Rhetoric & Composition I: Autumn 2012 Rotating Header Image

Concluding thoughts

“One purpose of a liberal arts education is to make your head a more interesting place to live inside of for the rest of your life.” —Mary Patterson McPherson, President, Bryn Mawr College

“I thought that the future was a placelike Paris or the Arctic Circle. The supposition proved to be mistaken. The future turns out to be something that you make instead of find. It isn’t waiting for your arrival, either with an arrest warrant or a band; it doesn’t care how you come dressed or demand to see a ticket of admission. It’s no further away than the next sentence, the next best guess, the next sketch for the painting of a life’s portrait that may or may not become a masterpiece. The future is an empty canvas or a blank sheet of paper, and if you have the courage of your own thought and your own observation, you can make of it what you will.” —Lewis Lapham 

“It ain’t where ya from, it’s where ya at!” —KRS-ONE, Ruminations

November 10, 2012

Custom Portfolio Banners

You can use Pixlr.com to create custom banners:

  • Go to Pixlr.com
  • Open an image from your computer
  • Resize for appropriate Digication dimensions: 779 x 200 pixels
  • Add effects and/or text
  • Save banner to your computer
  • Insert your new banner via Portfolio Settings > Customize
  • Scroll down and Save

November 9, 2012


After discussing the concept of a typographic treatment yesterday, we get a good example today on the front page of the Weekend Arts section:

See an even better view in this PDF.

How do you annotate the NYT?

NYT: “Note-Taking’s Past, Deciphered Today” 11/7/2012


November 8, 2012

WRD103 Portfolio Resources & Checklist

As you will see when we workshop our digital portfolios in class, you will not need to repost all of the work that you did in this class. Rather, your portfolio’s design is based on your judicious collecting, selecting, reflecting, and presenting samples that you choose. All portfolios have these three required components:

 “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself” – Arthur Miller, 1961. Discuss. 250 words, and be specific. All good writing is specific. 2-3 specific examples in a 250-word reflection such as this one seems about right.

 One annotated final draft.

 Carefully and rhetorically integrated text, images, and embedded links

What follows is a brainstormed list from class of other optional approaches and useful portfolio topics — both sections participated, so there may be some overlap:


“Democracy is a letter to the editor.”
— E.B. White, 1943

November 7, 2012

Polls open at 6:00 a.m. — leaving plenty of time for coffee and the NYT

November 6, 2012

NYT Memes



November 4, 2012

In case you need to see this again

Via Politico: “NPR apologizes to Abigael Evans”

November 1, 2012

Testing Google Scholar with David Brooks

I tried this after class today: I searched David Brooks in Google Scholar, removing the patents option — click on the image to see results, which were mostly unhelpful — 

But when I added quote marks around my search terms, much better:


October 31, 2012

Wordle version of Friedman’s “Why I am Pro-Life”

Op-Ed that we discussed in class: “Why I am Pro-Life”

click for larger version

Congratulations, Katie (9:40 section)!

October 27, 2012

When the NYT is in the news

From today’s Washington Post: “China blocks New York Times Web site after report on leader’s wealth” —

The blocking of the New York Times Web site sets back an effort by the company to attract Chinese readers and advertising. This summer, it launched a new Chinese-language Web site, which had the potential of drawing especially on China’s booming luxury industry for revenue. According to Nieman Journalism Lab, the Times made a hefty investment in launching the Chinese edition, hiring hired 30 to 35 new journalists, translators and technologists.

The Times story on Wen was first posted on the English-language site Friday morning, then translated and posted on the Chinese site after a short delay. But by then, censors had blocked both Web sites completely.

“We hope that full access is restored shortly, and we will ask the Chinese authorities to ensure that our readers in China can continue to enjoy New York Times journalism,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said. “China is an increasingly open society, with increasingly sophisticated media, and the response to our [Chinese] site suggests that The Times can play an important role in the government’s efforts to raise the quality of journalism available to the Chinese people.”

“We will continue to report and translate stories, applying the same journalistic standards that are upheld across The New York Times,” Murphy added.

Original NYT story (10/25/2012 — Thursday): “Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader.”
October 26, 2012

Critical Thinking Projects

  • Reflect every day — with an opinion, an observation, or with a reflection, all informed by critical thinking — on an election-related article until election day. Because it’s the reader-friendly thing to do, include embedded links to articles.
  • What role can Tumblr play in a First Year Writing class that uses the New York Times? This will be a recommendation to teachers and students. We will talk about organizing principles.
  • Remix the New York Times. 
  • Write a second Op-Ed that takes a different position from your first Op-Ed.
October 24, 2012

Week Eight: Critical Thinking, revisited

A well cultivated critical thinker:

  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, ideologies, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.  — Adapted from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008

“A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” Edward M. Glaser. An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking. 1941.

October 22, 2012

Read more.


