to support their understanding of the text. You may wish to devise a series of questions for students to research — or have the class brainstorm a list of questions they’d like answers to — so that you have different students reporting on different information as the basis of their homework. Question 7, which asks students to attend a meeting and interview members of a grass-roots organization, is by far the most challenging and time-consuming of those listed here. Obviously we think the rewards might be substantial as well. Our key advice is to help anyone who tackles this topic prepare carefully for the visit and interview. What kind of “homework” or research can be done ahead of time? What questions are most important? What questions might be used to break the ice and start a conversation? How will the student articulate her goals in attending the meeting? As a useful addendum to the report to the class, a student might undertake a self-critique of how she approached and performed this unusual work.

4 True Women and Real Men: Myths of Gender (p. 371)
Myths of gender are immediately interesting to most college students, who are usually in the midst of discovering or shaping their own gender identities and sexual orientations. But what makes this material powerful also makes it potentially volatile because the issues are likely to hit close to home. The first prereading activity offers an effective and relatively nonthreatening way to demonstrate how deeply ingrained gender stereotypes can be, even when we consciously reject them or want to deny their power. The second activity literally illustrates the gender images that bombard us in the media. (This way, students are not necessarily putting their own beliefs on the line, and they are less likely to react defensively if these ideas are challenged.) As an extension of this activity, you might ask students to list the advantages and disadvantages of being female and male. Do women and men perceive the same benefits and drawbacks? If perceptions are markedly different, how can the differences be explained? At the end of the chapter, you might ask students to review their lists of traits and advantages/disadvantages in light of the reading they’ve done and write a final journal entry explaining how their understanding of gender has changed or why it has remained the same. When assigning the freewriting exercise (p. 376) on the photo of Delphinia Blue (the performer’s stage name), emphasize the ways the image challenges traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity. Stereotypes and misinformation are likely to abound. Simple factual errors can be easily corrected (e.g., the common misconception that female impersonators and cross-dressers are necessarily gay). However, try to resist the temptation to root out every myth and falsehood at once — it’s important for students to make their own discoveries. This doesn’t mean that you have to let a gross stereotype go unchallenged just because everyone in class seems to endorse it: raise questions rather than dictate “correct” views, perhaps by previewing some of the arguments or perspectives students will encounter later in the chapter. As students work through the selections, help them use these rereadings of gender to question the cultural myths and other forces that shape our assumptions about who we are and what we ought to be.

How the Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes (p. 376) ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE
Tocqueville’s explanation of American men’s and women’s “understanding” of their respective roles strongly suggests the “separate but equal” rhetoric used to justify American racial policies more than a century after he wrote this essay. Students may find that considering his arguments in light of this rhetoric helps them get a handle on what he is claiming as well as how viable those arguments are. Can separate be equal in terms of gender relations? How accurate is it to claim that power is equitably distributed if women remain within the home while men deal with the rest of the world? If students are particularly interested in this question, you might have them do some research into the “Republican Motherhood” movement in this country in the nineteenth century: much of the justification for women confining their efforts to domestic responsibilities derived from 48

(text pp. 381–383)


a sense that as the nation’s moral arbiters and teachers of the young, women — specifically mothers — played a vital role in the workings of the “public sphere” by raising children to be good public citizens. If you want to divide up library research responsibilities, you might consider asking some students to read at least parts of Wollstonecraft’s text as well as some contemporary responses to it. Brief reports to the class to set out the context of late eighteenth and nineteenth century feminism and debates about women’s roles should enhance any discussions of this text. In fact, Tocqueville’s assumptions about the roles and characteristics of men and women (question 1) mesh quite well with the Republican Motherhood philosophy. He assumes women are physically weaker and morally stronger than men. He assumes that both have equal capacities for “intellect and understanding,” although they ought to exercise them differently — in different occupations and pleasures. He assumes that women are grateful for male protection and are thus happily willing to defer to male authority both within and outside of marriage. His conclusion, therefore, is that the “social inferiority” of women in America is not a problem since women are so highly valued and respected by men for what they do — unlike the condition of women in Europe. He claims that this European disregard for women’s work and capacities is the greatest difference in the way European and American women are treated (question 2). Students can be encouraged to debate how contemporary Tocqueville’s arguments are: Do they think women’s domestic work has historically been valued as highly as men’s “bread-winning” work? Are these things equally valued now? Many conservative groups today — the Concerned Women for America, for example — claim that it is vital to the future of the country for women to recognize again their “proper place” and the satisfaction and benefits of staying in it. What evidence can students cite either to support or refute the notion that things would be “better” if women would confine themselves to domestic work? Questions 5 and 6 expand students’ consideration of the issues of gender equality Tocqueville raises by asking them to consider parallel issues across different time periods and situations. Both would make good paper topics; however, some students have a tendency to assume that these issues have little to do with them because these particular texts address historical moments or situations in which the students themselves don’t live. For this reason, even if you wish to have students write papers on these topics, you might want to connect the questions briefly with the larger discussion of how Tocqueville’s observations “work” today.

“Girl” offers a lively, accessible illustration of the social construction of gender, provides a compelling catalog of traditional gender stereotypes, and suggests a good deal about the power dynamics between women and men — all this in little more than a page and without recourse to sociological jargon or weighty abstractions. Although the setting may seem culturally remote to many students, ask the class to think about whether any of the lessons being taught here are similar to the ones they learned themselves as they were growing up (see question 7). We’ve found this freewriting exercise to be very successful; students readily get the feel of the style, yet produce unique lists of advice. Because the imitations often raise questions about cultural and family differences in gender training, the exercise can complicate, as well as confirm, Kincaid’s vision. Kincaid’s story invites us to eavesdrop as a Caribbean mother advises her daughter on what’s “right” for a young woman in matters of work, love, morality, manners, and personal relationships. The brevity and the distinctive voice of the piece make it ideal for a dramatic reading; ask for two volunteers to play the roles of mother and daughter (the effect might be particularly interesting if a male student plays the almost-silent daughter).


(text pp. 383–392)

Reading aloud should highlight the overpowering effect of the steady flow of dos and don’ts: note that the entire story consists of a single sentence, and that even the daughter’s two attempts to respond or resist fail to stop the stream of words. Question 8, which asks students to imagine the daughter’s thoughts as she listens, would make a good freewriting exercise to follow the reading. Once students have a feel for the sheer number and weight of cultural messages about correct gender behavior that the girl is receiving, they’re ready to begin decoding those messages. Questions 1 through 4 ask students to move from the concrete details of the story to larger generalizations about the characters’ lives, particularly about traditional women’s roles. If students are inexperienced in this kind of interpretation, ask them to begin by identifying the categories of behavior covered here (e.g., advice about housework, appearance, manners, etc.). It should soon become clear that a large proportion of the talk is devoted to instruction in performing household tasks and preserving one’s respectability. Only two roles seem to be available in this young girl’s world: being a “lady” (that is, a good homemaker) or becoming a “slut.” But Kincaid manages to show that, even within this constricted social world, women are more complex and powerful than the roles assigned to them. While the mother stresses overt subservience to men (keeping father’s clothes just so, for instance), she also suggests that cheerful compliance sometimes may be merely a mask; there are smiles for everyone, including “someone you don’t like at all.” And she implies that, behind those pleasant smiles, women may wield as much or more power than men: each sex can “bully” the other; moreover, a woman’s knowledge of “how to make a good medicine” gives her the power to heal illness and even to control life and death. Students may initially see only the restrictions faced by the unnamed girl, overlooking the subtler references to the powers she is acquiring. This might provide a good opportunity for students to work on close reading in small groups. Is this mother doing her daughter a favor by teaching her to mask her power with external conformity? Should the young girl be learning instead to fight back openly? Would open rebellion be merely suicidal?

Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender (p. 383) AARON H. DEVOR
The combination of unfamiliar ideas and an academic style makes this selection a challenge for many students. But Devor’s analysis is worth the work, as it questions deeply rooted assumptions and introduces a number of useful concepts. One of the first myths Devor attacks is the idea that gender is “binary and permanent” — that there are only two possible gender categories, and that an individual’s gender remains constant throughout life (see question 1). We’ve observed that students usually have a difficult time detaching gender categories from biological sex; for example, while they readily acknowledge that biological females may have traits and behaviors we see as “masculine,” they insist that such people are “really” women unless they undergo sex-change surgery. They sometimes dismiss as ignorant, or wrongheaded, the idea that other cultures (and young children in our own) may determine gender identity on the basis of nongenital characteristics. Students’ insistence on the binary model precisely illustrates Devor’s argument that we are socialized to see “masculinity” and “femininity” as natural by-products of biological differences. But in his analysis, this association is merely conventional and arbitrary — as arbitrary as attaching gender meanings to any other physical variation, like brown eyes versus blue. For Devor, femininity and masculinity are signs that people use “to claim and communicate their membership in their assigned, or chosen, sex or gender” (para. 10); in

(text pp. 383–392)


other words, gender is a kind of code that we are taught but that we may also consciously choose and alter. In mainstream North American society, he argues, gender codes are centrally concerned with one’s relationship to power — competitive, hierarchically oriented people are seen as “masculine” while cooperative, communally oriented people are seen as “feminine.” So although he rejects biological explanations of gender roles, Devor sees our association of dominance with maleness and submission with femaleness as far from arbitrary — as evidence, in fact, of systematic gender discrimination. If your students are having a hard time sorting out the relationship of being male and female to being masculine and feminine, you may want to begin with question 8, which asks them to consider how the signs of one’s gendered identity manifest. Devor would probably say that the cartoon is funny because although gender identities take time to develop and solidify, they aren’t something one merely chooses, like choosing a new outfit. This question of whether one chooses a gendered identity is an interesting one to explore in more detail. According to Devor’s study, if children are old enough to make conscious choices and to feel “pressured,” their gender identities are already determined. Yet if the biology of one’s sex isn’t the driving force that determines gender identity, and choice does not play a large role either, then what is it that determines one’s gender? What models or theories of gender development can the class suggest, and how do they work with Devor’s claims? Questions 2–7 ask students to look closely at Devor’s account of gender role socialization. Devor seems to assume that “significant others,” like the “generalized other” will usually exert pressure on children to conform to social norms. But what if there’s conflict or dissonance between the messages a child receives? Devor does acknowledge a different kind of internal tension: his distinction between the personal “I” and the socially perceived “me” (question 3) is a concept most teenagers find congenial. This journal entry enables writers to explore the differences between their private and public selves. Question 7, asking students to analyze the I/me distinction in Kincaid’s “Girl” would be a good academic follow-up to this exercise. Question 4, which asks for lists of acceptable and unacceptable cross-gender behaviors, can be fun as well as illuminating. To make it easier to identify patterns or “rules” for cross-gender acceptability, you might have students create checklists similar to the one shown here (see manual p. 52). Questions 9 and 10 could work as topics either for discussion or for more formal essays. Students will be able to come up with numerous male role models — from sports legends to movie stars to politicians. How do the images of masculinity they present reinforce or challenge our culture’s standards of masculinity? Students’ personal experience can also be the basis for a good argument: Can they draw any conclusions about how gender roles work (or don’t) based on their socialization?


(text pp. 393–402) Activities/ Modes of Expression Wearing pants Wearing skirts Sitting with legs apart Walking, swinging hips Cooking dinner for family Cooking dinner as chef in a fine restaurant Sewing Mowing the lawn Caring for an infant Participating in combat Wearing makeup Getting a manicure Screaming Crying Swearing Losing temper in public Arguing with the boss Bodybuilding Dieting Working as a firefighter Working as a nurse Acceptable for Women Acceptable for Men

The Story of My Body (p. 393) JUDITH ORTIZ COFER
Ortiz Cofer is an engaging storyteller, and the personal story she shares should resonate for a wide variety of students: women who’ve worried about their looks, bookish students who’ve hated P.E., immigrant students who’ve come to recognize different “selves” as they adapt to a new culture, students who’ve learned early and firsthand the meaning of racial and ethnic bigotry. Ortiz Cofer’s style is deceptively transparent, so it’s easy to overlook both the ideas and the art that inform this “simple” narrative. Question 1 asks students to reconstruct a more linear account of Ortiz Cofer’s development and trace how specific experiences alter her self-image; this would be a good small-group activity. Besides working to identify the points Ortiz Cofer makes in her narrative, students might also think about why she organizes her narrative thematically instead of chronologically. If the class does the journal assignment in imitation of Ortiz Cofer’s story (question 9), you could suggest that they also write a chronological account that covers the same territory and decide which version they like best or found easiest to do.

(text pp. 402–408)


Everyone has felt like an outsider at some point, especially during childhood. Question 5 asks if there’s anything distinctive about Ortiz Cofer’s experiences. One way to handle this question is to combine it with the review/analysis of Devor on gender role socialization (question 6). To what extent does Ortiz Cofer encounter the views of femininity that Devor describes as typical in mainstream North American culture? Does Devor take into account the interplay of different cultural norms that Ortiz Cofer must negotiate? Does Ortiz Cofer absorb gender lessons from significant others (like her mother) and generalized others (e.g., the images and attitudes she encounters in school and the media) in the ways that Devor suggests? Other writers in this chapter, such as Kilbourne, assume that the images of women we encounter in the media are overwhelmingly negative and harmful. But Ortiz Cofer finds strength and gratification in her fantasies about Wonder Woman, despite her awareness that she doesn’t come close to that physical ideal (see question 4). How did students respond to “ideal” media representations of their genders when they were growing up? Encourage them to freewrite on gendered media images that they found particularly powerful (either for good or ill) when they were young. Then, see if the class can come to any consensus about the effect these images have on us. Do figures like Wonder Woman make us feel inadequate and seduce us into internalizing sexist ideology? Can our attraction to and identification with such figures be subversively empowering? Can both these things be happening at once? Question 8 calls for an exploration of the connections between Ortiz Cofer’s childhood experiences and those described by Soto. Although the major similarity in their experiences is a self-consciousness about what it means to be nonwhite in America, being scorned because of skin color is a prominent issue in Ortiz Cofer’s piece, while Soto focuses on how being poor becomes a factor for racial comparisons. If you want students to do some writing to compare the difficulties of negotiating between more than one set of cultural norms/ideals, you could combine question 8 with question 9 to offer a range of choices for a comparison-and-contrast essay. Ortiz Cofer’s piece offers a vision of one way that gender ideals can cut across cultural and racial lines without challenging them. Her childhood fascination with being appreciated as pretty and the endless attention others drew to her face and body as she grew up are not simply highly gendered experiences; she notes specifically that there was a hierarchy for attention in her school: “pretty white girl, pretty Jewish girl, pretty Puerto Rican girl, pretty black girl” (para. 15). Her piece suggests that little girls get praise for being the right kind of pretty, demonstrating that how one’s gendered characteristics are perceived can rely on one’s racial markers. Soto suggests a different relationship between race and gender. His efforts to get work and desire to have adventurous days are stereotypically masculine, but his concern to make his family more formal so that they look more like successful whites he sees on TV could be seen as a more “feminine” urge to create a proper domestic display. While Ortiz Cofer hated to think of forsaking the good looks that mark her as feminine, Soto feels, as a child, that to go against manliness is appropriate: he wants to do whatever it takes to become more like the successful white families he sees.

Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering (p. 402) MAYSAN HAYDAR
This is a fun, straightforward essay that students will most definitely enjoy discussing. Haydar’s voice is inviting; she earns our trust immediately, then presents an argument we may not have ever heard: a defense of covering from a Muslim woman’s point of view.


