Ravitch V. Superman Assignment | Essay
Watch Davis Guggenheim’s 2010 film Waiting for Superman (available on Netflix and elsewhere).
Read Chapters 1, 4, and 13 of Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error.
Both readings are worth your time. The film gives you an inside view of low-income public schools, including the problems they face with segregation, though it clearly romanticizes the notion of schools free from regulation at the cost of being nearly uncritical of any downsides to privatizing the educational system; the Ravitch chapters present some of her key arguments and give a good sense of her style, issues we’ll return to them as the quarter progresses.
Writing Task: Once you’ve watched and read, write a few paragraphs (about 300 words) in which you present one or more of Ravitch’s and Guggenheim’s conflicting views about either
the condition (status/health) of public schooling
the opportunities in charter schools
the value of tenure
Audience: Imagine your audience is someone who has seen Waiting for Superman and is wondering what an academic like Diane Ravitch is saying in response to the film’s arguments.
Stance: Present both Guggenheim’s and Ravitch’s sides accurately, but feel free to use your diction, syntax, organization, and perhaps choice of evidence to indicate to your reader which side you’re leaning toward–or to show you’re torn, or that you stand firmly in the middle.
Citation: Cite each source properly using MLA format, including
Footnote notations for Ravitch’s page numbers and approximate time signatures for scenes from Superman. Refer to the Formatting Guide for more info on how to do footnotes.
Writing Skill: Paraphrasing without Patchwriting: When discussing Ravtich’s ideas, paraphrase them, and avoid patchwriting. For help with that, read “Integrating Sources” in Ch.4 of AGWR, including the “Patchwriting” section. Also see this patchwriting info from Purdue OWL:
Patchwriting . . . is an issue somewhat more complicated than that of citation. For example, a student who had never before studied theories of mythology read the following passage:
The world of the Ancient Near East, however, was familiar with myth of a rather different kind, myth as the spoken word which accompanied the performance of certain all-important religious rituals. (Davidson 11)
The student then wrote a paper that included this patchwriting:
Davidson explains ritual myths as concepts that are illustrated through spoken words but are also accompanied by the performance of religious ceremonies.
(Qtd. in Howard 237).
The student deleted many phrases from the original (such as “The world of the Ancient Near East”) and substituted synonyms (“ceremonies” for “rituals,” for example). But the structure of the student’s prose is that of Davidson, following exactly the latter half of Davidson’s sentence. The student obviously did not write this passage with the intention of deceiving, for he acknowledges that these are Davidson’s ideas (“Davidson explains”). The student’s motivation sprang from neither a lack of morality nor ignorance of footnoting procedures, but rather from difficulty in understanding Davidson’s text. Patchwriting in such a situation can be an effective means of helping the writer understand difficult material; blending the words and phrasing of the source with one’s own words and phrasing may have helped the student comprehend the source. But it is not an acceptable practice for public writing-for the papers that one hands in. Patchwriting can help the student toward comprehending the source, but patchwriting itself demonstrates that the student does not yet understand that source. The next step beyond patchwriting-a step whereby you can come to understand the text-is effective summary: Read the source through quickly to get its general ideas, perhaps reading only the first sentence of each paragraph. Then re-read, more slowly. Go through it a third time and take notes. Then let some time elapse-a half-hour should be enough-and with the book closed, write your own summary of it. (Never try to summarize or paraphrase a source while looking at that source.) With the book closed, what you write will be in your own words and sentences. Once you have drafted your summary, go back to the book and check to see if any of your phrasings resembles that of the source; if so, quote it exactly.
See also this patchwriting as plagiarism discussion: