Has Pres. Obama purposefully shut down more federal programs than necessary during the government shutdown in order to “make Americans feel it”? That’s what some conservative pundits are arguing. (Only click that link if you are ready to roll your eyes a lot or do a rhetorical analysis of the way they are putting together their argument, because it’s really quite genius.) I even saw someone on Facebook this morning call this “tyranny.”
The rhetorical trick that numerous conservablogs are trying is to point to things that have been shut down–in their opinion, unnecessarily–and argue that “Obama did it.” Obama shut down this. Obama shut down that.
Aside from the fact that it is the GOP that wanted and caused the government shutdown (and there is literally no argument otherwise that makes any sense), this idea that Obama has some master list of federally-funded projects and he’s pouring over it, deciding which things he can shut down in order to inconvenience people the most is just absurd.
Every single thing that is happening has been planned in advance by the federal department in charge of that area. So, the WWII memorial situation? The fact that there were barricades brought in even though that seems a little unnecessary considering it’s a low-staff location that people can generally enter whenever they want? Yes, that seems a little extreme, but if you look at the National Park Service’s contingency plans, you see that all park entrances were scheduled to be blocked/barricaded: “All national parks will be closed and secured.” There isn’t some exception for parks that don’t have traditional gated entrances. And yes, the WWII memorial counts as a park, as it is administrated by the Parks Department.
Instead of believing what conservablogs are telling you about Obama’s ill intentions during the shutdown, why not look at the contingency plans of every single federal department, which were published before the shutdown, to see whether or not that department is following their plans as they were drafted. If you have a problem with the way they have interpreted the shutdown, then the heads of those departments are who you should be directing your disagreement.
I’ve found that Googling the department + “contingency plan” is an effective way to find the pre-shutdown published plans of each federal department.
Well, actually, no. You should be directing your displeasure at the GOP, who are mucking this up so badly and desperately trying to pin it on “the other guys,” despite their obvious glee.
The government is shut down. Children have been sent home from Head Start programs. Federal workers are furloughed and have no idea whether or not they’ll get paid. The NIH has had to pause all clinical trial enrollment. WIC funds are in danger. And people are angry that they can’t visit the WWII memorial in DC, even though park rangers (the handful that have not been furloughed) are letting in all veterans (despite what you may have heard in conservablogs).
This is because one party is throwing a hissy fit over something that is already law. That was voted on, enacted, and vetted by the Supreme Court. That moves forward even despite the shutdown.
This is not about a lack of compromise between two parties. This is one small group of (mostly) men in Congress who have gotten it into their heads that it is okay to hold an entire nation hostage to their whims.
Normally, I support the ideas of “let’s work together!” and “compromise is a good thing!” Despite my strong preference for Democratic policies, I like that there is a natural pendulum swing between Conservatives and Liberals in most political offices–it keeps us closer to the middle, which I think is a good place to be. But you don’t compromise on something that has already been compromised a million times over. The ACA is a watered down version of what was originally proposed. There was compromise again and again when it was being written. And in the end, a less-than-stellar-but-still-better-than-what-we’ve-had-so-far bill was passed into law.
If you believe that this is an issue of two parties being unwilling to compromise, you’re been misled by people who want you to believe that they are reasonable.
Many of my conservative friends have been up in arms over this shutdown. I’ve seen countless Republican friends post on Facebook that they’ve come to terms with the fact that the ACA–which they hate–is now law, and that their party needs to MOVE ON.
One thing I heard on the radio this morning was that one of the reasons Tea Party anti-Obamacare representatives aren’t budging is because their seats are so safe and secure. They aren’t getting any pressure from their constituents. So, if you are a conservative and you are frustrated with what is going on here, and you can see through the really weak charade that this is somehow a failed compromise, and if you happen to live in a district that is represented by one of these Tea Party “patriots,” then please. Please, please, please start voicing your dissatisfaction.
My voice doesn’t matter to these people, because I’m not their constituent, and I’ve been written off as an ignorant, greedy, socialist, handout-loving, bleeding heart liberal. But you? You’re a conservative. You hate the ACA. But you also think that a symbolic objection to the law is not worth hurting as many people as your party is currently hurting.
(Embedding isn’t working, so please watch Jon Stewart’s excellent response to all of this here.)
In my husband’s attempts to solve the mystery of his respiratory ailments, which have kept him at home for the several weeks and sent him to the ER six times since June, he decided to start looking into clinical trials and asthma research clinics. Within a few weeks of really starting to look, Chalupa had discovered, researched, and enrolled in SARP–the Severe Asthma Research Program–in Pittsburgh, PA. On Sunday, we made the trip to Pittsburgh (an easy six hour drive with a lunch stop), and this week he has participated in several days of testing and examinations.
At this point, neither of us can say enough good things about this program. It is so exciting to think that he is contributing to research that will help treat different types of asthmatics–especially people like him who are often enigmas to doctors. Everyone we met at the SARP clinic was professional, friendly, and helpful. Chalupa blogged a bit about it on his own site, and I agree with his assessments. It seems so strange to have such pleasant encounters with everyone. No one took a brief look at Chalupa’s pulmonary function tests (PFTs) and said, “Oh, look, you’re at 97% of expected–you must be fine!” even though that’s what we’ve gotten from medical staff in the past. They were patient with him, extremely welcoming to me, and constantly explained every single step of the process.
On Wednesday morning, he met with a pulmonologist who is one of the lead SARP researchers. Now that he is part of her clinic, we are hopeful that some things that have been bothering Chalupa for years might actually end up getting resolved someday. Eventually. After ten weeks of being basically incapacitated, and seven years of feeling like crap, he is ready to do anything that will improve his health and quality of life. If that means regular trips to Pittsburgh for medical care, we’re up for that.
It helps that we can stay at one of UPMC’s Family Houses while we’re in town for visits. For a rate that is about half of the local hotels in the area, we can get a room with a private bathroom, a large shared kitchen, access to a fridge and freezer, living rooms with books and DVD players, and free shuttle service to and from the hospital. Everyone we met there–staff, other patients, and families of patients–was friendly without being nosy. (Okay, well there was one nosy guy, but he was an exception.) We were a little put out by the pillows that made us both sneezy and stuff, but generally the place was clean and pleasant. There was even a bench in the elevator for folks who need a little rest on the way to their room–which comes in handy when you’re traveling with a severe asthmatic!
Chalupa’s next appointment is in a month. They were going to do a bronchoscopy this week, but decided it had not been long enough since his last hospitalization in August. Instead, they are postponing the bronchoscopy until the pulmonologist he saw on Wednesday has a chance to get to know him and his asthma better. He and I are both thrilled with the prospect of getting some long-awaited answers to why he is so sick all the time and what we should do to fix it.
Every year, I try to attend a few writing conferences and retreats. This is something I only started doing in the years since I became a fulltime writing teacher. I didn’t realize that these events existed while I was an undergraduate, and although I wanted to attend AWP and some other events in graduate school, I never had the money to fly across the country and get a hotel room.
When a friend who teaches at my alma mater suggested that we put together an undergraduate writing retreat that could be attended by our students, I was really excited. Getting together with writers–especially writers you’ve never met–and talking about your craft is such a great experience, and I loved the idea of giving that opportunity to my students.
Last Friday afternoon, I took two of my students to the John XXIII Retreat Center in Hartford City, Indiana for an overnight retreat. We were a small group, compared to the ten or so students that attended from the other two universities–Taylor and Indiana Wesleyan.
It has been an exceptionally busy week, and although I was looking forward to the retreat, it was a bit of a sacrifice to try to fit it into my schedule. Chalupa is still significantly sick and hasn’t been able to go to work in about a month, so I needed to find someone else to watch Ruthie. My sister volunteered, and Ruthie ended up having a wonderful overnight at her cousins’ house, where she didn’t even throw a single tantrum. (That’s probably because, as she told me yesterday, “Mom, I don’t throw tantrums at OTHER people’s houses! Just at home!” Gee, thanks, kiddo.) A friend generously offered to bring some dinner over for Chalupa, which meant I could go into the overnight obligation-free, if not carefree.
What a great retreat it turned out to be! The students who attended the event were extremely talented. On the first evening, they were given the opportunity to read their work in an open mic. To be honest, I wasn’t super excited about it–I always worry that open mics are going to go on for too long. (This is like a result of my church upbringing, where passing the mic always turned into an hours-long affair of “testimonies” and never-ending prayer requests.) I was surprised and thrilled when student after student read incredible work that they had produced. I was floored and ended up telling my internet friends that what I’d heard was just as good as some of what came from my MFA colleagues at UNH.