(text pp. 409–416)

Before reading the essay, you may want to have students write or talk about their preconceived notions concerning covering. When they see a Muslim woman who is covered, do they think of oppression or modesty? Choice or coercion? Haydar argues that covering makes people, particular men, treat her with respect, essentially because they are not judging her solely on her looks (question 1). Thus, as a teenager, her friendships weren’t muddied by a lot of sexual tension. Her hijab told them that she was not available and thus could be taken seriously. The downside to covering is that, especially in a post–9/11 climate, people assume that she is a radical, a terrorist, or at the very least, someone to be pitied for her lack of rights in an oppressive culture. You may want to transition into question 3 at this point. Do your students agree on what constitutes modest or immodest dress? How is the dress of Muslim women the same or different than, say, Pentecostal women who wear long-sleeved blouses and ankle-length skirts, and who don’t cut their hair? Is modest dress an integral part of religiosity, as Haydar implies in paragraph 7? Can one be religious and dress immodestly? Why or why not? Question 4 asks about one of the most provocative moments of the essay. You may want to have your students brainstorm about all the rituals they perform in order to be “masculine” and “feminine.” Likewise, you could ask the women what rituals they expect men to perform, and vice versa. Do your students ever feel confined by these rituals? Have any of the women ever rejected some or all of them, such a wearing makeup, shaving legs and underarms, wearing deodorant, dressing in a feminine way? Have any of the men started wearing makeup or shaving their legs and underarms? Have they ever worn or thought of wearing a dress or skirt? Some of your more adventurous students may be willing to participate in an experiment of rejecting cultural norms and writing about it. They might incorporate this experience into a research paper, in which they discuss what’s expected, describe reactions to the unexpected, and suggest ways for cultural change. Question 5 could be used as an opportunity to discuss male-female relations in general. Have your students debate Haydar’s assertion, “girls deserve to be treated with respect no matter what they wear (para. 11).” Do your students agree or disagree? Do they feel scantily clad women invite negative attention? Why or why not? What can we do as a society to foster respect toward women? Does the change need to come from within men, women, or both? If some or all of your students’ dress is already on the conservative side, they may choose to write about how their lives would change if they chose to dress immodestly or otherwise outlandlishly. Again, the survey in question 9 could be expanded to gauge attitudes toward several styles of dress. To what extent do the student body and the community judge a book by its cover? Students can write up their results and present them to the class.

Visual Portfolio (p. 409) READING IMAGES OF GENDER
If your students are unfamiliar with working with — or “reading” — visual images, they may be surprised at just how much there is to say about the images we’ve included here. You may wish to ask them questions in addition to the ones that we’ve supplied, such as: What is going on in these images? Is there an obvious story? Who is present? Who or what is absent? Who is the audience for the images? What elements included are surprising? How would you describe the image, starting with the upper left-hand corner and working your way section by section through it? Question 1–3 should be grouped together. Both images are provocative because they each invoke extremes. Does anyone really believe that the woman vacuuming is that

(text pp. 417–443)


happy to be doing housework (question 1)? The photo is reminiscent of post–World War II advertising. You may want to bring in some old ads for comparison purposes, or have students find a few from this period themselves. It might be fun to have them create copy for this picture in the style of the old ads. Have advertising strategies changed over the decades? How? The photo of the young woman looking in the mirror (question 2) is also extreme. She is presumably trying on veils for her upcoming wedding, though she doesn’t look very happy about it. One could even make the case that she’s not confident about her decision to get married. Shouldn’t preparing for a wedding be an enjoyable experience? How does this image reflect our society’s changing attitudes toward marriage? Working in groups, some students could produce a list of reasons to get married, while others list reasons not to get married. They should be able to support their reasons with concrete examples. When they’re done, pair up groups to discuss their lists with each other. Alternatively, you could even set up an in-class debate. The image of Margaret MacGregor signaling victory (question 5) as her opponent, Loi Chow, heads back to his corner at the close of the first-ever sanctioned boxing match between a man and a woman (on October 9, 1999), asks us to reconsider notions of what we might take as a “masculine” or “feminine” quality in a sport that requires direct physical contact. What comes to mind when students think about “women’s sports”? “Men’s sports”? What elements distinguish the two? You might suggest students interested in this image view and write about the 2000 movie Girlfight. Eli Reed’s photo Mississippi, 1991, is a powerful look at fatherhood in the twentieth century (questions 7 and 8). The meditative mood of the photo is supported by the suffused light that comes through the window. You might wish to ask your students to write what thoughts they imagine are going through the head of the man holding the baby. If you had your students look at the picture of the father and daughter (question 9), you might ask them to compare the two images. How might the father in latter picture react to the father in Reed’s photo? How does each photo uphold stereotypes of masculinity? How does each subvert these stereotypes? What is the current role of the father within the family unit? How is it the same as it was fifty years ago? How is it different? Are these changes for the better or for the worse? Why?

“Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt”: Advertising and Violence (p. 417) JEAN KILBOURNE
Kilbourne has long been concerned about the ways advertising objectifies women and glorifies them as vulnerable and sexually available. Her 1970s documentary lecture Killing Us Softly — updated with additional commentary in the ’80s and retitled Still Killing Us Softly — continues to be the starting point for countless women’s studies classes as they begin to consider the representation of women in the media. After decades of research and attention to these issues, Kilbourne still finds much to critique in the sexist use of women in advertising. As questions 1–4 invite students to consider, Kilbourne sees these advertising tendencies as dangerous: they are akin to pornography because they promote female submission, and they desensitize people to violence against women. In thinking about whether the objectification of women is more problematic than the objectification of men, students may find it helpful to generate a list of examples of ads that objectify men and to compare them to the ads included here (question 2). Kilbourne’s argument is that even when ads objectify men, they still present men in positions that suggest sexual potency rather than vulnerability. Moreover, she argues, it makes a big difference that heterosexual men have no perceived need to protect themselves from sexual predators, whereas women


(text pp. 417–443)

daily take action to protect themselves. Although we find compelling her example of asking a class full of students, including males, what they do every day to protect themselves from unwanted sexual advances, we would caution you to be careful about how you deal with the discussion that ensues if you pose the same question to your class. While such a question can be eye-opening to many men, it is also important to recognize that national statistics suggest that one out of every four women on college campuses will be the victim of a sexual assault. These staggering numbers imply that you may have such victims in your own classroom, so it will be important to embark on this kind of a personal discussion only if you trust your students to handle such sensitive topics maturely and respectfully. Kilbourne is disturbed — as readers are likely to be — by the violent images she reproduces, although some students may argue that she does not fully explain why so many of them are supposed to appeal to female consumers. She suggests that this may be a shock tactic to get women’s attention, or that it may be an insidious way to play into domination fantasies that place women in a position of control (question 3). But she also mentions that women are more judgmental of other women and might distance themselves from the figures in ads, and she doesn’t reconcile these two evaluations. Persuasive in arguing that being surrounded by such images can desensitize people to violence and that they promote aggressive behavior, Kilbourne nevertheless does not provide statistics or studies that quantify the influence of advertising or that link changes in advertising trends to increasing rates of violence in this country (question 4). Questions 5–9 ask students to think critically about their own experiences with the media. In terms of gender, the images that students find themselves getting may depend in part on what media they choose. For example, rap music promotes a violent, dominant male attitude toward women, while Hollywood romantic comedies, for example, may promote an image of men as foolish, bumbling, or unemotional. In both cases, however, women are at the mercy of male behavior and attitudes and portrayed as unable to control the romantic or sexual situation although they are the ones who desire the relationship. Students will, of course, come up with many other examples. How do they account for which images have been most influential in their lives? Why do they think these images have been more influential than others? Why might other people find different images more influential? Students typically are very good readers of visual culture because they have so much exposure to it. Although they may not regularly consider the degree to which films, ads, and other media promote violence, double standards, or excessive sexuality, they are highly able to make generalizations about these ideas once asked to do so. The small-group work we suggest can help students begin to think more critically about these issues than they may be used to. If you are looking for more formal writing assignments, it would be easy to use these prompts as introductory discussions that would lead to student papers based on original research. For example, they might analyze a certain number of episodes of a television show, evaluate the advertising that accompanies a type of TV broadcast (such as a national sporting event or a daytime soap opera), research how the Internet addresses or perpetuates some of the problems Kilbourne raises, or create proposals for advertising guidelines to help curb specific problems. Such research projects could be individual or group work, but the class as a whole is likely to be interested in the results. It can be very worthwhile to reserve a day for students to report to the class on their conclusions and discuss each other’s projects. Do student findings support or contradict Kilbourne’s conclusions?

(text pp. 443–450)


From Fly-Girls to Bitches and Hos (p. 443) JOAN MORGAN
Morgan makes an argument that she admits right away is likely to be controversial. Risking the potential anger of other feminists who decry hip-hop and rap music as misogynistic and destructive, Morgan argues that it’s worthwhile investigating what motivates the sexism in this music in order to get at the deeper problems plaguing black Americans that she claims this music reveals. In fact, the things she values in rap music are manifest in the same sexist lyrics that other feminists criticize: she claims this music offers a rare opportunity for black men to voice their despair, and she values the fact that its popularity provides a channel for a strong voice commenting on their communities (question 1). She argues that listeners should hear these sexist and angry lyrics as a sign that large-scale changes are needed in the opportunities available to black men. As question 5 indicates, the position Morgan takes could be interpreted as “making excuses.” How do students understand the difference between an excuse and an explanation? What factors motivate our culture to identify some efforts to investigate widespread social problems as “problem solving” (e.g., Kilbourne’s analysis of sexism and advertising violence, or the “MilitaryNintendo Complex” argument about the relationship between video games and increasing teen violence), while other efforts like Morgan’s get labeled “making excuses”? One consequence of decades of racism, Morgan claims, is that black men and women are in a perpetual state of anger, willing to sacrifice themselves and each other in their despair and feeling fatalistically sure that they will hardly live into responsible adulthood. Evidence of the “war zone” she describes includes the anecdotal stories of black women who suffer at the hands of black men and statistics about the mortality rate of young black men who die at each other’s hands (question 2). This violence is evidence of a despair that Morgan hopes may be somewhat mitigated by the safe space that rap music offers its artists, although she makes a strong call for more productive solutions to the problems that motivate such music in the first place. One sign that rap music is not a productive solution — in addition to the misogyny it promotes — is that women participate in the sexism of rap videos and seem all too willing to sacrifice self-esteem to be a part of the rap culture. Thus her call for a better “space” in which to address the problems rap music identifies is really a call for two things: an outlet for black men’s frustration that enables their voices to be heard without requiring black women to be demeaned in the process, and a change in the opportunities available to black men (question 3). What such a space would look like or how it would be developed are difficult questions, the answers to which might solve the crises in urban America. If students find it impossible to be concrete about how to establish such a “healing space,” you might begin the discussion by having them list on the board as many specific conditions as possible that need to change in order to create hope where Morgan currently claims there is despair (for example, a change in the fact that failing urban schools compound how attractive drug dealing becomes as an avenue toward financial success). Then, the class could work in small groups, each focusing on what it might take to solve a particular problem. Given what is a long-term focus on solutions to the problems that cause the pain Morgan identifies, what do students see as possible ways to control the pain in the interim? What — besides rap music — might be a useful outlet, and what would it take to make such an outlet accessible or popular? Questions 4, 7, and 8 can work together in interesting ways. While Morgan relies on language and expressions that suggest she is talking to creators and fans of rap music (specifically addressing her “sistas,” for example), question 4 is complicated by the fact that the safe space she claims black men need is something she implies is not merely the black community’s responsibility to provide. If students aren’t sure how to define Morgan’s audience, looking more carefully at the audience for rap music might help. Magazines about rap music and the lyrics to rap songs are great sources for students to use to figure out how this music works to alleviate frustrations. Students unfamiliar with such


(text pp. 450–471)

magazines could be pointed toward The Source or to Web sites such as http://www Given what students find in their research, how would they define Morgan’s audience?

The Manliness of Men (p. 450) HARVEY MANSFIELD
While Mansfield implies that women’s expanding of their domain beyond the kitchen is a good thing, the main thrust of his article is to show how the growing equality of men and women (question 1) is destroying the recognition of our differences, which is tied in with our recognition of who we really are. Women want to be manly, but for the most part, they are not. Women are feminine, but don’t want to be. Feminism, in fact, has killed femininity (para. 6). Likewise, women expect men to be sensitive, but for the most part they are not. By his use of th verb “mimic,” Mansfield makes clear that he believes that sensitivity (question 2) is a female characteristic that does not come naturally to men (para. 9). Sensitivity might be incompatible with manliness because manliness is about carrying out a set of duties, such as protection and provision — not about discerning what one needs at any particular moment. Can your students think of examples of truly sensitive men? What about insensitive women? Manly women? Feminine women? Has Mansfield correctly interpreted the tenets of feminism? Does feminism really deny that differences exist between the sexes? Does it ever celebrate difference between the sexes or within individuals? Be sure students give reasons to justify their answers. Questions 3 and 4 can be answered in pairs or groups, then the answers compared as a class. Mansfield points to men defending their turf and being frank with one another as reasons that men have dominated politics. In addition to thinking of other reasons, students might consider why women have begun to have successful political careers. Are men now more inclined to take women seriously? Is defending one’s turf becoming more unnecessary? Can students think of examples around the world to the contrary? An alternate way to approach question 5, 7, and 11 would be for students to either pick from the quotes presented in question 5 or choose their own quotes from the essay and match one or more of these with each photo in the Visual Portfolio (question 7). Next, have students pick two of the image/quote pairs that they find most provocative and write journal entries about how the images support or refute the Mansfield quote. When they’re done, they can share their arguments with a partner. To follow up, they can turn one of their entries into a full-fledged essay, incorporating additional media images and making observations on their own, as directed by question 11. Or, if they prefer, they can choose again from the list in question 5 or use the quote given in question 11.

The Hands of God (p. 454) DEBORAH RUDACILLE
The phrase “the sex of the brain” (question 1) is most easily understood juxtaposed with “the sex of the body,” which is determined by one’s genitalia, gonads, or chromosomes. The sex of the brain, on the other hand, has no outward or quantifiable measure; it is the sex one thinks one is, or should be, based on the way one has always felt. Furthermore, the sex of the brain can be fluid, as exemplified by the story of the chevalier, who lived about 60 percent of his life as a man and 40 percent as a woman. Other exam-

(text pp. 454–471)


ples that illustrate the point are the testimony of Brad (para. 20), who, before his surgery, felt that he was in the “wrong body,” and Susan Stryker’s statement about communicating her “sense of self” to others (para 36). The sense of self she is communicating does not stem from her body, but from her mind. You might want to define the terms “intersexual,” “transgendered,” and “transsexual” (question 2) before you assign the article so that students aren’t wondering about their meanings while they’re reading. Write the terms on the board, ad have pairs or groups discuss the differences. Next, elicit their responses and fill in the gaps in their definitions. The entire activity should take less than ten minutes. Intersexual people may exhibit both male and female genitalia or ambiguous genitalia; the common term for this phenomenon used to be “hermaphrodite.” In addition, intersexual people may have XY chromosomes but female genitalia or XX chromosomes but male genitalia. Because of these quantifiable abnormalities, Rudacille argues that intersexual people have the sympathy of the medical community. Also, medicine can “help” through surgical or hormonal procedures. Being transgendered or transsexual, on the other hand, has no measurable cause. A transgendered person does not exhibit typical male or female behavior or appearance. A transgendered woman, for example, may be masculine in her dress and movements, but her chromosomes and genitalia match. Similarly, the chromosomes and genitalia of transsexuals match, but, in their minds, they don’t identify with the sex they were born with; thus, they undergo sex reassignment surgery. Essentially, Rudacille claims that the gender variance of intersexual people is considered legitimate because it is a biological disorder, whereas transgendered and transsexual individuals have a psychological disorder, and are thus treated with more contempt. The reasons cited for the rise of gender variance (question 3) are as follows: 1. Gender variance has been popularized by the media and the Internet and is as fleeting as fashion. 2. Transsexuals and transgendered individuals are “revolutionaries” breaking down the traditional, limited views of male/female sex. 3. People are becoming more open to gender variance, and meeting others is becoming easier; thus, more are now seen and heard. 4. Drugs such as diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen, altered the endocrine systems, and thus some of the organs, of children whose mothers were prescribed the hormone between 1945 and 1970. 5. Gender variance is the product of an unstable or disturbed childhood. Rather than picking only the ones that seem most persuasive, you might have students also refute the ones that seem questionable or wrong. Have them talk in pairs for a minute or two to see if they can come up with all five reasons without looking back at the article. Write the ones they remember on the board. You can then give them another few minutes to find the rest in the text (paras. 27–32). Finally, have them support and refute these explanations, organizing them from least to most likely. Do any of these explanations stand alone? Is it possible that a combination of events can explain the phenomenon? You might consider assigning this topic as a researched, exploratory argument essay. Students should gather two to four additional sources to support their claims. They would begin with the question of what is the most likely explanation for the rise in gender variance, and present several explanations from least to most likely, the latter being their thesis, which is placed in the conclusion. The conclusion might also discuss a few questions the thesis raises and include a call for action. Question 3 leads right into question 4. The scales are currently tipping to a biological disorder having to do with a malfunction of the endocrine system. The benefit of having transgenderism and transsexualism reclassified as such would be to gain more legitimacy, thus acceptance, which might lead to medical and insurance benefits. On the other hand,


(text pp. 472–479)

a psychological classification is better than nothing. Taking it away before there is further proof of the biological theory might leave gender-variant individuals without any protection at all. Question 8, 9, and 10 can be lumped together to make a compare-and-contrast essay assignment. Students can research up to four people from questions 8 and 9, then watch one or two movies that feature a transgendered character. They can then write a paper that compares and contrasts a contemporary or historical figure with a character in a movie, ultimately focusing on the types of questions asked in question 10, as well as the differences between reality and fiction. What do these differences reveal about people who make and watch the movies? Alternatively, students might compare and contrast an older film, such as Psycho, The Crying Game, or Mystère Alexina (the 1985 French film based on the story of Alexina Barbin), with one of the newer ones listed in question 10, examining to what extent, if any, society has changed and making predictions about future attitudes. See J.K.’s Transgender Movie Guide ( for an exhaustive list spanning the twentieth century.