October 18, 2012

Preparing our NYT Letters to the Editor

Be sure to read both:

In my own reading of NYT Letters to the Editor, I note that those published often bring a third side to the story; they avoid a simple agree/disagree position–anyone can do that–and ask readers, instead, to consider another context, another angle, another side to the story that helps to make sense of the issue. Consider, for example, these two DePaul students’ recently published letters:

And we’ll review in class these letters in response to the Fisher vs. University of Texas case that we discussed last week. Note in that day’s letters, two of them are written by students–one in college, and one in high school.

October 14, 2012

Alternative to a dialogic post?

Comment with your thoughts on the article via the New York Times’s “In the First Year” Facebook page:

October 11, 2012

… and you will be, too

Via Tumblr

October 10, 2012

Connections between judicial textualism and our textual analyses

It’s funny how when we’ve talked about something in class, it shows up later in the New York Times:

“It might seem that going to college or teaching in one is an activity less complex than the activity of engaging in constitutional interpretation. But neither activity can be engaged in by someone who had not internalized a vast array of assumptions and presuppositions, each of which is an ingredient of an understanding that can not be gained by rehearsing or cataloging them. Whether negotiating the course schedule or the Constitution, ‘Quicksand awaits all who insist on reading every clause of the document literally.'”

From today’s NYT: Is There a Constitution in This Text?

October 9, 2012

Week Five: Op-Ed Essays

In preparation for our Op-Ed essays, it’s interesting to reflect on some of the conventions of the Op-Ed essay versus, say, the academic essay.  

  • Who writes academic essays, for whom, and why?
  • Who writes Op-Ed pieces, for whom, and why?

October 3, 2012

Sample Op-Ed Issues — based on inquiry questions

October 2, 2012

“A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”
— Arthur Miller, 1961

September 30, 2012

Presidential debates

image title

“We see it as an important opportunity to persuade those voters who haven’t yet decided …” NYT 9/29


  • Wednesday, October 3 – First Presidential Debate
  • Thursday, October 11 – Vice Presidential Debate
  • Tuesday, October 16 – Second Presidential Debate (Town Hall)
  • Monday, October 22 – Third Presidential Debate


NYT Resources:

Example of a claim

  • Is it an arguable claim?
  • How would you argue it?
  • Freedom from what?

NYT, “Always Ready With a Barb” — September 27, 2012

September 29, 2012

The best writing on writing that you might read all year

From the NYT series “Draft,” on writing:

It’s helpful to pretend you didn’t write the sentence, but that’s not enough (and self-deceit of that kind vanishes quickly). The trick is discovering a literal-mindedness in yourself and developing it until you can read with cunning. Try to practice reading your own sentences the way the reader does — with no advance knowledge of what they say. Be alert for ambiguities of every kind. Become a connoisseur of ambiguity. Sentences are wily and multifarious, secretive, mischievous. Language is inherently playful, eager to make nonsense and no-sense if it gets out of order. Inexperienced writers tend to trust that sentences will generally turn out all right — or all right enough. Experienced writers know that every good sentence is retrieved by will from the forces of chaos.

Read the full article: The Trouble With Intentions.

September 27, 2012

Upcoming dialogic posts

Here are a few of my ideas for upcoming dialogic reflections, which we can negotiate in class — pick one:

  • Describe and reflect on the different reading experiences between your daily digital reading and your Sunday print reading of the NYT. We aren’t interest (yet) in which you prefer, or which is better, but the ways in which the platforms are different. Describing your reading practices and experience will help get us there.
  • How would you describe the pressing issues of the day for your generation? How well does the NYT cover those issues?
  • Someone once described the front page of the NYT as a “Table of Contents for the World.” Discuss.
  • Is there such a thing as a “suburban ideology”?

The claim: “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”

The argument: 

Happiness should be serendipitous, a by-product of a life well lived, and pursuing it in a vacuum doesn’t really work. This is borne out by a series of slightly depressing statistics. The most likely customer of a self-help book is a person who has bought another self-help book in the last 18 months. The General Social Survey, a prominent data-based barometer of American society, shows little change in happiness levels since 1972, when such records began. Every year, with remarkable consistency, around 33 percent of Americans report that they are “very happy.” It’s a fair chunk, but a figure that remains surprisingly constant, untouched by the uptick in Eastern meditation or evangelical Christianity, by Tony Robbins or Gretchen Rubin or attachment parenting. For all the effort Americans are putting into happiness, they are not getting any happier. It is not surprising, then, that the search itself has become a source of anxiety.

From “America the Anxious” NYT September 22, 2012

September 25, 2012

NYT Digital

September 24, 2012

Rhetorical Analyses in Action

A good resource for rhetorical analyses, via On The Media’s Media Scrutiny Theater 2012:

Also very good for our purposes: Does NPR Have a Liberal Bias?

September 23, 2012