Our last Topic of the Week is an opportunity to reflect on what lies ahead (yes, for you juniors as well). Below is a link to a site dedicated to graduation speeches, etc. Take a look through the many quotes and “words of wisdom, then develop your own list of at least five rules for life with either a personal definition for the rule or an inspirational quote that ties in with the rule. (Be sure to cite the writer if you use an inspirational quote.) Put some thought into this post and create a list that you could carry with you as you leave CHS. Good luck.
April 23, 2021
Week 5: Should Corporations and Baseball Take Political Stands?
April 16, 2021
Week 4: Graph and Myths about Majors in College
The graph above and the article below are about 4 years old, but still relevant, especially in light of the fact most of you will be making these decisions in the near future. First, look at the graph carefully. What do you notice? What is going on? What do you wonder about? Which majors tend to have the least career earnings and most career earnings? Do career earnings vary more above or below the median? What does this imply? Next, read the article below. Consider the information presented in the article and how it ties into the graph. What implications might this have for students about to enter college? Does it have any influence on what you thought you might want to study?
Your reflection needs to be at least 250 words and refer to both the graph and the article.
April 9, 2021
Week 3: Deepfakes
Deepfakes, videos created with the help of machine-learning techniques to look as if they were real, have been in the workds for some time. Two recent developments however — a new tool that allows old photographs to be animated, and viral videos — have shed new light on digital impersonations. These videos are not especially alarming in and of themselves, but they do raise questions about a future in which videos of real people are indistinguishable from computer-generated forgeries. It’s suggestive of a 1984‘ish editing of the news and other media. Hmmmmm….
Read the above article. Included within the article is a deepfake video of Tom Cruise. Consider the pros and cons of this technology. What does it mean for our future? Then, in a thoughtful response of at least 250 words, comment on how concerned we should be about deepfake technology. What might be some of the possible dangers? Why does Nina Schick, the author of “Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse,” believe that the developing technology puts women and children at risk? How could deepfakes have a “destabilizing effect on global affairs,” according to the law professors Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron? Which of these arguments do you find most persuasive and why?
April 2, 2021
Having just read a short part of Walden and six chapters of Into the Wild, here is the story of a woman who lived her life in between Thoreau and McCandless. She gave up the comforts of modern life to follow her spiritual beliefs.
Her name was Peace Pilgrim. She was an American spiritual teacher who lived from 1908-1981.
Peace lived her life on a perpetual pilgrimage for 28 years, vowing to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace.” On her pilgrimage, she walked across the country six times. She died on her seventh cross-country pilgrimage, in 1981.
Follow the above link to listen to the NPR story of Peace Pilgrim. Then, in a thoughtful response, Compare her to Thoreau and Christopher McCandless. What traits and beliefs to they share? Do you believe such an approach to life — Thoreau’s, Peace’s and McCandless’ are realistic or too naive to be practical? Which of the three might offer some inspiration to you? How might you put this inspiration into practice in your life?
Week 1: March Calendar
What story does this image inspire for you?
Use your imagination to write the opening paragraph of a short story or poem (one or two stanzas) inspired by this illustration. Include a short explanation for your story or poem in your post.
Create your own March collage calendar, paste it into your post and offer an explanation for the images and composition choices you made. Your collage must have a minimum of 20 separate images.
Week 9: Good News!
OK . . . last week for third quarter Topic of the Week. Let’s end with some GOOD news. There is certainly enough troubling news to consume our attention, but this week we will look in the other direction. Search for something uplifting, inspiring, positive or funny to share. What to do:
- Provide a link
- Give us a synopsis of the story
- Write a reflection about why you chose it or how it speaks to you personally
As always, your response needs to be at least 250 words. Below are links to possible helpful resources for good news. If these don’t suit you, feel free to explore on your own.
February 26, 2021
We are in the middle of reading The Color of Water – a memoir that explores the question of identity (among other topics). Does one define oneself through race, ethnicity, or nationality? How does one approach the topic in an American culture that is a ever changing mix? The NY Times explores this question in a series of short video interviews.
