Below is an outline of scaffolding, a result of reverse-engineering, to assist students in gaining insight into a tool that may be used by oppressors. Leaving room for doubt, I allow them to read newspapers and magazines and online social media more closely to find evidence one way or another. Though often the essay author’s definition is qualified by many students, the student writing becomes one of persuasion, applying concepts, and using evidence from the world around them. My approach leans on Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Peter Elbow’s Embracing Contraries. The strategy assumes that it is the first paper of the semester.
Two notes are worth my mentioning. 1) The instructor must find a topic and essay that interests him/her, perhaps one that is brand new to him/her so that s/he might learn something from the students or at least allow the students feel authentic interest, even excitement from the instructor. I have been interested and using the theme of oppression for several years, beginning from different points of view and ending up in a different places most of the time. I have returned to an old short essay for this example. 2) The students use journals for thinking and some drafting (homework and classwork). The journals can be on laptops on spiral-bound notebooks. A full explanation of the journal strategy can be found in Appendix C.
1. I assign for homework Marilyn Frye’s three-page essay “Oppression” asking students to read the short essay asking the males in the class to read the essay with a believing attitude and to make a list of the points in the essay with which believing was easy. (The template in Appendix A explains the strategy.) I ask the women in the class to read the essay with a doubting attitude and to make a list of the points in the essay with which doubting was easy. When class begins, I ask for lists to be read: Two from males and two from female students. I use these class readings to open discussion. After discussion, I assign small group work to consolidate the believers’ and doubters’ lines of argument. However, males may join the women and women may join the men if they find it easier to align with believer or doubter. My hope there is to establish a general belief from the class and to qualify it (and not necessarily discount Frye’s assertion). I am looking for acknowledgement that other oppressed groups also suffer double binds.
2.In small groups (usually threes), students are asked to draw a bird cage where each bar that runs over the top is designated as a double bind that women suffer. I push them to come up with at least four bars (double binds). (It is always interesting to see males and females in groups separate or mixed wrestle with the project.) Later, I ask one or two groups to draw the bird cage on the board. After discussion about women’s issues and gender issues in general, we look to see what other marginalized groups suffer double binds. Each student must come up with three or four bars to the double-binds cages. For homework they must identify and document evidence of each of the double binds in their cage (or list) in the news or magazines, and social media.
When they return to class with their pieces of evidence, they work in small groups to share what each has found and discuss how each is evidence. As a class, we analyze some of the evidence so that it may stand on its own as evidence when they are asked to write a paper. (Here, pushing against the evidence, I am attempting, and tell them so, to bring greater detail and qualification to their presentation in the paper.) However, I refer to the writing and thinking done so far as chaos, but now for homework ask that students to write one or more thesis statements in their journals. We refresh our memories about what makes a thesis statement so that students don’t simple assert but also outline the arguments that they are planning to bring to bear in support of the assertion. All journal assignments are sent to students in an email also.