Arguments on Education: David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water”

As we continue to look into the topic of Education in America in order to answer our essential question ‘Do we provide an equal education to all citizens?’, we turn our attention to the prolific post-post-modern writer David Foster Wallace and his commencement address to the graduating class of 2005 at Kenyon College.

In this commencement speech Wallace addresses and poises a few questions for his readers/audience:

  • How do we understand the ‘real world’, if we only live it through our own immediate experiences and point of view, where we are the ‘center of the universe’?
  • How much of the task of adapting our world view actually involves or requires ‘higher education’?
  • How do you construct meaning from experience?
  • What is the difference between ‘teaching you how to think’ and ‘learning what to think about’?
  • What is the role of higher education in your everyday life?

Consider these questions as you read the speech, and prepare for a collegiate discussion of the text in class tomorrow.


The audio of this commencement speech is available on YouTube if you would like to hear Wallace deliver it himself. Additionally, I have included a link to the full version of the speech, as a few paragraphs were missing in our textbook’s abbreviated version.

Click here to access the full version of Wallace’s speech.


AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Preparing for the AP Exam: Q3, The Argumentative Essay

We’ve reached the last essay in our preparation for the exam in May – rejoice! Q3, or the Argumentative Essay, is similar in form to Q1, The Synthesis Essay. You will be required to take a position on a topic – either defend, qualify or challenge – and support your argument with evidence. However, unlike the Synthesis Essay, College Board will not be giving you a packet of 8 sources to pull your information from. You must come to this essay with enough personal experience, observations from current events and real-world situations and knowledge of readings/texts, that you can cite reliable evidence off the top of your head.

For those of you that do not feel comfortable with current events or the scope of your literary background, you may want to spend some time between now and May reading, reading, reading. 

Before we dive into how to write the Argumentative Essay, watch the short video below that will help to explain the essay a bit more.

Now that you’ve watched the video, let’s look at the 2007 prompt:


Notice the prompt is much shorter than the Synthesis Essay, though it follows the same basic format: pick a position, and argue that position.

For the Argumentative Essay we are going to use the ‘PRO’ method of pre-writing and brainstorm. This will ensure that you are writing a well-balanced argument, and that you use the required types of evidence.pro1



If you were to do this for the 2007 prompt it would look something like this:


You may use personal pronouns in this essay, however, you must be careful to maintain a mature authorial voice. If you’re not sure you can do this, I would try not to use the personal pronoun ‘I’ too often.

As you can see, the depth and maturity of your writing will depend on the PRO evidence you can provide – mature personal experiences, in-depth knowledge of relevant texts, and astute and applicable observations of the world around you. If you do not feel comfortable with aspects of your ability to ‘go PRO’ for this paper, please see me for suggested readings and activities you can do on your own to improve your chances of scoring a 3 or higher on the exam.

AP Language and Composition Spring 2016 Spring 2017

Arguments on Education: Liber Ethicorum des Henricus de Alemania

“We know almost nothing about the 14th century Italian painter Laurentius de Voltolina, except that his signature appears on one of the most remarkable images of the late middle ages. The drawing appears in a preserved […] manuscript […] by a medieval scholar named Henricus de Alemania (Henry the German). We scarcely know more about Henericus than we do Laurentius. All we can say for sure is that he is the figure at the front of the class in the famous illustration that decorates his book. This drawing by an obscure painter in a virtually unknown manuscript has become famous in our day as one of the earliest concrete pictures of a medieval university classroom. […] The reactions of the students give us a window into education in the 14h century […] some of the students, primarily in the front row, listen to his words with rapt attention. Other follow along studiously in the text. Towards the back of the room, students seem more distracted; some look bored, others are socializing with each other, and at least two appear to have fallen asleep. It is, in other words, like many college classrooms today.”

As we begin our next unit over the argumentative Q3 essay for the AP Language exam, we will be focusing our reading through the lens of education, and will specifically be looking to answer the essential question: “How do we provide an equal education to all citizens?”.

We’ll be answering this question through a series of documents from a variety of sources in order to help you improve your ability to make text-connections during the Q3 essay. You will have the chance to practice the essay itself, and build other skills through Socratic seminar, collegiate discussion, and a series of projects.

You did an excellent job today of starting your discussion of this essential question by deciding to break it down further and negotiate the specific meaning behind this question. In doing so you clarified that by ‘provide’, we should instead rephrase our question to reflect ‘the opportunity for’. Additionally, you chose to define’equal education’ as meaning ‘equal regardless of economic means, race, gender, religion, disability, ect.’. You further defined the idea of the ‘education’ you were discussing as one ‘that takes into account a student’s learning style, that differentiates, that has highly trained teachers, that provides students access to technology, promotes good student/teacher relationships, and that prepares students for the real world’.