Watch: hyphen-nation, featuring Jason, Russell, Michaela, Armando, Mallika, Wendy, Amanda, Roy and Ayman.
Reflect on the following: What moments in this film stood out for you? Why? Was there anything that challenged what you know — or thought you knew? Can you relate to any one person in particular? What message or ideas will you take away from viewing these interviews?
Answer in a thoughtful response of at least 250 words.
February 19, 2021
This past week the issue of our First Amendment Rights gained a great deal of press as the defense for the former president argued he was using his First Amendment Rights on January 6. Rather than revisit Jan 6, let’s look at your rights to free speech as students.
The case of a high school cheerleader suspended from her team for comments she made on social media is heading to the Supreme Court. Do schools have the right to censor or punish students for speech outside of their grounds? Read the following article:
Think about the arguments on each side and your experiences with social media. Respond to the one of three prompts below.
1. Should schools be able to discipline students for what they say outside school or on social media? Why or why not? Give some examples from real life or hypotheticals that you think should be censored or punishable by schools and other examples you believe should be protected by free speech.
2. In a brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the school district’s appeal, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said the Third Circuit’s ruling “renders schools powerless whenever a hateful message is launched from off campus.” However, the student, represented by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Supreme Court that the First Amendment protected her “colorful expression of frustration, made in an ephemeral Snapchat on her personal social media, on a weekend, off campus, containing no threat or harassment or mention of her school, and that did not cause or threaten any disruption of her school.” Which aspects of the arguments for each side do you find most persuasive? Which do you find less so, and why?
3. On Jan. 8 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. How would you rule if you were one of the nine justices? Justify your answer using evidence from past cases cited in the article, such as Tinker v. Des Moines.
February 12, 2021
Week 6: GameStop/Reddit and winning/losing in the Stock Market
The recent Stock Market shake up involving GameStop stock prices has rocked Wall Street. For those unfamiliar with the news: GameStop stock went through the roof, rising 1700% over the course of two days. This was prompted by Reddit and a concerted move on young investors to drive the price up in a trading frenzy. What are the lessons for students and schools? Read the following articles:
What lesson(s) do you take away from reading the articles and your own familiarity with what happened two weeks ago? Should parents/schools teach students about investing in the stock market? Is the stock market a place for young and inexperienced investors? Or is the stock market behind the times and needs make way for a faster trading pace? Reflect on these questions and your own view on investing/financial growth. Making sure to reference information gleaned from the above articles, respond in thoughtful paragraph of at least 250 words.
Week 5: “The Hill We Climb”
It’s time for something uplifting. You have all probably seen Amanda Gorman share her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s Inauguration. If you have not, you may watch it here: Amanda Gorman
Here is a transcript of her poem: The Hill We Climb
Read and watch her recite her poem. Then this about her interview with The New York Times, in which Gorman said, “Now more than ever, the United States needs an inaugural poem. Poetry is typically the touchstone that we go back to when we have to remind ourselves of the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.” What do you think she means?
How does poetry capture our feelings or attitudes in a way that traditional speeches or prose does not? How did “The Hill We Climb” seek to accomplish these goals?
What line or lines speak to you especially? Tell why you chose it. In a response of at least 250 words, consider the questions above and your own reaction to the poem as a whole.
Week 4: Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished?
This debate is not new. And some of you might not like that the Death Penalty question has come up as a topic. However, hear me out because it has recently resurfaced.
The death penalty has been abolished in 22 states and 106 countries, yet it is still legal at the federal level in the United States. In July, the US carried out its first federal execution in 17 years. Since then, the Trump administration has executed 13 inmates, more than three times as many as the federal government had in the previous six decades. The Supreme court has allowed these accelerated executions without much open discussion. Justice Sotomayor’s response to the court’s accelerated timetable: “Very few of these decisions offered any public explanation for their rationale. After waiting almost two decades to resume federal executions, the government should have proceeded with some measure of restraint to ensure it did so lawfully. When it did not, this court should have. It has not.”
