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Tuesday, March 28

March 28, 2017

Argument: Today we discussed “Letter From Birmingham Jail” by reviewing the Malcolm Gladwell handout (from David & Goliath) that I gave you. It focused on Wyatt Walker, who was compared to Br’er Rabbit, the trickster hero. 

We traced the “claim chain” of “Letter” and examined some of the other claims/appeals made in the essay. To recap:

Remember the back story. King is writing this letter in response to an open letter (actually, two of them) by eight white ministers who essentially called for an end to protests, and suggested King, an outsider, should leave town. His rebuttal is a masterpiece of rhetoric because, like all good arguments, it anticipates objections and addresses them.

First of all, King has to explain why he’s here in Birmingham, sticking his nose into their business. He does this simply through a claim of cause: “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.” He also points out that this “injustice” is partly the result of what happened the previous fall: demonstrators called off their protests after business owners and city officials promised to make concessions — removing “Colored” signs, for example. They didn’t. (You can view this as either a claim of cause — “protests have continued because local businesspeople broke their word” — or a claim of fact, i.e. “local businesspeople broke their word,” which is factually true.)

That leads to a bigger problem, because the eight ministers clearly don’t believe that “injustice” describes what’s going on, or that protests are necessary in response. You’re not going to convince people that you’re fighting on the side of justice if they can respond that you are breaking the law to do so. King understands this, and to overcome it, he has to change the way his audience talks about things. He does this by making some claims of definition. He points out the difference between a just law and an unjust law. And he makes an even more basic claim about the way language has been used:  to black Americans who want their rights affirmed, “‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.'”

That leads, of course, to the inevitable claim that segregation is not just an inconvenience — it is immoral. (A value claim, in other words.) Conversely, King must claim that while violent protest might be questionable, nonviolent protest is not only defensible, but moral — another value claim. And he rejects the ministers’ policy claim by making a policy claim of his own: the protests are going to continue.

Yet King isn’t above making a threat, via a claim of fact: “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” He backs up this claim by pointing out what has happened in other countries where the oppressed have fought back against their oppressors.

That leads us to the types of appeals used. Simply put, he uses nearly all of them (not statistical, but then, this isn’t so much a statistics-based argument). The personal appeal is most powerful, but he does back his claims up with citations from a variety of sources.

Thursday, we’ll finish this discussion. And we’ll focus on pseudoproofs and Rogerian argument as we review for Tuesday’s second exam.

Adaptation: Today we continued to talk about Into the Woods. A response sheet was handed out that addresses both Into the Woods and Shrek. This will be due sometime next week – you may want to start thinking about it now. The latest responses have been VERY lackluster, so take this as an opportunity to up your game a bit. Here it is: Adaptation 3.28.17 – Response 6, Intertextuality in Into the Woods and Shrek.

On Thursday, we will be watching Shrek the movie in class. It is 90 minutes long, so in order to knock it out in one block, we need to start early. Come upstairs to our room at the FIRST bell in the morning; we will start as soon as everyone gets up here.

Shrek the musical is Friday night – you’ve known about this for more than a month, and so should have already talked to your parents/guardians/etc. about this. The show starts at 7:30 and is about 2 1/2 hours long, so have your rides come at 10 pm if applicable. If you have any issues with this, please see me ASAP!

Siren: Talking about the future. And stuff.

Daily Prompt: 

Publishing: Continued to work on the haiku book. Problem solving! That’s what it’s all about.

Comedy: Continued to watch Dr. Strangelove. There is a test tomorrow, and your notebooks will also be collected tomorrow. It’s highly recommended that you study… for obvious reasons!

Middle School Lit Arts: 

Survey: Creative Nonfiction: We are going to try to visit Mr. Goodman’s class in the orchestra room during Block 1 on Tuesday, April 4. I’ll confirm this with you Thursday.

The due date for the biographical sketches will be April 18, the Tuesday after spring break. Because, after all, I still need to get you the transcript of our interview. More details forthcoming.

In the meantime, we have another assignment to knock out: the opinion essay. I gave you a copy of “Dumb Kids’ Class,” which takes a counter-intuitive position about being consigned to the “slow” class. Please read it for Thursday.

You wrote down five (strong) opinions of your own, and we shared. Your other homework for Thursday is to choose one of these opinions and write down (on the back of your card) a moment that best illustrates this opinion.

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