Academic Journal Assignment

In terms of articles/journals that I would like to imitate, I really like the methodological rigor of “Sentences in Harry Potter, Students in Future Writing Classes” from Rhetoric Review. It’s extraordinarily detailed when it comes to its sentence-level descriptions of Rowling’s prose, but it’s also very clear and direct as a text, which I admire. I also like how the author balances his first-person account of reading the books to his children with his thoroughly academic analysis of Rowling’s writing style.

I would also like to imitate the treatment of context in “Harry Potter in the Gulf: Contemporary Islam and the Occult” from The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, the analysis of “Taking Time: Harry Potter as a Context for Interdisciplinary Studies” from The English Journal, as well as “What American Schools can learn from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” and “Harry Potter’s Provocative Moral World: Is there a Place for Good and Evil in Moral Education” from The Phi Delta Kappan.

I want to avoid the blatant opacity of articles like “‘Kidlit’ as ‘Law-and-Lit:’ Harry Potter and the Scales of Justice” from Law and Literature, the too personal accounts of “Harry Potter and Other Evils, or How to Read from the Right” from The Personalist Forum and “Harry’s Girls: Harry Potter and the Discourse of Gender” from the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, the journalistic style of “The Power of Harry: The Impact of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter Books on Young Readers” from World Literature Today and finally, the non-Englishness of “Harry Potter: les raisons d’un succes”


The main idea of my article will be that young people should read Potter (or, alternatively, that Harry Potter should be taught in schools) because it teaches them good life lessons (be skeptical of authority, use your education as a means to knowledge, rather than as an end in itself, etc.). If that’s too general, I’ll just pick one of those factors (probably “be skeptical of authority”).

Blogs I want to imitate:

The dry, sarcastic wit of “Stuff White People Like” and “Everything is terrible”

The command of Harry Potter knowledge demonstrated by “the leaky cauldron,” “mugglenet” and “beyond Hogwarts”

Blogs whose style I’d like to avoid:

Really anything that tries to take itself too seriously, or sees itself as accomplishing the worthwhile task of informing the general public. I include “the huffington post,” “the drudge report,” “politico,” “burnt orange report” and “dailykos” in this category.

When you use this kind of logic:

Rhetorical fallacies are necessary in ‘politics’

'Politics' is necessary to the functioning of a state

(with the implied assumption that you want the state to continue functioning)

Therefore, the use of rhetorical fallacies is justified as a necessary evil (because it sustains politics, which sustains the state)

without defining what ‘politics’ means (is it bureaucracy, the administration of the modern state, the current political system, the less savory aspects of government in general?) and without qualifying the use of rhetorical fallacies, you legitimize using fallacies as a deliberate attempt to mislead the public whenever you deem it necessary (which is arbitrary).

You make it OK to exercise despotic power, to lie to the public, and to shut down public discourse in general.


Can I just say that, as a former english major who still has an intense love of writing and reading, I find fallacies in literature to be apalling… but as a current government major I would be shocked if at least 5 aren’t used in every ten minute political speech? The world of politics could not…

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So you’re using the absolute clusterfuck that was the Vietnam war as an example of a moment in United States history when the use of rhetorical fallacies on the part of politicians was justified?

Containment didn’t really work either, did it? After all, Vietnam fell to the communists without leading to the domino-effect predicted by the State department.

I think this is an interesting issue though; I wish we were taught more about the actual effectiveness of rhetorical fallacies, rather than just their ethical content.


