I came across this the other day – the syllabus for a University of Arizona “Honors” English class, English 109H – in fact, the syllabus states:
This is an honors class with work and credit equivalent to a year’s completion of ENGL 101 and 102. Expectations are high.
This is a class for incoming Honors freshmen, straight out of high school.
Shakespeare? Milton? (*shudder*) Conrad?
English 109H: Fall 2017
DAMN, We Will Never Know: Kendrick Lamar’s and Kiese Laymon’s Hip Hop Literacies
Morally, there has been no change at all, and a moral change is the only real one.
On April 14, 2017, twenty-nine year-old Kendrick Lamar, an American hip hop artist known for his pop protest music, released his fourth studio album, DAMN. Four years earlier, thirty-eight year-old Kiese Laymon, an American writer known for his work on Gawker and ESPN, published his series of autobiographical essays on American racism, masculinity, hip hop, and the deep South.
Using Laymon’s essays as a framework, we will study Kendrick Lamar’s body of music to events which boomed his controversy, including #BlackLivesMatter and ongoing police brutalities, especially those publicized by social media. By studying American values connected to what we call blackness and whiteness, we’ll explore conflict, contact, and coalition and ask: How does black American and white American social media allow for critiques of race, gender, sexuality, and violence? What does it mean for a genre of music and its accompanying culture that, by “tradition,” enforces heterosexuality and masculinity—in the name of legal murders?
The goal of this course is to improve your ability to critically think and write. In addition to contextualizing and reshaping the Kendrick Lamar and Kiese Laymon conversations, you will conduct library and field research on your own controversy, which will be integrated into a semester-long project consisting of a research essay, public argument, and literacy narrative. If we can listen and read carefully enough, we can occupy other subjectivities; that is, to say, we can improve our writings and civic lives, which are connected to what happens outside the classroom. We will return to the same question at the end: Can we really act as witness to another voice, even for our studies of language and its adaptations?
Course GoalsGoal 1: Rhetorical Awareness
Learn strategies for analyzing texts’ audiences, purposes, and contexts as a means of developing facility in reading and writing.
Goal 2: Critical Thinking and Composing
Use reading and writing for purposes of critical thinking, research, problem solving, action, and participation in conversations within and across different communities.
Goal 3: Reflection and Revision
Understand composing processes as flexible and collaborative, drawing upon multiple strategies and informed by reflection.
Goal 4: Conventions
Understand conventions as related to purpose, audience, and genre, including such areas as mechanics, usage, citation practices, as well as structure, style, graphics, and design.
- In the first unit of the course, you will study and respond to various contexts according to different rhetorical lenses and write a Contextual Rhetorical Analysis of Public Protest Spaces reframing Black lives politics re-envisioned by music videos from Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. You may defend, depart from, or combine his arguments to develop your own inquiry.
- In the second unit, you will conduct both library and field research on an approved social justice controversy of your choice, which will culminate in an analysis of the issue, or a Rhetorical Analysis of a Controversy. An Annotated Bibliography, due before the big Essay 2, will complete the “Research Portfolio.” You will closely study U.S. state or Supreme court cases to develop your controversies.
- In the third unit, you will use this research to support an argument of public interest, called a Public Argument. You will create a video catered to a mobilized audience and present it to the class.
- For the final “exam,” you will write and curate your own literacy narrative, which you will publish on a class blog. The final project is semester-long and we will NOT spend time in class on it other than one session per month; you are expected to develop, collect, and write your materials throughout the course. Please start early and utilize the class resources and office hours.
- In addition to these larger projects, you will complete a series of in-class and out-of-class smaller assignments which build into the four major assignments. Homework (readings, journals, smaller pre-essay assignments and discussions), workshops, and participation are often the decisive suasion points for borderline grades. Do the work, come to class ready and willing to discuss and participate, and you will see that reflected in what you earn.
I’m not going to go through the rest of it, but here’s an example of Kendrick Lamar’s art from his album DAMN:
I’m reminded of this national championship debate performance.
Kiese Laymon’s collection of essays How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is a required textbook.
At least there’s a textbook. The title essay is still available at Gawker. It’s prose, but I’m unconvinced that what’s being taught in this class is “critical thinking” or “structure, style, graphics and design.” And since when is the purpose of an English class “problem solving, action, and participation in conversations within and across different communities”?
Oh, and remember we’re paying (a lot) for our kids to go to college for this.
The professor? Sylvia Chan.
The Long March through the Institutions has been completed for a long, long time.
Oh, and read this QotD too. It’s pertinent.
Edited to add this I found at a linking site: