Age of Reason

"A Modest Proposal"

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Swift's Characterization of the Irish Poor

In "A Modest Proposal" Swift assumes the role of an economic statistician; crunching numbers for the sake of humanity (http://www.suhsd.k12.ca.us ). He turns suffering people into cold statistics to be managed like animals. Through his dehumanization of the Irish, Swifty mockingly imitates English racism and reveals its folly.
  • While assessing male to female population proportions, Swift compares the Irish to swine and assumes the same male to female ratio is appropriate
  • Swift refers to wives with children as breeders, a clearly demeaning term
  • Stereotypes Irish mothers as beggars
  • Treats Irish babies as a salable commodity
  • Regards older Irish youth as a burden to society


Our Modest Proposal

external image gateway_m255e.jpg ----> external image rosetta.gif Regression or Progression?

The school has embraced emerging technology with a passion. Our school is stocked with the latest smartboards, projectors, and other gizmos. Unfortunately, the use of such technology has been hampered by a number of restrictions imposed by the Information Technology department (with all due respect). In order to maximize the use of Emmaus's expensive technology, there will need to be some serious changes regarding the district policy. Fiscal, security, and internet regulation issues are just some of the clumsy (another word, it's close to clumsy) restrictions associated with computers.

However, after considering the projected timeframe for any serious changes in the district policy, Emmaus would probably be better off just organizing it's own technological overhaul. You many ask how Emmaus could execute a technological overhaul in these economic conditions on its own. I assure you, it is a most economically feasible plan. Our plan seeks to eliminate security issues without the need for strict regulations and guarantee that every teacher in the building will fully understand all classroom technology while balancing the school budget.

An ambitious plan indeed, but it will certainly prove better than our current state. While musing over possible courses (and anticipating popular opposition) as a group we propose the use of stone tablets as writing medium. Of course, regular notes may be taken on paper with a pen or pencil, but all final documents to be submitted to teachers must be chiseled in stone. Considering Emmaus's conservative attitude towards technology, we noted that there may indeed be more opposition to a liberal advance in technology than a more secure regression. Our proposal may come as a shock to technologically savvy teachers, but bearing in mind how few of this species there are, stone tablets clearly present an advantageous opportunity.

First allow me to elaborate on the economic facet of our proposal. Taking note of unused technology in the classrooms of ignorant or apathetic teachers, Emmaus would be wise to sell its technology to other instututions, who will be able to make better use of it. After taking into account computers, powerpoint projectors, smartboards, and the technology in the multimedia room, the school could make thousands of dollars to ensure financial stability. In comparison to the sales and maintenance of computers the use of stone tablets for final copies would be much cheaper. The school need only buy two sets of a hammer and chisel per student (a spare for the students that are bound to lose them). Emmaus would also need to spend a small amount of money on some relatively elementary safes to store tablets containing student grades in. The lack of computers would also mean a cut in Emmaus' electric and internet bills. Finally, the Information Technology department can be completely eliminated, further improving the school's financial situation. Overall, you can see that the school would be fiscally disposed to our simple solution.

In terms of security, our proposal is unsurpassed. While deciding on the proper technological changes, us students noticed that the current technology policy puts security at the top of its priority list; sacrificing ease of use and common sense. We attempted to overhaul the school's technology without compromising Emmaus's security policy. Currently, students type papers to be submitted to teachers on a word processor and then print them or email them to the teacher. Despite the time it would take to carve these documents in stone, the use of tablets will prevent numerous security breeches. Perhaps most importantly, there are no known viruses able to infect stone tablets. Over their centuries of use, stone tablets have been reliable, albeit heavy, information mediums. Today, we can still employ this archaic and obsolete yet secure means to ensure the integrity of a student's work.

Besides the students, the faculty can also obtain a cheap crash course in stone tablet chiseling. Grades can be literally set in stone, ensuring no devious hackers take undue credit. Attendance too, can be guaranteed accurate. After the teacher takes attendance or chisels in a grade, the teacher can lock this sensitive information up in a secure safe to ensure security. Unlike previous technology, clearly teachers will be able to understand such an elementary task as opening a safe with a key, or chiseling grades into stone. The ease of use associated with stone tablets will ensure maximum efficiency in funding for classrooms; every teacher will understand and be required to use the school's valuble investment.

A quick note: --As I speak I hear some objections from the reader at the lack of internet access, but frankly, this is a minimal issue. Perhaps Information Technology believes that blocking mildly educational sites might somehow increase a student's educational experience, or prevent him from delving into the forbidden land of physics spring simulators. However, as a group of experienced students, we know that internet research is better off carried on in the home, especially when dealing with politically sensitive topics, or any possibly entertaining subject
material.--

In order to deter any dissenters allow me to elaborate on few opposing proposals and why they have been rejected. First, the possibility of allowing students to use personal laptops. Simply put, playing minesweeper in school is unacceptable, despite the fact that students are bound to be doodling or writing notes even if they don't have a laptop in front of them. Other complaints associated with personal laptops include the distracting clattering of keys, teachers jealous that their school computers are not on par with their students', and the unfair note-taking speed advantage laptops have over hand writing.

As for the use of jump drives on school computers; this too is simply unacceptable. Potential virus threats and 31337 ("elite" in hacker-speak) hackers would indeed pose a serious threat to school security. But wait a minute, can't I use a jump drive anyways? Yes. The fact that the school's practice doesn't line up with its preaching clearly indicates that either a) the school knows that jump drives are a necessary part of computer usage, or b) the school needs to clamp down its security policy. We can safely assume the latter, necessitating the use of stone tablets.

Clearly, our proposal has outpaced all of its competitors. It most clearly fits Emmaus' school policy, it keeps the school fiscally afloat, and maintains maximum security. I have already adequately annihilated any opposing propositions and hope that you too hold our point of view on this grave topic.

Additional Resources for A Modest Proposal
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"Rape of the Lock"

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Alexander Pope uses epic conventions to satirize societal values.

Alexander Pope created the Rape of the Lock in a literary form known as the mock-epic. This writing style invokes a satiricial development of plot and characters which mocks the attributes of a traditional epic. Pope's motive in writing the mock-epic is not to criticize the conventions of the epic itself, but rather to ridicule his own society by portraying trivial problems that have come to be handled with unneccesary seriousness.

Glorification of Culture through the Supernatural-Epics, in glorifying their culture, often involve supernatural beings. Homer, for example, relies heavily on gods and goddesses to carry the plot of his epic The Illiad. Pope integrates his own supernatural beings in the form of Gnomes and Sylphs, who further the storyline. Normally in literature supernatural beings involve themselves in momentus accomplishments of humanity. By involving supernatural beings in petty conflicts, Pope suggests that society has become so engrossed in itself that it attatches heavenly beings to its day to day whereabouts.

Invoking the Muse-Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock is based on a true event that provoked a disagreement between two Catholic familes. Lord Petre had cut a lock of hair from Arabella Fermor (Pope 1136). Pope was inspired by his friend John Caryll to elaborate on this trivial incident in a poem, with hopes that the two families would be able to laugh at the foolishness of the quarrel and tensions would be eased. Pope uses the epic convention of an invocation to the muse in Canto 1 of The Rape of the Lock, "What might contests rise from trivial things, I sing--This verse to Caryll, Muse! is due" (Pope 1138). Traditionally, the epic invocation to the muse was to goddess or spirits that inspire the creation of a literary work; Pope invokes a friend.

Larger than Life Hero-The traditional epic almost always involved a hero embarking on a perilous or dangerous journey. In The Rape of the Lock, Belinda takes a sea voyage down the Thames river toward the Hampton Court Palace. Belinda, being the "hero" of the mock-epic, is surrounded by protective nymphs, much like a great warrior would have been surrounded with guards and armor. Belinda is viewed as godlike in her beauty and outward perfection as Pope describes "...every eye was fixed on (Belinda) alone" (Pope 1141). The classical epic hero such as Beowulf was valued for his great strength and bravery. Pope negatively portrays the public values of his society by showing the great influence of superfluous physical beauty.

Battle with the Supernatural or Monsters-Traditionally, an epic hero battles mosters and supernatural evils. On the contrary, Pope uses the Baron's anti-climactic "rape of the lock" to mock the pettiness of his society. The narrator says: "By force to ravish, or by fraud betray; For when success a lover's toil attends, few ask if fraud or force attained his ends" (Pope 1142). To any unsuspecting reader, the implications are dark and dangerous, but the anti-climactic hair cut merely leaves the reader exasperated, having expected much worse.

Elaborate Descriptions of Weapons and Armor-Pope substitues beautiful jewelry and bodkins for mystical weapons and armor commonly used in epics. Appropriately, the people of Pope's time respected and admired these trinkets in the same way the Anglo-Saxons would have admired Beowulf's sword. Pope uses the connection between jewelry and weaponry to portray women's superficial priorities in society.

Arming for Battle-Rather than giving her "troops" a rousing speech, Belinda's preparation for the party is long and drawn out. The scene is meant to build drama up until her entrance into the party.

Epithets-Pope does not use metaphorical expressions in referencing gods, but he makes allusions by comparing circumstances in The Rape of the Lock with various legends.


Additional Resources for The Rape of the Lock
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Background Information and a link to the text

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The High School Student's Dictionary


1.) Ballin' (adj.)- The act of being "fly". To be living the good life. Rich; having every thing you want. Origin: "We Fly High" -Jim Jones
Example: This party is ballin' dude! You've got to get here!

2.) Sick (adj.)- Something that is out of the ordinary; cool or awesome. Origin: Ghetto and skater cultures of the 1990s. When one is "sick" they are not feeling well, and are therefore considered to be out of the ordinary.
Example: Those shoes are sick! Where did you get them?

3.) Dawg (n.)- A friend or an acquaintance. Origin: Dog is condidered man's best friend. The spelling change is used to distinguish the animal from the person.
Example: Yo dawg, how was that test?

