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In addition to moving to the "volley" stage of conversation, that is, a 4-step process, in unit 5, I also stressed that here, 3/4's through the course, that students be very conscious about what was already posted in their groups before they posted.  Specifically, in regard to serves, I prompted them to take the time and care to read whatever serves in their group were on the board before they served and then -- striving for variety -- to make sure they offered a different approach in their serves.  Here are the serves in the group of Students F, R, and K for analysis in this regard. 

Serve 1 -- Student F: "This is True" (Tuesday 7:26pm)

 I think the style that Jacobs uses in this autobigoraphy Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is different than Stowe's fictional story Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Jacob's details an actual account of what was going on and not a made up or romanticized version.  Furthermore, many of the preachy undertones prevelant in Uncle Tom are less severe and constant in Jacobs' book.  In comparison with Stowe, Jacobs addresses the audience in the text.  Feminism is a significant theme (_______ addressed this to his group, so I don't want to necessarily focus on this) throughout the story epsecially concerning references to abuse, humility, and reverence(that the slaves showed to their masters).  In contrast to Stowe, Jacobs voice is much stronger because it is her own actual story; Jacob's message about the nightmarish truth and haunting reality slavery was sends a strong and in your face message about the hell she endured to live and tell.  So, what did you guys think?  Do you agree that this book is more poignant and effective a read than Uncle Tom?  I feel that Uncle Tom is a classic for all the obvious and important reasons, however, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl truly made me aware of just how hellish slavery REALLY was.  Lemme know what ya think.

My reflections on Student F's serve:

God knows, I have been hard on F in my previous comments.  I have criticized her for posts that are predominantly very short in length and for a predominantly "agreeing" style that leads to dead-end conversations.  But, too, I have noted the occasional good post and even the flash of excellence here and there.  I think I could readily show this student both her inconsistency and her promise through specific examples in order to help her improve.  Well, here is an example of a solid serve from F!  It uses synthesis in order to move toward evaluation, so there's a combination of two eyes.  F lists several differences between Uncle Tom's Cabin and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in order to show that the latter is better.  In fact, her climactic point is quite, quite intriguing: one is universally known as a "classic," but the other makes the more powerful impression on her.  And, serving socially, F turns to her group and asks their opinion. 

Serve 2 -- Student R: "The Nazi's of the South" (Tuesday 8:37pm)

"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 reflections on Student R's serve:

R posts his serve one hour after F's.  It's a pretty good assumption, then, that R could have read F's serve before he posted.  (It might be, though, of course, that, for instance, R started writing his post on the Blackboard space itself before F posted.)  What I'm particularly interested in here is whether he shows awareness of F's serve and whether in his serve he strives for variety.  Well, it's hard to tell whether R writes with what F has already written in mind, and in the ideal world I would have simply asked him.  Ugh. Toward the end of his serve R says that a Jacobs' chapter was his "main influence," but, on the other hand, parts of his opening seem to bounce directly off F.  F says Jacobs made her more effectively aware of the hellish reality of slavery than Stowe, and R, also playing off Stowe, finds himself "riled up" -- in fact, "enraged."  Now that is not an avowed transition but it certainly is a transition.  But now I'm wondering to myself what exactly I want students to do when paying attention to what's on the board in front of them.  Would I want a transition here between serve and serve?  In other words, should the second "serve" on the board have some resemblance to a "return" in this respect?  Aiiii, maybe I'm creating a pretzel-like labyrinth here in all my scientific management of the board and mind manipulation of the posters!!!!!!  But, at this point, I guess, I would tentatively advance that not only should the second and subsequent serves silently acknowledge what has gone before by striving for variety of approach and content, but that a verbalized transition wouldn't be bad either.  R heads off in what is an "internalizing" direction here rather than the "synthesizing/criticizing" mode of F, so, indeed, he is adding variety and therefore potentially increasing the value of the group discussion, and one can imagine that a nod in F's direction would have been a nice community touch.  But, again, I gotta think more about how isolated a serve should be, gotta think more about if or when a serve should be like a response.  (And why can't a woman be like a man?)

