Elizabeth Warren – She Doesn’t Need Your Mansplaining



“It’s the deep breath before the plunge.”

Nerd alert. If you hate The Lord of the Rings references, best click out now because you will never get back the 10 minutes of your life it will take to read this blog-so choose wisely…just sayin’. 

I am a devoted fan of LOTR. From time to time I find an apt reference that helps me along my journey. Simply put, I find sentiments and truisms that fit situations.

In one of the final scenes in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the battle is mounting, the enemies are at the gate, and Gandalf and Pippen share a moment of dread (Pippen) and contemplation (Gandalf) before the last defense is breached. The video below is the short scene from the movie.


I liken this time of anxiety (and yes, some dread) to the last two weeks of semester. How will I make it!? Dramatic? Yes, but it is also my attempt at funmaking in an effort to laugh at myself, shrug off anxiety and forge ahead, assured of my success.

Managing my time is difficult because I can be scattered in my focus. I was warned by those who know of this tendency in me to wander off that the first semester of a graduate program is the toughest. The workload is substantial and course material becomes narrow, class participation more individualistic, as one moves from student to scholar. First semester is an initiation. I set my intention to be as calm as possible, be proactive with assignments, but play when I felt the stress building. Stress relievers for me are: having lunch with a close friend, going to a movie, and taking walks or engaging in some other form of daily exercise. I also find strength from meditation and my “Daily Dalai.” Really, it’s called the “Daily Dalai.” I laughed too…


Oh, and laughing is a necessary tool too. Do it daily as well.

Over the past months, balancing family, school, and friends proved to be daunting at times. But I noticed those times were when I needed to take a step back and ask myself: Why am I doing this anyway?

The answers varied, but the choice was always the same-KEEP GOING. I knew the prize was worth the sacrifice: a meaningful education that will serve my purposes to write and educate others on writing.

So in this “deep breath before the plunge” I prioritize my time, put friends on standby, and dive in. My family, of course, is helpful. And that is the balance I strike- firm, and optimistic. I have been here many times before, but somehow the first semester of graduate school seems more challenging and scary. Hey, I can do this.

Pardon my impassioned, self-soothing, writing here. Maybe it is helpful to others to know they are not alone during this crazy time of the semester. Hope it helps.

For your final consideration E501

This week in our Theories of Writing class, we are wrangling over the place of multi-modalities in classroom instruction and their current and future impact to Rhetoric and Composition. Professor Lamanna asked us to think on how we individually feel about the viability of the CO150 Freshman Composition class in the face of multiliteracies both inside and outside the classroom. Is CO150 a dying breed?

For me, it all comes down to communication. If the “hybridity and intertextuality”, which The New London Group speaks of, can truly blend “creativity and…culture-as-process” together and therefore design new modes of meaning, I am all in (19). Composition pedagogies will benefit, in my opinion, from the fusion of multimedia- text, sound, and visuals. This hybrid, newfound functionality freshens compositional goals-that of “articulating new ways” of getting the message across.

As long as the multimodal pedagogies still promote argument, critical analysis, and rhetorical principles, I say go for it. Because, even with all the bells and whistles, writing still has to make sense. The message still must be communicated effectively. If pictures and sounds are blocking the message, then the writer will need to make changes to be successful in communication. It’s pretty straightforward. Logically speaking, teaching digital design will only serve to better equip students for the future. Technologies build on each other, so the savvy student will be ahead of the game with a firm foundation. Being a deft and flexible writer in all modalities, especially knowing one’s way around interactive technology, is confidence building.

The confidence to approach an argument from many sides is smart. The goal to successfully communicate a message is the prime directive. No matter the newfangled wrappings, the clearness of the message will always make or break the delivery system.    Rhetorical principles will always stand the test of time. It’s like how the changes to the automobile changed the approach to auto maintenance. As automobile design advanced, the tools required to maintain the new vehicles changed to meet new standards. But any auto mechanic will tell you, no matter how fancy the car, they still need to learn the basic knowledge of auto repair.

Pamela Takayoshi and  Cynthia Selfe point out in “Thinking about Multimodality” that, “it is important to remain in step with the ways in which students, workers, and citizens are communicating” (3). Staying relevant is key. And for now, digital design is a popular mode of communication. Smart classrooms are in demand more and more as, hopefully, attention spans lengthen with the inclusion of interactive classroom material. Takayoshi and Selfe report that “[a]ural and video compositions reveal and articulate meanings students struggle to articulate with words; audio and visual compositions carry different meanings that words are not good at capturing” (3-4). So, if teachers  can lessen the struggle some students encounter with writing by implementing technologies…isn’t that worth trying new things? Aren’t the “long-lasting and useful lessons” teachers can provide with multimodal composition methods worth the extra time and training to incorporate them into classroom instruction?