Actually, there is a very important use for fallacy in politics. In general, a person can be intelligent. But en masse? People become hysterical and deaf to all logic, not to mention that the average person honestly has no conept of the intricacies of politics. Take the Vietnam War for example. Throughout the war, the presidential adminstrations on both party sides used rhetorical fallacies in order to boost the American spirit. Reports given to citizens, to soldiers, even to fellow politicians were overly optimistic in their recountings. This wasn’t to scare or browbeat anyone, or even to manipulate them into doing something they otherwise wouldn’t. It was to keep Americans from becoming depressed. The soldiers especially needed encouragement to keep their spirits up. Depression is a death sentence in war. Another example where rhetorical fallacies were used by admistrations for the betterment of society was the period of the Cold War. Despite what the general population believes even to this day, the Cold War was not an attack on communism and the American mission was not to eradicate communism from the world. The mission was to stop the expansion of communism. Any country that was communist by the end of WWII would be left to their own devices, but the U.S. was adamant about not “losing” anymore countries to communism for reasons that had nothing to do with communism in itself but everything to do with the Soviet Union. The goal of the U.S. government was to maintain a balance of power between capitalism and communism, between the United States and the Soviet Union. But it had to be simplified for the masses because they wouldn’t have understood it as a collective. This is why the negotiations between the U.S. and China during the Nixon admistration had to be kept so secret, even from others within the State and Defense departments. If word had gotten out that we were negotiating with communists it would have confused the American people because they thought we were anti-communism when the reality was that we were anti-Soviet Union. So yes, fallacies are extremely necessary devices in politics that should definitely be used in certain situations. Just because something can be used for ill doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still be used for betterment.

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Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it

So I wrote this before I realized that it probably fell under the tagline of environmentalism…I still think it could work though. After all, one of it’s major arguments is that culling seals actually makes the ecology of the arctic more stable and diverse.

Plus I just love my working title…

Three Words: Clubbing Seals Rocks

For my persuasion paper I’d like to argue for the continued practice and legitimacy of seal hunting. I’ll admit that, at first, the desire to write this paper was borne mostly out of a desire to be contrary and take what I perceived to be the minority view in an extremely polarizing issue. But upon further investigation I discovered that there is actually a very interesting case to be made for seal hunting. In fact, most of the arguments for its discontinuation are based solely on emotional appeals, while arguments for its continued practice can marshal a host of quantitative data asserting the ecological and scientific validity of the process. As such, I think it will be an interesting case study in dousing inflamed passions and attempting to change the tone of an entire discourse.

My audience would ideally be a cross-section of the American population with no especially strong feelings against seal hunting other than the general distaste common to most Americans, who are simultaneously not so already involved in the debate that they are unwilling (or unable) to be persuaded on the matter. I think, therefore, that any general interest magazine or newspaper outside of something like the Sierra Club would suit my purposes. Although the audience of, say, The New York Times, is generally white, rich and liberal enough to probably be considered an audience hostile to my intentions, the newspaper has such a large reputation as being for those cool-headed intellects who listen to reason that any appeal I make that uses quantitative (or really any kind of dry) argumentation will flatter their sensibilities (and, in a similar vein, their conceptions of themselves as reasonable people) enough to be heard.

My argument will be the polar opposite of the sensational, gut-wrenching appeals commonly arrayed against the practice of seal hunting. It will use quantitative data collected by the various regulatory bodies found in those countries where seal hunting occurs to assert the ecological soundness of seal hunting (not only because Harp Seals – which are the species most commonly hunted – are thriving, but also because culling the Harp seal population actually ensures the stability of the cod population) as well as expert testimonies by veterinarians dispelling the idea that the practice is somehow cruel or painful (the hakapik, which looks like a pick-axe, is actually one of the most humane means available of killing seals). In addition, I’ll probably assert the cultural heritage of the practice as a rite of passage for the Inuit peoples for the last 4,000 years, in an attempt to tap into that vast reservoir of white guilt probably common to most readers of the The New York Times.

Ideally, since I’m writing an article for a newspaper that would never publish it, I could still maintain my credentials as those belonging to someone who is unfit to be published. Or even go one step further and say that I’m the John Muir Chair for the Study of Conservation and Saving Photogenic Baby Animals at the Columbia school of Life Sciences. Barring that, I’ll just have to demonstrate my worth via my sound, reasoned argumentation and a handsome photo of myself as the featured columnist of the issue – looking like an idealistic, bright eyed youth would definitely help my case.

In terms of context I’m not sure what else could be included. No prominent condemnations of seal hunting have made it into the news of late. There hasn’t even really been a substantial discussion of the issue outside of a few specialized circles of conservationists and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries bureaucrats. Images of brutal hunters clubbing dazed-looking seals pop up every once in a while, and the issue of clubbing baby seals comes up fairly often as shorthand for evil (See Foley’s description for this assignment), but outside of that there hasn’t been much debate serious about the practice.

