Student: Mrs. H, I don’t get it. Can you explain that?
He also had a link to a blog that was an open letter to white evangelicals. A few students piped up and said, “Oh, I read that. It’s actually pretty good!” I took a gander during lunchtime; now with a title like “White Evangelicals, This is Why People are Through with You,” I wasn’t terribly surprised at the furthering of shaming, identity politics, and overgeneralized hatred the letter contained. There were some truths in it but the message was obscured by the belligerent style.
When I saw those girls again, I had them SOAPSTone the text like we do with other texts in AP. SOAPSTone stands for Speaker-Occasion-Audience-Purpose-Subject-Tone. I asked who the audience was – was it actually white evangelicals (whoever that group actually entails)? If I considered myself a white evangelical – and I’m guessing the author would consider me to be so, even if I didn’t – would I read this and say, “Oh my goodness, you are so right”? Of course not. The audience is readers of his blog who think like he does. It’s another example of how rhetoric can shut down discussion rather than promote it, as well as the echo chamber concept my students are just now beginning to understand.
The most fascinating part of this conversation was how my student admitted, “Well, I had thought it was good when I read it the first time, but when I saw that that guy had posted it, and he seemed like a nutjob, I realized maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought…”
I know if I ever return to public school teaching I will have to revamp my teaching methods substantially, but every time I see lightbulbs go on in my kids’ eyes, and they see deeper into a part of their world they’ve never considered, and heck, they actually THINK before the post? That’s a win in my book.
Bye bye. <—AP English inside joke for the rest of the year.