Inspired by their talent and bravery in sharing difficult pieces with our group of about twenty-five, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the event. I took a little bit of the scheduled writing time to work on a short essay that was prompted by a conversation I had with one of the other professors who was there, and spent the other scheduled time grading homework and finalizing my craft talk. I also read a little bit of Margaret Atwood’s new book, MaddAddam.
There were two readings and two craft talks. Amy Lepine Peterson, a creative nonfiction writer who lives nearby, gave a really phenomenal reading on Friday that night that I believe set the stage for the students’ openness with one another. Paul Allison from IWU talked about lessons he’s learned from writing the novel that he is currently working on getting published. Prof. Daniel Bowman from Taylor, a poet, read from his excellent book of poetry, A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Country. (Isn’t that a phenomenal title, by the way?)
As for me, I gave a talk on “turning on the camera” in Creative Nonfiction, and emphasized the importance of striking a good balance between what sounds like voiceover in a movie and what is visible to the reader, like what the camera chooses to focus on. Much of this comes from my time in Meredith Hall’s workshops at UNH, but I have adapted some of her lessons to be teachable in small portions to undergraduates in settings like this. I read from Meredith’s Without a Map, as well as from Jo Ann Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter” and Jeanette Winterson’s amazing Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Aaron Housholder, also from Taylor, didn’t give a craft talk or reading, and instead conducted a closing benediction/conversation in the retreat center’s little chapel on Saturday evening after dinner. We gathered together and shared what we thought of the event and what we had learned from each other. The students seemed to have really enjoyed the retreat and were already talking about looking forward to another one next year. Aaron also shared with the students a really personal story about why he views the urge and need to write as a gift from God. I have been replaying some of his talk and our conversations over in my head a lot since Saturday, which is always a good sign that something important was happening.
Hands down, one of the coolest parts of the weekend was chatting with the two students from my university who attended the event with me. Because this was the first year for this, I only invited students with whom I already had a bit of a relationship or who had expressed interest in the event last semester. It would have been great if more had been able to join us, but the two women who joined me were great. They represented the university really well, joining in with the other students even though we were such a small group. They both read at the open mic, and their work is excellent. I also enjoyed our conversations as we drove to and from Hartford City. I’m really excited that these two women represent the kind of writers and creative people we have at the school where I teach! Because I mostly teach freshman composition to beginning writers who have no interest in English class, it was a wonderful reprieve to talk to students who not only care about writing, but who are passionate about it.
This retreat made the weekend a little long and overly full, but I’m so glad I participated, and I’m absolutely looking forward to next year.
I made it through my first day of classes! I always dread syllabus day, because I feel like there is a ton of pressure to make a good first impression, give the students a fair picture of what the class is going to be like, convince them that the class does actually matter, provide them with all of the information they’re going to need, try not to overwhelm them, and try not to be boring.
Of course, I’m not the only instructor who tries to come up with a fun, introductory activity to set off on the right foot. I think most of us try to find new ways to get students interacting and getting to know each other on the first day of class.
I wanted to do something along those lines, but also to introduce the apocalyptic theme. This is what I came up with:
I asked my students to imagine that we had just received word that some sort of catastrophic, cataclysmic event was going to happen in the next fifteen minutes. It could be a pandemic, a natural disaster, divine Judgment Day, a zombie invasion, aliens. Anything.
“If you had fifteen minutes to run to your dorm room and retrieve two items to help you survive whatever catastrophe is about to happen, what would those items be?” I asked.
They had a few minutes to think about this and discuss it amongst themselves. Then, in groups of four or five, they made a list of what their group would have if they pooled resources. Each group wrote their supplies on the board, and then we took votes on who seemed most likely to survive whatever event might be headed our way.
It definitely got them talking and laughing. I couldn’t help but chuckle at some of the things they decided to bring and asked how they think their phones and laptops are going to help them at the end of the world. Some groups seemed a bit more prepared than the others, having decided to bring knives, car keys, jars of peanut butter, coats, and their medications. Other groups were stocked with electronics and Snapple Tea–I have less hope for their survival.
