Phase I: Reading for Critical Inquiry

In the first phase of the course, we're studying the work of journalists who address this question-at-issue: How should we respond to climate change? We have selected readings from several media outlets, including The New York Times and The New Yorker, because the work of these professional writers exemplifies the thorough research, clear communication, and critical thinking we ask our students to strive for. By looking at the strategies used by writers trying to answer a significant question-at-issue as they approach varying rhetorical situations, we hope to demonstrate critical inquiry-in-context that shares values and strategies with academic discourse.

The texts (link will open a Word Document) we've selected engage us in answering a question we must answer as contemporary human beings: How should we respond to climate change?  The writers we'll read and listen to rely on firsthand reporting as well as their reading from several disciplines.  Their texts show us how writers pursue a question-at-issue, synthesize what they learn, and present arguments that respond to the question.  In this way, our readings are examples of a form of discourse highly valued in academic contexts.  By focusing on such texts, we can examine with students how successful writers engage in critical inquiry and communicate the results to critical readers. 

To this end, Phase 1 focuses on close and critical reading.   We'll ask students to read several articles for various purposes, employing a variety of reading strategies.  Our primary goal for this portion of the course is to establish critical reading practices that enable effective inquiry and support an understanding of writing as rhetorical practice.  The writing assignments and class activities are designed to teach such reading practices. 

We start with close reading of texts to practice strategies for accurate comprehension of information and arguments.  For our purposes, close reading will include identifying arguments, clarifying information, and recognizing rhetorical strategies.  We will ask students to read a series of short responses to the International Panel on Climate Change report and three other texts (link will open a Word Document) that suggest responses to impending climate change: "Why Bother?" by Michael Pollan, "Apocalypse Now" by Edward Wilson, and "How Consumers, Businesses and Government Can Fight Climate Change" by Neville Hobson. Our purpose for reading these pieces is to learn how various writers address the question-at-issue how should we respond to climate change?).  To assess students' close reading practices, we will ask them to write summaries of the readings. link to academic summary assignment sheet

After reviewing close reading strategies and discussing various responses to our question, we will continue our inquiry by employing critical reading strategies as we read three longer pieces: "The Power of Green" by Thomas Friedman, "Big Foot" by Michael Specter, and "Whither Wind" by Charles Komanoff.  These articles deepen inquiry into social, cultural, ethical and environmental consequences of climate change and potential responses to it.  As we continue inquiry into our question-at-issue, we want to sharpen critical tools for not only understanding these arguments but also for analyzing, evaluating, and responding to them.  We hope to engage students in examining how some writers present the answers they found to the question through research and critical thinking.  By analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness of others' writing, students can continue inquiry into the question (through making decisions about information and posing further questions).  In addition, students will be introduced to writing as rhetorical practice by examining how these articles address the rhetorical situations in which they were written. We'll assess students' critical reading practices when they write a letter  link to writing a letter assignment sheet to one of the authors that engages that author in a conversation about addressing climate change.