Rachel Carson~

If the world ever needed a Rachel Carson, it is now. Why do I say that? Because Rachel Carson witnessed environmental degradation in her lifetime and took action at great risk to herself, both professionally and personally.

Rachel Carson is my next Rhetorica Heroica!  

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist, ecologist, and nature writer. After 15 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Carson retired to devote more time to her writing.

What twists and turns in life took this little nature-loving girl from Pennsylvania to wage one of the nation’s fiercest battles? Carson endured harsh criticisms, not only for being a whistle-blower, but for daring to engage in the male-dominated world of the scientist in the 1950s and 60s. She was trained as a scientist, yes, but what really kept her on task were the ingrained values of Courage, Determination, and the firm grasp of Certainty!

Carson wrote stories from a very young age, first to acquaint readers with the wonder of the oceans and rivers, and then as a conscientious scholar when she wrote her magnum opus, Silent Spring (1962), which shook the nation with its strong environmental message.

The use of DDT, the savior of the agricultural science business, was killing everything in its path, all life, including humans. Her awakening came when she realized the waters near her home, once alive with chirps and squawks of birds, was now silent. She searched until she found the source of such silence. What she found traced back to chemicals in the air and water. Carson’s cry was “what kills the birds will kill us” and she was right. As a scientist she knew how to back up her claims-with empirical data.

Carson’s book warned humankind of the destructive path they were on in their use of pesticides and insecticides in agriculture, like DDT. DDT, (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), according to U.S. Geological Survey, is an “insecticide highly toxic to biota, including humans…a persistent biochemical which accumulates in the food chain.” Imagine airplanes circling your neighborhood and outlying countryside spraying DDT down in a fine mist, covering everything. Soon birds are quivering, shaking uncontrollably, then falling from the sky. People are eating local foods, drinking the water, and getting sick and dying from strange cancers. Think of a myriad of respiratory illnesses plaguing young and old….all the while chemical companies denying any connection of sufferings to their products.

And what about now? Almost 50 years since Carson wrote Silent Spring, the earth is ailing, in need of aid more than ever, inhabited by threatened species, including humans.  It seems incomprehensible to think we will survive at the current rate of annihilation and apathy regarding our planet  that has seized the earth’s human inhabitants. We humans have certainly had our harbingers, our oracles, our soothsayers, who have heralded, and warned us…and these warnings only cause a pause in the march of “progress.” Where is our Rachel Carson? Muzzled by government, lobbyists and big money?

Rachel Carson was one who tried to halt the destruction against all odds, in the face of ridicule and opposition. She risked humiliation from the highest levels of national government. She dared to play hard ball with the Big Boys, and she won. The chemical companies retreated after her ally, President John F. Kennedy, took notice, read Silent Spring, and launched a full-scale congressional investigation. Soon Carson was called to testify against the chemical companies.  All told, “the President’s Science Advisory Committee issued a report in 1963 largely backing Carson’s scientific claims. By 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established as a cabinet-level position and, in 1972, DDT use was banned…the publication of [Silent Spring] is credited as one of the most influential events in sparking the environmental movement” (see fws.gov below).

Below is an excerpt from Silent Spring, Chapter 12, “The Human Price”:

As the tide of chemicals born of the Industrial Age has arisen to engulf our environment, a drastic change has come about in nature of the most serious public health problems. Only yesterday mankind lived in fear of the scourges of smallpox, cholera, and plague that once swept  nations before them. Now our major concern is no longer with the disease organisms that once were omnipresent…Today we are concerned with a different kind of hazard that lurks in our environment–a hazard we ourselves have  introduced into our world as our modern way of life has evolved. (187)

In tragic irony, while Rachel Carson was battling for the environment’s health, her own health was in decline as she fought the losing battle with cancer (no implication of DDT poisoning), succumbing in 1964, less than a year after the congressional hearings. Rachel Carson, true Rhetorica Heroica, in the face of her own mortality, fought for change through her writings.

