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Sample paper 1

Professor Towner

RWS 200 T/Th 8-915

19 February 2009

How Context Shaped Gatto’s Response

John Taylor Gatto has taught in the New York public school system for more than twenty years, and has been named New York City’s Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991. He has written several books on education, and appeared in Harper’s magazine. I will be analyzing his essay from italics>Harper’s magazine to uncover his method of response to context. Context means the circumstances that helped shape Gatto’s response to events, people, and ideas. John Gatto is a libertarian meaning he believes that people have an individual responsibility to take care of themselves and he supports less regulation from the government. The audience, who reads this essay, must keep in mind Gatto’s background and political beliefs when evaluating how he responds to context. In this essay, I will be analyzing how Gatto responds to education in light of boredom, childishness, and the need for schooling, Prussian idealism, and Ingles’ six basic functions of school.

First, Gatto is critical of the education or “schooling” system in America because he believes that it is boring. At the beginning of the essay Gatto asked his students, “why they felt so bored?” and their answers were always the same: they would say the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it” (152). He responds to this saying that schoolteachers are just as bored as the kids. But, what is so interesting about this is that the students and the teachers blame each other for their boredom. He then asks another bold question, “Who, then, is to blame?” (152). He responds, in a clearly libertarian state of mind, by saying that we are all, individually, to blame for this boredom. Here he discusses an event, which shaped his response to the idea of boredom. He tells us a story about his grandfather, who told him that he was not allowed to use the term boredom around him. This is because being bored was Gatto’s own fault and no one else’s. Gatto responds to his grandfather’s statement by admitting that his own amusement is entirely his responsibility. This event has shaped the way Gatto has taught throughout his teaching career. He explains that he tried to teach this lesson of boredom to all of his students.

Gatto responds to another event from his past to illustrate the childishness of adults. He discussed a time when he lost everything. Gatto returned from medical leave only to find out that he had lost his job and his teaching license. Later a school secretary testified to seeing an important medical form, which was the problem, being wrongfully destroyed. He states that, “By the time I finally retired in 1991, I had more than enough reason to think of our schools––with their long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and faculty––as virtual factories of childishness” (153). He does not want to believe that this is the way school has to be, and he responds to this saying he wants to get rid of the “old, stupid structures and help kids take an education rather than receive a schooling” (153). He believes by changing the process from receiving to taking we can invoke curiosity and adventure within our children. Gatto responds to his rhetorical questions, in order, to invoke our curiosity rather than just telling us the answer, he asks us to gather our own opinions first. Gatto uses personal experience to respond to this idea of childishness in schools.

The next question Gatto responds to is this, “Do we really need school?” By school he means the routine of five days a week for twelve years, not the education. He responds to this question by stating that lots of great Americans did not go through the “twelve-year wringer,” for example, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson (153). He believes that Americans think of “success” and “schooling” as if they go hand-in-hand, but to Gatto this is just not true. He follows up by saying that many people in the world, today, find ways to educate themselves instead of going to these “prisons” we call schools. Gatto then asks, “What exactly is the purpose of our public schools?” He responds saying that the reason mass schooling sunk into the American education system was to do three things: to make good people, to make good citizens, and to make each person his or her personal best. Although, many people believe that these three things are executed in public schools Gatto does not.

Gatto believes that our educational system is based on Prussian idealism. Gatto himself responds by saying that the American educational system is “an educational system deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, […], and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens––all in order to render the populace ‘manageable,’” another very libertarian view (155-156). Inglis, the name of a lecture given at Harvard, makes it obvious that schooling in America is just like it was for Prussia in the 1930s. This lecture gives Gatto a good basis to reinforce his response to Prussian idealism, and the flaws in the American education system. Inglis breaks down the six basic functions of schooling, which fit right in with how Gatto looks at schooling in America. These six basic functions of schooling are: to establish habits in reaction to authority figures, decrease diversity among students, determines social roles, sort and train the children for only what they can do, enforce Darwin’s idea of natural selection, and finally “dumb down” the population so they can not challenge the government. Gatto makes clear to his readers that these are not just the ideas of Inglis himself, but also of James Bryant Conant, a World War II executive, and of Horace Mann, an American education reformer. Gatto uses these six functions to reinforce his own experience with how the “real” American education system works. Gatto responded to Prussian idealism by discussing these six basic functions of school; He did this to show that the American public school system does not foster good people, good citizens, or develop the people to their personal best. But, in a way it creates slaves.