Appearances (p. 472) CARMEN VÁZQUEZ
Most teachers who discuss issues of prejudice and discrimination with their classes notice that students feel much freer to voice hostility toward lesbians, gays, and bisexuals than toward other groups. These attitudes reflect, in large part, the continued “respectability” of homophobia in mainstream American culture (witness the recent proliferation of antigay initiatives in cities and states across the country as well as the widespread opposition of political and military leaders to the proposed lifting of the “gay ban” in the armed forces). However, the relative invisibility of sexual orientation also may be a factor in students’ willingness to reveal antigay biases. For example, a student who might tone down or suppress sexist remarks in the presence of female classmates feels no need to avoid homophobic comments when he (usually mistakenly) perceives everyone present to be straight. Vázquez addresses the flip side of the invisibility issue in “Appearances.” Because “there is no guaranteed method for identifying sexual orientation” (para. 21), not only will homophobes fail to identify people they know and like as gay, but gay-bashers may attack straights who “look” gay according to stereotypic notions of gay dress or behavior. The narrative that opens the essay allows the reader to make the same mistake — of assuming that Brian and Mickey, both the subjects of brutal homophobic attacks, are gay (see question 2). Vázquez’s strategy challenges readers to examine their own preconceptions. Most students express shock at the violence Vázquez describes, but are the attacks shocking because they were so vicious, because they were unprovoked, because the victims turned out to be the “wrong” targets, or because these incidents force us to recognize that “we are all at risk” (para. 27)? Would straight readers be less receptive to Vázquez’s essay if the victims of the attacks she documents were gay or lesbian? Some students may initially overlook Vázquez’s larger argument: that everyone is placed at risk by homophobia not only because gay-bashers sometimes attack heterosexuals but because rigidly defined gender roles confine all of us within a “psychic prison” (para. 27). Homophobia becomes a primary weapon for enforcing gender role stereotypes. To deviate from such stereotypes in any way is to risk being labeled lesbian or gay; as long as that label carries with it a threat of violence or ostracism, no one is free from the “straitjacket of gender roles” (para. 20). Thus, according to Vázquez, the assaults she describes are motivated by fear and anger over “gender betrayal” (para. 16) — the failure or refusal of women to acknowledge male dominance, the failure or refusal of men to claim it.

(text pp. 472–479)


Ask students to take a close look at Vázquez’s examples to see if they can perceive the dynamic of gender betrayal at work (question 3). Is gay-bashing the work of unbalanced individuals, or is it the logical extension of a bigotry that’s deeply ingrained in our institutions and culture? Vázquez argues that homophobia is intimately linked to both misogyny (see question 4) and racism, in that all three forms of prejudice reinforce hierarchies of power and privilege. It is worthwhile for students to consider, too, what counts as “prejudice” and what counts as gender “norms.” Question 7 invites them to do just that by asking about the connection between advertising images of men and women and the sense of “normal” sexualities that motivates antihomosexual violence. Kilbourne would probably argue that in insisting on hypermasculinity and extremely passive femininity, ads that portray apparently (or overtly) heterosexual couples reinforce a sense of how men and women are supposed to look and act. Students may wish to analyze the visual images Kilbourne includes, but you can encourage them to bring in examples from their own favorite publications to add to the evaluation of how ads support or counter traditional notions of gender identity. Because Vázquez doesn’t develop this idea in great detail, students who are interested in pursuing this question may want to look ahead to Vincent N. Parrillo’s “Causes of Prejudice” in the next chapter (p. 504). The activities suggested in questions 8 and 9 give students a chance to do some informal research on homophobia or violence against gays. Either one would make a good class project; small groups could work to gather and share information that all the students could then draw on in writing papers responding to Vázquez. Question 10 offers students a forum to respond in a more personal way to issues that are highly emotional as well as political. Alternately, if would make a good topic for a more formal paper designed to get students to make an argument using evidence from personal experience.

5 Created Equal: The Myth of the Melting Pot (p. 481)
This is the central chapter in Rereading America. It’s hard to imagine using the text without spending some time here. Readings in this chapter address the myth of the melting pot, the belief that everyone who comes to this country somehow becomes American. It’s one of our most cherished notions: to question it is to question whether we are, in fact, a nation of equal citizens; ultimately it is to question whether America exists as a unified cultural entity. You’ll note that most of the readings approach the myth of the melting pot from the perspective of its countermyth — the myth of racial supremacy. To understand how the melting pot idea works — or has failed to work —it’s necessary to consider it in relation to this deeper American countermyth; for while the notion of the melting pot seems ideal, in reality it has often masked thinking that comes frighteningly close to genocide. This chapter can be roughly divided into three sections. The first offers a historical overview of the myth of racial superiority; the second explores the questions of where prejudice comes from and how it is learned; the third provides perspectives on what can be done to help resolve this history of racial conflict. Within each section, you’ll find selections that offer theoretical perspectives on the myth of race as well as personal narratives that illustrate the drama of self-doubt and self-transformation that results from the coexistence of these ideologies of inclusion and exclusion. Because of the length of this chapter, you may choose to focus on one of these sections. However, if you need to be selective, we think a better strategy would be to try mixing and matching readings that cover the spectrum of purposes within the chapter. Vincent Parrillo’s summary of the theories commonly advanced to explain the causes of prejudice gives students a theoretical context for interpreting racist behavior and racist thinking — so you might find it useful to assign this essay early in your exploration of this chapter. Shelby Steele offers a theoretical perspective on the problems of and solutions to racial tension. The other authors in the chapter present their theories through the lens of personal experience; however, students should recognize that although many of these essays contain stories, they do so purposefully. Personal narratives further specific arguments and provide evidence to support the conclusions these authors have reached about racial identity formation, interactions across race in this country, abuses of power that result from racism, and the possibility of getting beyond racial divisions. Chapter Five probably isn’t the best place to begin your course. Race is obviously a difficult issue to handle in the classroom, and your students will need to become comfortable with you and each other before they can address it in any depth. In fact, we recommend that you teach this chapter toward the end of the semester. Rereading America approaches racial issues in a way that is relatively nonthreatening; the readings here focus on race as a general cultural, not as a personal, issue. That’s why so many of the selections we’ve included are theoretical and historical. Thus, instead of discussing your students’ values, beliefs, and prejudices, you’ll be discussing the values, beliefs, and prejudices that dominate American society. Obviously the two are closely intertwined, and students will eventually make connections for themselves. But the difference is crucial: students are often justifiably hesitant to expose their own feelings on these issues, but quite willing to discuss and analyze the ideology that dominates their society. You’ll also want to say a few preliminary words about language. In this chapter students may encounter racial terms that make them uncomfortable. You need to prepare 62

(text pp. 486–491)


them by placing such language in its proper political, historical, and cultural contexts. You might have students list terms used to describe their own ethnic group and then freewrite in their journals about which term or terms they use themselves. Ask them to reflect in their journals on the contexts in which these terms are acceptable or inappropriate. How might they explain the different meanings of these terms in these differing contexts? Are there any racial terms they find offensive in all situations? Before you begin the prereading activities for this chapter (pp. 485–86) you may want to discuss the myth of the melting pot with your class. Can they come up with other metaphors that describe race relations in the United States? Have they encountered the “salad bowl” or “mosaic” concepts? Do they know of others? What are the implications of such metaphors? What assumptions lurk within them? (Mosaics are composed of discrete fragments, none of them dominant, which combine to form a harmonious — and often beautiful — picture. Is this an accurate portrayal of race relations in America?) It shouldn’t be difficult to find media iconography celebrating the “new melting pot.” Benetton ads, TV sitcoms, and commercials are chock-full of images that reflect a well-mixed and utterly harmonious society.

From Notes on the State of Virginia (p. 486) THOMAS JEFFERSON
Even before students get to the point of discussing the questions we raise, they will likely have strong reactions to the side of Jefferson presented here. Many will be completely unaware of this Jefferson, schooled as they have been in the patriotic story of the founding father. You may find it useful to talk with the class in detail about the recent storm of controversy over how to “read” Jefferson. Question 8, which asks students to discuss whether honoring Jefferson is appropriate given the ideas presented here, is directly connected to this recent debate in history circles. Students may be more comfortable addressing this question — and discussing this essay — if they do a bit of research beforehand to contextualize these ideas. You could have one group of students seek out recent articles that take positions on this debate, while others assemble evidence from Jefferson’s own papers to draw a more complete picture of his politics — one group for and another against the idea that he deserves to be honored. Once each group presents its evidence to the others, the class can discuss as a whole how Jefferson’s character and politics should be interpreted. Why do students think the perspective of Jefferson as a racist is generally left out of American history books? Who benefits from this sanitizing of his character? What does this suggest to students about the “facts” of history that they have been taught in the past? Do students agree with the commonplace that “history is written by the winners”? What are the implications of this notion? Considering questions 4 and 6 might also provide useful evidence to help students work through their “revised” vision of Jefferson. Is there any other way to consider the fact of Jefferson’s descendents in light of this passage without seeing him as a hypocrite? If students want more information specifically on the children Jefferson fathered with his slaves — notably his slave Sally Hemings — they can research recent controversies (discussed in places like the New York Times) about efforts to facilitate a family reunion and about who would be allowed in the future to be buried on the family land. Nailing down the specifics of Jefferson’s argument can be useful for students who are struggling with the disturbing picture this passage presents of a man usually revered. It also offers you an opportunity to talk about the power of rhetoric versus the strength of a sound argument. Jefferson, for example, is honest about the fact that there is no scientific proof for his claims. He voices the very real concern that to slur the mental faculties of blacks wholesale could be unfairly to “degrade a whole race of men.” Yet despite his care to phrase his conclusion “as a suspicion only,” Jefferson unequivocally declares that he


(text pp. 492–504)

believes whites are physically and mentally superior to blacks — and he offers “evidence” to prove it. After working through question 3, many students decide that it speaks even more against Jefferson that he admits how tenuous his conclusions are and yet he defends them anyway. Still, some students may feel that Jefferson is at least close to the mark on one point: How do they respond to his fears that, “Deep-rooted prejudices entertained by the whites [and] ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained” will produce continuous strife in this country (para. 4)? If these feelings do indeed seem to students to persist as major causes of racial tensions today, what would have been other ways to alleviate such problems besides shipping away newly emancipated slaves to their own colony? You might wish to inform students at this point that upcoming readings address the related question of what can be done today to begin to repair this damage. In answering question 4, students are likely to seize on the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence as contrasting sharply with this passage. After all, Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . . .” Urge them to look in detail at the rest of the document as well. Jefferson clearly meant “all white men” here: when this was written, the question of whether slaves were men or property was hotly debated; the framers of the Constitution ultimately split the difference, declaring that, for purposes of taxation and representation, a slave was considered three fifths of a person. It took the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution to extend personhood — and thus enfranchisement — to black men. How else do students see their present perspective potentially changing the meaning they read into Jefferson’s words?

Discharging a Debt (p. 492) ELLIS COSE
There are a few differences between Japanese internment, the Tulsa riots, and the destruction of Rosewood on the one hand, and the case of slavery on the other (question 1). First, Japanese internment, Tulsa, and Rosewood were more limited and easily identified in time and place. Japanese internment can be framed by the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor through January 1945, Tulsa and Rosewood by less than twenty-four hours. In contrast, the enslavement of African Americans continued beyond the Civil War into the twentieth century, or as Winbush put it, “350 years of enslavement and domestic apartheid” (para. 38). Cose asserts that it still continues today in the form of segregated neighborhoods and schools and lowered socioeconomic opportunity, status, and general well-being (para. 44). Second, some of the original victims and perpetrators of Japanese internment, Tulsa, and Rosewood are still living. With slavery, we have only ancestors and legacy. Third, the former three happened for specific reasons. Admittedly, for Tulsa and Rosewood, the story of a black man assaulting a white woman doesn’t hold water. However, if you believe the statement of Justice Douglas (para. 1), the reason for Japanese internment was possibly a good one, or, at the very least, justifiable. What were the reasons for slavery? Was it because of some actual or potential wrong by the people on the west coast of Africa? Do these differences make the case in favor of slavery reparations stronger or weaker? Why? Cose addresses the issues in question 2 throughout the article. For the victims, Congressman Matsui says the benefit is catharsis (para. 9) and “liberating future generations” (para. 10). Cose, at the end of the article, argues that reparations give the victims “whatever it is they deserve,” naming equal opportunity for jobs, education, and economic development (para. 48). Even more reasons are discussed for society as a whole.

(text pp. 504–518)


Thornburgh argues that admitting wrong reinforces the government’s commitment to its Constitution and to its people; Don Ross asserts that justice and moral obligation call for closure (para. 20), and James Hirsch claims reparations allow society to “make peace with a painful past” (para. 42). Again, toward the end of the article, Cose writes that society benefits from the realization that the way things are is not the result of a natural order but of actual events in history (para. 45). Once we realize this important truth, we should keep our promises and restore what was taken away (para. 47). Questions 3 and 8 can be grouped together. Have the students freewrite about question 3, then compare their answers with a partner or small group. To answer question 8, depending on how large your class is, divide the students into two, four, or six small groups. Half should research arguments for reparations, and the other half arguments against. When individuals are giving testimonies, they should share their sources with the class. After they’ve concluded the congressional hearing, be sure to give students the opportunity to discuss whether and how their views have changed. Finally, students should choose the three or four testimonies they found most persuasive, summarize and evaluate the sources in an essay, then say how they would vote on the issue, and explain why. Likewise, questions 4 and 7 can be grouped together. You may want to direct students to Congressman John Conyers’s writings on the Web at the Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and his own blog ( After they complete their research, they can write an essay comparing and contrasting Cose’s arguments with their own findings. Do the inheritance of slavery, segregation, and discrimination cause comparative socioeconomic differences? Do other factors come into play? Alternatively, they might want to consider whether reparations have really helped the Japanese American and Jewish communities. Would their communities be less successful if reparations hadn’t been made? Why or why not?

Causes of Prejudice (p. 504) VINCENT N. PARRILLO
Read this selection if you want a deeper analysis of the psychological motives for racist behavior. In all, Parrillo outlines seven distinct theories of prejudice. He divides his analysis into the broad categories of the psychology of prejudice and the sociology of prejudice. Under psychology, Parrillo includes these theories: • Levels of Prejudice: Prejudice exists on three levels: cognitive, emotional, and actionoriented. • Self-Justification: Prejudice arises because those who enjoy power or prestige in a hierarchically organized society must justify or rationalize their status in relation to less-fortunate groups. • Personality: This theory includes the concept of “authoritarian personality,” which claims that individuals who have grown up in an atmosphere of rigidity or harsh discipline may displace latent hostility toward their parents, directing it instead at relatively powerless groups. This redirection is known as “displaced aggression.” • Frustration: Prejudice arises when unsatisfied economic desires or expectations are released as displaced aggression on a politically vulnerable scapegoat. Under sociology, Parrillo includes these theories: • Socialization: Prejudices are simply “learned” as part of normal socialization processes we all undergo in order to become part of the social groups we are born into.