This is something we need to talk about. Some immediate questions come to mind:
- Should governments be allowed to execute people who have been convicted of crimes? Is it ever justified, such as for the most heinous crimes? Or should we universally oppose capital punishment?
- Are there alternatives to the death penalty more appropriate? For example, is life in prison without the possibility of parole a sufficient sentence? Or is that still too harsh?
- Vast racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty have been found. For example, Black people are over represented on death row, and a recent study found that “defendants convicted of killing white victims were executed at a rate 17 times greater than those convicted of killing Black victims.” Does this information change or reinforce your opinion of capital punishment? How so?
- The Federal Death Penalty Act prohibits the government from executing an inmate who is mentally disabled; however, in the recent executions of Corey Johnson, Alfred Bourgeois and Lisa Montgomery, their defense teams argued that they had intellectual disabilities. Should the death penalty still stand in these cases?
- How concerned should we be about wrongfully convicted people being executed? The Innocence Project has proved the innocence of 18 people on death row who were exonerated by DNA testing. Should we be concerned about fair application of the death penalty, or about the possibility of the criminal justice system executing an innocent person?
Read the attached article and develop your own stance. First, comment on the article itself. Then, respond to at least two of the above bulleted sets of questions. Your response needs to be at least 300 words.
January 22, 2021
Week 3: Falling off the Globe
Consider the image for this week. Read the related opinion article: Opinion
Comment on the article — What do you find compelling? What do you agree/disagree with and why? Next, comment on the image itself — What message do you think this image is trying to convey? How does it relate to or comment on society or current events? Can you relate to it personally? Your response needs to address both the article and the image. You may answer all or some of the questions posed above. Answer in at least 250 words.
I realize most of us are still processing this week. This week’s Topic of the Week is intended to think critically about language. This is, after all, the purpose of our class. So, let’s consider how the events at the Capitol this past week have been reported.
Reporters and journalists are tasked with covering high-stakes situations as they unfold. Because much of our news is consumed online, journalists have to make in-the-moment decisions about what they will share with readers and what language will best convey the story. Read the two tweets below from journalists who work for different news organizations and then share: What do you notice? What do you wonder? What message are these reporters trying to convey about media and language? To add to your commentary, you might research other terms used to describe these people. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter called them “American patriots”. (This is not a required part of your response however.)
Week 1: The Soul of the Community
Small communities often have common gathering places — a favorite coffee/tea shop, a park or outdoor space, or a local bar/restaurant. Read the attached article about a small town in England and its dilemma about saving a local pub. Although the article describes a place oceans away, the topic is still apt for our small town. Think about Cordova — What special or unique public places do we have in our community? What is our neighborhood’s (town’s) “social core,” (a place of great value to the people living here)? Have the events of the past year created a new space that wasn’t there before? Answer these questions in a response of at least 250 words. Be sure to draw parallels to the article about the White Horse Tavern.
Week 13: The Year in Pictures
As a wrap up of our Topic of the Week, let’s go visual. Follow the link to Reuters Pictures of of the year 2020: pics 2020, (if you are not satisfied with the choices on the site, feel free to find your own elsewhere.)
Scroll through the photos — there are many — take a screen shot to share it in your post and in a thoughtful response of at least 250 words, explain why you chose it and how you think it is a good representation of the past year OR talk about what the picture inspires in you for the year to come.
December 4, 2020
Week 12: Word of the Year
Every year, Oxford Languages, the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), chooses what it considers the “word of the year,” a selection that is meant to “reflect the ethos, mood or preoccupations” of the past 12 months. In 2019, it was “climate emergency.” In 2018, it was “toxic.” In 2017, it was “youthquake.”
But this year is different. Instead of crowning a single word as the winner, Oxford has chosen to honor the coronavirus pandemic’s swift and widespread affect on the English language.
Read the following article: Word of the Year?
In a thoughtful response of at least 250 words, first answer these two questions: How does Oxford typically select its word of the year? On what data and evidence does it base its choice? Next, come up with your own word for the year? What would be your designated choice for 2020. Justify your choice.
