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@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
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"VOLLEYING":
STUDENT WORK (2): FOUR FALTERING STEPS

Now I'm going to present looks at four discussions that go through the entire 4-step process and that range from failure to success.  Here, for instance, is an example of a discussion that does not grow in a meaningful way.

Step 1 -- The Serve


Student R: The Nazi's of the South:  "Slaveholders pride themselves upon being honerable men."  Chapter 8 opens with this statement.  I think the south had issues.  Jacobs book definitely riles me up more than Stowe did.  Slaveholder's considered themselves honerable men, yet they did everything in the world that is considered dishonerable.  It enrages me so to think that someone could be so ignorant and inhumane that they would do some of the things that they do.  Ok so maybe slaves wernet considered human, maybe they were thought of as dogs.  But would you beat a dog until it spilled pools of blood just because it disobeyed you?  Ok i know, they WERE real people and it is an injustice to consider them anything less, but just to try to get a perspective, i do not see how anyone could ever be that cruel to ANYTHING, whether you considered something a brother, animal, posession.. whatever.  I guess my question would be, did slaveowners REALLY realize what they were doing?  Did they rest on such a low level of humanity that they could these sick and twisted things?  The only possible comparison i can come up with is something along the lines of Nazi Germany, where persuasion and the fact that "everyone was doing it" turned normally good people into sick and twisted killers.  I guess my main influence for this post was the chapter "Fear of Insurrection."  Does anybody have any thoughts on how things could have gotten so out of control in the south?  (sorry this post isnt very good, probably hard to respond too)

My reflection on R's serve:


There's a palpable passion here that marks this as a good serve.  R taps the "internalizing" eye.  He personally cannot fathom slave owning, and the only point of reference in his ken is the Nazi's.  His rage and his bile pause about 3/4's of the way through his serve, and he poses a good, clear, crisp question to his group -- excellent set up, excellent strategy.   R has picked a central, crucial topic to bring up, and thus this serve has great potential to support extended discussion.


Step 2 -- The Return

Student K:  you make a sound point about the injustices of the south.  It really makes you question the morality of man.  Can we simply be taught what is wrong and what is right?  Is there any kind of instinct built into our mainframes that tells us what is ethical and what is not?  I'd sure like to hope so, if not we are a pretty pitiful bunch.  I guess incidents like this are testiments to the power of convention and our dependance on what other people think of us.  In a way, it kind of makes me liken it to the way a little kid will destroy the anthills in his backyard for the sake of entertainment, or the way we kill bees and other insects we deem dangerous to us, even though they're just doing their thing like we are.  Is it because we see no resemblance to our own humanity in them that we think it is ok to torture them?  That's the best guess I can give.  By treating the slaves as less than human, and of course by the grave amount of pro-slavery sentiment that circulated in the South, people were ok with the travesties that occured because they likened them more to the way we treat bugs than other people.  I think a lot of it also had to do with the fact that slavery was simply so profitable to slave-owners that they would do anything to justify taking part in it.  hope i added somethin.

My reflection on K's return:


K meets R's serious questioning very nicely, indeed.  His opening series of rhetorical questions catches the issue perfectly.   I particularly like how K stays on R's "internalizing" wave length with the references to killing ants and bees.  I have wondered aloud earlier about whether internalizing has a place among the five eyes because it doesn't lend itself readily to returns.  But here K finds perfectly appropriate images to make the core of his return.  Now, of course, I wonder how R will keep things going.  Will he have to shift from internalizing?  Well, K gives him some openings with references to the effect of general sentiment (which R  referred to in his serve) and especially to the profit motive.  Yes, K, I think you did add "somethin."


Step 3 -- Fielding the Return


Student R:  I see what your saying, but isnt there a better way to go about it?  I dont see a justification in slavery by beating the shit, even killing your slaves.  I guess if the slave-owners were that smart, there would have been less uprisings, less runaways etc... i mean... i know im not making much of a point, but i still feel that there was something there.. psychologically, that made slaveowners or southerners in general, more inhumane.  Maybe their mothers did not love them enough, who knows... its just a conundrum to me  (sorry i saw the ring this weekend).

My reflections on R's fielding:


R's fielding of K's return is disappointing.  Look how almost incoherent this post looks like compared to his serve.  I have wondered aloud before about the way that the posts seems to decline in size and vitality as the process goes forward.  My unempirical sense is that, in general, the serves are better than the other posts.  If true, that's very interesting.  Is it a matter of time put in, of what gets priority and value, of knowledge or strategies running dry?  Very interesting.  Well, even R's opening transition and question don't have a connection to K's return that I can see.  What specifically is it that K was "saying" that he's referring to?  What is the "it" that needs a better way?  Not sure, not sure.  Then the blatant admission that he's not making sense.  It seems like R might want to restrict K's notion that there is a general human propensity to maltreat lower forms of life to just that portion of humanity in the South, and that might have been an interesting path to follow.  And the reference to uprisings and runaways is from the book chapter R begins his serve with -- maybe delving there would be a way to give this thread some life.  But clearly R is not up to much thinking at this point.  Ha!  So how does K volley?!  Not much here to work with.


Step 4 -- The Volley


Student K:  I certainly think there was better ways at going about it.  I mean obviously the best way would have been to just do without slavery, but considering that there's no way around that now, maybe if they were smarter about it there could have been indentured servitude or something instead of slavery.  It probably would have resulted in a lot less runaways and such as you said.  I think the slaverowners were just so desensitized to what they were doing to these people because they were making so much money off of them that they refused to give it up, even though subconsciously they may have known it was wrong. anyway, i guess its just something that we won't really ever understand, humans just have a way of taking advantage of what they can when they can.

My reflection on K's volley:


Well, at least K knows what "it" refers to -- I sure was lost.  Likewise, though, K seems a bit lost at this stage.   All he can do is repeat what R has said about slaveowners being smarter.  All he can do is repeat what he has already said about the impact of money on morality.  Now, in fact, each of these points does seem eminently developable, as well as, especially,  the nature v. nurture explanation raised earlier, but there doesn't seem to be energy or incentive or something there for any development.  In my opinion it isn't that there are not options but that there is no will to think about them.  And bottom line is that K settles for his version of R's "conundrum": it is something "we won't ever really understand."   O, my, how disappointing -- we must surrender our rationality to such horrible scourges as slavery and Nazism????  If so, even some passionate lament about that would surely be fitting here rather than prosaic resignation.  As is, there is surely no evolution of ideas here in this conversation.  Just the opposite.  Where oh where did R's opening passion go?   The 4-step process was not valuable here.