Serve 3 -- Student K: ILSG vs. UTC battle royale (Tuesday 8:43pm)

Ok, since I really haven’t been doing much synthesizing latley, I figured that I would make a conscious effort to write about Incidents’ similarities with other books we’ve read this semester.  Obviously, the first comparison that can be made is its resemblance of UTC.  The first things that got me thinking about the two was in the very beginning, when Jacobs mentions that she was born into and brought up by slavery, as I think Stowe discusses about Eliza (and as Frederick Douglass mentions in his narrative, although I'm not gonna talk about that cause we haven't read it as a class), and when Benjamin escapes to the north. Although the plots are not identical, it really reminded me of Eliza's escape to the North, especially when Benjamin runs into a family member by coincidence as they did when the reached the North in UTC. Furthermore, Jacobs willingness to delve right into the matter of slavery rendering slaves as "things," peaces of property, came right out in the beginning as it did in Stowe's novel.  In addition, I think that the feminist point of view really resonates as it did in Stowe’s writing.  Jacobs denounces the wives of Southern slave-owners for not being more morally conscious of what happens on their plantations and not voicing their opinions more.  She also praises Northern women for often doing the opposite, which is probably because this was her target audience for the book, as it was for Stowe novel.  Furthermore, Jacobs alludes to the cause of slavery and its hardships as a result of men’s cruel nature, and even throws it out in the open a couple of times; “…there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men.”(30)  This is obviously a result of her mistreatment by Dr. Flint, although the most compelling example of slavery’s unjust nature for me was her being subjected to the will of a five year-old when her mistress dies, and I kind of likened his actions to those of Simon Legree.  I felt like if Uncle Tom had been a woman Legree surely would have treated him in a similar fashion as Dr. Flint did with Linda.  Anyways, That’s actually all I can come up with at the moment, sorry if its a little unorganized.  Go ahead and criticize, disagree, or add your own comparisons.

My reflection on Student K's serve:

Hmmm, the plot thickens.  K posts eighty minutes after F, but only a few minutes after R.  Theoretically, he could have read them both before he posted, but let's cut him some slack and assume he really should only be responsible for having read F.  It seems quite obvious that K did not read F's serve before he posted his serve (when he wrote his serve is another matter; hang on for a minute and I'll get to that).  K is aware that his own posting history does not contain the variety of eye-exercising that I have been preaching, so, laudably, he chooses a mode that he hasn't practiced lately.  That's being conscious of your posting activity in exactly the way I would hope.  Give him a big thumbs up for that!  However.  However.  I was loudly stressing at this point in the course that you gotta be conscious of what other people are doing too.  K has not demonstrated that dual consciousness here.  So both F and K do synthesizing posts.  Ugh.  Now suppose K has spent time, maybe considerable time, writing his post outside of Blackboard, and he comes to the board at 8:43 to post it and reads F and realizes their similarity.  What does he do?  Ha!  I'm not going to expect him to go back to the drawing board, am I?  So I guess I gotta be realistic about student ability to always achieve this variety etc. unless I micro-manage the process and set up specific times for a sequence of each individual post to appear.  That just does not seem practical or realistic.  That ain't gonna happen.  But, at least, in that situation K could register awareness of the overlap -- better that than to seem clueless, when, after all, they had been primed and prompted by my specific instructions to write in the context of others at each step.  And maybe in this case there even might be some last minute tinkering  that could be done.   For K does take a  different tack within his synthesis than F -- he looks for similarities rather than differences, as she does.  And K does not criticize.  So maybe there could be some tinkering that would not require a full-scale revision or a jettisoning of a post much labored over.  But, again, obviously here K was only deep in his own world when thinking about the serve, and, as is, I'm not real happy about the way the serves in this group kick off discussion.