Week 11: The Privacy Project
How much is known about you? How sure are you that your personal information is not being cataloged by a cyber data collector? As we continue to read and discuss 1984 and the issues of privacy, it is good to be better informed about the nature of surveillance and data gathering in our own society.
The topic of privacy is close to a daily concern in the news. The Privacy Project was a monthslong initiative to explore technology and its role in our private lives. Online Journalism awards writes, “In the midst of these swirling currents around the issue of privacy, The Times launched a first-of-its-kind effort to both educate the public and influence the national conversation around privacy and technology in three areas: online tracking, genetics and facial recognition.”
The articles and essays that followed are numerous. Rather than discuss one selection, your task is peruse the list and choose an article that interests you. Second, read the article carefully and consider the information/opinion presented. Then, in a thoughtful response of at least 250 words summarize the highlights of the article. Discuss your reaction to the information or whether you agree/disagree with the opinion offered. Follow this link to find the list of articles/op eds: The Privacy Project Be sure to scroll through the whole list before choosing — it is lengthy.
November 13, 2020
Almost exactly 35 years ago, Super Mario Bros., the iconic video game from Nintendo, debuted — making a high-jumping plumber named Mario the Japanese video game company’s equivalent of Mickey Mouse.
Back in 1985, Super Mario Bros. was revelatory. Now there are many iterations of the original as well as countless other games.
Are you a gamer? What do you like about playing video games? If you’re not a gamer, why not? I confess that I am not a video gamer, never have been. However, the Mario anniversary has shown up in the news (NY Times, CNN, theguardian.com) and was even a risque sketch on SNL last weekend. So, I am curious about the topic of gaming.
Read the OpED – Do Video Games Deserve the Bad Rap?
Respond in a thoughtful paragraph of at least 250 words that addresses any of the following:
- Ms. Peyser used to think that video games were a “drain on young men’s brains” that hobbled “their ability to form real bonds.” Your thoughts? Do video games get in the way of forming real relationships? Or can they strengthen relationships and promote social interactions, like they did for Ms. Peyser?
- Have you ever had an experience where video games brought you closer to someone — or got in the way of a relationship?
- By the end of her Op-Ed, Ms. Peyser argues video games are “more stimulating than bingeing Netflix?” Do you agree? Are they “a whole new type of media” that more of us should be exploring together?
- Does gaming still have “a long way to go in connecting to women?” Ms. Peyser acknowledges “problematic gender dynamics” in many video games, such as in Grand Theft Auto, but she was able to get past them simply because playing the game was so exciting. What are your thoughts?
November 6, 2020
Many of you are among the generation who have not been required to write in cursive. The debate of whether or not schools should continue to teach cursive writing in a digital age has been a topic in education for the past ten years. It is has reemerged in recent legislation throughout the US. One side argues there are cognitive gains for children learning cursive; another argues there are more important topics to teach – cultural sensitivity, racial equity, media awareness and social/emotional learning and cursive is a throwback to a time past its usefulness. Before taking a position on the issue, read the following articles:
cursive in schools again (this link has a couple of short video clips as well)
Consider the arguments each makes and the source/references in the articles. Then, in a thoughtful response of at least 250 words, decide where you stand. Use information from the articles to support your stance. If you do not wish to take a stand, offer another perspective to the debate. Either way, it needs to be clear that you have familiarized yourself with the points made in the above links.
Week 8: Online Courses
This week we take another look at online learning, except this time the issue considers those most hurt when learning is virtual. Given the 2020 school year, we can all agree that online learning is not ideal. The attached article goes a step further and documents who is most adversely affected by online learning. (Note too that the article is two years old). Think about your own specific challenges when all your classes were online. Together, with information gleaned from the article and your own experience, cite three of the most important factors our school district should address in order for all students to succeed using an online format.
