Monthly Archives: October 2013

Final Course Projects

The primary pedagogical objective of the searching for wildness project is to challenge college students to improve their reading, thinking and writing. The project titles and descriptions below reflect the challenges of reading a real book and of sustaining an intellectual project for an academic term. As with most college classes, students earned grades ranging from A to F; and as with most groups of students, final grades correlate with the ability (or willingness) to commit to intellectual work.

In the end, though, having worked closely with each of these students in and outside of class, I can say with some confidence that all of the students considered the idea, in the worlds of Jane Jacobs from The Nature of Economies, thathuman beings exist wholly within nature as a legitimate part of natural order in every respect.”

The ideas that our lives are inseparable from what we call nature cuts against commonplace thinking about ourselves, and the world. About midway through the fall semester of 2013, one of my students included in his essay words from the author and playwright Eve Ensler that speaks to the hope I bring to this work with my first-year students: that they will “find a way back home, into their bodies, to connect with the earth, to connect with each other, to connect with the poor, to connect with the broken, to connect with the needy, to connect with people calling out all around us, to connect with the beauty, poetry, the wildness.”

Searching for Wildness Writing Projects: Fall Semester 2013

 John Cagno, “An Optical Journey: Perception and the Power of the Mind” (Oliver Sacks, The Mind’s Eye)
We all assume that we see the world in its true state, objects are objects, people are people, etc. Although, this is not entirely true; for what we see is a mere image of the actual world. The realization of this concept may prove to alter one’s view of their reality. The mind and eye are infinitely complex mechanisms with immense capabilities; concepts of perception are explored by Bertrand Russell and William James, and supported with the use of images and Oliver Sacks’ The Mind’s Eye. One must open both their mind and eye to truly see.

Alex Clark, The Meaning of Independence in Today’s World (Henry David Thoreau: Walden)
People today are becoming more and more dependent on those around them, and this is not healthy. This essay provides examples on how it is not beneficial for anybody and how we can avoid becoming dependent. It also explores different areas of self-reliance, including sovereignty, moral and societal responsibilities, and transcendentalism. Although some may believe that independence simply means moving out of the house for the first time, it goes much farther. There is much more of an extensive description of self-reliance, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Between Emerson and Thoreau and their writings on self-reliance, the very foundation of our knowledge of autonomy is explained.

Allison Middleton, “Hydro-Quebec: People’s Lives and Energy Demands (Linda Hogan: Solar Storms)
Although Hydro-Quebec does provide good services to a lot of people the company isn’t all good.  I give reasons why people should do more research into the costs of hydroelectric power.  The biggest cost is Hydro-Quebec taking the Cree and Inuit peoples land and destroying their culture into order to create dams for North America’s high-energy demands.  My paper weighs the cost and benefits of hydroelectric power and leaves the reader with the decision on whether they should or should not buy hydroelectric power.  The big question you’re left with is do the benefits of the hydroelectric power outweigh the cost of human life?

Why Nature Makes Us Happy: Physical, Mental and Human Needs Fulfilled (Willa Cather, O Pioneers!)
In this paper I argue why nature is good for us and why it makes us happy. Most people think that nature is good for us physically because it helps ease pain associated with many diseases and provides the body with vitamins. People also think that nature is good for us mentally because it relieves stress, and puts people in calmer moods. However, I believe that nature is good for us for another less obvious reason.  Nature fulfills a deeper need found within all people.  This need causes people to want to connect with nature in any way possible.

Abby Milonas, “Humanity’s Rush to the End of the World And What We Can Do to Stop It” (Paul Erilich, The Population Bomb)
My paper focuses on the population crisis. It takes a look at how the issue has been discussed in the past, the core contributing factors, what has and is being done to help, and a few potential solutions. Some of the topics I discuss are food production, pesticides, climate change, energy use, and the influence of religion. Increased industrialization leads to larger cities, denser populations, and thus, greater need for food. At the same time, however, it leads to greater pollution and takes up land that would otherwise be used for food production. All of these issues are connected to each other in some way, and though not all are reversible, it is vital for our society to find ways to amend them.

