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The crowd is silent. The only sound is her voice belting these words, her hand tapping against her hip, the sounds of affirmation, “Yes! Amen! Mmhmm,” from the crowd. Elaine Richardson’s rendition of Marvin Sapp’s inspirational gospel song “Never Would Have Made It” makes us all witnessing her performance reflect on those raw moments where only grace could comfort our deepest shame, and only love could begin to ease our pains. Both her performance and the words of her fellow presenter, Rhonda DeShields, reinforce the power of stories, particularly their ability to heal, inspire, and teach.
In their 2014 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) session titled “The Shame Tree Dead” both Richardson and DeShields demonstrated how their experiences—both from books and on blocks—from pimps and professors—through graduate degrees and drugs addictions—contributed to their current understanding of the meanings of literacy. Richardson specifically brought up the concept of shame, and how many stories—particularly those stories that point to low or failure moments—are often cloaked in feelings of worthlessness, inferiority, and exposure. While listening to DeShields talk about the tension between her and her father, which was a catalyst for her struggles with alcoholism, and Richardson share an excerpt from her book, PHD to PhD, about leaving the streets of prostitution to return to school at Cleveland State, I reflect on my own stories of shame—struggles with anxiety and depression—and how they have contributed to my own knowledge and learning experiences. Although stories of shame can be hard to face, what these speakers taught was that moments of shame don’t have to be debilitating; treating these truths as vital contributors to our life literacies can help us ‘kill shame dead’, while providing ourselves tools (new literacies) for coping with the stigmas, pressures, and “cockeyes” fixed on our pasts.I’m stronger I’m wiser I’m better, much better
For those who were unable to attend this emotional and empowering session, I would say that these women bridged worlds, emphasizing the overlap of writing classrooms and street corners, #2 pencils and daisy dukes, literacy and survival. Perhaps this session could be a valuable reference when thinking about our own teaching philosophies and understandings of literacy, particularly how these scholars used their stories to embody what it means to “value outside knowledge/the knowledge students bring with them,” as opposed to simply talking about it. This session reminded me that life is composed of literacies that cannot be confined to words, books, or these academic walls.
I made it.
Ronisha Browdy is a WRAC PhD student interested in the literacy, rhetorical, and everyday practices of Black women. Through a womanist lens, she approach her work as an opportunity to explore, discover, and share stories about (and for) Black women’s experiences. Her current work focuses on Black female centered reality TV and its use by and influences on Black women viewers. Follow her on Twitter_ @RonishaBrowdy
We would like to formally congratulate WRAC’s very own, John Monberg, for winning the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Award for Innovation and Leadership in Teaching and Learning! Monberg is an Assistant Professor in the WRAC Department who has shown tremendous innovation inside and outside the classroom.
“I’ve worked hard to identify activities that both enrich the educational experiences for students and help to create enduring resources for communities,” Monberg says. “When the complex details of a real community are brought together with the wide variety of skills that students bring in terms of visual design, user experience, video production and writing for specialized audiences, wonderful things happen.”
Jeff Grabill, Chair of the WRAC Department and Professor of Rhetoric and Professional Writing, expresses the challenges of rhetorical education, “How [do we] provide students with compelling ways to learn how to participate as public citizens?” However, Grabill says that Monberg has tackled this question quite well. “He thinks carefully and deeply about the new resources and infrastructures needed for us all to meet the challenges of participating as citizens in a complex, global world.”
Monberg is enthusiastic about the department’s commitment to joining together teaching, technology, and community. “This commitment allows us to understand some of most significant questions our society faces as our world is transformed by changes in technology and culture.”
In regards to Monberg’s leadership in the education world, Grabill says, “I have never seen a colleague engage in such a sustained project of innovative teaching and learning, and it has pleased me a great deal to see the attention his work has received from the larger university community in addition to the accolades from the greater Lansing community.”
“Studies suggest that literally everything causes cancer”
“Are bagels killing your kids?”
“Brain scans reveal that tiny demons are to blame for ADHD”
Everyone wants to write a good headline. A catchy headline drives clicks, ad views, and thus revenue and recognition for the writer. And nothing catches the eye like a well placed scare tactic or hyperbolic generalization. But when it comes to science journalism, misleading writing can be more than a faux-pas; it can be downright dangerous. Miscommunications can propagate quickly, and it can be hard to bring people back around once they get an idea stuck in their head.
Journalists face a tough situation. As a non-expert, it can be hard to accurately understand what is happening in a scientific study. On top of that, results that sound promising at first can turn out to be rather unsensational when studied with a fair, rational eye. But writers have a responsibility to convey this information with accuracy and as little bias as possible. For this, compoundchem.com has created an infographic outlining some of the pitfalls commonly seen in science writing. It’s a great resource for both science writers and science readers alike. Some of these pitfalls are already well-known even among laymen, like the correlation/causation trap, but even if everyone knows of the pirates/global warming fable, it is an easy trap to fall into. Others are more obscure, or harder to avoid when reading casually – how can you tell if results are misinterpreted? Where do you look to find information about sample size? Nonetheless, it’s a writers job to find this information and relay it to the best of their ability.
While you can’t change the way we write and read about science single handedly, just changing your own habits can be a great first step. As a reader, try and keep a healthy balance of skepticism and curiosity, and try to check original sources when possible. As a writer, make sure you follow through on research and value accuracy the same way you value every other part of your writing process. Conscientious readers and writers make the world a better, more informed place.