[I read this aloud in my English 11 class this morning. It’s a first-year writing class focused on literature related to immigration. Alongside conventional analytical essays I have given students the option on occasion to do personal essays that connect the readings in class to their own families’ experiences of immigration. This morning I decided to present my own version of one such paper.]
As you all undoubtedly have heard, the African American oriented dorm on campus, Umoja House, was vandalized Wednesday morning with eggs and the N-word spray painted nearby. As of this writing (Thursday 11/7) we don’t know anything about who did it. Still, that event and the conversations that have emerged from it on campus made me realize it was time for me to do my own version of the personal essays I’ve been encouraging you to write on occasion in this class.
Today, then, I want to talk a little about my own experience with ethnic slurs. As you know I am a Sikh, with family from India. I wear a turban and full beard as part of the custom for Sikh men. All of the adult men in my family have worn turbans, going back many generations. Given what has happened on campus this week, I want to talk a little about the damage that can come from ethnic slurs – but also about the strange and sometimes paradoxical thinking that leads to them uttered in the first place. I will use some personal experiences I have had as examples, but my goal is to use those examples in connection with some general ideas about ethnic and racial slurs on a college campus.
So then, it’s a new academic program straight outta Duke University: “Write(H)ers,” which will, according to the Duke Chronicle, “create a community of feminist-oriented writers,” by, you know, teaching women how to blog. Specifically—direct quote—”The 23 members of the program will participate in personal blogging.” This new program is officially sponsored by the Women’s Center at Duke University, a school with a tuition of $43,623 per year.
As strong supporters of feminist-oriented writers and bloggers, let us be very clear: this is a total fucking scam. (Source)
Whenever you want to make something unconventional at an elite university sound ridiculous, all you have to do is bring up the tuition. Sex week at Yale? They pay $45,000 a year for that? Just about anything college students might do at any such expensive institution could be made to sound ridiculous with that sticker price. Invoking tuition is, in short, an easy rhetorical move (a bit cheap).
Once you get past the tuition shock, the reason Nolan gives for claiming that the new “Write(H)ers” program is a scam? You can also learn how to write online for free — just by doing it:
The finest bloggers, meaning the finest writers who happen to write primarily online, got good, like every other writer, by reading, and writing. These things—particularly the writing part—can be accomplished for free, without ever paying a penny to Duke or any other university, and without filling out an application form to an academic program. I hear Tumblr.com works well. Contributing “three blog posts over the course of the semester” is not going to help you. Sorry.
It so happens that this spring I am teaching a course called "Writing for the Internet." It is a writing course, and blogging is a major component of what I have been asking my students to do. The platform are using is Tumblr. It actually does work well. You can see what my students are blogging by starting here. We’ve used Tumblr’s Dashboard / social media design to create a “blog circle” — where everyone in the course follows everyone else.