Kristina Cottone, “Do You Remember? Researching and Understanding Our Brain” (Mary Oliver, The Leaf and the Cloud)
My paper is on the importance of our minds, brains, and how it creates these unforgettable memories of our past. These are called memories and these make us capable to hold on to certain parts of our life that had already occurred, but unfortunately we can’t hold onto everything that happened to us in the past. Sometimes we remember things that we wish never happened, and things that makes us happy and memorable. Also, in my paper I mentioned how parents can have an effect on their child’s memory based on their parenting style. It’s all about the science of the brain and how we still have so much to learn and discover it. Unraveling this science bout our small but important organ is astonishing and very interesting.

Cory Crater, The Mind is its Own Place: The Authors’ Ever-changing Chase for Self-Knowledge (Henry David Thoreau: Walden)
I use Henry David Thoreau, Aldous Huxley, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Elizabeth Gilbert and Paulo Coehlo to explore self-knowledge. I emphasize the similarities and differences between the writers while referencing articles, philosophers, religious texts and other authors to provide supporting material for my claims. In my conclusion, I prove that all these authors’ methods of achieving self-realization are in some ways adaptations of past philosophers ideas and even religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. I also emphasize that the evolving methods by which these authors pursue enlightenment is due to either a change in circumstance – such as war, common theology, environmental changes – or the fact that no two people are the same and the mind is its own place.

Mallory Pearce, “The Mechanical Farm: Do we know Where we are going?”
(Rachel Carson, Silent Spring)
This paper includes all the positives and negatives to the use of pesticides. We need to understand what is happening because of the use of pesticides to argue if the usage is right or wrong. The question at hand it whether we understand the consequences to the usage of pesticides compared to the benefits they provide us with and if they are worth the synergistic effects they cause to our environment and the mutations and diseases they cause to living organisms, humans included. Can we ever go back to the way things were before chemicals entered the farm? Can we sustain our population if we were to return to the days prior to industrialization of the farm?  With all the damage we have done, the adverse effects were never and will not ever be worth it.

Rebecca Costello, “The Secrets Behind Fast Food: Marketing, Production, and Price” (Erich Schlosser, Fast Food Nation)
In this paper I want to provide so much information about fast food and its’ industries to my audience attention. Yes fast food is delicious and so convenient, however there are so many harsh consequences that result form eating it. We as Americans need to realize how fast food is destroying our health and bodies, creating unneeded problems such as obesity. After reading this paper I hope that my audience can reevaluate what they all consume and put into their bodies, we have so many natural resources that give us the satisfaction that fast food does but is 10 times healthier.

Kylie Coffey, “Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself” (John Krakauer, Into Thin Air)
My argument is that stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing. I believe this is true because when you step out of your comfort zone you experience things that you probably would never have the chance to experience if you stayed in your comfort zone. Another great thing that comes from stepping out of your comfort zone is you can meet new people. When you do activities that you don’t normally do you are introduced to a different group of individuals, and you can meet a wider variety of life styles.

Hannah Soucy, “To Be Determined: Our Past, Our Present, and Our Future” (John Krakauer, Into the Wild)
Whether one is dedicated to the realm of religion or science, mankind will inevitably become irrelevant. From a scientific perspective, once humans perish there will be no physical record of our existence. Spiritually, mankind is an instrument to reaching a higher life form with a plethora of beliefs using the expendable human body to reach enlightenment. However, the human race is also the leading evidence and advocates to both theories. Our species fabricated Earth’s history, present, and future. This essay also explores the importance of a structured society while we strive to find an individual and global purpose in life.

Rob Wishart, “The Ten thousand Hour Theory: The training and factors included in becoming a professional athlete” (David Epstein, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance)
My argument is based upon not completely disproving the proposal Dr. Ericsson had for the ten thousand hour theory, but instead showing the flaws and loop holes in it.  My paper’s goal is to inspire the thinking behind not only the ten thousand hour theory but inspire insight into athletic research and the training and factors involved in becoming a professional athlete.   However, due to peoples demographics, genetics and time available to train for 10,000 hours, Dr. Ericsson’s paper does not always match up to everybody’s expectations which draw holes in his theory.