(text pp. 504–518) • Economic Competition: When groups compete for jobs and other scarce resources, they are more susceptible to prejudice. • Social Norms: Our tendency to conform to social expectations leads to the uncritical acceptance of prejudices.

Students may have some trouble grasping the differences between these seven theories. You’ll probably want to spend some time outlining them together, noting as you do the places where the theories seem to complement each other or overlap. Isn’t frustration devilishly close to the idea of economic competition? To help clarify some of the distinctions Parrillo makes between these theories, you may want to ask students to research recent news stories relatively early in your discussion of the reading. Working as a class, try to apply the various theories Parrillo summarizes to a news account of a particular racist incident: trying to view this exemplary case from the perspective offered by each of Parrillo’s theories should help students better comprehend the subtle differences between them. If you would rather have students use such research as the basis for a more formal paper, you could use question 6 for the purpose of clarifying these theories. Working through which of these theories are applicable to the very different cases presented by Jefferson and C. P. Ellis should not only help students see how these theories work but also provide a means of understanding the complexity of racism. Do these theories offer an explanation for how racism can coexist with principles of “freedom” in the mind of a single figure — such as Jefferson — who is generally regarded as heroic? Or, do they do more to explain why a certain vision of Jefferson has survived rather than to explain how he could simultaneously be racist and produce the Declaration of Independence? What do students make of the fact that although these theories are highly applicable to explain Ellis’s racism, they don’t do a lot to explain how he tries to move himself beyond it? Question 5 asks students to challenge the theory of economic competition. Parrillo sometimes offers alternative points of view on the theories he presents — usually by pointing out limitations and counterinterpretations. But he rarely challenges the overall accuracy or usefulness of any of the six theories he presents. If your class seems too eager to embrace the idea that good jobs all around would eliminate prejudice, you might want to move on to read Shelby Steele’s (p. 530) discussion of prejudice among relatively successful Americans. You may also want to extend question 5 to challenge the other theories that Parrillo advances as well. If socialization is so uniform and automatic that young people almost inevitably accept the prejudices of their surrounding society, why do they frequently resist blindly accepting the values and beliefs of their parents and families? Why, in fact, do generations seem to work so hard to define their own values and attitudes? Why would discipline lead to prejudice? Are relatively undisciplined children less likely to become prejudiced adults? Why or why not? Let your students hone their critical thinking skills by developing their own sets of challenges to the theories Parrillo describes. The great strength of this selection is its versatility. The theories of prejudice outlined by Parrillo connect with nearly every reading in this chapter. Evidence of economic competition, scapegoating, and self-justification is easy to find in the selections by Ellis Cose (p. 492) and Studs Terkel (p. 519). Questions 6 and 7 invite students to apply Parrillo’s seven theories to specific situations. Question 7 connects Parrillo’s theories with gender-related prejudice. Students will need to imagine their own hypothetical “test” scenarios here to determine how well the theories apply to the context of gender. In what scenario, for example, might the economic competition model explain antigay or antilesbian prejudice? For an extended paper topic, return to question 10 and ask students to try their hands at writing their own individual analysis of a specific racist incident.

(text pp. 519–541)


C. P. Ellis (p. 519) STUDS TERKEL
This is the story of a remarkable rebirth. Ellis’s transformation from Klansman to civil rights activist and union leader is a natural complement to the theories of prejudice offered in the selection by Vincent N. Parrillo (p. 504). Ellis spells out how poverty blighted his family, his father, and his own early manhood. He traces how racism both deflected his rage and promised to empower him. Later, he learns how civic and business leaders use race issues to divide workers and low-income populations. As question 6 suggests, Parrillo’s theories can be applied to explain how Ellis’s attitudes and values developed, but it’s even more interesting to explore how these models might account for Ellis’s personal rebirth: Does Ellis change because he wants to conform to the expectations of a new social group, or does he change because he grows beyond his family’s authoritarianism? Does his transformation come about simply because he discovers a new target for his economic frustrations — the elite group of businessmen and politicians who control his town? Of course, you’ll want to question what a “rebirth” like Ellis’s actually means. Although he has shifted his allegiances, have his values and attitudes really changed? You may want to debate in class whether it is possible for someone to throw off racist attitudes this easily. You may also want to explore Ellis’s rebirth from the perspective of gender roles; raised by a frustrated alcoholic father with low self-esteem, Ellis becomes an aggressive and highly competitive man who isn’t above scapegoating others to vent his own feelings of inadequacy. He is also driven by the ambition to distinguish himself, to be a leader, which may be seen as a distinctly masculine characteristic. Although we haven’t drawn a direct connection between Ellis’s story and the gender socialization authors such as Aaron H. Devor (p. 383) and Harvey Mansfield (p. 450) explain in Chapter Four, students might see in Ellis a caricature of the male aggressive attitudes they describe. Students might also note that Ellis’s rebirth occurs when he had the chance to become part of a real community. Interestingly, it is a woman, Ann Atwater, who helps break down his resistance to a more collective and connected lifestyle. Yet students may argue that despite this remarkable transformation, Ellis still retains traces of his original masculine competitiveness. Questions 6 and 7 ask students to practice applying theoretical concepts to individual cases. Do the theories advanced by Parrillo seem useful to students in terms of helping to analyze Ellis’s experience? Do students see connections between the applicable theories of prejudice Parrillo offers and the specific kinds of discrimination that they identify as results?

I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent? (p. 530) SHELBY STEELE
When Steele’s The Content of Our Character appeared in 1990, it quickly became a lightning rod for conflicting views of American race relations. Articles were exchanged in papers and magazines across the country denouncing and defending Steele’s controversial position that African Americans bear partial responsibility for the continuation of racism because of their desire to play the role of victim. What makes Steele worth reading, besides his lucid prose style, is the timeliness of the issues that he addresses. Ultimately he’s asking us to consider how we can begin to overcome the divisions that separate and silence us on the issue of race; he’s asking how we even begin to talk about racism. It makes sense that Steele is a professor at a state university because this question is rapidly becoming the critical issue on campuses across the country. Two decades after the experiment of affirmative action, numerical representation of the races may have improved on many campuses, but there’s mounting evidence that little substantial conversation is occurring between racial groups.


(text pp. 541–555)

According to Steele, racial supremacy is founded on a deeper myth — the myth of innocence. By seeing oneself as innocent — as a member of a so-called purer race or as a guiltless victim — both whites and blacks have been able to claim power (question 1). Racism, then, is only a means of legitimating this assumption of social power over others. In this context, what do students think motivates the stance of racial open-mindedness that is often forwarded by people who are in fact prejudiced to some degree? As the cartoon we mention in question 7 suggests, people who claim a desire to remove the social problems that are the legacy of American racism may be blind to their own prejudice. Whether or not students see this as presenting a “psychology of race,” the cartoon illustrates the degree to which one’s immediate situation may change one’s perspective on race relations. Question 5 invites students to complicate Steele’s analysis by reading it in context of the theories of racism described by Vincent N. Parrillo (p. 504), Ken Hamblin (p. 285), and George M. Fredrickson (p. 561). Steele’s association of prejudice with innocence is reminiscent of Parrillo’s theory of self-justification: according to Steele, “seeing for innocence,” for whites, means seeing things “in ways that minimize white guilt” (para. 17). For blacks, seeing for innocence means claiming the status of victim. Both psychological strategies involve forms of self-justification. According to Steele, black victimization absolves African Americans of responsibility for interracial tensions and gives them “power” in relation to whites; for whites, minimizing personal guilt reduces the angry black to an “ungracious troublemaker” while leaving white powers and privileges intact (para. 12). It should be interesting for students to imagine how other authors might respond to Steele’s notion of innocence. Self-justification may play an important role in developing and maintaining racist values and behaviors, but other factors like direct economic competition, scapegoating, and straightforward socialization are never addressed by Steele. In fact, Steele’s suggestion that we might overcome racism if we summon up enough “courage” may itself seem startlingly innocent in light of the kinds of personal, social, cultural, and economic forces addressed in the theories of prejudice outlined in other selections in this chapter. How do students account for this difference in perspective? Which analysis strikes them as the most persuasive, the most productive, the most just?

Talking About Racism: How Our Dialogue Gets Short-Circuited (p. 541) PAUL L. WACHTEL
The opening list of potentially racist scenarios is a great starting point in discussing this essay (question 2). You might ask your students to anonymously mark which of the situations they consider to be racist, which they see as borderline, and which they don’t consider to be racist at all. After tallying their responses, investigate them as a class. Are there any circumstances that everyone considers to be racist? (The KKK cross-burning is likely to be in that category). Which assertions are more controversial? Is there a pattern? By showing how differently (presumably well-meaning) people define and interpret racism, you can highlight how slippery a term racism really is. In his essay, Wachtel lists other words that are often confused with racism (question 1) and that might be more precise descriptions of some of the essay’s opening scenarios. You might break your class into small groups, ask them to define these alternative terms, and apply them to the list. Is it helpful to have a broader vocabulary? As writing instructors, we are always trying to convey to our students the importance of precision and of using the right word. Many English teachers have a reputation for persnicketiness, for insisting upon the correct use of lied and laid, for example, or insisting that most unique is a meaningless phrase. Wachtel’s essay highlights just why it is so important to choose words carefully. He bases his argument on the premise that racism is an overused word. Point out to your students that he looks at the history of the term in arriving at this

(text pp. 556–561)


conclusion. Do they find his use of history to be convincing evidence of his claim? Do they agree that too often the term racism is used when another word — such as indifference or prejudice — would be more accurate? In trying to move from their general impressions to a more specific discussion, ask students to give examples of times they have accused someone (or been accused) of racism. On reflection, would a different word be more accurate? The concept of “otherness” opens up the discussion a bit (question 4). Students who passionately deny being racists might admit to caring more about people like them than those unlike them. A suburban teenager, white or black, may feel more about a teen killed in a drunk driving accident on his way home from a party than an inner-city kid killed in a drive-by shooting. This in itself doesn’t make the teen a racist, but as Wachtel points out, it is an example of indifference, an insidious trait that allows white America to turn its back on the problems of “others.” Like Cose, Wachtel sees the problems of black America as institutionalized — that is, they are part of America’s economic structure and nearly impossible to overcome through individual effort. Cose sees an answer to these problems in reparations for slavery. Wachtel seems to see an answer in forcing white Americans to acknowledge their indifference to “otherness.” Which of these solutions do your students see as being most viable? If neither, what solution do they offer?

If your students are unfamiliar with working with — or “reading” — visual images, they may be surprised at just how much there is to say about the images we’ve included here. You may wish to ask them questions in addition to the ones we’ve supplied, such as: What is going on in these images? Is there an obvious story? Who is present? Who or what is absent? Who is the audience for the images? What elements included are surprising? How would you describe the image, starting with the upper left-hand corner and working your way through it section by section? The American Civil Liberties Union advertisement is a fascinating study in contrasts. The western imagery is used to great effect here. The ad suggests that police are on the hunt for the men in the image. One might think that the notorious murderer Charles Manson would be a priority for law enforcement officials, yet as the text of the ad reads, Martin Luther King Jr., because he is black, is “75 times more likely to be stopped by the police while driving” than is Manson. Your students may wish to research the use of racial profiling by police in your area. To discuss question 2, it might be interesting to explore preconceived ideas your students have about where racism exists. Begin by asking students what they know about the KKK. Who were its members? What groups of people did they target? Then, turning back to the photo, ask your students to guess where this rally took place. They might be surprised to learn that the picture was taken in Torrington, Connecticut. If time permits, an alternative way to tackle questions 4 and 5 could be to write and produce a one-act play about the events surrounding the two photos. You should first discuss the issue of immigration in groups or as a class and make sure both sides of the issue are reasonably fleshed out. You can then ask for volunteers to be in charge of writing, directing, casting, acting, costumes, and sets, assigning people to positions that no one or too few people volunteer for. Depending on how large your class is, some members might have to do double or triple duty. There are a couple of things about the image of the fence on the border that strike us as worthy of note. First, the photographer is on the U.S. side of the fence, though the U.S. side is barely shown. The fence drops away into a valley on the left side of the image, and the landscape of Mexico appears below. The image suggests an attempt at containment,


(text pp. 561–574)

that the fence is primarily being used to keep the “lower” half out of the “upper” half. Mexico itself appears fully lit in the sun, while the U.S. workers huddle in a darker mass on the right side of the image. They are unable to see the vista that opens before them because the fence is blocking their way. Your students will likely suggest different interpretations of the ethnicities of the four teenagers in the photo based on their own experiences with cultural identity. You might ask them to identify and explain what they see as markers of ethnic or cultural identity. Such markers might include clothing, hairstyles, what the young men are holding, the positions of their heads, bodies, and hands, and so on. What information or experiences are your students basing their assessments on?

Models of American Ethnic Relations: A Historical Perspective (p. 561) GEORGE M. FREDRICKSON
Students may be surprised to learn that to be “white” used to be a designation much more narrowly defined to include only northern European Protestants. As questions 2–5 suggest, gradual changes in definitions of whiteness or otherness have not been absolute; rather, their evolution is marked by debate and some dissention over how to designate groups and define who belongs to them. By the end of World War II, horror at religious intolerance had helped expand the category “white” to include all Europeans of Catholic and Jewish descent as well. Fredrickson does not suggest that ethnic hierarchies in the United States have been eliminated, although he shows that there are movements toward weakening them. Fredrickson argues that disagreement over which minorities have the capacity to “better” themselves to a level equal to that of whites is becoming outdated by a pluralist or multicultural position. However, as the myth of the “model minority” — which Fredrickson doesn’t address — suggests, there are persistent claims that “success” is in some sense determined by one’s race or ethnicity. The notion that assimilation is racist (question 4) illuminates how the idea of a model minority perpetuates hierarchy: it is a concept that values Asian Americans for their capacity to assimilate while simultaneously insisting that they remember their status as minorities. Students will have to infer the distinction between race and ethnicity upon which Fredrickson relies: ethnicity is a cultural concept that includes religion, traditions, and cultural heritage, while race is a physical concept that indicates that differences between people are based on visible markers (question 1). The degree to which various writers understand race or ethnicity to be predominant in determining people’s cultural positions in America is worthy of class discussion. You might wish to ask students to review a couple of the readings we suggest in question 7 in order to facilitate talking about how one might compare models of ethnic relations at work. For example, Studs Terkel’s essay about C. P. Ellis contains an individual example of the shift Fredrickson points out in the assumption that the capacities of African Americans are equal to those of whites. Even if the class were to discuss a few of the essays we list, there would still be plenty of options for using this question as a paper topic. You may wish to suggest specific comparisons that students will find productive (such as Richard Rodriguez on the relationship of ethnic relations to selfmotivation). In researching question 9, students should consider not only position papers in the national press but also local discussions of the issues on campus or in the community.

(text pp. 574–597)


The Crossing (p. 574) RUBÉN MARTÍNEZ
The decision of what to do about Victor is neither obvious nor easy, and Martínez’s play on the phrase “on the line” demonstrates the complexity (question 1). His family consists of recent immigrants, and Martínez identifies with both Latin American and American cultures. The line is not a physical thing one can point to. In that sense, it’s not even real; though to many, it is an impenetrable force. It divides two cultures, both of which misunderstand and misrepresent one another. The line is, in essence, the embodiment of ambiguity, containing within it, like the decision he faces, elements of both right and wrong, good and bad, selflessness and selfishness. You can group questions 2 and 5 together by first having students list Martínez’s motivations, then having them list factors that might influence them in the same situation. They should analyze both lists, writing about the pros and cons of each factor and ultimately deciding what they would have done in Martínez’s place and why. Alternatively, students might compose a list of other morally ambiguous situations, either that they’ve actually been in or that they could imagine themselves in, and write about two in which they took or would take “opposite” actions. The cartoon “U.S. immigration policy” reveals that Martínez is not the only American who sees the line as ambiguous (question 7). In addition, we, and this includes the U.S. government, feel ambiguous about the line, so we’re sending mixed messages. It’s a classic “have your cake and eat it too” position, and it is entirely untenable. For question 8, students may want to look into some of the people Martínez mentions in paragraph 6. Or, if time permits, you could listen to some music in class or watch a film. Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) are both stunning films that do a good deal of boundary blurring. Likewise, you may want to approach questions 9–10 by analyzing the purpose, history, and language of legislation, pro- or antiimmigrant organizations, or news reports for the presence or absence of ambiguity. To what extent do they perpetuate the metaphor of the line? To what extent do they stray from it? What other metaphors do they use? Are they effective or ineffective? Honest or dishonest? Why?

