1. Conduct a rhetorical analysis (WA 93-97) — a sustained close reading or critique — of an (ideally-education-related) ad, flyer, brochure, or website, or of one of the cultural artifacts listed below. Look for patterns (WA 8-9) and bring to light not just what the ad/brochure/website/artifact articulates, but what it does NOT say: the questions it does not ask, the topics that are not covered, etc. Expose how that artifact supports a certain agenda while, perhaps, neglecting or negating certain others). Make sure that it’s clear to your audience why understanding the (perhaps hidden) agenda of this artifact matters. Consider, as appropriate, the interpretive context (date, place, intended users/audience, similar works by the same author/company). Possible cultural artifacts to investigate:
— A specific (permanent) physical object on campus, such as a campus building. Consider location, design, decoration. Who is it intended to affect, and how?
— a course syllabus
— a promotional brochure for any campus organization or for UCSC as a whole (consider comparing and contrasting UCSC’s self-promotional material with that of Stanford or Santa Clara University – check out their websites). Analyzing Admissions Office information would be especially welcome. How does UCSC sell itself? What aspects of the campus does it promote, and what does it de-emphasize or omit?
— a commercial or ad (especially an educational or a political one).
See WA 95-96 (sample rhetorical analysis of an ad) or 65ff. (sample analysis of a magazine cover) for examples. And you might particularly want to review Tuchman’s discussion of educational branding (Reader 224ff).
2. Write a focused essay critiquing any one of the major articles we will have read thus far: Graff, Merrow, Sacks, Sperber, or Washburn (Tuchman, Reader 224 ff., offers yet another perspective, for those of you wanting to hear another voice in the debate). Do you agree or disagree with the general argument or situation the author presents? Are there any assumptions (unspoken values/beliefs) that you find problematic or evidence that you don’t find compelling; do any factors
exist the author didn’t consider? Be sure to interrogate your own assumptions in framing your response, and (especially if you are challenging the author’s evidence in any way) to provide some evidence of your own. If you wish, construct your essay as a letter to the author. If you present your ideas as a formal essay rather than a letter, imagine your audience to be your classmates who have read the piece but not thought about it as thoroughly as you and who may be somewhat skeptical of your claims. Make sure that it’s clear to your audience why this issue matters.
3. How does Graff’s concept of “cluelessness” relate to/compare with Merrow’s “invisible student,” Sacks’ “entitlement” or Sperber’s theory of distraction? Do any of these theorists suggest a factor another one omits? (I.e., can you use Washburn or Sperber, for example, to draw attention to a factor Sacks or Graff fails to consider?) Can you think of any additional factors that contribute to cluelessness/disconnection/invisibility?
4. Do you agree with Sperber’s provocative claim that students often get “shafted” (chs. 7-9)? Does UCSC demonstrate (or publicize) “a commitment to undergraduate education” (Sperber 77)? To what extent? Be explicit in offering evidence for or against. Frame as a letter to Sperber or to any university administrator, if you wish.
5. What factors work against good teaching and/or good learning? Focusing on 1-3 of the most important causal factors, establish a conversation with one or more of our authors and one or more live people here at UCSC, staking out your position clearly at the beginning and providing sufficient evidence to convince those who see things differently.
6. What Graff seems to suggest is benign neglect, Sperber almost calls a conspiracy. Choose a side (or a middle ground), identify the roots of their disagreement, and provide evidence for or against Sperber’s more extreme view.