In conclusion, Gatto responds to different events, people, and ideas by asking rhetorical questions to make his audience think on their own, and form their own opinions. For example, I have explained the questions of “do we really need school?” and “what exactly is the purpose of our public schools?” It is important for the audience of this essay to understand that Gatto is responding to things outside his text, and in order to form an informed opinion they must read essays for other authors on this same topic. If the audience is aware of what the author is responding to it will make it much easier to learn from and teach other people what one has read. He reveals throughout this essay that only we are to blame for our own boredom, that childishness can be fixed, and that we do not need schooling, but an education. Also, Prussian idealism is what formed the American educational system, and Inglis’ six functions of school are the “real” reasons for schooling. Gatto responds to Well, he is probably responding to his own readers, right? how he wants the future generations to be by telling us to teach our children “to think critically and independently.” Basically, Gatto wants children to ask questions and always question authority. Gatto himself writes the solution to these imprisoned minds is to, “let them manage themselves” (159). Overall, all Gatto wants to do is just inform us on what he believes is wrong and show us how to fix it.


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Danielle,

I think you get the idea here! You show how the author is responding to his context in various ways. At times the answer in your paper seem a little pat—simple, but overall you show a growing sense of the author’s engagement with his time, topic, and audience. GRADE: A- 135


Sample2


Professor Towner

T/Th 8am RWS 200

February 10, 2009

The Context of Kozol’s “Still Separate, Still Unequal”

Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson have all played a large part in ending segregation in various aspects of American Society. However, Jonathan Kozol argues that many Americans who have never had to step foot in an urban public school believe that segregation is merely a ghost of the past and is not present in today’s public educational institutions. As an author and renowned educational critic, he contends that this belief is far from reality. In his 2005 essay, “Still Separate, Still Unequal,” Kozol introduces the flaws in the 1950’s desegregation efforts of our public inner city school system. He claims that many of the public schools that had focused on integration during those years have in fact caused what he defines as a modern Apartheid, where the majority of those schools are now of African American or Hispanic ethnicity. His essay addresses an audience of Americans who may or may not understand the reality of today’s segregation in education. He writes in response to the many factors that influence resegregation in the American public school system, in both an academic and racial prospect. In this essay, I intend to will explore the various events and people in the context to which Kozol responds.

Kozol begins his essay by addressing the first element of the context in which he writes. He argues that America’s ignorance towards segregation has supported the resegregation of public school systems. He responds to the “refusal of most of the major arbiters of culture in our northern cities to confront or even clearly name an obvious reality they would have castigated with a passionate determination…fifty years before” (241). In this quote, Kozol clearly identifies one of the most essential issues that he responds to: the hypocrisy of influential American citizens who believe so strongly in the idea of equality yet who turn their nose ignore? to the segregation in today’s inner city public school systems that takes place today. He continues to make arguments to this part of the surrounding context throughout the entire essay, referencing the absence of political aid’s effect on the academic segregation of public schools. For instance, in the New York City schools, about $11,700 is spent on the average student while approximately $22,000 is spent on children in a suburban district in Long Island (245). By yielding this information, Kozol intends to address the academic-based segregation of urban versus suburban school districts. Clearly, Kozol believes that many significant arbitrators of American culture Right. And this is his own phrase, so you want “quotes.” have avoided the issue of segregation in America’s public schools system, and he responds to their ignorance.

Kozol continues his essay by responding to the contact that he has with children who understand the differences between the urban schools in which they learn and the suburban schools that wealthier children attend. His reason for choosing to respond to these children is because their letters demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Brown vs. Board of Education’s 1954 decision to end the Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling that schools can be separate but equal. The Brown vs. Board of Education ruling entitled children of all ethnicities and to be given the same academic opportunities as white children (239). Actually, it said schools should be integrated. Kozol responds to the letters from children in rural neighborhoods because the inequality they experience contradicts this ruling. Alliyah, an eight-year old girl attending an elementary school in the Bronx, wrote a letter to Kozol that involved many “you have…we don’t[s]” (245). His response to this letter is a set of questions that inquire various right-from-wrong scenarios, which shed light on the earlier context of avoidance towards the unequal conditions in which children such as Alliyah learn under Lost me here. Kozol uses these questions to create the message that it is immoral for these children to have less in their schools, but they nevertheless continue to receive poor funding. He means for the audience to come to the conclusion that the only logical explanation for this confliction of morality and reality is that the people in control of the funding for urban schools perceive the children’s cries for equality as “juvenile exaggeration[s]” (245). Kozol distinctly responds to the urban children’s cry for better equality in their schools. Right.