Assimilation (p. 584) SHERMAN ALEXIE
After working through essays and formal arguments about ethnicity, racial stereotypes, assimilation, and multiculturalism, students may find Alexie’s short fiction refreshingly easy to read. But it is a common misconception among college students that, because fiction seems straightforward, it is not as relevant to contemporary experience as are autobiographies or carefully researched studies. One reason we like this story is that it challenges that misconception from the very beginning. The title, “Assimilation,” announces that this is a story that concerns identity formation, and the conversational style invites readers to put the issue into a contemporary context despite the initial mentions of Shakespeare and Sitting Bull. Questions 1 and 3 ask students to consider how the story locates Mary Lynn’s current crisis over her marriage in the context of her efforts to negotiate between growing up on a reservation and ultimately moving off it. Mary Lynn identifies her own assimilation when she laments that none of the Indian boys or men she knew had ever been as dependable as the white boys she’d dated or the white men who’d been her teachers. In tying those memories to the Indian man she picks up in a coffee shop, who is notable for his overweight body, oily working-man smell, and well-worn clothes, Mary Lynn confirms the stereotype of the lazy working-class Indian. Revealing an attitude that


(text pp. 598–609)

shows her to be steeped in “white” values, Mary Lynn thinks of this Indian man as exotic: despite being Coeur d’Alene herself, he is a foreign experience for her. The hierarchy that Mary Lynn seems to uphold in her values supports Fredrickson’s claim that Americans continue to think in terms of ethnic hierarchy (question 6). How do students reconcile her attitude with the fact that as an Indian herself, Mary Lynn defies that hierarchy? Whether we are to read Mary Lynn’s assimilation as a good or a bad thing is unclear. For example, Jeremiah finds Mary Lynn surprisingly intelligent and successful given that she grew up on a reservation — a statement that simultaneously values her assimilation in terms of personal success and points to the racism inherent in the perceived need to assimilate. If your students are interested in exploring the question of how successful Mary Lynn is, it might be useful to discuss question 7 at this point. To what degree does assimilation define success in her world as compared to Martínez’s? In linking Shakespeare and Sitting Bull, the Big Mom Singers and Emily Dickinson, this story perhaps suggests — as Martínez’s essay does — that assimilation is not simply either good or bad but is a complex blending of multiple cultures to produce an amalgam that is a new entity (question 2). This sense that the amalgam might be a positive outcome of assimilation does not erase the fact that many aspects of “white” culture and of white men come under fire throughout the story. Questions 4 and 5 ask students to identify the criticisms the story levels against mainstream culture. It is worth talking about whether making fun of something (such as restaurants’ tendency to seat white customers before customers of color) is necessarily equivalent to critiquing it. While Mary Lynn and Jeremiah deride a number of attitudes and actions that privilege one race over another, it is not always clear whether they are making fun of the arrogance of racism or of the politically correct people who think it’s possible to change racism. Mary Lynn’s comment, “Don’t they know who I am?” highlights this possible double meaning. As far as readers know, she’s nobody, in the sense that she’s not a VIP, but the fact that being somebody would have more influence on how fast they got a table than would being white points out a fact about American culture: fame, fortune, and large-scale success carry at least as much weight as racial privilege or prejudice in determining how people are treated on a day-to-day basis. How do students feel this story deals with the relative importance of race and class in individual success?

The Pressure to Cover (p. 598) KENJI YOSHINO
For question 1, give students the opportunity to share their stories with a partner or small group. You can walk around the room and listen in on their discussion, then, once they are finished, ask one or two whose stories particularly struck you if they’d mind sharing with the class. One of the ideas you may want to ensure comes out is that covering and assimilation make life easier in a lot of ways, which is why people do it. And you often don’t have to make that much of an effort to conform; it isn’t that big of a deal. So if it makes life easier, and it’s fairly easy to do, then isn’t the demand to cover simply for people’s own good (question 2)? Yoshino says no. Civil rights are about personal rights, which are about personal choice. If I feel more comfortable blending in than standing out, that’s my right. Similarly, if you dare to be different, then that should be your right, too. The important thing is that, if your difference offends, you ask why, accepting legitimate reasons and questioning further lame excuses. Likewise, if I demand assimilation, I should be open to being questioned, and have some legitimate reasons ready (question 3). Creating policy for the sake of conformity, which is really for the sake of keeping the dominant group happy, is what institutionalizes inequality. Yoshino’s discussion about the myth of the mainstream is a bit sparse (question 4). If your students decide that this part of his argument is weak, therefore unpersuasive, you

(text pp. 609–611)


may have them help Yoshino out. Can they think of concrete examples he could include to strengthen this area of his argument? Alternatively, can they think of examples to counter his claim? Does this cause his whole argument to fall apart? Why or why not? To answer question 5, break Yoshino’s argument into digestible bits. First, the acknowledgment that “everyone covers” (para. 35) amounts to acknowledging that in some ways, in varying degrees, the demand for assimilation violates all of our rights — no matter what group we identify with — because we’re all, first and foremost, human. Second, with an increasingly pluralistic society, thinking in terms of groups is becoming almost impractical, if not unmanageable. Third, without taking away rights that groups have already won, both society and the courts can begin thinking in terms of rights we might all want for ourselves, as human beings; or, as Yoshino puts it, focus on “what unites us rather than on what divides us” (para. 40). The difficulties come in when one considers where personal liberty stops and infringing upon another begins. Also, the courts have yet to identify all of the many types of covering demands out there, and Yoshino doesn’t think they will ever be able to identify them all (para. 45). The solution, then, is for people to talk to each other, to decide among themselves which demands are reasonable and which are not. Ask questions, give answers, and do so in the places we find ourselves every day — such as at home, school, and work — rather than automatically turning to the courts. Wolfson and Rudacille both argue in terms of group rights and universal liberties (question 8), though Rudacille’s article is heavily weighted toward defining and legitimizing groups of people who identify as intersexual, transgendered, or transsexual — the first strong statement about the universal right of communicating one’s sense of self coming toward the end of the article. Might there be a reason for her spending most of her energy on arguing for the legitimacy of and need for group rights? Likewise, why might Wolfson have been freer, much earlier in his essay, to argue for marriage as a universal right? To help answer question 10, your students might interview a school administrator, someone in the Human Resources department where they work, or an officer in their neighborhood association. If carefully crafted, their interview questions can spawn a dialogue, thereby putting into action Yoshino’s call at the end of his article. Students can follow up by writing an essay reflecting on the experience and drawing conclusions about whether the rules at issue are justifiable or not, and how practical or realistic Yoshino’s call to action really is.

Child of the Americas (p. 609) AURORA LEVINS MORALES
Morales’s celebration of her multiethnic heritage is an anthem that’s being sung in cities across the United States. It’s thoroughly contemporary, yet hard to read without hearing at least an echo of Walt Whitman. Students may be interested in comparing the notion of cultural multiplicity — which seems to be a celebration of the new being that’s created — with the opposite stance on the same issue presented by some of the authors we list in question 4. Although their sense of how multiple cultures produce internal fragmentation may be easy to label the “negative” interpretation of multiple cultural identity while the position Morales takes is the “positive” interpretation, students should be discouraged from such a simple binary. Richard Rodriguez, for example, appreciates that he’s gotten an education that places him in a position of potential influence, although it was at the expense of creating distance between him and his parents. While it seems to us impossible to say definitively which position is more “realistic,” students will have potentially strong feelings about which position is most appealing. Encouraging them to discuss why they favor one response over another should help the class begin to see how much variety there is in understanding ethnic relations depending on one’s own cultural position.


(text pp. 609–611)

To close the chapter you may want to have students write a paper on the notion of the “new melting pot.” Is there any evidence in contemporary American culture that the countermyth of racial superiority is finally giving way and allowing for the re-emergence of the melting-pot ideal? Are appropriations of multicultural imagery by advertisers (Benetton, Coca-Cola, etc.), TV programmers, the recording industry, and other forms of commercial culture creating new myths about the ideal American? Who is she or he? What are her or his values, beliefs, and desires? Is there a basis for such images in the realities of U.S. culture, or is the new melting pot just a matter of fashion and media hype?

6 One Nation Under God: American Myths of Church and State (p. 613)
Myths of church and state have dominated the twenty-first century. If most of your students are "traditional" students, they may even have trouble remembering a time when government figures didn’t saturate the media with talk of religion, faith, and values — as if we’re all in agreement as to what these things mean, as well as their degree of importance in our lives. In this way, Chapter Six fits right in with the rest of Rereading America, for one of the most important lessons in this anthology is that in a diverse society, nothing can be taken for granted. With the exception of the Harris reading, which stands alone, the readings can be arranged into couplets. Lamott and Kupelian write about the destructive potential of secular influences in people’s lives; Lamott focuses on her own life, while Kupelian fears for contemporary youth culture. Both find solace in Christianity, though Lamott’s version is very different from Kupelian’s. McKibben and Marcus struggle with mainstream Christianity and its often decidedly un-Christian attitudes and actions. Eck and Johnson focus on religious diversity. Madison and Feldman discuss separation of church and state; Madison pleads for upholding this separation, and Feldman gives us the history of Christianity’s role in public schools. Finally Harris, who asserts the dangers of moderate Christianity, is sure to raise everyone’s hackles. If you don’t have time to cover all the readings, pick one from each couplet and end with Harris, for his argument can be pitted against every other essay in this chapter. As is frequently the case with the myths discussed throughout this anthology, students might be inclined to take some of these arguments personally. As Harris puts it, “[C]riticizing a person’s faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture” (p. 741). Christianity takes the biggest hit, and if you believe the statistics, most of your students are either active or lapsed Christians. In spite of the criticism, however, the authors turn to Christianity again and again, even when they feel outside the mainstream. Why is this? It might not be the religion itself that is objectionable, but the outdated attitudes of the people who participate in it. What can your students do to help remedy some of the problems highlighted in these readings? The first two steps must be the willingness to hear criticisms with an open mind and to discuss practical ways to institute change.

Overture: Lily Pads (p. 620) ANNE LAMOTT
While Lamott admitted to loving the ritual of the various services she attended with friends and family, her attraction to different faiths seemed to have less to do with the given faith itself and more to do with the stability and comfort she witnessed within her friends’ identity as Catholics, Christian Scientists, or Jews (question 1). Likewise, associating with these families let her experience some of this stability and comfort for herself, especially through the presence of a mother figure. Whereas Lamott’s mother was “not much of a dresser” (para. 6), the Catholic mother was gorgeous and always dressed to the nines. Whereas Lamott’s mother was consumed by social justice issues and politics, (paras. 7 and 14), Lee, the Christian Science mother, devoted herself to her family (para. 21). Both the Catholic mother and Lee were very much into mothering. Lee, in particular, gave the 75


(text pp. 646–664)

young Anne affirmation about her looks, as well as physical affection that she obviously craved (paras. 21 and 29). Can your students find other examples of positive mother figures in Lamott’s life? Can they find support for ways that Anne’s own mother was lacking in these types of characteristics? In what ways does Jesus later fill this role for her? Lamott’s mother and father were classic liberal intellectuals (question 2). They scoffed at religion and upheld “books and music and nature” (para. 16). Their reaction to her high school report card shows that they expected their children to follow suit (para. 37). Their values, however, were not un-Christian, as evidenced in her mother’s concern for the poor, for example, and taking in of immigrants. Do your students find Lamott’s mother’s good deeds to be in line with her values, or do they seem contradictory? You may want to have a discussion about whether someone can be moral but not religious. In what ways were the Catholics in this story, for example, religious but arguably immoral? What other evidence of contradictory behavior can your students find in the essay? God himself engaged in contradictory behavior, which is one of the things that bothers Lamott (questions 3 and 4). How could he ask Abraham to kill his own son? Or turn on people so quickly, as in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (para. 12)? Or, as Lamott’s Jewish friends wondered, allow the Holocaust to happen (para. 58)? In spite of God’s contradictions, Abraham trusted him, and this is what impressed Lamott most about the story. Kirkegaard, too, advocates trust in his call for a “leap of faith,” but you don’t have to trust bravely. You can be scared. You can be a mess. Just as long as you do it. Lamott embodied this ideology throughout her adulthood: with her talks with the Episcopalian priest and with her attendance at St. Andrew Presbyterian in Marin City. When discussing question 5, give your students time to go back into the text to search for examples of 1960s counterculture that they find particularly interesting, shocking, or revelatory. Do they identify with the 1960s as Lamott portrays it, or does it seem completely foreign to them? As an alternative way to answer question 8, you may want to bring in — or have your students find — another “rebirth” story involving a product of the 1960s. What aspects are the same? What aspects are different? Students could write an essay discussing the pros and cons of this era through a comparison and contrast of the two stories of rebirth, Lamott’s and another. What lessons, for example, about excess, love, and freedom might we learn from the 1960s?

Killer Culture (p. 646) DAVID KUPELIAN
Before your class reads this essay, you might want to take a survey. You could write one up and have students answer the questions in their journals, or do an informal show of hands. Either way, students should discuss their answers with one another after they complete the survey. How many of your students have tattoos? Have piercings? Watch MTV? Listen to heavy metal, death metal, hip hop, gangsta rap, or so-called horrorcore (bands like the Insane Clown Posse)? What attracts them to or prevents them from doing these things? Do they see a connection among these phenomena? If so, what is it? According to Kupelian, the “killer culture” (question 1) has two main components: the material and the spiritual. Today’s youth imitate what they see in the media, literally buying into the culture of consumption. Major corporations dictate what music they should listen to, what clothing they should wear, and how they should behave in order to be cool. Sex, irreverence, bodily mutilation, and gender confusion are all symptoms of the killer culture. The only rule is that anything goes; thus, in terms of the spiritual, Kupelian asserts that these times resemble the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, and that we have made gods of ourselves. The implication, of course, is that we will also be punished for it.

(text pp. 665–676)


After students read the essay, you may want to ask them the connection question again, thereby having them summarize Kupelian’s argument. Of course, once they lay the argument out, you should give them a chance to talk or write about how accurate Kupelian’s claims are (question 2), how they feel about the claims, and to what extent they themselves identify with this culture. For example, are they now or have they ever been angry youths (question 3)? If so, were they angry for the reasons Kupelian cites, such as being influenced by violent or hypersexualized music, gender confusion, or improper parenting? Were they angry for other reasons? If they are not now or have never been angry, how do they account for it? Perhaps they were homeschooled, or their parents subscribed to Kupelian’s self-examination and confession approach to communicating (question 4). To what extent does being angry or not being angry affect a teen’s future potential? To what extent is it natural? When should it become a concern? It could be argued that within both Lamott and Gatto is a critique of the dominant culture, with Gatto’s being more explicit than Lamott’s (questions 6 and 7). However, it’s debatable whether Lamott was critiquing the 1960s counterculture at all. To be sure, many of its tenets did not work for her, but does her essay serve to condemn it in its entirety? If you have students write a dialogue, you may want to give them a choice between Kupelian and Gatto or Kupelian and Lamott. Alternatively, they might enjoy the opportunity to write a critique of parenting. They could compare and contrast their own parents’ methods with those described by Gatto, Lamott, or Kupelian, saying what they would do the same or differently if given the chance to be parents themselves. They might conclude with a list of dos and don’ts — sort of a parent’s Ten Commandments. Questions 8–10 could all be assigned as research papers. You could give students a choice or assign the one you think will make for the best essays. All the questions should include a historical perspective, which, except for his brief reference to the 1960s, Kupelian arguably lacks. To what extent are the phenomena Kupelian discusses new? To what extent can they be placed on a continuum with similar phenomena from decades or centuries past? Students may also enjoy imagining what the next wave of teen culture might consist of. Could it possibly be more outrageous? Might it revert to a more wholesome identity? Or will it attain a middle ground? Regardless, who will most likely be the major players in shaping the future of teens?