Technology: The Screen into a Different Experience (Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder)
My paper will be about how technology has pulled kids away from nature. Today’s generation of children are so consumed with technology that they are no longer taking the time to experience the world in ways that previous generations did. This is causing harmful effects in the school and social aspects of children’s lives. Contributing to this newly developed disconnect with nature are parents’ influence on what their child does. It is extremely important that a child strives to form a strong bond with nature so they can truly have real world experiences, rather than only experience what is behind a glass screen.

Amanda Kunkel, “Consumption of Fast Food Among Americans: Why Fast Food is Popular and How Americans Can Stay Away From It” (Erich Schlosser, Fast Food Nation)
Why do Americans continue to consume fast food and why do Americans continue to eat these types of foods after knowing of all of their damaging effects and how can they put an end to their consumption? In my essay, I discuss the reasons why Americans may be attracted to fast food. I include the marketing aspect of fast food as well as many other reasons. Towards the end of my essay, I discuss ways Americans can avoid fast food and explain that fast food is a large part of American society, but has the potential to be avoided. They continue to consume fast food, however I am aiming to inform readers on reasons why they should not be consuming this type of food. Fast food is a staple in American society, yet we should be more open to understanding it’s detrimental effects.

Joe Cortese, “The Blues Massive Extinction Of Its Biggest Inhabitant: Whale Wars (Silvia Earle, The World is Blue)
The ocean is a vast blue that can only care for itself to an extent when dealing with outside variables such as humans. People everyday are destroying our wildlife and it needs to stop now before it’s too late. The food chain is being destroyed and it starts with the killing of the massive slow moving innocent whales. Whales cannot out run technology or humans and it’s only a matter of time until there extinction. Acting upon this now is key to saving the vast blue and its wildlife or we can wait around and see what happens in the future.

Frank Bacarella, “The Human Body is an Extremely Wild Place” (Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer)
My paper is about the human body how fascinating it is and just how wild it can be. We live in a society that is only getting smarter with further technology and education, though just because we are a developing society does that mean that our bodies will ever become a neutral place. Were we know every single disease, infection, and illness that we could ever face In our world and not just know about them but how to cure them how to prevent them to where we would never have to worry about those things in our lives ever again. I will go into what we have learned about our bodies what horrible things we can catch or obtain, and also go over if we can ever find a way to prevent them. Will we ever be able to prevent everything bad that happens to our bodies with all the gross stuff we put into our bodies and all the viruses in the air?  That is going to be my main question I will try to answer in my paper.

Katelyn Terry, “Winning is Everything: How the Culture of Sports Has Come to Corrupt Us” (Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen)
Many improvements have been made in the culture of sports. These include, more opportunities to compete in sports, including a greater availability of youth sports, and a rule that allows women to compete in the highest level of sports.  This culture of sports has many positive attributes, and yet people are still losing track of their love for these sports.  We are no longer playing sports for the fun of it like we used to. Ulterior motives hit us and we begin to compete for these motives, whether they are fame, fortune, or power.  This paper develops the ideas on the culture of sports to find out why we have gone from doing something that we love doing for fun, to participating in the corrupted culture of sports.

Nuts and Bolts

In our writing workshop today we went over titles, introductions, claims, organization, and conclusions. Here are the notes from class:

Titles: How do I write an effective title?

An effective title will most often have these elements:

  • Will grab the attention of a reader
  • Will interest potential readers in what you have to say
  • Will provide a clear sense of the subject and context (authors, key terms, books)

Here are some examples:

Satrapi, Spiegelman, and Sacco: Confronting Cultural Crisis Through the Art of Comics

A Blog of One’s Own: Women and Authorship in the Digital Revolution

Dramas of Solitude: Narratives of Retreat in American Nature Writing

Songs of Ourselves: The Use of Poetry in America

The World is Blue: How are Fate and the Oceans are One

A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation

Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit

2. Introductions: Where do I begin?

  • Define Context: Describe a general understanding of the idea/topic (“a recognizable intellectual context”)
  • Create a disruption of that general understanding (will usually involve a word such as “however,” “yet,” “but”): this is where you come in, and is the path from what “they say” to “I say.”
  • Follow the disruption with a clear and specific claim that will organize the content and guide the reader through the remainder of the essay

Here are two examples from early versions of ITW essays:

When you listen to people talk about science and religion you are likely to hear that they are incompatible. People will say “the two contradict each other” or “science is based merely on fact while religion is based in belief or fiction.” However, this common belief that science and religion are incompatible is fueled by the lack of knowledge and understanding of a complex relationship between two ways of thinking about the world. The purpose of this paper is to argue that science and religion are harmonious rather than antagonistic. I will use Richard Dawkin’s outlook on religion to clarify what I take to be a fundamental misunderstanding of doubt and faith.