The Skinnerian approach, which Kozol argues leads to an inadequate education, is another situation to which he responds. The first action he takes in order to retort to this method of teaching is to explain it as “commonly employed in penal institutions and drug-rehabilitation programs” (246). Kozol uses this information to develop an impression among the audience that incredibly intense measures are being taken to alter “the attitudes and learning styles of black and Hispanic children” (246). His response to this method is one of worry; he views the Skinnerian approach as outrageous, and believes that “the way that these approaches can affect [the children’s] daily lives and thinking processes is even more provocative” (246). When explaining this method of teaching, he criticizes the austere control the teachers have over the students. Using the quote, “I can do this with my dog” (249), said by a teacher at a Skinnerian school, Kozol introduces the demeaning and unperceptive methods of Skinnerian teaching. His feelings toward this system, which can be understood throughout his account of the classroom, is that it breeds a class of obedient, standard children that will follow their parents’ footsteps to a low-paying occupation. This is yet another topic that Kozol is responding to, for he believes that the mediocrity and monotony of the Skinnerian system along with the under qualified teaching of many other urban public schools forces their students into a cycle of conventional,?? lower-class lifestyles that both they and their children will continue to follow. Whoa. This is hard to follow.

When Kozol visits Fremont High School, he speaks with the students about their sub-standard learning environment. He continues to respond to the cycle of mediocrity that students of lower-income schools are being forced into. Kozol notes that students at this school are sometimes placed into classes that they do not need to or want to take, giving them a disadvantage from other students at different schools who could take electives that better prepared them for college. For example, when Kozol asks which class Mireya, a student at Fremont, would take as opposed to sewing, she answers, “I wanted to take an AP class” (253). He includes a classmate’s reply to Mireya’s dilemma in order to continue his response to the cycle of mediocrity; “you’re ghetto…so sew!” (253). Using this quote, he intends for the audience to identify that the children of these rural schools understand that they are helpless as long as they are continuously forced into the sequence of mediocrity that the American public school system has created for them. Kozol’s response to the sub-standard futures that children in rural schools are being forced into is cloaked in the specific conversations he chooses to include in his text, but his response is strong nonetheless. I’m not sure I get you here.

During his essay, Kozol responds to many different events that make up the context of his writing. Throughout his entire essay, he continually responds to America’s ignorance towards the current segregation in public school systems. This segregation has caused many problems, some of which were recognized by children such as Alliyah, who contacted Kozol regarding the poor conditions in which she learned. Alliyah, however, did not experience the Skinnerian approach to education of rural schools. Though these schools led to a cycle of inferiority and obedience, many students in non-Skinnerian schools also faced issues when their opportunity to take specialized electives, such as AP classes, were revoked due to unavailability. Perhaps the opportunities were just unabailable? Kozol responds to each of these topics with support detailing why they have such negative effects on rural society. Exploring the way an author responds to topics outside of his or her text is extremely vital to truly comprehending and relating to his or her argument. Being able to pick out the key events to which an author responds gives the audience insight into the author’s support of their argument as well as the reasoning behind the support his or her choice. Understanding context is an extremely vital part of rhetorical analysis, for without it the audience is unable to contemplate the argument given from the author’s point of view.





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Sets up paper topic and direction



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Hi Katherine,
I like your paper. You dig well into the subject, though a few sentences I struggled to follow. But you show a growing understanding of the way an author responds to context.

The best thing to do to improve your writing would be to read aloud your sentences and try to think like a reader who may not know what you mean. Usually, avoid stringing together several ideas. Break things in to parts.


GRADE A- 135 points

Works Cited

Kozol, Jonathan. “Still Separate, Still Unequal?’ Reareading America. ed. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonie Lisle. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 239-255.

Sample 3
J Towner


RWS200
February 19, 2009

Project Argument: Kozol


In writing, what shapes arguments is context and the writer’s response to observations and situations he or she has encountered that develop their claim. Scholar and teacher Johnathan Kozol wrote a reflection on the schooling system in our present American schools. Besides being an inner-city schoolteacher himself, he has investigated several different inner-city schools in America. These inner-city schools widely contrast with the schools in upper-middle class, white neighborhoods. In his argument he responds to many parts of the context with the observations he’s made. For example, he responds to the physical conditions of the cools and the teaching methods used in them drastically mismatch each other, leaving poorer, minority students with inadequate schooling, hindering them unable to flourish academically. Schools that are predominantly full of minorities follow follow the Skinnerian system, a strict system of instruction required in inner-city schools, which I will explore later in my paper. In response he argues that these situations are due to demographics of the schools’ neighborhoods, the administration, and the media’s failure to shed light on this dire situation. My paper will explore the context and references Kozol uses to shape his argument on the resegregation and inequal schooling system within the U.S. Nice claim and intro.

Kozol references others who have responded to the schooling crisis. He responds to those who are supportive of the current school system and those who cry out against it. He responds to the excuses politicians make for the dramatic decline in school services in. For example he states, “Political leaders in New York tended to point to shifting economic factors, like a serious budget crisis in the 1970s, rather than to the changing racial demographics of the schools population” (244). Political leaders will take desperate measures to alter the way racial segregation seems in our schooling system, according to Kozol. I could use more help to understand what he means and what his response is. Fortunately there are those who see past this.