The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong (p. 665) BILL MCKIBBEN
Before your students read this essay, ask them to state the most important rule in Christianity. Initially working in small groups, they should eventually debate the rule as a class, ultimately coming to some sort of consensus, even if they have a narrow the contenders down to, say, the top three. Next, ask them to think of ways Americans both follow and break this rule. Once they’ve read the essay, give them the opportunity to compare their ideas with McKibben’s. To what extent do they agree or disagree that, as McKibben asserts, the most important rule is “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Likewise, do they agree that the majority of Americans’ beliefs, such as “God helps those who help themselves,” and actions, such as keeping our money for ourselves, conflict with this rule (questions 1 and 2)? Can they think of examples of belief and action that embody loving one’s neighbor, particularly the poor and weak? Are these beliefs and actions of Christians, non-Christians, or both?


(text pp. 676–686)

The two competing creeds (question 3) McKibben discusses are an excessive focus on the Apocalypse and a culture of self-satisfaction. Too much focus on the End Times distracts from the many other teachings of the Bible. Similarly, Revelation is at best cryptic and at worst incomprehensible. McKibben seems to suggest that believers’ energy could be better spent attending to “the poor person, the sick person, the naked person, the hungry person” (para. 19). Second, the culture of self-satisfaction is in direct opposition to caring for the needy, for the suburban congregations are the ones who have, not the ones who have not. McKibben quotes the Gospel passage about first loving God with all you’ve got, and, second, loving your neighbor as yourself; but he focuses only on the latter part throughout the essay (question 4). If the competing creeds contradict the second part of this passage, do they uphold the first in any way? What beliefs and actions would constitute loving God with one’s whole heart, soul, and mind? You may want to have your students compose two lists: (1) America’s “Christian” (in quotes) domestic and foreign policy, and (2) America’s Christian domestic and foreign policy. The first would feature things we do in the name of Christianity but which, if we believe McKibben, aren’t Christian at all. The second list would feature things we already do or could do that would be true to the teachings of Jesus. To answer questions 5 and 6, you may want to bring in more writers than just Kupelian and Lamott. Could one make the argument that there are two different types of Christians represented in Rereading America? For example, regardless of whether the writers proclaim themselves to be Christians or not, if you gave students the names Santorum, Wolfson, Mansfield, Rudacille, Martínez, Cose, Kupelian, Lamott, McKibben, Harris, Andreas, Thoreau, and Hughes and asked them to divide these names into two groups, which names would be grouped together? Why did they choose the groupings they did? If the Americans most loudly proclaiming their Christianity are not, by definition of belief and action, Christians, then what are they? Or is their hijacking of Christianity complete to the point of having tainted the religion? Should the groups who represent a truer from of Christianity find another identity for themselves? Why do they want to be associated with people they feel have gotten it all wrong, anyway? Questions 9–11 can be assigned as research papers. You can allow students to choose one of the three, or you can assign the one that you feel will make for the best essays. Regardless, students will need to consult more sources than are suggested in the questions. For question 9, they might consult scholarship that has been written on the Gospels. Likewise, for question 11, they could compare Magnolia with one of the self-help books McKibben mentioned in his essay (paras. 12–13). Whether or not students feel our society’s ills are directly related to Christians engaging in decidedly un-Christian behavior, they should, at the end of their papers, offer solutions to these ills, along with explorations of why they think their solutions will work.

The Bridge Builder: Kathleen Boatwright (p. 676) ERIC MARCUS
We consider “The Bridge Builder” one of the chapter’s central selections. As a dramatic illustration of the conflict between individual liberty and community, it fits well with issues raised by Maysan Haydar (p. 402) and Joan Morgan (p. 443). Kathleen Boatwright’s experiences as a fundamentalist Christian discovering her lesbian identity also raise serious questions about individual rights and tolerance in the context of America’s religious communities. Finally, we recommend you assign this selection because Boatwright’s is a genuinely heroic story; her struggle to define her own sexual identity leads her to redefine her relationship to her faith and to the religious community she comes to serve. Questions 1 and 2 ask students to consider the forces that worked against Boatwright’s liberation. As a small-town fundamentalist Christian wife and mother of four, Boatwright

(text pp. 687–693)


is limited by the things she will eventually be forced to give up: home, family, church, and religion. All of these had told her that homosexuality was “wrong” (para. 9). Boatwright begins her odyssey as a middle-aged, middle-class housewife who had never ventured beyond the limits of her hometown. She was extremely close to both of her parents; her father served as a “worship leader” in her church, and she developed into a devout Christian, committed to the Christian upbringing of her own children. Many women in Boatwright’s situation might have been tempted to “pull the trigger, turn to the bottle, [or] take drugs” (para. 15), but she responds by beginning to redefine her own identity. She leaves Corvallis, Oregon, for the first time and becomes an active member of a new religious community — one that affirms the values of love and acceptance she is discovering. As vice president of the Western Region of Integrity, she becomes a leader in the spiritual and social life of her newfound church, and she emerges as one of its most ardent critics. Question 3 should help students clarify the changes Boatwright experiences during her transformation. Students should appreciate that in the process of liberating herself she becomes more assertive, independent, and self-aware, but also more actively involved in and committed to her religious community. Questions 5 and 6 invite students to compare several perspectives on how cultural notions of gender and sexuality affect people’s lives. One is set up as a creative assignment and the other as a more formal paper; both would lend themselves equally well to class discussion. Boatwright’s relationship to the “straitjacket of gender roles” helps explain why she got to the point of having a long marriage and four children before recognizing her sexuality. However, her story also demonstrates that there are networks of resources to combat that “straitjacket” — if one is lucky enough to find access to them. The degree to which her success depends on the luck of making those connections, however, supports Vázquez’s assertion in that it suggests how widespread are the forces that work together to enforce “normal” sexuality. The cartoon to which we refer in question 8 demonstrates the contradictory — yet often acceptable — position on homosexuality taken by many individuals and groups. While criticizing homosexuals for being “abnormal,” people are nevertheless unwilling to grant them rights that would enable them to lead more “normal” lives (like the legal right to marriage or the ethical right to keep one’s personal life private). Given what Kilbourne has shown about how gendered stereotypes are perpetuated by the American media, what do students think it would take for our culture to move beyond the “straitjacket” of normative assumptions about gender? (Examining the resources we list in question 9 may help students think through this answer.)

The title of the engraving of Washington is Apotheosis of George Washington. It was created by John James Barralet in 1802 and first published in Philadelphia. According to the Indiana Historical Society, this print was so popular that it was copied into other forms, including transfer china. The initial advertisement for the print described it this way, The subject — General Washington raised from the tomb, by the spiritual and temporal Genius [that is “Father Time”] — assisted by Immortality. At his feet America weeping over his Armour, holding the staff surmounted by the cap of liberty, emblematical of his mild administration, on the opposite side, an Indian crouched in surly sorrow. In the third ground the mental virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Other symbols in the picture include several representations of Washington’s country: the American eagle and crest, as well as rattlesnakes, which referred to America’s revolution-


(text pp. 693–711)

ary spirit. Hanging from the tomb are medals of the order of Freemasons and the Society of Cincinnati, and upon the face of the tomb is engraved “Sacred to the Memory of Washington.” The image of Buddy Christ (question 2) depicts a friendly Jesus who’s more your pal than your Lord. He doesn’t look like he has as much on his mind as traditional images of him often seem to. Is this statue meant to be playful? Shocking? Offensive? To what extent is this treatment of Jesus different from, say, displaying him side by side with Mary, the Statue of Liberty, Santa, reindeer, and yard gnomes? Do most Christians have a sense of humor about their religion? Do they take it more or less seriously than Jews, Buddhists, or Muslims? For similar treatments of Christianity, you may want to direct your students to the films of John Waters, such as Polyester and Pecker. An interesting paper topic might be to compare one of these films or Dogma to a film with a more serious intent, such as The Greatest Story Ever Told. To what extent does Christianity lend itself to kitsch? You may want to discuss questions 3 and 5 in the context of both Bill McKibben (p. 665) and Rick Santorum (p. 88). What would each say about the protesters’ signs? Also, you may want to have some groups make a list of things God hates, and others a list of things God loves. Do God and Jesus love and hate the same things, or do they differ? Along what lines do your students agree and disagree? Denominations of Christianity? Political affiliation? Race? Gender? Does this exercise validate or invalidate the statistics McKibben cites about our religiously homogenous society? For question 4, ask your students to consider where they would draw the line when it comes to public — and government-sponsored — affirmations of religious belief. How do they feel about a witness in court swearing on a Bible? Or the phrase “In God We Trust” on money? Students might research the extent to which the Ten Commandments are enshrined in law or act as the basis for laws. Are there, for instance, laws against dishonoring one’s parents? Or taking God’s name in vain? Or working on Sunday? For question 6 you might also have your students account for what authors in the book, particularly Santorum and Madison, might say after they give their own initial reactions. You might ask your students to examine the line between private prayer and public displays of religious beliefs. What do they see as appropriate?

Afraid of Ourselves (p. 693) DIANA L. ECK
You may want to allow your students to discuss how much they’ve learned in school about world religions (question 1) before they read the essay. You could begin the discussion as follows: put students in groups and give them two minutes to list as many religions as they can. Once time’s up, they can discuss how much they know about each, saying which they learned about in school and then comparing their lists, knowledge, and experiences with another group’s. To follow up, you may want to ask students to discuss whether they see each of these religions as equally legitimate, or some as more legitimate than others. Be sure to have them give reasons for their answers. An alternative way to answer question 2 might be to find representations of these religions in the media. For example, Lutherans are portrayed in A Prairie Home Companion and Hindus and Christian fundamentalists in The Simpsons. To what extent does humor play on stereotypes? When do stereotypes stop being funny and start being offensive? Also, can humor be used to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and xenophobia (question 3)? You may want to have your students check out comedy tours such as Allah Made Me Funny, especially in light of the Danish Muslim cartoon controversy.

(text pp. 711–718)


Questions 4 and 5 hinge on the same difficulty: the necessity of making and following rules and laws, while allowing for exceptions to rules and laws — without rendering them unenforceable. Do your students find the allowance of some clothing or religious practices more practical than others? Why or why not? It may be useful to think of these questions in light of Yoshino’s argument about covering (p. 598). To what extent can these issues be resolved within our own communities, schools, and workplaces, rather than in the courts? If you choose to begin with the prereading activity outlined above, using question 7 in a discussion following the reading will be a great way to revisit the question of the legitimacy of various religions. Did any of your students’ views change after reading Eck’s essay? Why or why not? Questions 9 and 10 could both be used as research paper topics. A lesser-known religion could be compared and contrasted with one or more well-known religions for question 9. Depending on students’ findings, question 10 could be made into a problem-solving essay, with the student’s focus being largely on suggesting ways our society might become more welcoming to various religious groups.

Us and Them (p. 711) MARIA POGGI JOHNSON
An interesting way to lead into a discussion of “Us and Them” might be to ask your students to describe a typical “borderline” neighborhood. For example, what might one see and hear in a borderline neighborhood? What kinds of experiences might one have living there? what would be the advantages and disadvantages of buying a home in a borderline neighborhood? After students read the selection, they can compare and contrast their thoughts with Johnson’s experiences, which could eventually lead you into question 1. Because Johnson is a theologian, she is fascinated by her Orthodox Jewish neighbors. Her fascination is largely intellectual, except when she whimsically dreams of incorporating some of their rituals into her own daily life, though she quickly dismisses these thoughts as foolish (para. 7). It is, perhaps, telling to compare Johnson’s attitude with that of her neighbors (para. 13). Why are they not as interested in Catholicism as Johnson is in Judaism? Another possible comparison-and-contrast exercise — again, before students read the selection — could be to ask your students to debate “the great[est] challenge facing our world today,” then have them compare their responses to Johnson’s claim (question 2). How do the children’s “negotiations” in paragraph 12 lay the groundwork for a practical way for people with different “convictions and commitments” to interact peacefully with one another? To follow up, using the children’s negotiations as a starting point, you might divide students in groups and have them compose a sort of manual: “How to Live Peacefully Among People of Differing Ethnic, Religious, Social, and/or Racial Backgrounds.” Once they’ve finished, the different groups should get together and compare their work. Do the various manual find a happy medium between “brittle bigotry” and “soggy relativism”? Why or why not? If any students have personal experience to bring to the table (question 3), be sure they include what they’ve learned in their manuals. An alternative way to answer question 4 might be for students to think of as many “us and them” relationships as they can. One obvious one is the predominantly Christian United States and the predominantly Muslim Middle East. How might Johnson’s arguments or the students’ how-to manuals help make such a relationship less antagonistic? Do we have anything to learn from “them”? Do they have anything to learn from “us”? What does Eck’s discussion of tolerance have to do with it (question 5)? The theme of tolerance also runs throughout Johnson’s essay. What do numbers have to do with tolerance? In


(text pp. 718–724)

other words, is it always the majority who should be tolerant and the minority tolerated? Are the roles ever reversed? If so, when and why? If not, why not? Questions 8 and 9 are essentially putting Johnson’s essay into action. You should definitely give your students a chance to discuss to what extent the experience of learning about different faiths increased their understanding, thus their tolerance. To what extent is an open and inquisitive mind necessary to make this activity a success? Are there other things that are necessary to successfully increase understanding and tolerance? If so, what are they?

Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (p. 718) JAMES MADISON
Students may have a difficult time understanding Madison’s prose. Be ready to do a bit of hand holding, if needed. Luckily, the piece is short enough to be read in class, with time for discussion afterward. You may, in fact, want to have students take turns reading it out loud, stepping in and slowing them down if you see they’re simply reading the words without comprehending their meaning. A good way to test this, while also answering question 1, might be to have students read the selection in groups. They could take turns reading a point out loud and summarizing the content in their own words. It would also be useful if you have them jot these summaries in the margins or in their journals. Once they’re finished, they can compare their interpretations with another group or as a class, and discuss which of Madison’s points they found most persuasive and why. To say that Madison is suspicious of state-supported religion (question 2) is an understatement. He thinks it’s downright dangerous and can open the door to all sorts of political and social strife. First of all, to flourish, religion doesn’t need the government and the government doesn’t need religion (points 6 and 8). That aside, a government that favors one religion can quickly fall into increasingly exclusionary practices, which in turn will upset harmony and cause the nation’s citizens to turn on on another (points 3 and 11). Concerning the question of why Christians should be particularly opposed to state-supported religion (question 3), you need only look to the New Testament. Madison’s language in point 6 echoes Jesus’s words in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Likewise, the most often quoted biblical justification of separation of church and state is “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The latter passage, however, has several other interpretations, and it may be useful to allow students to debate the various interpretations and bring in any other biblical passages they feel are pertinent. Questions 4, 6, 8, and 9 can be grouped together and turned into a research paper either for or against the twentieth and twenty-first centuries’ increasingly blurred line between church and state, the introduction of school vouchers being only one manifestation of this phenomenon. Students who are against the blurring of the line may enjoy focusing on question 4 at the end of their papers. In a sense, it is easy to point to all the bad things that could happen if we do away with the separation, but it might also be effective to argue the need for separation in order to preserve all of the great things about this country. In other words, the thrust of the argument would move from predicting the negative to recounting and celebrating the positive.

