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Teaching Argument Using the Documentary



Critical Literacy Skills in the Advanced Placement Classroom: The Synergy of Screen and Print

Critical Literacy Skills in the Advanced Placement Classroom: The Synergy of Screen and Print

Presentation by Dr. Renee H. Shea at the SchoolDocs 2009 conference.



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Teaching Argument Using the Documentary Teaching Argument Using the Documentary Presentation Transcript

  • Teaching Argument Using the Documentary
    Critical Literacy Skills in the Advanced Placement Classroom:
    The Synergy of Screen and Print
    Dr. Renee H. Shea
  • Relationship
  • AP Language Essays
    Close reading
    Position paper
    Documented essay
  • Essentials of Argument
    Speaker and audience
    Thesis, claim
    Evidence (quantitative, qualitative)
    Ethos, Pathos, Logos
  • Connections
    Documentary as companion argument
    Documentary as anchor text
    Documentary as problematic text
    Documentary as model
  • Documentary as Companion Argument
    Barack Obama’s DNC biography, A Mother’s Promise, and Presidential acceptance speech
  • The Arguments
    A Mother’s Promisehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjF51ALu0sc
    Obama’s Acceptance Speechhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZCrIeRkMhA
  • Obama’s Acceptance Speech
    Via Wordle.net
  • Wordle #1
  • Wordle #2
  • Wordle #3
  • Comparing the Arguments
    Both emphasize the emotional hot buttons of “promise” and “journey” within the context of the history and spirit of America.
    Given the occasion, both appeal primarily to emotion, though the documentary more completely than the speech.
    The documentary focuses on the past (influences that formed Obama), while the speech focuses on the present (“defining moment”) and the future.
    The documentary shows Obama preparing for an important role; the speech shows him stepping into that role.
    The visual elements of the documentary capture Obama’s interracial and working class background, which he builds on in his speech (“Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather…”; “In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom…”).
  • Comparing the Arguments
    The documentary makes the case for Obama as an exemplary son, grandson, husband, father, community member – and thus lays the groundwork for the analogy that governing oneself and one’s family well is necessary to governing the country well (private equals public).
    The calm narrative voice and soundtrack underscore Obama’s thoughtful confidence, which becomes foundation for the firm conviction and resolve conveyed in his speech. He knows who he is – and will act accordingly.
    After the documentary depicts the character of Obama in a positive light, he comes out swinging aggressively against McCain (conceding that McCain served his country valiantly).
    Neither the documentary nor the speech emphasizes facts and figures, but the latter includes more specificity about actions and policy that Obama as president will take.
    Both close with Obama’s commitment to a future where the individual’s fate is inextricably bound to that of the nation – suggesting that we “fight” for one when we fight for the other; however, the speech ends by placing that commitment within a sacred history of both country and faith. (…and the keeper of the flame is…)
  • Documentary as Problematic Text
    Darwin’s Nightmare and Globalization
  • Reviews
    • A.O. Scott Review in New York Times:
    “Mr. Sauper's movie is clearly aimed at the political conscience of Western audiences, and its implicit critique of some of our assumptions about the shape and direction of the global economy deserves to be taken seriously. But its reach extends far beyond questions of policy and political economy, and it turns the fugitive, mundane facts that are any documentary's raw materials into the stuff of tragedy and prophecy.”
    • http://www.darwinsnightmare.com/reviews.htm
  • Reviews
    • Review by Chris Knipp in FilmLeaf
    “… Sauper, who is of Austrian origin, has not claimed to be objective. He responded after Garçon's attack by saying that he is "not a journalist but a filmmaker." In Le Monde he was quoted as saying, "I did not go out to show Africa as it is, but as I see it. All the films of the world are like that. Not a film in the world can say that it is objective; that's the nature of the medium.”
    • http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=2051
  • Reviews
    Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes
  • A Scientist’s Letter
    Les Kaufmann: A Scientist’s Letter on the Veracity of the Film, “Darwin’s Nightmare”
  • Video Interview
  • Campaign Against Darwin’s Nightmare
  • Community Learning Project
    • From James Roth, Regis University
    Organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund hail the Nile Perch as the economic salvation of Tanzania. Do some research of your own to find out what types of initiatives the World Bank and the IMF have funded at Lake Victoria and explore to what degree you feel they’ve aided the economic development of Tanzania. Examine how this so-called ‘economic development’ has affected Tanzania. How has the drive for economic development in Tanzania complemented or killed environmental development?
    • http://academic.regis.edu/jroth/Darwin's%20Nightmare%20C-B%20Learning.doc
  • Student Video Review
    • http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Nightmare-Hubert-Sauper/product-reviews/B000O78646/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_helpful?ie=UTF8&coliid=&showViewpoints=1&colid=&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending
  • “Eat food. Not too much.
    Mostly plants”
    ~ Michael Pollan
    Documentary as Anchor Text
    Food, Inc.
    Opening June 19
  • Call for Activism
  • Reviews
    “Eating can be one dangerous business. Don't take another bite till you see Robert Kenner's Food, Inc., an essential, indelible documentary that is scarier than anything in the last five Saw horror shows. Decepticons have nothing on ears of corn when it comes to transforming into mutant killers. Kenner keeps his film bouncing with humor, music and graphics. Just like the ads that shove junk food down our faces. The message he's delivering with the help of nutrition activists, including Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma), is an eye-opener. High-fructose corn syrup and its friend the E.coli virus are declaring war on national health, and federal agencies, lobbied by Big Agriculture, ain't doing a thing to stop it. Reason? Profits. The movie offers solid alternatives. If the way to an audience's heart is through its stomach, Food, Inc. is a movie you're going to love.”
    • Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
  • Reviews
    “It’s the documentary equivalent of The Matrix: It shows us how we’re living in a simulacrum, fed by machines run by larger machines with names like Monsanto, Perdue, Tyson, and the handful of other corporations that make everything.”
    David Edelstein, New York Magazine
  • Suggested Texts in Print
    • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (who is a co-producer)
    • In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (who plays a key role)
    • “Farmer in Chief” by M. Pollan (letter to President-Elect Obama: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12policy-t.html
    • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
    • “The Green Bubble: Why Environmentalism Keeps Imploding” by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenbergerhttp://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=6cd5578a-85ab-4627-b793-680ea8d44c7
  • Questions?
    Renee H. Shea