Tuesday, September 15

Day 7 (Tuesday, September 15th)

Lesson Objectives

Students will apply their growing understanding of rhetorical situation to critically viewing and discussing more complex articles


Today’ class will have a heavy focus on the rhetorical situation. Your prep should include re-viewing and annotating the film, “The Story of Stuff.”  Although you won’t be discussing the article “A Cautionary Video of America’s Stuff,” you should still review this to learn as much as you can about the context of the film.  The reading for today has a lot of ideas about rhetorical situations, though often different language is used. On top of reading, “Another Word for Doom,” you might review the rhetorical situation making connections to the language used in the article.



Students have read and watched more pieces on the rhetoric of green—“Another Word for Doom” and “The Story of Stuff.”   They’ve practiced critical reading some more, doing a double entry log and/or a critical re-reading guide.  In order to fully explore both texts, discuss them in class one at a time.


Attendance and introduction (2-3 minutes)

Take attendance and introduce class as usual.

Conduct a reading quiz or assign a WTL (8-10 minutes)

Develop questions or prompts, like the ones below, that focus on the article’s purpose and that call for critical thinking as well.  Have students review their homework to “nail down” the article’s purpose.

1) According to the article, studies by EcoAmerica show that words like “global warming,” “cap and trade,” and “carbon dioxide” make people feel how?

2) What does the firm EcoAmerica advise leaders to do with the above words?

3) What does the article mean by a “frames and nudges” approach?

4) Who embraces this approach and who warns against it?

Conduct a general discussion of the homework (3-5 minutes)

Ask for reactions to “Another Word for Doom.”  Having read the piece critically, students should have more to say than “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.”  They can talk about the ways in which it appealed to them (or not) and the questions it raised for them.  Or ask which panelist was the most different in their thinking. 

You might review the rhetorical situation and ask for the class to make some general connections between the article’s purpose and our purpose in studying rhetoric. Ask the class how the issue of framing language and concepts for specific audiences relates to our study of the rhetorical situation?

Check in with students about the critical reading work—be sure they understand that they need to turn in one double-entry log and one critical reading guide (this includes the rhetorical situation movie guides) with their Assignment 2 process work.  Now that students have had a chance to practice both, they can discuss which they prefer, and why.

Group Activity for “Another Word for Doom,” (20-25 Minutes)

Remember to work actively in groups, helping to clarify directions, getting students to question the material, and offering insights when appropriate.

Group Activity Instructions:

Take out your annotated copy of the article and your critical reading strategy notes (probably the double-entry log) for “Is There Another Word for Doom?” We will break into six groups of 3-4 people. Each group will analyze and discuss one of the panel members from the article. With your group members, answer the following questions. Finally, each group will lead the class in a discussion of their panel member.

Group 1: Panelist Michael E. Mann

1) What is this panelist’s expertise and why does he belong in the conversation?

2) Mann says that communicating science to the public is a great challenge. Do you agree? If so, why is it so challenging?

3) Mann says the most effective tool for meeting the challenge of conveying science to the public is effective language choice? Do you agree? Do you think that most scientists have the skills to make effective language choices?

4) Mann says that many special interest groups “judge themselves to be threatened by the implications of the scientific findings” and so they engage in “intentional disinformation efforts,” while scientists have to “play by the rules,” and maintain their integrity. Do you agree with Mann on this point? Can you brainstorm some of the threats that these groups may see science presenting?

5) Mann gives an example of a rhetorical choice he made in the title of his book. How, if at all, is that different than intentional disinformation?

6) The panelists offered up some language that they wish to see thrown into the “compost pile.” As a group, come up with your own words and phrases within the rhetoric of green which you would like to see disappear.

Group 2: Panelist Ann Kinzig

1) What is this panelist’s expertise and why does she belong in the conversation?

2) Kinzig works as a professor at Arizona State University. Keeping the rhetoric of green in mind, do you notice anything of note about the name of her department?

3) Kinzig believes sloganeering is okay. What reasons does she give for this? Do you agree with these reasons?

4) Kinzig mentions a possible, “deep-seated cynicism about the nature of civic discourse.” Contemplate what she means by this. Can you come up with examples of what she’s referring to?

5) Though she is a scientist, Kinzig is very open about criticizing certain values of the scientific community. Summarize her criticism and explain how she proposes to overcome the shortcomings of her discipline.

6) Create a list of green rhetoric slogans that have infiltrated our public discourse (Ex: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.)

Group 3: Panelist Clark A. Miller

1) What is this panelist’s expertise and why does he belong in the conversation?

2) Miller suggests two competing models of framing. He rejects one and embraces another. Do you accept or reject either of these models? Does another model exist?

3) Miller says that, “Both models recognize that humans structure their understanding of policy through narrative and story.” We’ve been asking the question, what is the rhetoric of green? But what if we replaced rhetoric with story, asking, what is the story of green? Does green have a story? Come up with one.

4) Miller proposes that the challenges facing humanity are more complex than choosing whether to buy Tide or Cheer. Do you think there is a problem in conveying complexity to the public? Can you think of examples of complexity being reduced to laundry detergent choices?

5) In this class we consider the rhetorical situation, which includes considering multiple perspectives of on an issue. Some propose that hearing from multiple perspectives causes overall confusion, but Miller says in his own phrasing that “multiple frames enhance understanding and improve the ability to reach diverse audiences.” What do you think?

6) The panelists offered up some language that they wish to see thrown throw into the “compost pile.” As a group, come up with your own words and phrases within the rhetoric of green which you would like to see disappear.

Group 4: Panelist Gavin Schmidt

1) Schmidt says that the problem worse than misunderstanding scientific jargon is the inaccuracy of the overall picture. What does he mean by this? Any examples he provides? What about your own?

2) What does Schmidt think causes complacency and fatalism and how does he suggest we avoid these extremes?

3) Schmidt says that obviously framed language causes science to appear as if it is selling something? What are the dangers of this implication? Any examples of science appearing to sell something?

4) Consider what we’ve learned so far about the rhetorical situation. How does Schmidt consider some of the same aspects of the rhetorical situation that we consider? Does he use the same language we do? Similar language? Or different language altogether?

5) Explain what Schmidt means by a forced binary separation and why he warns against it.

6) The panelists offered up some language that they wish to see thrown throw into the “compost pile.” As a group, come up with your own words and phrases within the rhetoric of green which you would like to see disappear.

Group 5: Panelist Robert Henson

1) Henson is critical of “save the world.” What explanation does he give for his reservations here? Where have we seen this rhetoric so far this semester?

2) He says that this type of rhetoric is no different than that used by fundamentalist religions. What does he mean here? Any examples?

3) Henson distinguishes between rhetoric that preaches and rhetoric that motivates. Which do you prefer? When would each of these choices be appropriate?

4) Henson also distinguishes between a vivid tangible threat and future threats. Why don’t these pack the same punch and what could rhetoricians do differently to get people to take future threats differently?

5) Why would climate scientists and conservative pollsters agree on the same rhetorical choice, though for different reasons?

6) The panelists offered up some language that they wish to see thrown throw into the “compost pile.” As a group, come up with your own words and phrases within the rhetoric of green which you would like to see disappear.

Group 6: Panelist Matthew Nisbet

1) Nisbet says there is no such thing as unframed information. What does he mean by this? Do you agree or disagree?

2) Consider Nisbet’s definition of frames. How is this similar to the rhetorical situation that we have been studying? Is the difference more than semantics?

3) Nisbet says that not every citizen cares about disastrous environmental impacts. Why would this be? Can rhetoric change this?

4) What is Nisbet talking about when he says we must get beyond polarization? How should we go about doing that?

5) Do you ever feel marketed to by science and/or environmentalism? What effect does this have on you? How is it different than being marketed to by your favorite beverage?

6) The panelists offered up some language that they wish to see thrown throw into the “compost pile.” As a group, come up with your own words and phrases within the rhetoric of green which you would like to see disappear.

Group-Led Discussion Summaries (10-15 Minutes)

Finish today’s class by having group’s summarize their answers to the questions and discussion points for the rest of the class.  The discussion points should include how these panelists could “talk” to each other.  In other words, how does each panelist’s ideas engage with one another.  What are some points of similarity?  What are some points of contrast?  At times the ends are the same, but the means are different…what are some of the different means to the same end?

WTL Movie Review (5-10 minutes)

With blogging growing in popularity, these days anyone can go out to the movies, come home, and become an  “influential” critic on Twitter, Facebook, etc…  Let’s write a movie review keeping in mind a specific rhetorical situation.  In this case, you are the reviewer and you are writing to an audience of educators who are thinking of using the movie “The Story of Stuff” in their lesson plans.

Prompt:  Educators should/shouldn’t use Annie Leonard’s movie, “The Story of Stuff,” because…

Ask students to provide specific reasons and details from the movie so you can collect the WTL and hold them accountable for the homework.

Break into Small Group Discussions (20-30 minutes)

In five or six small groups, ask students to consider “The Story of Stuff.”  Ask them to find aspects of this text which connects in some way to earlier readings from the semester (Quinn, Hawken, Montengro’s panel, etc…).  For example, is a rhetoric of doom emerging within the rhetoric of green?  How about a rhetoric of hope?  Which is louder?

The Rhetoric of Green…for children?

The movie brings up the question of how the rhetoric of green is being framed for children.


Frame of Reference

What is Annie Leonard’s background and expertise?  In other words, what is her frame of reference?


Synthesizing Rhetoric

At this point we’ve read enough texts to begin identifying certain common themes within the rhetoric of green. Consider all of the reading we’ve done so far. Can you begin making concrete connections between ideas in the different texts?

Give students about 10 minutes or so to discuss and jot down answers to the questions, and then ask each group to present their findings, or have a whole class discussion to which each group contributes.  Have someone in the group save their notes as this discussion will expand on Thursday when you enter into the discussion of Leslie Kaufman’s article “A Cautionary Video of America’s Stuff.”

Assign homework and conclude class (o-3 minutes)

Connection to Next Class

Today, students have been thinking about what they read rhetorically, which they’ll need to do as they write their next assignment.  Thursday’s class will focus on how texts engage with one another. Dealing with multiple texts, and synthesizing information from them will be an important component of Assignment 2, so be sure to remind students to make their own connections, like when Henson discusses his dislike of “save the world rhetoric,” which we saw in week one with Quinn’s article. The next class will help them to narrow these connections as students will learn how to identify issues within topics.