(text pp. 724–751)


Schools and Morals (p. 724) NOAH FELDMAN
In this essay, Feldman recounts the events surrounding the rise of public education. The tone is neutral; he does not pass judgment on either the Protestants or the Catholics. He also does not say whether the original purpose of public education should or should not inform our contemporary system. Is the notion of “common values” still viable in our society today? If so, what are these common values, or what should they be? If not, what, if anything, has taken their place? Answering these questions can be the ultimate task of your students; first, however, you should take them through questions 1–3 to make sure they understand the meaning and chronology of the events. According to Feldman, the elite supported public education (question 1) because if working class men were to be granted the right to vote, they needed to be taught how to be good citizens, which involved a foundation in morality, debate, reading, and writing. Thinking for oneself and suspicion of authority were at the heart of a republican government. To accomplish these goals, it seemed natural to use the Bible (question 2), though in a kind of general way that would be deemed unobjectionable to the many sects of Christianity emerging in the country. Thus, nonsectarianism was born (question 3). Christians from different sects might not agree on how to worship God, but everyone agreed on how people should treat each other in civilized society. While a nice idea in theory, critics argued that nonsectarianism amounted to thinly disguised liberal Protestantism, which was a very particular brand of Christianity, indeed. You might want to group questions 4, 5, 7, and 9 together, using other authors in the book to create al list of common values in American society today. In fact, you may want to have students compose two lists: one of common values that they see in society today, and another of common values that they’d like to see — or that should be found — in contemporary America. Students can determine for themselves to what extent religion, particularly Christianity, has to do with these values and morality. For example, Maria Poggi Johnson (question 8) speaks of the children of her Jewish neighbors as the type of children anyone would welcome into her home. They are, among other things, “friendly, polite, [and] good at sharing” (p. 715). On the other hand, John Taylor Gatto (question 5) complicates the notion of common values. Objecting to the rote sameness of American public school curricula, he argues that this turns students into veritable automatons. Gatto advocates encouraging originality and free thinking, which is what the elite claimed to want, too. Are the aspects of public education that Gatto objects to inherently Christian? Some students may object entirely to the idea of common values. Their job, then, might be to show how various rules of etiquette or laws have taken the place of the objectionable — because Christian — notion of common values. Diana L. Eck (question 7) might come in handy here. Ethnically diverse people live together in peace throughout this country. How do they do it? What rules, either spoken or unspoken, written or unwritten, govern their behavior toward one another? Question 11 asks if any particular religion is best suited to nurturing democratic values, but you might also have students pick and choose values from a variety of religions. In this way, students can create a list of democratic principles that more accurately reflects our contemporary religious diversity.

Reason in Exile (p. 738) SAM HARRIS
In his essay “Reason in Exile,” Sam Harris explores the dangers of religious moderation and its tolerance for religious extremism. Before students read the essay, you may want to have a brief discussion about moderation versus extremism. Write both words on


(text pp. 738–751)

the board. Ask students to work in pairs and list five pros and cons of each. Give them five minutes to do this. As pairs are writing their lists, walk around the room and listen for common pros and cons being discussed. Write these on the board beneath each word. You don’t have to put a complete list on the board; students can help you fill in gaps as a class. When you call time, ask students to explain their reasoning behind some of the most provocative answers, and focus the discussion on the cons of moderation. To follow up, you might want to ask them to list three groups of people associated with moderation and three associated with extremism. They can even rank the groups from the most to least dangerous, as long as they provide evidence for their assertions. Once they read the selection, you can have them revisit their lists and briefly discuss whether their opinions about the relative dangers of moderation versus extremism have changed. This essay could potentially provoke conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike. Take Harris’s claim to heart: “criticizing a person’s faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture” (para. 8). Your goal is to encourage students to break that taboo and try to have a real discussion about the issues raised in the reading. One way to do this is to use the questions to break the argument down into its component parts, saving analysis and opinion for last. To this end, questions 1, 2, and 4 will help, for they address the three main claims of the essay: (1) Each religion claiming supremacy creates intolerance of other religions, thus violence. (2) However, toleration of every religion advocated by moderate religious practice will not stop the violence. (3) The only answer is to question religious dogma by employing reason grounded in contemporary truths and to search for the sacred in contemporary experience. Questions 3 and 5 get at two of the more interesting open-ended aspects of Harris’s argument. Do your students agree that “personal transformation,” such as overcoming fear in order to love, is sacred? If not, why not? What qualities constitute the sacred? If so, can they think of other transformation that are sacred? As for question 5, the short answer to whether Harris is an intolerant secularist is probably “yes,” but intolerance itself is not the enemy; violence toward other human beings is. Thus, is secular intolerance on par with religious intolerance? Is secular intolerance a belief? If so, does it demand supremacy over all other beliefs? Does it — whether belief or not — breed violence against other human beings? Harris stands apart from every author mentioned in questions 6–10, though it is up for debate whether they would all categorically disagree with him. Kupelian is, arguably, a religious extremist; Lamott and Johnson are moderates. McKibben is also arguing for love, but he does so through an affirmation of biblical text. Harris wouldn’t deny him this right; in fact, he recommends it in paragraph 30, but with the caveat that the Bible not be treated as superior to any other book in which wisdom might be found. Madison calls for the government’s tolerance of all religions, for favoring one causes untold problems, including violence. Would Harris disagree with Madison? Does the government’s granting of religion freedom amount to “moderation”? Questions 11–13 could all be expanded into researched essay assignments, though question 13, perhaps, would bring the most satisfying conclusion to this essay. Students can work in groups in order to brainstorm ideas, then write their own papers on their own time, supporting each “spiritual truth” with reasons why they chose it and including passages from various religious texts, where applicable.

7 Land of Liberty: The Myth of Freedom in a “New World Order” (p. 755)
It’s now virtually impossible to discuss the “Myths of America” without considering how these myths have shaped our reaction to the terrorist attacks and the events that followed 9/11. It is likely that, while covering other chapters on racism, gender roles, and social class, your discussions have turned to how we see ourselves post–9/11, how we define ourselves as a nation, and how the needs of the individual can best be reconciled with those of the nation. It’s now become a cliche to say that September 11 changed everything, but it did. You might even consider beginning your course with this chapter, since it asks students to define what it means to be an American at a time when that question matters more than ever. On the other hand, if you are wary about beginning your term amidst controversy, you might want to wait to introduce this chapter. We are a nation likely to be in a state of war for a while. As a nation, we are afraid for the future and divided as to how to respond to the very real threats posed to us by terrorists and hostile nations with weapons of mass destruction. Be prepared for some arguments in your classroom about America’s foreign policy and its “homeland security” measures. These may be hard topics to broach with young people eager to believe in a world divided into the mutually exclusive categories of freedom lovers and evildoers, but these readings should enable your students to break down the simplistic binary thinking that often makes for poor writing and to see issues in shades of gray. Albert J. Beveridge, author of the 1898 pamphlet “The March of the Flag,” opens this chapter with a reading you will not want to skip. Although his positions are extreme, he spells out America’s sense of mission, its belief that it’s acting on God’s behalf, and its desire for economic dominance in ways that still resonate. Students will probably be appalled by some of his statements, even as some will admit to agreeing with certain of his conclusions. Conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza argues passionately for American virtue and the values that our nation is fighting for in its war on terror. His arguments are countered by Mark Hertsgaard, Joel Andreas, Eyal Press, and Henry David Thoreau among others. In essays and a comic book, these writers examine the underside of American foreign policy and its worldwide repercussions. Todd Gitlin focuses on the media and the export of American images abroad, inviting your students to consider the repercussions of cultural imperialism, both positive and negative. This chapter concludes with Langston Hughes’s moving poem, “Let America Be America Again,” a poem that takes on new meaning in the painful historical period we are living in. Ultimately, this unit will ask students to define what “being America again” means to them and to think about whether this country is going to be the America of its founding ideals. As you go through these readings and conclude with Hughes’s poem, ask your students if they share Hughes’s optimism about America’s promise.



(text pp. 762–768)

The March of the Flag (p. 762) ALBERT J. BEVERIDGE
Beveridge’s speech is over a century old, but some of his arguments may sound familiar. A close reading of his style makes it easy to see why this pamphlet was so popular since it is designed to appeal to the way Americans like to see themselves. Note his opening paragraphs: he describes America as “a noble land,” Americans as a “mighty people” chosen by God. Sounding a bit like the second President Bush, he contrasts the heroic American statesmen and soldiers with the “evils” they have fought and defeated. Of course, as the introduction to Chapter Seven points out, people have described America as a chosen land divinely ordained for greatness since its European founding. Your students may want to add some contemporary examples of this rhetoric in a brief research project. Unlike contemporary leaders who carefully justify military invasions and occupations on the grounds of self-defense or humanitarian necessity, Beveridge is unabashed in his motives. He seeks nothing less than America’s “commercial supremacy of the world” (para. 4). Let’s face it, America seeks that goal today, but rarely do we encounter a leader who admits it so blatantly. Your students may find his honesty refreshing, even if they disagree with his aims. Others may see no problem with seeking economic dominance. After all, why shouldn’t people try to make money if they can? As Beveridge points out, why shouldn’t America have as good a shot at world markets as “Germany or France or Russia or England” (para. 27)? You will probably invite a lively debate in your class if you pose these questions to your students. Yet even if one agrees with Beveridge’s economic goals, the notion that God has ordained America to conquer unconsenting people for its own enrichment is a little tough to take. Indeed, Beveridge even describes such intervention as America’s “duty” (para. 19) toward the unenlightened savages to be conquered (questions 1 and 2). Direct your students to the following provocative lines in paragraph 8: “The opposition tells us that we ought not to govern a people without their consent. I answer, The rule of liberty that all just government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, applies only to those who are capable of self-government.” He then goes on to justify America’s brutal treatment of Native Americans by comparing them to children who are incapable of knowing what’s best for them. Your students may note parallels to some of today’s political rhetoric, in which American leaders assured the people of Afghanistan and Iraq that we were coming to “liberate” them shortly before dropping bombs on their villages. Ask your students to note the way Beveridge manipulates images of God and the flag in order to justify what is essentially an economic mission (question 3). They are likely to see his essay as an example of dangerous extremism, but you should also ask your students to note how mainstream some of his ideas are even today. How do your students feel about the notion that God is on America’s side? Does the fact that America’s declared enemies claim to be acting in the name of religion make your students more or less comfortable invoking their own notion of God? You can refer back to this reading as you discuss other essays in this chapter. As different authors take positions on American foreign policy, ask your students whether they are really arguing for or against the basic notion of Beveridge’s “noble, glorious, and mighty” America.

(text pp. 768–781)


America the Beautiful: What We’re Fighting For (p. 768) DINESH D’SOUZA
You might start with the epigram by Thomas Paine that leads off this essay: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” When looking at the mess that our world has become, the notion that it’s not too late to start over is incredibly appealing. D’Souza’s essay has a similar attraction. Accessibly written, it attempts to cut through the moral ambiguities of America’s position in the world, asserting the nation’s superior virtues and reminding readers what is at stake in the current “war on terror.” Later essays in the chapter (by Hertsgaard and Andreas among others) attack what they would call the smug sense of superiority embodied in D’Souza’s ideas, but many of your students will be glad to read an essay that points out that there is much in American culture worth fighting for. D’Souza’s clear definitions of the terms American exceptionalism and American universalism will be useful to you throughout this chapter and even as you teach other units in this text (question 1). As a brief freewriting assignment, you might ask your students to explore these ideas more fully: Is it possible to hold the belief that Americans are unique in the world while also believing that other nations should follow our model? You might also refer back to Beveridge’s speech for examples of American universalism and American exceptionalism. Which of these ideas is most convincing to your students? One statement with which your students might not agree is D’Souza’s claim that America’s biggest weakness is “her lack of moral self-confidence” (para. 3, question 2). It’s true that Vietnam led to a period of national soul-searching, but recent events have not shown any of America’s leaders (or many of her citizens) questioning the nation’s moral righteousness. Do your students see a lack of moral confidence in this country? What do they see as America’s greatest weakness? Do they agree with D’Souza that America is usually “on the side of the angels” (para. 3)? Question 6 provides students to examine D’Souza’s portrayal of Islamic culture, asking to what degree he plays upon cultural stereotypes. If handled with sensitivity, this question can lead to some interesting class discussion because it addresses many of our own stereotypes as well as our wish to combat these stereotypes. Despite George W. Bush’s assertion that Islam is a religion of peace, we are reminded daily that our war against terror is in fact a war against Islamic countries and the radical Islamic sects who have openly vowed to continue attacking our people and our interests in the name of Allah. Remembering Paul Wachtel’s discussion of “otherness” (p. 541), we wish to avoid demonizing those whom we perceive as being different from us. On the other hand, D’Souza’s characterization of the Islamic world as brutal, backward, warlike, ignorant, and oppressive is one that is frankly supported by what we know of such groups as the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Note that D’Souza is careful to distinguish radical Muslims, “a humiliated people who are seeking to recover ancestral greatness” (para. 13), from their more liberal counterparts, who have, he claims, mostly left the Middle East to practice their religion in the West. As a class, you will want to look closely at D’Souza’s claims about the Islamic world, asking which ones seem to be unsubstantiated stereotypes and which are supported. In doing so, you might point them to specific passages such as paragraph 12, which articulates “the fundamentalist argument” by citing very specific claims, none of which quote any representative of Islam. Some of his points, such as that fact that fundamentalists want American troops to leave the Middle East, have been made by radicals like Osama bin Laden, but bin Laden is hardly the best representative of Islam. Remind your students that Islam, even radical Islam, is not a homogenous religion, and D’Souza’s generalizations are far too sweeping. For example, while American leaders may try to equate bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the two have always held very different positions on the relationship between religion and the state.


(text pp. 781–794)

D’Souza’s discussion of virtue is more nuanced. Do your students agree that the more unrestricted a society is, the more “virtuous” it is simply because citizens must choose to be moral rather than have a moral code thrust on them? If so, would they then advocate for a completely open society without any restrictions on speech, pornography, or even commerce? Most of your students, if pressed, will probably admit that America is neither the Great Satan our enemies claim it is nor always on the side of the angels, as D’Souza and Beveridge assert. To what degree does our relatively open society contribute to our virtues and vices as a nation?

The Oblivious Empire (p. 781) MARK HERTSGAARD
This essay should be taught in conjunction with the previous one by Dinesh D’Souza (p. 768) because Hertsgaard specifically counters the American complacency and sense of moral superiority found in D’Souza’s essay. Both writers make powerful arguments, and question 7 asks students to address and possibly reconcile some of their contradictory ideas. As you begin discussing Hertsgaard, you might open with a comparison of the two pieces. For example, Hertsgaard would clearly disagree with D’Souza’s claim that America lacks moral self-confidence, although he attributes much of America’s perceived arrogance to ignorance. Hertsgaard points out a number of instances of the double standard that America applies to other countries. For example, he claims that while George W. Bush demanded all nations to decide whether they were “with” us or “with the terrorists,” he ignored the fact that “many nations already had their own painful experience with terrorism” (para. 6) and that “the United States would never accept any such ultimatums itself” (para. 7). He later points out that this double standard, as evidenced by our foreign policy and our attitude, is a large part of the reason that America is so disliked overseas. It might be useful to point back to D’Souza’s definition of American exceptionalism to explain these inconsistencies. There seems to be a sense that the rules are not made for us because we are somehow special. Question 6 highlights another explanation, that our policy of unilateralism goes back at least a century and is bound up in our definitions of who we are as Americans, believing we are “the Beacon of Democracy that other nations should thank and emulate” (para. 12). One important example of the inconsistencies Hertsgaard emphasizes is our definition of terrorism (question 3). You might remind your students that the Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism on the part of the early American revolutionaries. We don’t usually use that term because we consider that particular destruction of property to have been justified on moral grounds. Yet most terrorists feel the same way about their own violent choices. Do your students agree with Hertsgaard that our definition of terrorism is “self-serving” (para. 16)? Is it even possible to hold an objective and accurate definition of the term that can be applied to nations evenhandedly? Question 4 asks students to think about “blowback” and, more provocatively, whether it is useful to speculate on the motives of terrorists. Does considering September 11 as an example of blowback amount to excusing the actions of the hijackers and their leaders? Do students see Hertsgaard as making excuses for our enemies? Is it possible to be critical of one’s country and not be a bit of a traitor? You may have some passionate responses to these questions. Hertsgaard makes much of the obliviousness of the American people, going so far to claim that most Americans would not tolerate much of their government’s actions if they were more informed. Questions 8 and 10 ask students to consider this ignorance. Are Americans really as uninformed as Hertsgaard claims? Do your students think Americans

(text pp. 794–814)


would be outraged if they had more information about their government? What obligation do people have to inform themselves and how might they do so? How do your students feel about an American “empire”?