Increasing evidence of what we call today the Ice Age changed the nineteenth-century world view of nature: it modified scientific assumptions, challenged religious beliefs, and stimulated the popular imagination. However, the most significant change was how people thought about time. An increasing attention to mountains as alluring places, and the new idea of attaining the summit as a significant achievement, brought the human imagination closer to nature’s timeline than ever before. This gap between nature and culture re-established itself in the twentieth century. Technological innovation improved people’s lives at the same time it obscured the growing gap between the “deliberate pace of nature” and the “impetuous and heedless pace of man” (7). Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring urges its readers to reconsider their lives as a part of the natural world by re-examining the pace of modern life.

3. Claims: Consider “They Say, I Say”

Here are a few elements of an effective claim:

  • Your take on the subject
  • Debatable (not both sides but rather acknowledge multiple sides of an issue)
  • Complex
  • Justifies what you are doing (significance of what you are doing)
  • Visible and well deliberately placed in the essay
  • Well constructed sentence or sentences (clarity)

Here are some examples from ITW papers:

From Social Networking to Productive Classroom Work: Special Technology for Special Children

Of course, with every technological advancement there are downfalls, but I think it is of the utmost importance for people to understand what technology is doing for these children. The positive benefits outweigh the negative when it comes to technology in special education classrooms.

The purpose of my paper is to inform people of the more positive, unknown, benefits to technology and its advancement. Acknowledging the fact that there are negative affects such as distraction and decreasing social skills when it comes to technology, I try to show how the positives outweigh the negative. Exploring many different kinds of assistive technologies and their purposes, I hope to help the readers become more optimistic. My paper is essentially an informative essay, but still touching on the opposing arguments.

Overuse Injuries in Youth Sports

Youth sports can be damaging to children (Counter: Youth sports are valuable in many ways; Counter to counter: Youth sports can be made more valuable if necessary precautions are taken) My research paper is written on the rising epidemic of overuse injuries in youth sports.  My paper is not written to undermine youth sports programs in the United States, but it is instead written to enhance the program.  The point of my paper is to emphasis the importance of educating the young athletes, parents, and coaches.  While there are many positive rewards and benefits to youth sports, there is definitely room for growth in the programs and improvement of the safety of the programs.  With more than half of the youth sport injuries being in the category of overuse injuries, there needs to be more education available to prevent these statistics from growing.  My paper also discusses treatment for already sustained overuse injuries. Youth sports could be made safer and the programs better if there is more knowledge.  There should be more knowledge and more education available for parents, players, and coaches.  While programs today do have education and certification programs, not all sports have these requirements, and ones that do have certification program requirements could be more in depth.

4. Organization and Transitions: How to Move from One Place to Another

Every piece of writing has a beginning, middle and end. But how does your writing move from one place to another? Following the steps below will help you 1) “see” the structure of your essay, 2) determine whether or not your thinking is actually going somewhere (“developing”) and 3) build in steps that move your argument (and your reader) to a different place from where you started. If step three proves difficult, then you may want to return to the all-important questions: Where am I going? Where do I want to take the reader?

1. Write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph in your essay.

Example:

1. Introduction to concept of deviance and the use of deviance to understand acts of nonconformity.

2. Discussion of the idea that deviance is part of human development and achievement

3. The importance of looking at deviance from a neutral rather than a biased point of view.

2. Break your one-sentence summary outline into parts or sections.

Example:

  1. Introduction to subject of paper and inquiry, outline of key questions and debates, importance and consequences of observing deviance differently (paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  1. Examples of scholarly thinking that links deviance and creativity, examples of creative persons who have also spent time “behind bars” (paragraphs on Socrates, Galileo, Thoreau, King, Mandela)
  1. Deviance and the scapegoat figure, Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold and the music of Marilyn Manson.