Your revised essential question is therefore: “How do we provide the opportunity for all citizens, regardless of economic means, race, gender, religion, or disability, for an education that takes into account a student’s learning style, that differentiates, that has highly trained teachers, that provides students access to technology, promotes good student/teacher relationships, and that prepares students for the real world?” Whew! That’s a difficult question to answer – but I’m sure you guys will do a great job working towards that answer the next two weeks!

You also did a wonderful job today connecting the similarities and differences with the image above to the modern classroom. Be sure to take notes in class over our seminars and discussions, and this material can still show up on any quiz or test we have! 🙂

AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Synthesizing Sources on the Environment: The Pessimism and Optimism of Enviromentalism

paul-hawken-434909As we continue our discussion of the Environment in preparation for the Q1 Synthesis essay, I’ve asked you to read a series of essays that focus on three types of environmental perspectives: In Lewis Thomas’ essay ‘Natural Man’, we see Thomas defining what it means to be a ‘natural man’ in the 21st century; in E.O. Wilson’s ‘The Future of Life’, we see an optimistic perspective on humanity’s relationship with the environment and the steps needed to maintain that healthy relationship, while in Bill McKibben’s ‘The End of Nature’, we see a very pessimistic viewpoint on the relationship between mankind and the environment and the future of that relationship.


Remember, in preparation for Socratic Seminar you need to focus on this following questions in regard to these articles, and the more specific questions targeted towards these articles in green below:


  • Do we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the environment?
    • How is this topic actually a larger discussion of ethics?
    • Is it too late to protect the environment from the changes we’ve already wrought?
  • Do we have a responsibility to ensure equitable access to food and water for our fellow-man?
    • How can we address this issue in a realistic way that takes into account our excesses in production and the finite resources we have access to?
  • How do we work towards greater environmental awareness and stewardship?
    • How can the average citizen effectively discuss issues impacting the human/environment relationship in a way that can target both pro and anti environmentalist?

As you prepare to discuss any questions you may have had about the articles themselves (either literal, evaluative or qualifying questions), you will also need to bring at least one additional reliable resource you’ve found on the topic. Remember, find something in these articles that appeals to you personally  – either because you agree or disagree strongly with the statements made by the author, or because you genuinely found a part of the articles and the information therein interesting. The additional resource you bring to Socratic seminar should be used to DEFEND yours or a classmates’ assertions about the article, to CHALLENGE  a classmates’ assertions about the article or the QUALIFY a statement made by a classmate.

This article asks you to revise your ideas about environmentalism and the ethics of environmentalism, as well as to consider a new global perspective on mankind’s relationship, dependence and responsibility to the environment. I look forward to your discussion Wednesday!

Click here to access the readings if you lost your copy. 🙂

AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Synthesizing Sources on the Environment: Grow! Documentary and Georgia Farmers

As we continue to learn about how to properly synthesize sources into coherent and well developed arguments and debates, we turn our attention away from last week’s focus on global food systems and equitable access to resources to more local food systems. In class we watched the documentary ‘Grow!’ , which focused on young organic farmers in Georgia and their attempt to impact our local food systems.


For Socratic seminar next week you need to take your notes from this documentary and the outside research and reading you conduct over the weekend, and come ready to make connections between our discussion on global food systems and access from last week and your own questions and perspectives on a more local system.

Remember our guiding questions for this unit, and the specific questions for this documentary (in green) as you work through your research for Socratic seminar:

  • Do we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the environment?
    • How can we do this through farming practices?
    • How do we encourage more farmers to use sustainable practices?
  • Do we have a responsibility to ensure equitable access to food and water for our fellow-man?
    • How does the locavore movement address this issue?
    • Is this an issue to be addressed at the local, state or national level?
      • How would citizens and the state address these issues at these levels?
  • How do we work towards greater environmental awareness and stewardship?
    • How can the average citizen contribute positively to the issues of sustainability in our food systems?

If you would like to re-watch the documentary over the weekend it is available for streaming on YouTube for $1.99. Click here to access the film. It is also available on itunes as well.

Additional resources that may help you become more familiar with this topic and successfully brainstorm questions for our seminar are listed below:

  • Georgia Organics: Georgia Organics is a member supported, non-profit organization connecting organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families. We believe food should be community-based, not commodity-based. An outgrowth of a grower’s association established in the 1970s, Georgia Organics is devoted to promoting sustainable foods and local farms in Georgia. A sustainable local food system is critical to the future of Georgia’s health, environment, and economy. Recognizing this vital need, Georgia Organics builds supply through grower education and outreach, and grows demand on the consumer and business end by encouraging market opportunities for local food.  Click here to visit their website.


