Ms. Gokturk

Writing for the 21st Century


The Activist’s Journal: Part I


This class requires you to begin thinking about the world more critically. As you will ultimately choose one cause on which to focus this semester, you need to start analyzing and observing the world around you critically now. You will begin doing this by keeping a daily record of your perspective.


Use the following guidelines and topics to guide your critical eye. Look at your home, community, school, and world. Observe those around you, teachers, students, parents, police, and watch the news, read the newspaper. Notice how types of people are represented in ads and TV shows. Look around!


How are notebooks graded?

You will be provided with a start date and an end date. You should have one entry for each date. Each entry will receive 10 points and will be graded on the following criteria:


·        the entry is at least 1-2 pages each

·        the entry is dated and titled

·        is legible and carefully written (PLEASE!)

·        shows active involvement in the class (incorporates points from class discussion, continues a class comment, asks questions and attempts to answer questions left unsaid or incomplete).

·        is thoughtful and includes meaningful writing

·        is original writing and not plagiarized

·        is proofread for content and mechanics

·        shows effort and improvement

·        the entry has demonstrated critical thinking about the world, local or global


Topics to consider in your daily entries

For each topic listed, consider how you see it, what you see at home, Schreiber, and the news. Then ask yourself: what is wrong with this picture? What should change? How can this be better?



Individuals can be seen as members of groups. Analyze attitudes, beliefs, feelings you see. Some groups: males, females, Latinos, blacks, whites, Asians, poor, rich, gay,  straight….). Other groups are groups of choice (jocks, drama, etc.).



When one group has more money, political offices, or more control, they make decisions that affect the lives of others. A group in power often has the accepted perspective. Groups can change things, so talking about individuality often keeps power relations just the way they are.


Taking Things for Granted (Naturalization)

Power works through a system of “common sense” that enables us to accept things without question, such as belief in heroes, theories about intelligence and entitlement, beliefs about the attitudes and actions of the poor, stereotypes of women, racial groups, gay men, etc. We accept these things as given. We also take toe granted our understandings of political concepts like democracy, freedom, and justice.



People should have a similar chance for a happy life and should not have to struggle too much to keep bodies healthy. No one group should be able to harm or deprive another group physically or otherwise. Being a smaller group should not reduce chances for happiness. More powerful groups should care for the rights of smaller groups. People who hurt others should make it up to them, whether it is an individual or group.



You can only get a fair and just society if all groups get to tell what their lives are like. Because of their limited access to publishing and media, it is important to clear special spaces for the voices of smaller, more vulnerable groups.


Multiple Perspectives

Because people live together, anything that happens can be viewed from  different POVs. In texts, there are always people, seen or unseen, who don’t get to tell their side. In some texts, it seems easy for a reader to “know” what is right. That is because some perspectives have been shut up. In other texts, more conflicting sides are presented and the reader feels unsettled.


Representation (Showing What People are Like)

Stories, paintings, ads, movies, news articles, and other texts represent people and relationships. This is “what people are like” but it is an image, not necessarily reality. Stereotypes develop of the groups who usually are not doing the writing that gets published and read by lots of people. These groups have included women, races other than European, poor a d working people who live in the city or country, children and adolescents, and non-traditional family settings.



Thinking about gender involves thinking about how both female and male characters are represented. Look at how males an females are treated in regards to strength, action, importance, respect, opportunity, relationships, looks, etc.



Examine some of the above topics from gender with race in mind. Also think about: criminality/evilness, intelligence, strong physiques vs. brainiacs, city vs. Country, and “otherness” or exoticism (some minority races are seen as strange or exotic).




Consider the topics from gender and race and apply to class. Also take into account: reasons for poverty, transience (moving around a lot), substance abuse, idealization (poor people as wise and happy), and significance (life’s worth measured by money).



Most money is in few people’s hands. Where is the money? Look at politics through a money perspective, locally or globally. Look at Port’s community through a money lens. How divided is this community? Other places?



Many people work hard at a job that means nothing to them; they stay because they need money, They work for other people. People should have the chance to find meaningful jobs to make them happy. People should make enough money to have a good quality of life.



There are plenty of stereotypes about language. Think about your assumptions of others and what others assume of you, either locally or from a bigger picture.


Intimate Relationship and Families

“Typical” American family stereotypes. Consider violence within families or other close relationships.


Relationship to Nature

Industrialization has had a huge effect on the environment. Owners of companies are making money and harming earth’s resources. The future of the environment and animal species may be in jeopardy. Who is responsible? The fact that we can wreck the earth doesn’t mean we have to. Government has the power to interfere with powerful corporations, but does it?


Violence and Peace

Violence occurs in cycles: one party is violent to another and this brings a violent reaction, which results in another violent action. War, rioting, police invasion: these usually hurt the small the most, the poor, the powerless. Living in peace requires the courage to stop responding violently. Peace means total absence of conflict. We have to work actively, pay careful attention, and struggle for a peaceful world.


Acting Alone or Together (Individualism/Collectivism)

Over time, ways of thinking that have grown in Europe and America favor the strong individual who can do something. If ordinary people stay separate form each other, then the groups already in power will keep it. Collective action is built on relationships, so it is useful to think about which relationships might make the beginnings of collective action possible.