Friday, October 15, 2021

Plus ça Change

The way I run my Comp I classes (at least at present) is by giving them assignments that build to one giant research paper, drafts of which are due in early November. We then work on that draft, with the final draft being due on the day of the final.

Topics are suggested during the first few days of the semester. I tell them that the readings I will give them will cover X, Y, and Z, and that they can make their lives easier by choosing a topic that relates to one of those subjects.

Then all along, through the semester, along with instruction in how to do research, how to tell a credible source from propaganda, how to cite, and so on, I also give them readings in X, Y, and Z, usually but not always peer-reviewed papers from legitimate journals. (I also have to teach them, early in the semester, how to read a peer-reviewed paper. They're all, theoretically, able to read on a college level; but in fact for all their years in high school they've mostly only read high school textbooks and YA fiction. They have no idea how to read something that isn't instantly accessible. TBF, neither did I as a freshman.)

ANYWAY: All this to say that we are now working with this semester's Z, which is Pandemics and Epidemics of the past. Last week I assigned them this article. It's quite accessible, which was a relief to many of them, and deeply interesting (to me) in how reactions the plague hitting San Francisco in 1900 echoes reactions to Covid-19 now.

This paragraph is especially interesting:

Chinatown leaders denied the reports of plague—and, fearful of an epidemic’s economic repercussions, so did others in power. Mayor James D. Phelan sent telegrams to the mayors of dozens of other cities, assuring them that San Francisco had seen just a single, isolated case—nothing more. Governor Henry Gage told reporters that Kinyoun had caused San Francisco’s cases himself, by letting the plague germ escape his lab. Gage even proposed making it a felony for newspapers to publish “false” reports on the presence of plague in the state. 

In case the link doesn't work, the article is 

Conis, Elena and Daniel Roman, "Epizootic," Bay Nature Magazine, Sept 27, 2020,

1 comment:

Bardiac said...

That's a fascinating and terrifying article. Thanks for posting it.