  • Local Harvest: LocalHarvest connects people looking for good food with the farmers who produce it. Buying local is about enjoying real food, grown yourself or purchased from people you trust. It’s about developing strong local economies and producing food on a human scale. It’s about eating seasonally, practicing the art of cooking, and sitting down to enjoy meals together. It requires ample local and regional producers, processors, and distributors. As we see it, the goal of the local food movement is to create thriving community-based food systems that will make high quality local food available to everyone. Click here to visit their website.


  • Georgia Farm Bureau: The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation is Georgia’s largest and strongest voluntary agricultural organization with more than 300,000 member families. It is an independent, non-governmental organization. The membership is mainly composed of farm families in rural communities and of people who want Georgia to be agriculturally successful, progressive and prosperous. Click here to visit their website.


Chris and Jenny Jackson, young organic farmers in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Chris and Jenny Jackson, young organic farmers in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Finally, if you like to check out the farm of our former history-teacher-turned-farmer, Chris Jackson, and his wife Jenny, click here. 

I look forward to our seminar Wednesday, February 22nd!

AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Synthesizing Sources On The Environment: Hungry Plant

As we work through mastering the Q1 synthesis essay this unit, we are going to hold Socratic seminar over a series of sources that focus on the environment. Ultimately you will all conduct a class debate at the end of the unit using (synthesizing) all of these sources.

Our focus questions for this unit are:

  • Do we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the environment?
  • Do we have a responsibility to ensure equitable access to food and water for our fellow-man?
  • How do we work towards greater environmental awareness and stewardship?

Our first source comes from the book ‘Hungry Planet’ by Peter Menzel. This piece of photojournalism focuses on portraits of families from around the world, and one week’s worth of groceries. This series highlights the differences not only in food culture by geography, culture and economic status, but also how ‘wealth’ is communicated through food and how what is perceived as ‘wealthy’ differs from place to place.

You may view these pictures via The Times by clicking here, or you can view the images below. You will need to be able to answer the following questions tomorrow during seminar, as well as posing questions of your own:

  1. Which portraits are most similar to each other in terms of food representation? Does this surprise you?
  2. Which portraits are most similar in setting?
  3. Consider the number of people, or ‘mouths’, to be fed in each photograph. Compute the cost of feeding that many individuals based on the information provided. What does this tell you about the global economy?
  4. From your analysis of the photos, what inferences can you make about the countries depicted? Overall what does the photo-story tell us about global sustainability?


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AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Preparing for the AP Exam – Q1, Synthesis Essay

This week we will be moving on from the Rhetorical Analysis Q2 essay and will begin working on the skills needed for the Q1 Synthesis essay. First, let me be clear: the skills of argumentation that you will be practicing the next four weeks will be used on the Q1 Synthesis and the Q3 Argumentative essay – they are both technically argumentative essays, with the key difference being that the Q1 Synthesis provides you with eight sources to use, while the Q3 Argumentative does not.

So what exactly is the Q1 Synthesis essay, and how is it different from the Q2 Rhetorical Analysis?

  • The Q1 DOES NOT require you to analyze an author’s use of rhetoric.
  • The Q1 DOES require you take a position on a given topic and defend, challenge or qualify that position.
  • The Q1 DOES provide you with eight sources to read and review for potential use in your essay.
  • The Q1 DOES NOT require you to use all eight sources, only three.

The Q1 essay was introduced in 2008, so there are not quiet as many examples for you to review on AP Central (there’s still eight years of samples though…). Your main concerns for the synthesis essay will include:

  1. Taking a CLEAR POSITION on the topic given.
  2. Writing a CLEAR THESIS for your essay.
  3. Reviewing the eight sources, and determining with three you want to use in your own essay.
  4. Formatting your paper as an argument, with a counterclaim.
  5. CITING YOUR SOURCES – including in your counterclaim.
  6. Making sure that your sources support your argument – not that you are simply rewriting the sources as your body paragraphs.

For more on the synthesis essay, see the video below. 🙂


AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Modern Political Rhetoric – ‘What is the relationship between the citizen and The State’?

As we wrap up our unit on Rhetorical Analysis, and our examination of the question ‘What is the relationship between the citizen and The State’, we turn our attention to modern political rhetoric. You guys have done an amazing job this unit improving and building your analytic skills, as well as making connections between texts, ideologies, history and politics.

In our last series of rhetorical analysis, you will first examine the speeches of President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama. In your analysis remember to complete the SOAPSTone Plus process. From there you should begin examining the speakers’ use of rhetoric and asking the questions:

  1. What is the speakers’ purpose?
  2. Do they achieve their purpose effectively through rhetoric?
  3. How does their rhetoric define the relationship between the citizen and the state?
  4. Which speakers’ rhetoric aligns most closely with that of our founding documents?
  5. How do the speakers’ rhetoric encourage, or not encourage, citizens to be active in their relationship with the state?