3. Write a transition from each part of the paper to the next.

Examples:

“So while we see that Manson belongs to the Church of Satan, we must also note his Episcopalian membership as well, which is something very few of us take the time to discover” (Lowry 54).

“After laying the foundation of seemingly negative deviant contexts, we can turn the tables in hopes to better understand the other half, the positive effects of deviation.”

Examples taken from sample essay “Positive Deviance: Unmasking a Common Phenomenon,” Think, Write, Learn: A User’s Guide to Sustained Writing Projects, Phyllis Benay, Kirsti Sandy and Collie Fulford, eds., Littleton, MA: Tapestry, 2008. 92-100.

5. Conclusions: How do I end my paper?

Here are a few suggested ways to conclude:

  • Summary (but more than restatement): take on the “so what?” question. So you are saying that
  • Revisit claim (that is, do more than restate, as your reader is now more informed about the paper’s subject)
  • Relate to your reader (“Now it is up to you,” With this information, consider. . . “)
  • Say something new: point to broader implications, further lines of research or inquiry, unanswered questions, actions to take based on information provided in the essay

 Here is an example:

From the beginning of his career to this most recent work, nature for McPhee is a place where people are. His sensitivity to the multitude of ways humans carry out their lives has broadened our thinking about nature and the role of humans in the natural world. His portraits and place-based profiles of people will consistently challenge the reader to think in regional terms; his astonishing number of regional studies, moreover, will continue to offer readers an indispensable repository of human attitudes toward the natural environment. The more recent books about geology, finally, will continue to invite readers to think about the natural world in unfamiliar, if potentially enabling ways. For Bailey, McPhee’s later work is most importantly “about nature seen as completely as we can see it.” The consequences of McPhee’s project as a nature writer, from this point of view, are significant. McPhee’s essential lesson as a nature writer is that our understanding of the natural world is something we must continue to shape as we broaden and deepen our inherently limited human perspectives.

 

Writing from Sources

Here are notes from Wednesday’s class, our second workshop on writing with sources:

Quote only when absolutely necessary. Make sure, too, that a reader understands why the quotation is relevant, and don’t count on a quote to make a point for you.

Identify the speaker or writer of the quotation. Usually precedes the quoted material. (“Showalter says, . . .)

When you introduce a quotation, consider using verbs other than “says”: “Argues,” “adds,” “contends,” “points out,” “admits,” “comments,” “insists.” Or, with just the right verb, consider the use of a transitional phrase: “In an apparent contradiction, Showalter goes on to argue. . . .

Distinguish between short and long quotations. Enclose short quotations (fewer than four lines of type) in quotation marks. Set off long quotations (more than four lines of type). Do not use quotation marks. To set off a long quotation, begin a new line, indent ten spaces from the left margin, and double space throughout. Note well that long quotations need adequate introduction and are most often immediately preceded by a full sentence ending in a colon.

Don’t introduce a long quotation into the middle of one of your own sentences. Too often the reader will get lost as you transition from your own writing into a long quotation. It’s better to use a short introductory tag (as described above) and then follow the quotation with your own sentence.

Embedded quotations (that is, a quotation embedded into a sentence of your own) must fit grammatically into the sentence of which it is a part.

Quote accurately. Check your quotation for accuracy at least twice. If you intend to add or substitute a word in the quotation (to conform with 5), enclose the words in square brackets. Indicate omissions of material with an ellipses (three periods, with a space between each period). If you omit words at the end of sentence, indicate the omission with three periods (an ellipses) and end punctuation (a period).

Use punctuation correctly. Commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Semicolons and colons go outside quotation marks. Question marks, exclamation points and dashes go inside if they are part of the quotation, outside if they are your own.

Use single quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation. “Listening to the conversation following Bradley’s speech, I overheard an audience member say that she had ‘never encountered such a frank and honest politician.’ She went on to say, ‘I don’t know what to make of him. But I like him.’”

Enclose title of short works in quotation marks. Longer works should be underlined or italicized.