For more detailed information on this courageous woman rhetor, please access the following links:

Rachel Carson: rachelcarson.org

Information on DDT: http://toxics.usgs.gov/definitions/ddt.html

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:  http://www.fws.gov/northeast/rachelcarson/carsonbio.html

~E501 Post~ Andrea Lunsford on Gloria Anzaldúa- ¡La Libertad!

In my Intercultural Communications class we talk about social identities and the tentative negotiations of those identities within cultures and languages. In these class conversations we focus on awareness of the cultural “rich points,” moments of confusion or conflict between cultures. These rich points are when culture is happening. By identifying similarities and respecting differences, cultures can map out ways to communicate effectively. In Andrea Lunsford’s article, “Toward a Mestiza Rhetoric: Gloria Anzaldúa on Composition and Postcoloniality” on the life of the chicana, feminist writer, I recognized the twists and turns experienced by Anzaldúa as she navigated her multicultural identities within an often antagonistic society.

Lunsford lauds Anzaldúa’s “personal triumph over the ‘tradition of silence’’ and how she found places to wrestle and negotiate beyond commonplace identity “cubbyholes” (2).Anzaldúa likens these navigations to the fluidity of “identity [as it] flows between, over, aspects of a person. Identity is a river, a process” (2). She speaks of herself as “a new mestiza,” a woman of Spanish and American Indian blood,  who has learned to inhabit her own reality, and wishes to teach others how to “read” her and others who don’t fit ascribed cultural roles.

Anzaldúa vigorously advocates a change in teaching strategy:

We need teorias…that will enable us to interpret what happens in the world, that will explain how and why we relate to certain people in specific ways, that will reflect what goes on between inner, outer, and peripheral ‘I’s within a person and between the personal ‘I’s and collective ‘we’ of our ethnic communities. Necesitamos teorias that…cross borders, that blur boundaries-new kinds of theories with theorizing methods. (Lunsford 4)

What kinds of methods can be created to “blur boundaries” in such a diverse community as the student body? How may teachers of composition use Anzaldúa’s experience to help their students broach issues of, race, gender, notions of body, and engage in open and respectful class discussions? One way is by students recognizing their own multi-layered identities of gender, race, ethnicity, familial roles, and how these effect their daily lives. Even the identity of ‘student’ should be examined. By this frank self-analysis, students can see the complexities and slipperiness of who they are in the community, in their family, among those they hide from and those they reveal themselves to– and why. Written reflections might give pause as students struggle to identify themselves and then give testimony without hesitation. By this exercise, they will see how complex others’ lives are as well, and by looking towards others with empathy, they can yield place for all voices.

Anzaldúa assures Lunsford her goal for her mestiza rhetoric is “a liberatory goal…to create possibilities for people, to look at things in a different way so they can act…in a different way. It’s like a freeing up, an emancipating” (6). I ask myself-Am I up for such a lofty goal to attempt to liberate students of writing to see others, to see themselves, in such new and critical ways?

E501 Posting: Computers and Classrooms

What is the composition teacher’s responsibility regarding students and technology use? Is the classroom now the place to embrace and advance the use of computers? This is a multilayered debate. On one hand, we are in the age of electronic communication, but on the other, as composition teachers, we like to think of communication as human to human, not human to an LED screen.

In Cynthia Selfe’s 1999 article, “Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of Not Paying Attention”, computer technology is likened to a “kind of cultural strangeness that is off-putting” to many teachers (413). One of the “strangest” aspects of computer technology reminds me of issues surrounding the new transportation technology in the 1800s.  The invention of trains and automobiles was viewed with skepticism and alarm. One day wagons and horses were the mode, then seemingly the next day humans were zipping around at “unnatural” speeds in noisy, metal contraptions! How would the body withstand the pressure? Terror withstanding, the combustion engine prevailed and we all adjusted to the new technology. So now, in my opinion, the bane and boon of computer technology is the speed of which it morphs and changes our idea of communication. While composition pedagogies slowly negotiate each debated turn, computer literacies sprint past at an alarming speed.

So we have new technology, and it is meant to be put to good use, like the automobile. And the classroom is “good use.” At the beginning of the semester, in E501, we discussed the future of the composition classroom. What will it look like? Like Selfe, I think it will be a computer lab. Selfe urges us to “pay attention to how technology is now inextricably linked to literacy and literacy education” in the American classroom (414). Think on how learning has changed since computer processors auto-correct spelling, grammar, and even the placement of punctuation in students’ papers. Think on the durability of information now, how it’s safely stored on memory chips and flash drives. Think on how computers use the internet as a ready made librarian’s desk. Students have the world literally at their fingertips. They need new methodologies to help them sort, sift, and discern useful research material. We must be ready to teach critical research skills in the computer age.