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What’s funny is that this scam actually goes back to the Middle Ages, where it was called the ‘Spanish Prisoner.’ Con artists would approach someone, saying that their Christian liege lord had been taken captive by some Muslim warrior. If the mark would only contribute to the ransom, he could expect a sizable reward upon the lord’s release.

It’s actually pretty effective. Once you get someone to donate a small amount of money they’ll keep giving because they won’t want to admit that they’ve been swindled. It works especially well on people who don’t think they can be conned.


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Anti-Terrorist And Monitory Crime Division.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation.
J.Edgar.Hoover Building Washington Dc
Service Hours / Monday To Saturday
Office Hours Monday To Saturday:

Dear Beneficiary,

Series of meetings have been held over…

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Although we covered the mechanics of clarity extensively in class, I feel like that kind of a lesson has its limits. As much as you try to internalize all of the prescriptions (avoiding passive voice, unnecessary prepositions, etc.), it’s difficult to remain conscious of those suggestions during the actual writing process. Of course, I suppose it doesn’t matter that much as most of the work put into making a paper clearer comes during revision.

I think, however, that the primary enemy of clarity is not poor style, but rather a poor understanding of the subject at hand. Writers often commit ‘clarity errors’ because they are acting out they’re own confusion. Agency confusion often occurs, for example, when the author does not know the circumstances of an action (In other words, you write “______ occurred” because you don’t want to disentangle some complicated causal chain).

So it’s true that some of the errors we witnessed in class came about because of an incorrect knowledge of style, structure, etc. But many of the errors also occurred probably because the author just sat down and started writing, without asking themselves what the purpose of the paper (or even each paragraph) was, or exactly what kind of argument it was that they wanted to make, or how.


 I agree that grammatical rules should be examined and that they should be open to other peoples forms of communication and not automatically counting what they have to say is “wrong” when they are in a academic setting. The education system in the U.S. makes “perfect” English the norm and implies that it is the the right thing. So, I understand that all dialects are not equally valid now, because it doesn’t get the same reward in grades as the typical English paper does.

It should be that because your dialect says a lot about your origins, as well as your socioeconomic background, that people will accept words or phrases into papers, mainly because it is an acknowledgement of diversity in American institutions. My point is that the idea of uplifting the wealthy and the power of European Americans is directly included in to our education system and that anyone that shows part of their culture is deemed an outsider and therefore not successful. The fact that those who think that standard English should be the end-all-be-all is actually hurting themselves because they are going to be behind the rest of the world, who are at his moment teaching their kids the culture and dialects of other people, and this is celebrated. The way things operate in America is result of our self centered ignorance that everyone wants things to be the way that we have it, and if they don’t then something is wrong with them; they become dangerous. I think that someone who is applying for a job at acmpany that may have a branch in West Africa, and has moderate qualifications for the job, but puts on his resume that he can recognized and understand some West African slang of references, and that he can connect on a personal level with West African residents, he will get the job before someone who is a specialist in the field, has been bombarded with standard English all of his life.      

I am not saying that all teachers and professors have to learn 20 different languages, but they should not count off for someone referencing their culture. I think that a student in American does have to prove that they are literate and that they have to understand how to make a fluent sentence so that the reader an understand them, but I don’t think that using slang of references should be considers an error. That is apart of who they are and I don’t think that they should have to throw that a way to do a rhetorical analysis. I don’t think that I am sacrificing intelligibility or cohesion because I think that someone can write a paper or poem with cultural slang input into it and still make an important argument that sounds well thought out. People will take it seriously because they will understand that it is from a certain POV and that it is being written with the best interest of that community in mind. “I am organizing a national league for some kind of sport, based upon the results of the local teams that don’t play to their own rules, but play wearing their own protective gear.” In different areas of the country, different things are deemed “important” to the structure of that community. So the system doesn’t have to have a complete breakdown and disintegrate, but becomes more knowledgeable because of its cultural exposure.

