Friday, October 23, 2009

That Damned Human Race

In "The Damned Human Race," Mark Twain argues that man is the "lowest animal." Our class found this to be true and false at the same time. Ultimately, we decided that it's hard to know. Especially when we're a part of the equation.

We started off comparing human beings to animals. Stacey pointed out that human beings have been at fault for atrocities like the Roman Colosseum and the Holocaust. Animals don't kill other animals for sport, she argued. They only take what they need.

Brittany reminded us that we know nothing about what animals think. We can only guess. And when we do guess, we do so from our own perspective, as humans.

Nikki stated that animals don't know the difference between right and wrong. Moral sense is what makes human beings the lowest animal. We know the difference between right and wrong - and we choose wrong.

Our discussion shifted into discussing morals. Moral sense, we said, is what separates murderers from victims. It's what separates thieves from the stolen. It is what separates us from animals.

So is Twain right?

Everything added up. But still, we weren't sold on his argument. Finally, we decided that there wasn't a right or wrong answer. Twain wrote this piece to be funny and ironic. The key to understanding his point is to look at what he's NOT saying. There lies the truth as to which species is the "lowest."

Perhaps neither one of us is lower or higher? Perhaps, we are simply together.

Homework: Essay 2

Begin to work on Essay 2.

Your essay should be somewhat related to one of the three essays we discussed over the last few weeks: Tweens, The Damned Human Race, and Why We Crave Horror Movies.

Your essay should be argumentative. That means you state an opinion, perspective, or argument, and prove it with evidence. You can still be creative and tell stories. For this essay, you are required to use at least one acceptable secondary source as evidence.

What is an acceptable secondary source?

Not google. Not wikipedia. Not No .com, or .net sources. .Gov, .edu, and .org are okay. BUT make sure to check the reliability of the site.

As we talked about in class, the BEST sources are library sources. Books. Newspapers. Magazines. The best of the best? Academic journal articles. Like CQ Researcher, they can be accessed through the databases link on our school's website. One of my personal favorite databases is JSTOR. CQ Researcher is equally amazing. Both are wonderful resources, containing tons of academic journal articles.

Bring Essay 2 to class on Thursday, October 29th. Please include a code name, instead of your real name, in the heading. If you want, you can come up with a code name using a favorite character from a book, TV show, movie or band.

On Thursday, we'll be workshopping our papers. If you come to class without Essay 2, you will not be able to contribute to the workshop, and you will have to make it up on your own time.

Email me if you have any questions!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Do We Crave Horror Movies?

That's what Stephen King wants to know. His essay, "Why Do We Crave Horror Movies," attempts to answer this question. According to him, we crave horror movies because we are all a little mentally ill.

In theory, it makes sense. To start off discussion, Joe said, We all know that human beings can be savages. Horror movies help us release that savage side, so we don't turn into homicidal maniacs.

Even though it sounds right, our class didn't buy it completely. Several of us don't like horror movies. Christina said that she never watches them. If King's theory is true, that would mean that Christina's "gators" are not "fed." We don't know what she does in her off time. But I think we can safely assume she's not running out to murder people after class. There'd be blood stains. The papers would've said something.

A couple of us felt that King really projects the "crazy" tag onto us. He assumes that we are crazy for watching horror movies. But really, who's crazier? The people who watch horror films, or the people who write and film them? Patrick mentioned that many horror films are based on real life events. That's pretty messed up! It's also exploitative of the real life people who suffered terrible murders and frightening experiences.

There's real violence everywhere, Brittany pointed out. Movies don't eliminate it from our world. So how can they add to it?

Our discussion closed with some of us sharing our fears. A few of us talked about little tricks we do to get through watching scary movies and going to bed at night. This made me wonder if we had Stephen King's message all wrong. Perhaps he was trying to make a statement - not about rage, but about fear.

Think about it. Our lives are pretty ordinary. Maybe it's not that we need to release our rage, but that we need to scare ourselves, remind ourselves that we are mortal. Horror movies help shake us up a bit. They remind us to stay on our toes. They remind us that anything can happen. They remind us that OUR WORLD is a little bit crazy, if not us.

A couple propmts for writing:

1. Who is crazier? The people who make the horror movies or the people who watch them?

2. Think about a movie that really scared or disturbed you. What about it upset you so much? Where were your gators when you were watching it? Does your reaction support or debunk King's argument?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


For Thursday, October 15th: Please prepare for Discussion 4. Read Mark Twain's "The Damned Human Race" on page 525. If you have not handed in your revision of Essay 1, please bring that as well.

For Tuesday, October 20th: Please complete the Midterm Assignment.


So far this semester, we've spend a lot of time analyzing. We analyze when we read the essays in our book. We analyze topics out loud in discussion. We analyze arguments on the page when we write.

For your midterm, you are going to analyze an episode of a TV show. You can pick any show you like. It helps to choose a show that has some ratings to back it up as a viable piece of entertainment. In my classes at Neumann University, we watched Family Guy. Other shows I’d suggest include Scrubs or The Office. It should be a quality show that’s entertaining and meaningful. Reality TV won’t work. (That includes The Hills.) If you have an idea of what you want to watch, but aren’t sure if it will fly, email me.

Just like essays, episodes have thesis statements, or messages that the writers want to convey to the audience. As you watch the show, take notes. Think about what the thesis, or message, of this episode could be. Write 1-2 pages of analysis.

In your analysis, you should:

1. State the message, or thesis statement, of the episode.
2. Describe and analyze three events that happen in the episode and support this message.
3. Explain why is this message important to everyone. What’s the universal message?

Bring your midterm essay typed and stapled to class on Tuesday, October 20th. Please make sure your essay follows the requirements listed in the syllabus as well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Homework: Next Week

Revise Essay 1.

Bring the first draft and the revised draft to class next week, either Tuesday or Thursday.

Make sure it is typed, stapled, and follows the essay guidelines listed in the syllabus.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Discussion 3: Tweens

In class last Thursday, we discussed Kay S. Hymowitz's essay, "Tweens: Ten Going on Sixteen."

The youth of today is growing up too fast, says Hymowitz. Girls dress like teenagers at ten. They put away their dolls and put up posters of "hot celebs." Meanwhile, boys start experimenting with petty theft and drugs. When they get together, it's trouble. Kids are having sex, as young as twelve years old.

Our class felt that the essay spoke true. Some of us shared observations of young girls copying this trend. The baby-sitters, dance teachers, and coaches in the class had a lot of evidence to back up Hymowitz's argument. Once we told our stories, we went on to figure out why. Why do kids grow up too fast?

In a few cases, we found that girls grow up too fast because their parents let them, or even encourage them. In others, we found parents absent and working all the time. Older siblings watch over the younger ones. But - as Katie pointed out - the older sibs can be bad influences.

There are other factors that contribute to kids growing up too fast. Like TV.

"Why does the media have so much power over kids?" Stacey asked.

Paige replied, "Well, we watch TV all the time."

To prove the point, we talked about Miley Cyrus. She's the role model for young girls today. She's been photographed half naked, straddling motorcycles in miniskirts, and pole dancing.

It's not the most wholesome image. Bombarded with this on a daily basis, it's no wonder girls grow up thinking it's normal.

Some of us were not so easily convinced. Brittany pointed out that hundreds of years ago, it was normal for girls to get married at fourteen years old. Jess argued that the problem could be fashion. Stores manufacture "Bootylicious" shorts and "100% Naughty" training bras for ten-year-olds. "Kids buy what places sell," she said.

Perry argued, "It's not about fashion, it's about sex." That's a really interesting point. If kids grow up too fast because they are interested in sex, we have to wonder what's making them interested. Are they repressed? Or are they too free? Or maybe... are they normal?

We ended our discussion, telling stories of getting teased in school. As random as it sounds, we weren't really off track. Think back to when you were a kid. What motivated you to go along with the crowd? Sometimes, it was fear of getting made fun of. Perhaps these over-sexed kids are simply trying to keep up with their peers? The more ahead of the game they are, the less behind they will fall.

Some questions to pursue further in writing:

1. What causes tweendom? Is it absent parents, the media, or peer pressure?

2. What does tweendom say about our culture? Does it prove that our society is morally disintegrating? Or is it simply a sign of changing times? Consider what we argued about in class. Remember that nearly every generation has looked at future generations and thought the world doomed.

3. Hymowitz wrote this essay in 1998. This means that most of us were tweens at the time it was written. Analyze your own tweendom. Does it fit to Hymowitz's assessment?