In our earlier discussions of the future composition classroom we discussed the teaching of job skills that would prepare the student for what lies ahead. Regardless of how science fiction it all sounds-people talking to machines instead of each other, meetings conducted via laptop cameras and sound cards, this is the future for us all. Our students will need to understand these technologies to stay viable in the job market.

What should be the composition teacher’s responsibility to students and the use of technology? As far as it concerns learning, we cannot ignore the realization that it is a good thing in many ways. And staying relevant earns the trust of students, and keeps them engaged. It is a challenge to us to use computers as the tools to learning that they can truly be.

E501 Posting: Hairston v Berlin

Ah Maxine Hairston, she was such a force in rhetoric and composition. She argued her position thoroughly and staunchly maintained her stance. Such adept, skilled maneuvering of debate is truly admirable.  She was usually right, in my opinion, although this time I must challenge part of her argument on the banning of political rhetoric from the classroom.

My line of argument slightly deviates from Hairston’s on the fight to leave all politics outside the classroom. I say everything is political. The fact remains that students (freshman are the main focus for Hairston) are at a university, following structured degree programs, and kowtowing to administrational requirements…all part of the politics embedded in the university institution. So teachers must exercise their influence in the most minimalistic manner possible, but acknowledging with a slight gesture, from time to time, the presence of the political elephant in the room. Pointing out this presence to students is a type of community responsibility, I think. For example, a professor saying, “hey, watch out for the state’s control of education in your degree requirements (like mandatory public speech)!” is a friendly “heads up.” Hairston’s reply to me would probably be “of course! But have the students write about their views on such topics, not just assimilate your opinion on the issue!”

James Berlin would argue the point with Hairston as well by saying that the political, cultural influences of whatever modern age narrative we are living in, are irremovable. The best we can do is see those influences, shut out those we can, and mitigate the effects of those we cannot. Berlin would argue against Hairston’s critique that revealing ideology, when it is encountered, such as social-epistemic rhetoric, is putting “the social goals of the teacher before the educational needs of the student.”  He would say it is inevitable that they will need to know these things, why not teach them in the open forum of the classroom. Berlin cautions, though, how social-epistemic rhetoric tries to push ideology at the center of the classroom-but beware, capitalism, a Jekyl-Hyde individualistic tenet touted by both ideologies, can grab ahold of the classroom if you let it and edge out the students’ involvement.

I agree with Hairston that the diverse classroom is best for learning. With our students coming from diverse backgrounds, as Hairston contends, socio-politico topics will be introduced in a natural process-by the students. I agree with her that teachers must leave space for issues, help students as they wrangle with their understandings and let them apply their findings to their lives as they see fit. The student-centered classroom allows breathing room for this discovery process.

Again I agree with Hairston’s argument that teachers must leave their personal politics outside the classroom door. But, I must admit, it is seductive to think of a classroom of eager minds just waiting for me to lay some ideology on them like Socrates did. Of course, in my dream I would wrap myself in compassion for student’s naïve obeisance of the powers that be, soothe my conscious with a sense of obligation to warn them, but all the while I am walking a fine line between detachment and manipulation. If Maxine Hairston were to follow this frightening scenario and implement my own philosophy against me, she would admonish me to warn my own students of teachers…like me.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas~ Feisty Fighter for the Glades

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, writer and advocate, lived to be 108 years of age (1890-1998). Throughout Douglas’ life, she fought for the rights of others. Suffragist, anti-prohibitionist, supporter of the ERA and civil rights, she wrote passionately in the roles of private citizen, as reporter, columnist, and assistant editor for the Miami Herald. In her mid-50s, and on until her death, she took up the cause of preserving the Everglades of South Florida.

Douglas was a skilled, seasoned watchdog picking another fight for the environment-against the odds, in the face of harsh criticism from peers, society and the powers that be.

In 1947, at the age of 57, Douglas published what would become a  “must read” for anyone fighting to save the environment from the developers, from greedy big business, you know, the usual suspects in the destruction of the natural world. The book is titled The Everglades, A River of Grass. So lyrical, so poetic is the language, so persuasive is its appeal, you forget you are reading an environmental protest. Marjory Stoneman Douglas, you are my hero.