Remember, while we are conducting a Socratic seminar on these speeches we are not debating political affiliations in class. You may debate on the effectiveness of the rhetoric used in these speeches, you can let research from reliable sources inform your analysis and even make text-connections to them in class, but you cannot debate what you feel to be the legitimacy of classmates’ political affiliations. I know you’ll all be mature and academic in your discussion Wednesday. 🙂

Additionally, you will be working in small groups Thursday to discuss and analyze one additional text. Please see the list below for your groups:

Virginia Woolf, Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid

  • Gracen
  • Amanda
  • March-Fancis
  • Kaylee A.
  • Taylor
  • Danielle
  • Cassie

Chris Hedges, The Destruction of Culture

  • Ann-Seery
  • Hollie
  • Senette
  • Kaylee W.
  • Evan
  • Jori
  • Madisyn
  • Ben

Laura Blumenfield, The Apology: Letters from a Terrorist

  • Davis
  • Allie
  • Emma
  • DJ
  • Spen
  • Seth
  • Brianna P.

Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot

  • Grady
  • Audrey
  • Isabella
  • Raven
  • Kaylin
  • Alex
  • Shir-Li


AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Civil Disobedience – What is the relationship between The Citizen and The State?

As we continue to examine the question of “what is the relationship between the citizen and the state” this week we will do so informed by your reading of Henry David Thoreau’s famous text ‘Civil Disobedience’.



After analysis of the text and discussion of the topic in Socratic seminar, you will have a choice again this week of three potential projects to complete analyzing and addressing the topic of civil disobedience. As you work on this project remember that you must cite at least three reliable sources, with one of them being Thoreau’s essays.




Project Option 1:  Exposition – Visual Infographic20130626-ghandi-civil-disobedience

Following is a list of individuals who were responsible for leading important civil disobedience (and nonviolent resistance) movements throughout world history.

1. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—clergyman and civil rights activist
2. Alice Paul—American suffragist
3. Nelson Mandela— Anti-apartheid activist and former president of South Africa
4. Mohandas Gandhi—Leader of the Indian independence movement
5. Leymah Gbowee—Liberian peace activist

For each person, answer the following questions:
• Describe the background of the law or governmental policy in question. What was the individual and his or her allies protesting?
• In what specific acts of civil disobedience did they engage?
• How did the government and/or the public respond to their actions?
• Were the goals of movement achieved?
• What role did civil disobedience play in helping them to achieve their goals? Did their actions work against them in any way?

You infographic must have at least three sources cited, and must use a minimum of 10 images. Remember, PiktoChart is a great website that easily allows you to create infographics.



Project Option 2: Compare and Contrast – Written Statement

Compare and contrast Thoreau’s “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, focusing on their purpose, tone, figurative language and their definition of a ‘just law’.

Your response must be 1500 words, written in MLA format.



Project Option 3: Argumentation – Debatecbde8e01070568d58d7e0316db4b41ed

In a debate with another student, defend, challenge or qualify your response to the question ” How effective has modern civil disobedience in causing positive change in the world in the last thirty years?” The examples you reference in your argument must be from 1986 to the present, and you should also consider the following questions as you prepare: What sacrifices would one need to make to commit an act of passive resistance? What could some of the negative consequences of the action be? In what ways does a person who commits civil disobedience alienate him/herself from society?

Your debate should follow the format for academic debate outlined below, and can be performed in class Friday. Additionally, you may record your debate with this student and submit the video to me by Friday night. If you would like to form teams of three for each side of this debate, please let me know and that can be arranged.

Click here to view the standard debate outline you will need to follow.

AP Language and Composition Spring 2017

Colonialism – What is the relationship between the citizen and the State?

As you read and analyzed Jamacia Kincaid’s article this week, “On seeing England for the first time”, you explored the idea of the relationship between the citizen and the State within the system of Colonialism. You guys did a wonderful job analyzing the context of the speech in Socratic Seminar this week, and you began to explore how Kincaid made her feels as a citizen clear through her rhetoric.

You will work this week on engaging with our Essential Question for this unit through a choice of three different assignments. Please see the attachment below for the assignment sheet. You will have the option to choose a visual project, a written project, or a video/audio project. Additionally, you have the option of engaging with this essential question in the form of an informational/expository response, a compare and contrast response, or an argumentative response.

Remember, you must use two reliable sources and cite them in MLA format in whichever option you choose.

Click here to access your Colonialism assignment sheet.

AP Language and Composition Spring 2017