By the end of each class, the students were beginning to interact freely as a large group, which is what I hoped would happen. We also started to work on the earliest stages of developing a vocabulary for the genre of storytelling that we’ll be working with all semester. Plus, I collected their answers so that I can use them again for an activity later in the semester. I hope to show them just how much they’ve learned when they revise their supply lists to be more realistic and useful.
Some friends have been asking me to share my Apocalypse-themed composition syllabus with them. I’ve decided to blog my experience with teaching this course, because I really have no idea how it’s going to go. I am hopeful that it will go well, but I want to document my successes and challenges as I present this information to students. Please keep in mind that my students are freshmen at a Christian institution, and therefore some of the course materials are targeted specifically at people from their religious background.
Here are the relevant parts:
Assignment One: Three Aspects of Apocalyptic Storytelling
For this 2-3 page paper, identify three common narrative elements of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic storytelling. For each element you identify, describe its characteristics and provide one or two examples of texts that use that element. All examples may come from our class discussions and collaborative list, or you may identify themes that are not on our list.
The essay must be written with MLA formatting as a 5-Paragraph essay and will include:
• an introduction with one sentence that includes a thesis and forecast.
• three body paragraphs, each beginning with a topic sentence.
• transitional sentences to move from each paragraph to the next.
• a conclusion that re-emphasizes each point without being repetitive in language.
This paper will measure your ability to outline a paper correctly, remember the five paragraph structure, identify elements of apocalyptic literature, and recognize themes in our readings. Grading will be based on the provided rubric.
Assignment Two: The Rhetorical Situation of a Film
Using the vocabulary we develop during this unit, describe and analyze the rhetorical situation of the film of your choice. We will discuss rhetorical situations extensively in class, and the basic goal is to analyze the importance of the film’s author, audience, and text. You are encouraged to use an apocalyptic film, but that is not a requirement. Your film must be approved ahead of time, and you must watch the movie at least once during the unit. You cannot rely on past viewings of the film. This 3-4 page paper must be organized with a thesis statement/forecast in the introduction and three body paragraphs. Follow the 5-Paragraph essay format that we learned in the first unit, including topic sentences and transitions. You must explain how the rhetorical situation’s elements work together to influence the film.
This paper will measure your ability to understand and apply a concept, to give an example, discover information and ideas, and relate information.
Assignment Three: Analyze the Popularity of Apocalyptic Literature
Make a strong argument about why you believe American audiences are interested in the Apocalypse. This paper is all about an idea that you come up with and support. Your thesis statement should make a strong, defensible claim. You need to address three pieces of support for your point of view. You must find an expert in the filed to back up your point of view–you are welcome to use the articles we read in class during this unit or find your own. If you find your own, the source must be credible and academic in nature. Interviews with apocalyptic authors are a great place to look. You will use ONE quote from your expert and integrate it correctly using MLA format and the quote sandwich method. The paper should be 3-4 pages long and be written in five-paragraph structure using MLA formatting.
This paper will measure your ability to analyze the cultural significance of a trend, deconstruct someone else’s analysis, identify themes in our culture, and infer meaning from a variety of sources.
Assignment Four: Evaluate Two Apocalyptic Texts
Choose two apocalyptic texts of any kind–films, books, poems, etc. If you cannot decide, I will help you find some. You will analyze, compare, and contrast these two texts and make a claim regarding their strengths and/or weaknesses. You must successfully integrate the analysis and argument skills developed for Essay #3: making an argument, defending a thesis, arguing a topic, etc. You may also use your knowledge of Rhetorical Situation to strengthen your paper.
This paper should be 4-5 pages long. It does not have to follow the 5-paragraph format, but must be well organized and structured. MLA formatting is required.
This paper will measure your ability to compare texts, contrast texts, defend an argument, discriminate between strengths and weaknesses of a text, and support your point of view.
Assignment Five: Group Project & Individual Paper
Details for the group project will be distributed later in the semester. Some basics: you will participate in a group project and make a presentation during the last week of class. Each student will also write a paper that explains the presentation’s analysis and proposals.
This project will evaluate your ability to compile evidence, create a presentation, devise a plan, explain that plan, and tell the audience of your solution to a problem.
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