Discussing Oppression in English Classes

Wes Mantooth

A resource I may use for my DSJ English Composition and Introduction to Literature Classes is the website of the Pulitzer Center. As explained on the organization’s mission page, “The Pulitzer Center raises awareness of underreported [sic] global issues through direct support for quality journalism across all media platforms and a unique program of education and public outreach…. [W]e are now the largest single source of money for global enterprise reporting—and the only one incorporating this reporting into comprehensive educational programs that extend the impact of the reporting and allow students and the public to engage directly on the issues. The result is sustained reporting and outreach on topics that range from land rights, climate change, global health, and fragile states to justice and women and children. We are raising awareness of the interconnected nature of the greatest challenges of our times and pointing to possible solutions. We serve global public-interest journalism in a way few organizations can—by engaging wide audiences on deeply reported topics and inspiring the next generation to value credible news and cross-cultural understanding.”

For my DSJ English Composition class, students will pick one issue from the site’s issue page, explore the available resources, choose an article, and write a response paper on the following questions:

  • What particular regional issue does the article discuss?
  • What particular factors contribute to the injustice? (economic, legal, environmental, cultural, other)
  • Who does it affect?
  • How does it affect people’s daily lives?
  • What steps could be taken to improve the issue? Does the article mention or link to any organizations that are confronting the problem? If so, what can you learn about the organizations?

I may have students write multiple short papers on articles drawn from this site prior to the class’s capstone research paper. This will help them to consider a range of possible issues before they pick something as their final paper topic.

For my DSJ Introduction to Literature class, the site also has numerous resources that link poetry, journalism, and social activism:

One set of lessons entitled “The Power of Poetry” helps students to “analyze how two communities”—Afghan women and communities with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica—”use poetry to illuminate challenges in their lives in order to create your own poetry exploring social issues that are important to you.”

Another set of lessons entitles “Poetic Justice: Using Journalism and Poetry to Illuminate Injustice ” helps students to analyze “how poetry can bring attention to underreported stories of injustice, examining the cases of poetry about femicide in Mexico and persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.”

Other lessons are built around poetry written in response to images, poetry written by blacking out words in a source text, poems about food justice, poems related to the concept of reframing/renewing the gaze in order to tell underreported stories of joy in minority experiences, and more.

Compared to what is often found in a literature anthology, these resources provide significant details on the social contexts in which poems are produced. Lessons also provide reflective questions designed to help students create their own poetry.

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