October 23, 2020
Week 7: You choose and share
This week the topic is turned over students. It’s your job to comb the news/internet to find an article covering/discussing a topic that matters to you and others your age. It may be local, national or international. It need not be up-to-the-minute current, but it should be something recent. Your task is to research and share an issue that impacts you and your peers and support why you’ve chosen it. It may be a pop culture topic, but be sure that you can argue its significance for a larger circle of people. Your source needs to be credible. Provide a link to your article, then in a thoughtful response of at least 250 words, defend why your chosen topic merits our attention.
Here is my choice: BBC article on Voting in America
October 16, 2020
So this is an image of how I am feeling about my life lately. How are you feeling? As a last ToW for 1st quarter, select a picture that best shows your present state of mind/being, your life right now. If you are not comfortable with showing your present state, share an image of what you might look forward to. Post it and then, in a thoughtful response of at least 250 words, explain why you chose the image, what you like about it, what you would possibly add to the image to be even more specific. . .
October 9, 2020
Week 5: Holding students accountable
Rainier Harris, senior at Regis HS in Queens, NY.
Racism, hate and bullying is nothing new to students in school. Racial slurs, homophobic language and harassment occur on and off school campuses. Responses are often punitive — in other words, schools suspend or even expel students as punishment. Some schools take a different approach by establishing a dialogue between victims and offenders to begin to repair the harm done. The hope is that opening up a dialogue helps everyone heal.
Follow the above link and read the article written by a high school student whose school took an innovative approach to racism. Next, in a thoughtful response of at least 250 words, consider the following questions:
What responsibility do you think schools have to resolve issues of racism, hatred and bullying between students or other community members?
What should be the goal of any school response? Is the point to simply patch things over? Punish the offending students? Help the student who was hurt to heal? Seek justice for the wrong committed?
What is your reaction to the model of restorative justice discussed in the article?
Do you think the restorative justice model is appropriate for all kinds of issues related to bias, hate and bullying that might come up in a school? Why, or why not? Should this model be a part of our high school’s discipline policy?
Week 4: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Over a week has passed since the death of Justice Ginsberg and as the country pays tribute to her many accomplishments, let us reflect on some of her work as well. First, follow the link: RBG to watch a short clip on her life and interests. Next, read the following article: Advice from RBG.
Using the information from both the video and the article, choose one of the following questions and write a thoughtful paragraph(s) of at least 250 words in response.
Linda Greenhouse said that Justice Ginsburg, “had a really radical project: to erase the functional difference between men and women in society. She wanted to make it clear that there should be no such thing as ‘women’s work’ and ‘men’s work.’” What do these words mean to you? Do you support Justice Ginsburg’s vision? Why or why not?
To what degree, if at all, do you think we have achieved her goal of erasing the functional differences between men and women? What, if anything, still needs to change?
What about Justice Ginsburg’s life, as chronicled in the video, surprised you? What experiences in her life have earned her the title of “the Supreme Court’s feminist icon”? How might we best honor her memory?
September 25, 2020
Follow the link above to view a short video. Reflect on the clip’s impact and write a fully developed paragraph of at least 250 words regarding the power of words as demonstrated in the video. Respond specifically to how it is you think the edited version of the sign affected people more than the original did. Use your understanding of rhetoric to help write your response. After your paragraph, place yourself in the shoes of the woman who edited the sign: what changes would you have made to the sign if you had come across the man? Don’t simply say you would have written the same thing the woman did; come up with your own words.
September 18, 2020
Week 2: The crystal ball
What is this image saying? How does it relate to or comment on society or current events? What is your opinion of its message?
Think about our discussions of Visual Rhetoric and the components of analysis that help us to understand and form opinions of images. In a thoughtful response of at least 250 words, answer the above questions. (Be sure that you are clear about what you believe is the message expressed in the image.) Include at least three components of analysis we have already utilized with the advertisements we have shared in class.
September 11, 2020
Week 1: Words To Live By . . .
One of the goals of AP Language and Composition is to understand/appreciate the power of words. So to begin, consider the following:
Share a quote by someone famous that you believe we should all, in some way or another, incorporate into our own lives. Explain why this quote is important and how you have come to adopt it. Respond in 250 words by Friday and comment on two other persons’ responses by 9:00 PM Sunday.