I think that it is true that ”a sentence without a verb is incorrect no matter what variety of English you speak”, but when you add that verb and it is in Spanish or has an “a” instead of an -er at the end of it, that is not a mistake of standard English, but a statement to where standard English comes from. It’s doesn’t complicate communication, it makes it multicultural and interesting, instead of just being one thing.

I didn’t say we shouldn’t study grammar, I think we should, while understanding that it has a historical context; not that it is just wrong or right. I think that the student that knows grammar, but includes parts of their own culture into their writing shouldn’t be penalized for it. Opinion is not justified by the fact that incorrectness is merely an expression of regional dialect/identity, but it is what is said to either help of hurt the community that is being represented or how who is saying it fits into their current environment. The opinion is made important because it is apart of a group of papers that represents the status quo and standing out, introduces a new POV, which is always relevant because that is what our country stands for (supposedly)…”your tired, poor…” etc. 

The minority view is not just being trampled on, but it is being forced to be watered down by any means necessary, and not by their own choosing. Anyone that dares to hang on the their culture too closely is looked at as unpatriotic (or illegal), which leads to being criminalized, and used as a threat to scare middle class, whites into thinking that those people are “dangerous”. So changing from a focus of standard English to just Reading and Writing, is not just about understanding and clarity, but is about the impulse not to understand and to make America generic and not diverse.   

I don’t by any means think that the English language should exist as some kind of static entity, trapped in the unforgiving amber of its own arcane set of rules. And I don’t intend to be a cultural imperialist, set on asserting the absolute hegemony of one privileged dialect over all others. The strength of the English language has always been the speed and readiness with which it evolves to incorporate new ideas and ways of thinking.

The concern is not that non-standard dialects will creep into normal, accepted usage – that process is not only irreversible and inevitable it is also a necessary good as it keeps the language alive. The problem with reasoning for the inclusion of non-standard dialects is that it can so easily be used to justify any kind of error as a means of personal self-expression. At the point where individuals, rather than admitting to having made a mistake in the context of whatever standard they were trying to adhere to (be it American standard, creole, Hawaiian pidgin, or any other known variety of English) assert that their incorrect use of punctuation was not a mistake but a cultural advancement of their own idiolect, communication begins to degrade. I understand that this does not, nor should invalidate the argument that academic English should be more receptive to different linguistic cultures, but this potential for abuse has to be acknowledged.

I agree wholeheartedly that, by penalizing anything that doesn’t constitute academia’s notion of ‘perfect’ English, cultural viewpoints that could enrich education are marginalized. But I worry over how easy it is to go too far in the other direction and allow so many personal interpretations that the language becomes a cacophony of mutually incompatible rules.

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The “Phenomenology of Error” article was interesting, but who cares about grammar. I think having everyone in college to write in the same language to me is just a way for people to keep culture and ethnic references out of the collegial system all together, which, in my opinion does a real disservice to the education system. This guy definitely has too much freetime, I agree but most “scholars” do, which is sad when they could use the education they have accumulated to actually help society. A critic without a solution is a waste of breathe; and telling people to sound more French is not a solution, it is taking around the real issue which is the push to conforming to European culture and calling it “normal”.I don’t think that everything someone write should be perfect. Their is something artificial about going back and correcting what you felt in your heart to say. Mistakes aren’t always errors, they show POV and references the lifestyle of the writer. The Texas education system SUCKS!!! ll the “southern gentleman” politicians who win here say they want education to be “better”, but that hospitality only applies to those who agree with their politics….Anyone remember the textbook incident form this summer…I have two words for them, You Lie. 

The TPM that Texas uses to score academic success is like a 30 point head start before they actually judges the school. So all of those me schools that seem like they are performing well, really may just be doing “ok”. With standardized tests, subtract the scores from each department of each school and subtract it by 30 points and that is their real score. Because of this Texas schools look better compared to the rest of the country…so basically, the system is fixed. Everything is all about appearances that goes form the curriculum/grammar on up. That’s why I think the article is full of it. Making everyone sound the same isn’t going to make them smarter or make the college experience more rewarding or complete, because it is all a game anyway. When I was in high school I refused to stress myself over the redundant TAKS related education which drove my teachers crazy more than my peers, because if we fail they were punished by not getting money to start their year off with new programs and poster for the next year,….which really made things better for the teachers and the students… NOT, just more frustrating and full of resentment. So, Gaga boy, I know where you are coming from.

