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PWR 1JE: Exploring Voices: Race, Language, and Society

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Do you have a favorite television show? Are you a sports enthusiast? Do you engage in long debates with your friends? Do you consider yourself a social butterfly? Do you listen to music for hours at a time? Believe it or not, all of these questions deal with voices. As members of society, we communicate voice through physical, social, and metaphorical means. We use voice for language production and information seeking. We use voice for social interactions between individuals and groups. We even use voice for identity formation and personal development. Our voices are abundant and vibrant! Our voices are also largely shaped by our racial and socio-cultural realities. The neighborhood you grow up in, the people who raise you, and the school you attend can all be major contributors to your voice. Considering the richness of how we develop our voices, what is the power of voice? How have our voices been utilized, amplified, and/or muted within U.S. society? How can we learn ways to increase the effectiveness of our voices in our engagements with each other, whether in school or in our communities?

To explore these questions, we will discuss Paulo Freire’s banking model concept to address historical education practices and their impact on students’ voices. We will review excerpts from Toni Morrison’s (1993) Nobel Prize in Literature speech about embedded systems of language and culture that shape society and Arthur Spears’ (1999) edited text on race and ideology in connection to language, symbolism, and popular culture. We will discuss issues of personal and career identities through educators who critically capture the experiences of students in their pursuits toward personal growth and societal transformation within communities. This work will help foster critical dialogue about 1.) the identification of voice, 2.) the communication of voice, and 3.) the application of writing to expand levels of communication.

In your own research for this class, you might explore the impact of voice on our daily interactions, the various constructed systems (i.e., social, cultural, historical, and political) that inform our voices, and/or the mattering of voice in an ever-changing society. For example, how does voice play a role in who we see as prominent leaders? How does a star athlete respond to “shut up and dribble?” How does a motivational speaker use their voice to inspire millions of people daily? Our focus on voice in class will help students reflect on their own voices and advance their communicative styles as writers.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) This assignment asks you to listen in on a recorded conversation and analyze how a particular voice functions rhetorically in an argument.

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) As an introduction to library research, this assignment asks you to select a topic of your choice and explore existing conversations within the specified area.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages): This assignment asks you to produce an argument that highlights various research topics around voice. As you create your argument, consider the identification of voice, the communication of voice in different contexts, and the role of race, language, and society on voice.