Douglas opens her book with immediacy of place:

“There are no other Everglades in the world.

They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them: their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free salt-ness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida. It is a river of grass.” (6-7)

She wrote, she protested, she lambasted developers, bombarded government officials (including several U.S. Presidents), pushed back in defense of nature, and stressed the intrinsic value of the ecosystem.  It was an all-out assault against those who set their destructive sights on the Everglades, her beloved river of grass. And her voice was heard. In the latter part of her life President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her environmental work in the Everglades, even as she attacked his administration for being too soft on industry in the area.  She was tough on the Army Corps of Engineers too. She spoke her mind, and had the expertise to back it up.

In spite of her valiant battle, sadly, the Everglades is still at risk today. Species are endangered and falling into extinction. Developers, after a brief pause, took a deep breath and continued on their destructive path.

When I visit the Everglades I thank Marjory Stoneman Douglas for her persistence, her staunch devotion, her unyielding defense of this elegant, vibrant, expanse known to us Floridians as “the Glades.” Even now as I sit in my Colorado home I remember the Glades and I relive the beauty, peacefulness, and sheer vastness of the place. I hear the birds and the rustle of the wind through the grasses, I see the lush green mangroves. I imagine the river as it flows ever slowly towards the ocean so close by I can smell it.  The Glades are alive, but for how long? More research is indicated here, but for now I leave with an awareness of fights to come in honor of this cherished river of grass.

Douglas is an inspiration to me and what is looking like my own lifework of writing for nature; animals, landscape, seascape, in whatever manner, to whatever eventuality. Writing takes us where it wants us to go, I always say.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ writing was clear, unfiltered, and bold. Her purpose defined. She was a true Rhetorica Heroica!

For Your Consideration E501

In E501 we are discussing whether there really is such a thing as the solitary author, alone with discrete knowledge, with reasoning manufactured from within without outside influence? Or is the idea of all work and knowledge as collaborative and defined by social negotiations, as Kenneth Bruffee proclaims, true? Is the writing we do just recycled knowledge debated and accepted within our discourse communities? Is knowledge only a product of collaboration?

About the same time as I read Bruffee in E501, I read something corresponding in a reading assignment for E637. I got a nice refresher in American history. And, as often happens in my grad program, information I read in one class is relevant for another. Enter John Locke and his theories on how humans acquire knowledge.

John Locke (1632-1704) wrote in, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, how we acquire the materials of knowledge-epistemologically speaking-basically finding out how we know what we know. In Locke’s theory the mind is a tabula rasa or blank sheet, waiting for us to inscribe knowledge through experience and reflection.  (Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy)  Sound familiar? Bruffee gets close to this notion of the lack of individual knowledge by saying we eventually experience learning through collaboration…

Of course, this theory of the mind as a tabula rasa, or clean slate, remains a controversial topic as other social groups have picked up the theory as a way to explain the absence of intrinsic knowledge. Often the theory’s tenets are twisted and it just comes across as discrimination as can be read in “The Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination: Racisim in America” by Jean Lau Chin.

In American history, the founding fathers applied Locke’s theory as a persuasive ideal to build knowledge on an erased Nationalistic slate, a clean start, after British repression. They implemented the ideal of a “do over” for the populous as a positive.  Along with this social clemency, they taught a moral philosophy of civic virtues, then adopted and dispersed it to the colonies as a means to unify a nation under one identity.

In E501 we read Kenneth Bruffee’s Collaborative Learning and the ‘Conversation of Mankind’ where he makes the claim that we only have knowledge once we collaborate in groups. Do we each have stand alone knowledge or do we have to wait until we find a few people to talk amongst (Here’s a topic!) and figure out where we stand? Of course not, we all have unique knowledge but we might learn more, or add to our knowledge, by moving around in social groups, collaborating, pooling knowledge and experiences. Maybe one person’s experience will add a dimension to our own, thus shedding light on new avenues of thought. Sounds mystical, but in many ways the mind and how we learn is unfathomable. We just don’t know. But theories, like Bruffee’s, give pause and allow us to be open and ponder another viewpoint. I look forward to more discussions on collaboration this week.

…for my research

Here are some writers I am considering next.

~ Kelly Cherry, poet laureate of Virginia, 2010-2011.


~Rachel Carson


~Marjory Stoneman Douglas


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