4.) Dough (n.)- Money, especially that of which is acquired from the "streets". Origin: Many rap artists used this as a code word; selling drugs in bad parts of town in exchange for cash.
Example: Check out all the dough I got for mowing my neighbors lawn.

5.) My "B"/My Bad (v.)- Excuse me; Sorry. Origin: From the ghettos of Los Angeles. People would bang into each other on the streets and it was not "cool" to say sorry, so a shortened form of it was created.
Example: Speaker: Dude, you just broke my X-Box! Response: My "B".

6.) Trippin' (adj.)- One who thinks very highly of him or herself to point of cluelessness; egoistical. Origin: Gangsters from Compton who thought they had loads of money, but were actually splurging on expensive items( tripping over their expenses.)
Example: Yo dude don't be trippin' all over that Benz!

7.) Bro (adj.)- Brother or close friend. Origin: Surfers on Long Beach who wanted to compete against each other for catching the best wave would complement each other by calling them bro, as to look mellow.
Example: Yo bro, wanna catch pipeline (biggest wave) this evening?

8.)
Tight (adj.)- An extraordinary person or event that is able to fit into the social aspect of its surroundings. Origin: Literal meaning of tight-close fitting.
Example: I never really liked Basketball until I saw Kobe drop 81. That was tight.

9.) Ride (n.)- A car, truck, or SUV that is especially souped up. Origin: Back alleys where street racing would take place. Many of the cars had souped up engines and were re-painted.
Example: Mike's new BMW M6 (v12 engine, quad exhaust, red interior, etc.) is pretty nice ride.


10.) Kicks (n.)- shoes. Origin: A person kicked his friend with his shoe on and was told to stop or he would loose his shoes.
Example: The new Michael Jordan kicks are so nice.

Additional Resources for Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson Quotes

"The Spectator"

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Summaries and Connections

Parental Advice No. 189

The Bickerstaff family consisted of a vicious cycle of debauched men that would marry off their sons when they needed money. The pattern repeats through the generations up until Samuel Bickerstaff. The main point of the article is made in the last section where Steele dines with Samuel Bickerstaff. Samuel has become an overprotective, rather than dionysian, father. He rigorously regulates his children's behavior and believes any entertaining activity inherently risks immoral behavior. Steele comments that Samuel Bickerstaff's advice is suitable for any parent looking to rob their children of any worldly enjoyment.

Steele portrays how a family like the Bickerstaffs can be so out of sync with the rest of the world. The Bickerstaffs appear very "sophisticated" and are not interested in anything but personal satisfaction. Today, many people feel that rich CEO's and upper class members of society care only about the well being of their families and have no regard for anyone else. Recent economic hardships especially aggravate this feeling. Steele's portrait of the Bickerstaff family still functions as a stereotype of the rich today.

Steele ridicules Samuel's Bickerstaff's reaction to his family's previous habits as well. Today, psychologists would refer to Samuel as a "helicopter parent". The extreme control some parents exercise over their children is still an issue today. The youth has come to gain more freedom and technology has allowed the youth to have lives unmonitored by their parents. All of these factors have caused parental concerns to grow. Today, Steele would probably advocate a moderate approach to parenthood with a focus on relationships rather than control. Indeed, modern application of Steele's insights demonstrate the timelessness of his writings.

On Female Vanity No. 151

In this essay, Richard Steele professes his disgust at the the vanity that seems to have overtaken women in society. Steele observes that women have become so focused on outward presence and beauty that they have lost the importance of intrisic values. Steele highlights this obsevation by declaring that when a woman comes to her mirror to dress herself, "...she does not employ her time in making herself look more advantageously what she really is, but endeavours to be as much another creature as she possible can" (Steele 73). Accoding to Steele, while this outward attractiveness may be visually pleasing to another man, it also shield's the man from loving the true virtues of the women.

A vast portion of female society has placed such great importance on superficial delights such as diamonds and pearls that women have given up all of the genuine pleasures of life. Steele recalls a memory of his great aunt Margery Bickerstaff who was largely effected by such superficialities. In order to keep Mrs. Bickerstaff from marrying out of the family (Bickerstaff was a wealthy women and the Steeles wanted to keep that wealth within the family), her father would dress her in fine clothes or expensive jewelry. Mrs. Bickerstaff would think so highly of herself due to newly received adornments that her love for her soon-to-be-husband would diminish and soon be forgotten.

Today, consumer culture appeals to women's vanity in order to sell products. Brand names promise beauty and pretend to offer the keys to good self-esteem. On the contrary, many would argue that some women's obsession with modern fashion hurts relationships. One might even venture to connect today's emphasis on apperances to various eating disorders, or perhaps even the rising divorce rate. Regardless of the consequences, the vanity exploited by modern consumer culture demonstrates that humanity still has the same weaknesses today.

Additional Resources for Addison and Steele
Essays by Addison and Steele

Bibliography

Stone Tablet
Gateway Computer
Jonathan Swift Photo
I Eat Babies Photo
Alexander Pope Photo

Steele's Parental Advice No. 189
Steele's On Female Vanity No. 151
Samuel Johnson