Whether a person is taught or writes grammar in the context that it is referred to in our text, shouldn’t make what they have to say anymore or less important or superior. It is not just unrealistic, but unfortunate that using the same metric for writing will improving student work. It is not math; I think the fact that writing is math makes it so open to the fact that their are so many forms of writing and why people can make new forms of it in every generation. That’s why analysts can’t gather enough of a consensus as to which grammar mistakes are more important in comparison to others, because you can always make the case that it is a different style. As long as you have done what you are asked in  the assignment the way you right is all you and if you use some form of slang or street references, then that just brings character not minus points with a red pen.

I don’t think an article can be entertaining that directly targets one group instead of a variety of  them, like one of the girls said in class why does it have to be “Ebonics” v the “norm”. I can’t remember the last time someone made a big deal about Italians’ accents or New England dialect, except when they are highlighting the “togetherness” and positive points of their culture, but when it comes to Blacks its and negative. The article was not entertaining for me. The chart was confusing and a little neurotic, but the leaving of errors on purpose was cleaver and ironic,which are both good to have in a paper. Personally I think the article will be forgettable, except for its offensiveness. Before we start fussing over how someone spells something, I think we should worry about how confortable people are with saying thing that should be kept tothemselves. This just shows how the ”academic” have their priorities mixed up.

It’s popular to deride instruction in grammar as being obsolete – as belonging to this older school of now discredited educational practices (think corporal punishment, rote memorization, etc.) - but what’s the alternative? I agree that grammatical rules should be examined, that they shouldn’t be adhered to dogmatically, but to go the relativist route and say that there is no standard English that necessitates some kind of universal curriculum, that all dialects are equally valid, is naïve.

You’re right that the grammatical mistakes you make communicate a lot about your character, but you draw an odd conclusion from this insight. It’s precisely because your dialect says a lot about your origins, as well as your socioeconomic background, that most people try to eradicate it in favor of American standard, or whatever else they perceive to be the speech of the wealthy and erudite (for example, RP in England)

But you’re making claims about how the system should operate, rather than how it does operate.

Even then, though, I don’t understand the desirability of subdividing our nation into a sea of mutually unintelligible linguistic islands. You favor character, local color and what you perceive to be the organic nature of non-standard dialects (as opposed to the artificiality of American Standard’s - and it’s grammatical rules’ - imposed norms), but in doing so you sacrifice intelligibility, cohesion and the nuance and subtlety of thought only mutually understood frames of reference can provide.

It’s like trying to organize a national league for some kind of sport, but then insisting that local teams should be allowed to play the game according to their own club rules. What occurs then is a complete breakdown and disintegration of the system.

Moreover, we’re not just discussing the correct grammar of non-standard dialects, we’re also talking about incorrect grammar in general. A double negative may be correct in certain non-standard dialects of English, but a sentence without a verb is incorrect no matter what variety of English you speak. It’s incorrect, not because it transgresses some social norm, but because it complicates communication.

You can’t simply say “I don’t want to study grammar/adhere to grammatical rules in my writing and that opinion is justified by the fact the my incorrectness is merely an expression of my regional dialect/identity.”

It’s not that your expressing a minority view that has been trampled by an uncaring society, it’s that you are wrong.

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So I wanted to make a post or something so I don’t forget this (possibly awesome) topic idea while I’m sleeping or suffering through my Thursday classes.

As an education major, I learn a lot about education theory and what is most effective in a classroom. Since education is close to my heart, I…

I think parsing out the stereotypes Rowling seems to associate with each subject would make for a really cool paper. Although I could see how parts of the analysis might be difficult. What do you do for classes that have no real world analogue? I’m curious, for example, what you think about her treatment of Defense against the Dark Arts?

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