Many teachers are opposed

Historical events have shaped Kozol’s argument as well.Well done. He describes the current racial separation in inner-city schools as similar to apartheid, “White children made up ‘only about one percent’ of students in the New York City schools in which this scripted teaching system was imposed… [E]xperienced instructors teach the children of the priviledged and the least experienced to teach the children of minorities. They are confections of apartheid” (250-51). Apartheid may be a strong word for this situation, but it literally means apartness, which the school systems have increasingly become. He also refers throughout his text to the court case of Brown vs. The Board of Education, a court case in 1954 that outlawed segregation in schools. He describes how educators have… “Set aside the promises of Brown [vs. the Board of Education] and- though never stating this or even thinking of it clearly in these terms- to settle for the promise made more than a century ago in Plessy Vs. Ferguson…” (243). The case of Plessy Vs. Ferguson declares schools to be acceptable if they are separate but equal. Kozol is not stating that schools are intentionally separate but that the depletion in instruction, physical building characteristics, and lack of creative or advanced courses is targeted towards poorer schools which are inhabited mainly by students of color. This kind of evidence makes Kozol’s argument much more viable. Do you think his audience will believe in the response he makes, that current segregated schools violate something?

The author is addressing the implied beliefs and conversations he’s observed regarding the segregation in our modern schools. In a conversation between inner-city teens, a student named Mireya complained about the primary function of the dumbed down classes required at her high school. The priority of these classes is to create laborers with classes like “hair dressing” “hair braiding,” and “sewing” (253). This differs at richer high schools in LA with programs like “residential architecture” and “engineering research” (253). Using context Kozol refers to a conversation Mireya and another inner-city student, Fortino had:

“‘I don’t need to sew to go to college. My mother sews. I had hoped for something else… I wanted to take an AP class,’ she answered.

‘Listen to me,’ [Fortino] said, ‘The owners of the sewing factories need laborers. Correct?... It’s not going to be their own kids. Right?’…

‘So they can grow beyond themselves,’ Mireya answered quietly. ‘But we remain the same.’

‘You’re ghetto,’ said Fortino ‘so we send you to the factory’” (253). Indent 10 spaces.

This kind of conversation obviously resonated with Kozol, causing him to want to defend these poor students who want the same opportunity to succeed with a wealth of knowledge, but are shot down and given vocational courses.

I believe his goal in writing this was targeting an audience of educators, future school board members, community organizers, wealthy suburbanites, and hopefully some inspired youth who want to work at making a difference for their peers. In the place and time of New York City circa 1998 the spending level for public schools was “$11,700, which may be compared with a per-pupil spending level in excess of $22,000 in the wall-to-do suburban district in Manhasset” (245). I don’t follow you here.

Kozol writes with the language of a scholar but with the heir of a humbled man. He uses great imagery to describe the situations of these suffering inner-city schools and their students. He uses many statistics to bulk up his factual argument. Each statistic is very relevant and presented with a tone of regret and shame.



Kozol responds with empathy and a direction to point blame to the matters above. He refers to the injustices between the school funding and the utilitarian teaching system. Sadly, he relates all these problems to racial prejudice evident from the obvious segregation involved in these schools. I believe the best way to make sense of his argument would be to read Kozol’s essay yourself. Also look at books on Taylorism or B. F. Skinner, both American psychologists who have for some reason had a lasting impression on the strict inner-city school teaching regimen. Besides these texts, he mainly references the evidence that he has seen first-hand from observing these schools and their unfortunate students. His use of context paints a clear picture of what he is presenting and his use of evidence allows his audience to understand the gravity of such a profound concept.



Criteria

Outstanding

Praiseworthy

Competent

Barely Competent

Grammar

Always correct

Mostly correct

Some errors

Frequent errors

Punctuation

Always correct

Mostly correct

Some errors

Frequent errors

Use of sources

Always correct

Mostly correct

Some errors

Frequent errors

Citing of sources

Always correct

Mostly correct

Some errors

Frequent errors

Addresses Project topic

Always

Mostly on topic

Sometimes off topic

Frequently off topic

Development

Exceeds length without padding

Exceeds minimum

Meets minimum

Less than minimum

Analysis:

Directed towards assignment topic



Insightful, Plentiful comments

Thorough, mostly accurate, thoughtful, comments

Some accuracy, some comments

Very little comments, or Often inaccurate

Organization:

Arrangement helps reader flow, seems logical



Always organized, creatively

Mostly

Basically

Confusing

Introduction:

Sets up paper topic and direction



Fully

Mostly

Basically

Confusing

Conclusion:

Wraps up paper, noting main points, and value of paper



Fully

Mostly

Basically

Confusing

Yveette,
I can tell you have thought about the way the author responds to context. I got a little lost at times—perhaps you were a bit rushed?



Read your work aloud. Listen. Imagine a reader trying to read your writing.


GRADE: B 125




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