So, as promised, I ran the exercise by my basic writing class.
In my research class, I took a different track and explained that while the Ferguson situation isn’t exactly within the purview of our class, and they really ought to be addressing this in a sociology class or a criminology class, we are in a research course based around popular culture studies and this is a hugely important cultural moment that they need to be reading up on. So I provided the students with two links to troves of information, with instructions to read for themselves:
- The NY Times archive of the grand jury trial documents
- “Teaching #Ferguson: Current events in the Classroom Resources,” an extensive and continually updated Google Docs file chock full of articles, commentary, historical context, and other resources
But in my basic writing course, we talked about words. Because today is the day before Thanksgiving, a lot of students were absent and I had less than half the class, so I’m sorry the rest of them missed out on this experience. But (most of) the ones who were there got it, and they appreciated the exercise.
These are the words my students shared:
Most powerful word(s):
- “This is Sparta!”
Most dangerous word(s):
- “I never want to see you ever again”
- cut off
Most positive word(s):
- good job
- good luck
- “My chiseled abs”
And yes, I did tell my students they could do whatever they wanted with the other words, but I wanted them to carry the positive words with them.
And may you carry your most positive words with you into tomorrow as we in the States celebrate gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving, folks.