The War on Terrorism (p. 794) JOEL ANDREAS
Don’t be fooled by the comic book format: this piece is perhaps the most serious critique of the United States in this chapter. Andreas saves his most pointed attacks for the Bush administration’s response to the September 11 attack, but the larger context of American foreign policy is fair game as well. Like Hertsgaard, Andreas sees the terrorist attacks against the United States as blowback for American foreign policy, although he goes a step further than Hertsgaard, quoting Osama bin Laden in his own defense. Your students may dismiss bin Laden’s words as the ravings of a madman. Are they interested in hearing how a terrorist justifies the slaughter of thousands? How do they feel about bin Laden’s accusations about America? Is Andreas implying that America got what it deserved? According to Andreas, the war on terror is largely an effort on the part of the Bush administration to “boost military spending and demonstrate U.S. military power” (question 2). Andreas argues that military buildup is extremely dangerous to world order and world peace. This argument that the United States is less safe than before the war on terror is, of course, counter to our government’s assurance that strengthening our military is necessary to keep our nation secure. Which of these arguments do your students find to be more convincing? Is there a limit on how much the military should be allowed to spend? Like Hertsgaard, Andreas makes much of the U.S. double standard in dealing with terrorists. He cites an example of Florida’s protection of Cuban terrorists while our government demands that all states harboring terrorists will be punished. Is this a good comparison? Are Americans as threatened by these Cuban radicals as they are by Islamic fundamentalists? Is it necessary or even desirable that the United States hold all groups to the same standard? It would be difficult to discuss this piece without addressing the fact that it’s a comic. Many of your students are familiar with graphic novels and other comic renderings of serious subjects, but some might find the approach in this case to be a bit disconcerting. Ask your students to note some specific points Andreas is able to achieve by putting his argument in comic form. How do details such as the talking skeleton, the depiction of the military as a bloated monster, and the huge check made out to the Pentagon reinforce Andreas’s message?

These powerful images can complement your readings and class discussions well. The Rambo, the KFC, and the movie protest pictures speak to how we are perceived abroad. Ask your students to note the details: the woman in the Rambo picture looks like she is praying for assistance from a brawny, armed Sylvestor Stallone while a young man lies on a nearby bed. Is he sick? Dying? In despair? They are clearly living in poverty, as evidenced by the sparsely furnished room. What do your students make of the fact that the one decoration in the room is a Rambo poster? What might Rambo mean to the woman in the picture? What might her “prayer” be? For protection? For peace? Rambo represents America’s


(text pp. 814–824)

most violent, aggressive, militaristic side. Is it an accurate representation of our nation? What image of America would your students substitute for that poster? The Colonel Sanders statue next to the veiled Malaysian women is also telling. You might ask your students to write a brief in-class essay from the perspective of these women. What might they think of this statue? Of the introduction of American fast food to their culture? Does “the Colonel” represent a new freedom in an oppressive culture for women? Or is he another example of American imperialism? In a way, this picture represents the achievement of Beveridge’s dream of American economic domination. Students who have traveled abroad will no doubt be able to recall seeing American corporate logos and images in surprisingly remote locations. Do they see this photo as a “clash of cultures” or as a healthy economic expansion in a free market? How about the picture of the movie protesters in South Korea? They aren’t protesting the content of American movies themselves, but rather the corporate branding. What objections might these protesters have to the marketing of Nike, Coca-Cola, and Marlboro in South Korea? The famous photo of the U.S. Marine doctor comforting the Iraqi girl shows another side of the war with Iraq. D’Souza might view this photo as evidence that America is once again on the side of the angels. The U.S. government has been eager to emphasize that part of our mission in Iraq is to “liberate” and assist its citizens. Do some of your students see our country as a “doctor” to the world? If so, how do they feel about that role? Ask your students to respond to the jarring dichotomy of seeing someone in combat uniform in such a nurturing pose. How does this highlight the paradox of being at once a conqueror and a liberator? While several of these images comment on how the world views America, the picture of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay asks students to think about how America now sees itself. Do your students view this harsh prison camp as an unpleasant but necessary part of the war on terror? What features of this prison stand out? Does this photo challenge students’ image of America or does it confirm it? Why or why not? The Abu Ghraib prison photos (question 5) are shocking, even now. Your students may want to compare and contrast their memory of how they themselves reacted when the scandal broke to how these pictures make them feel now. Have their reactions been informed by the ideas they’ve encountered in this anthology? If so, how? If not, why not? Also, students might not know offhand how people in other countries reacted. You may want to have them do a bit of research or bring in a couple of articles yourself. The photo of the coffins (question 6) is striking because they are reminiscent of items on an assembly line. It would be a cold, sterile photo if not for the servicemen standing at attention. The government has tried to block publication of such photos. How is this similar to the government’s reprimand of ABC for reading obituaries during its World News program? What about the Bush administration discrediting the report in the British medical journal The Lancet, which cited 655,000 war-related Iraqi deaths? What has the Bush administration’s overall attitude been toward casualities? As the topic of this chapter is so current, your students are likely to pick up images in the newspaper every day that relate to the visual images featured here. Encourage them to bring provocative pictures to share with the class.

In Torture We Trust? (p. 814) EYAL PRESS
In paragraph 20, Press contrasts the government’s claim that torture is necessary for our security with its inadequate funding of homeland security. What Press is implying is that adequately funding homeland security would keep us safer than would torturing pris-

(text pp. 824–835)


oners, though he does not actually come out and say this. Luckily, question 1 is th perfect place to explore this idea. To help the discussion along, you might bring in some budget numbers for the amount of money spent on, say, Guantánamo Bay versus the Department of Homeland Security. Do these numbers support Press’s claims? If your students decide that the government is, indeed, misdirecting its funds and energy, they might enjoy revising the budget. In terms of homeland security, what should we be spending money on, if not the maintenance of prisons where torture is taking place? At the very least, they should discuss Press’s explanation of why torture doesn’t work (question 2). Also, the case for equating torturers with terrorists is a compelling one (question 3). Alternatively, questions 1, 2, and 3 could be combined into one researched essay question. The main thrust would be, “Torture vs. Homeland Security: Which Is the More Effective Means of Ensuring America’s Safety?” If students decide torture is an effective means of ensuring our safety, they may want to consider the call for us to acknowledge and define the practice (question 4). To do so, they should look up Alan Dershowitz (para. 7), who is currently one of the most outspoken scholars on this subject. Questions 5, 6, 8, nd 9 can be treated as stand-alone discussion or freewriting questions, but they might also be incorporated into the essay on America’s moral health (question 7). For example, can a society be oblivious to what is going on in the world and at the same time ethically strong (question 5)? Or does ethical strength require vigilance? Likewise, consider the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay (question 9). Would the government continue to hold suspected terrorists without trial if Americans demanded otherwise? Why haven’t the people spoken out?

Under the Sign of Mickey Mouse & Co. (p. 824) TODD GITLIN
According to Gitlin, Cyndi Lauper was right: Girls (and boys) just want to have fun. And that goes for Israeli teens as well as Californians. Although this essay is somewhat long and dense, your students may find it fascinating. A number of essays in this chapter focus on the power of the American economic system to impose its products and its culture on other countries. Gitlin makes this point as well. Point out that his discussion of “The Supply Side” of cultural imperialism is pretty familiar by now: he discusses America’s desire and ability to expand markets and to dominate culture, and its enormous influence over even the most remote parts of the globe. But when he moves into his discussion of “The Demand Side,” he looks at American global cultural dominance from a different perspective. He writes, “The dominance of American popular culture is a soft dominance — a collaboration” (para. 16). In other words, no one is forcing Muscovites into McDonald’s or mandating that the Malaysian women in the Visual Images section of this chapter sit next to the statue of Colonel Sanders. Gitlin argues that the energy, youthfulness, and heterogenous nature of American popular culture is a liberating, attractive force, an id, dedicated to pure entertainment and to celebrating the next new thing. Ask your students why such a culture might have universal appeal from Paris to Iran. Do your students agree with Gitlin’s assessment of American culture? Do they see a darker side to the face we present to the world? Given the loss of traditional cultures and identities, question 2 asks what is gained and what is lost by America’s profound popular influence worldwide. You might want to list students’ thoughts on the board. Is the export of pleasure positive, negative, or neutral? Gitlin’s discussion of the English language (question 4) adds some depth to his argument. Gitlin makes that point that English is widely spoken throughout the world and thus American culture has an “in” with global consumers. Might the ubiquitousness of English be a result of — rather than a cause of — American cultural dominance? Students feeling


(text pp. 836–848)

bogged down in a writing class may not agree that the English language is “grammatically simple” (para. 20), but they may recognize the informality and adaptability of American English that Gitlin describes. Furthermore, do your students agree that often in American films, “speech is a secondary mode of expression” (para. 21)? If you can get one, you might consider viewing an American film translated into another language. How much of the plot are you and your students able to follow? To what degree does that film represent American fun?

Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience) (p. 836) HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Thoreau’s essay is dense, and it will take your students some time to analyze it and find the answers to the questions. Working in pairs or groups of three might greatly facilitate the process. Concerning question 1, Thoreau’s argument is a bit vague when it comes to the role of government. He twice refers to it as an “expedient” (paras. 1–2), but doesn’t really say an expedient to what end, unless it is toward helping its citizens recognize and organize their rights, which he briefly discusses in the conclusion. As it is, the government does quite the opposite, treating its citizens like cogs in a machine (para. 5), the purpose of which is to gain money, power, and land (question 2). American citizens, though, are complicit in this treatment (questions 3 and 4). Objecting to the government’s activities and voting for the candidate we think will do the right thing is not enough. Voting is too passive, for, as Thoreau points out, we are all too willing to cast our vote, then shrug our shoulders and go along with the majority whenever our candidate loses (para. 10). We must take action. We cannot continue to amass wealth and hope for the best. What actions should we take (question 5)? Thoreau recommends the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. Refuse to pay your taxes. Disobey unjust laws. Go to jail for your disobedience. Become self-sufficient.

Disobedience is justified whenever our government infringes upon the rights of humans, whether they be its citizens or its neighbors. Students may wish to freewrite about question 6, but they should then be put into groups to create a sketch of what Thoreau’s government would look like. How would it be similar to or different from democracy? What roles, if any, would the following organizations play: law enforcement, the courts, the legislature, the president, and such public institutions as hospitals and schools? Grouping questions 10 and 11 together might be instructive. After students stage the debate and decide what forms of civil disobedience they would and wouldn’t undertake, they might enjoy reading about what one or two of these historical figures did. If time permits, member of the class could present brief reports on each of the four people mentioned. Be sure to encourage them to consider what would prompt them to engage in civil disobedience. How do they decide which a activities or laws deserve to be obeyed?

(text pp. 848–851)


Let America Be America Again (p. 848) LANGSTON HUGHES
Hughes’s classic celebration of the American Dream and America’s failure to live up to that ideal addresses many issues in this chapter with a combination of realism and optimism. Hughes sees the promise of America as being fulfilled by the descendants of slaves, immigrants, and the poor who have previously been denied access to the Dream. In some ways a scathing portrait of what America is, it is nonetheless an uplifting vision of what might be. For those of us reeling from the events of September 11 and the political aftermath, no reminder could be more welcome. Read as a celebration of freedom and the American Dream and as an indictment of America, this classic love-hate song provides a wonderful counterpoint to Jefferson by pointing out how the ideals and system perpetuated by the founding fathers contrast the American Dream and the hopes of immigrants to the United States throughout time. Throughout the poem Hughes dares America to live up to its own myths — the great principles of democracy, equality, and freedom — and he stands witness to our repeated failures to make these dreams reality. Hughes describes two different Americas in the poem (question 1): the America of our ideals and the other America, the one beset by slavery, poverty, ignorance, and false patriotism. That Hughes continues to affirm the power of our greatest myths in the face of such a reality is eloquent testimony to their power and durability (question 3). We suggest you start by discussing the poem on this thematic level, with issues such as those we raise in questions 2, 3, and 6, and then incorporate observations on style and poetic structure as they arise.

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...Desirees Baby by Kate Chopin and Lamb To The Slaughter by Roald Dahl are similar in many ways. Both have a strong female lead character who is so in love with their significant other. Both stories take unexpected dark turns and end with some irony. The sense of irony in Desiree’s Baby is at the end when Armound is reading his mother's letter, “... belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.” He got rid of his wife and child because he thought they were cursed with the slave race. The irony in Lamb To The Slaughter is when the detectives are eating the leg of lamb one says “ is probably right under our noses…” she used the leg or lamb to kill her husband. The two stories are different in the way they take their dark turn. In Desiree’s Baby her baby starts bearing the skin of a black baby. The turn the sends desiree to her death “ that the child is not white; it means that you are not white.” this then leads to them fighting and ultimately desiree’s suicide. The turn in Lamb To The Slaughter is similar but very different. We do not know what is said but only assume that Marys husband is leaving her. “Listen, he said ive got something to tell you.” not being able to handle the being apart she snaps and kills him “... she swung the big frozen leg...

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The Assassination Of Relationships In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

...Have you ever read a book that's so sad that it left you wanting to save the monster or creature? The book “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley focusing on abandonment of relationships formed through creation, labor and death which creates such a feeling in its readers. “Frankenstein” is a type of autobiography where the author uses her experiences in these areas and works out her own fears in the novel. In the beginning of the book “Frankenstein” she demonstrates abandonment with Victor Frankenstein’s mother passing away which results with Victor Frankenstein creating a creature in search of a companion, which in doing so isolates himself from all whom he loves resulting with him not being able to trust his loved ones with the truth about what...

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Kkkkk but also covering your body. HIJAB: The meaning of hijab is not just a piece of cloth on your head. Hijab is to cover, to hide from view or conceal. A woman who wears hijab protects her from harm, injury and mischief. She wears it knowing it gives her dignity, beauty and respect. From the hijab you know what religion she is from. The hijab gives you strong personality and a strong faith that you're more connected to Allah. hijab is not only covering your hair but also covering your body. Women of Islam Women of Islam “Hijab is beautiful, so make it look beautiful, wear it with love, wear it with pride and most of all wear it Right. “Hijab is not merely a covering dress but more importantly, it is behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. And it’s not just a hijab it’s our key to Jannah. “Hijab is beautiful, so make it look beautiful, wear it with love, wear it with pride and most of all wear it Right. “Hijab is not merely a covering dress but more importantly, it is behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. And it’s not just a hijab it’s our key to Jannah. Dana -10G3. Dana -10G3. the statues of women in islam Islam has raised the status of women from below the earth to so high that paradise lies at her feet. Islam encourages the husband to treat his wife well, as the prophet Mohammed said: (The best among you are those who are the best to their...

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Moon Struck

...been hit by a bus and has passed away, cursed her. Now that Loretta’s current boyfriend has proposed, she has decided to marry him because he is nice and she would like to do it the correct way this time. Loretta seems to feel cursed again after the proposal because Johnny Cammareri got a phone call that his mother is now ill and has to leave. Before he left he gave Loretta a task, which was to invite him to the wedding and mend things between him and his younger brother Ronny Cammareri who works in a bakery. In this scene where Loretta confronts Ronny, there was so much emotion and finding out why him and his older brother do not get along was quite heart breaking. Ronny’s hand was maimed in the slicer because, Johnny asked him for some bread and wasn’t paying attention then Ronny’s girl at the time left him for another man because of the incident, Heartbroken, he decides to direct that rage on his brother because, it was Johnny’s fault. Ronny so, enraged for his brother taking “his life”, has an intense argument with Loretta. When things cool down, they both go up to his apartment to have a serious conversation. This is where things get so heated, I wasn’t sure I was gonna live through the scene. Something weird happened, Ronny flipped the table and made out with Loretta because, instantly, on film I felt this sort of chemistry I’ve never felt with her husband to be. It seems as if Loretta and Johnny had never been in love because, the way they interacted with each...

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