What do you want for your people?
As my students wrap up their work with formal argument essays, for the unit required by my institution, we focused on our writing jam on one simple question: what do you want for your people? My goal is for my students to consider an issue that is important to them, urgent in their community, and offers room for conversation about solutions. However, I know the power of strong introductions and conclusions to influence readers and so I always like to spend some time with my students writing about their motivations for choosing this topic. After weeks of research, it is easy to fall into the trap of being too logical and factual when crafting a formal argument and I want my students to remember the emotional core of their stance. We drew inspiration from I Want the Wide American Earth by Carlos Bulosan and this excerpt:
I cry, I weep with joy,
And my tears are the tears of my people….
Before the brave, before the proud builders and workers,
I say I want the wide American earth
For all the free,
I want the wide American earth for my people,
I want my beautiful land.
I want it with my rippling strength and tenderness
Of love and light and truth
For all the free—
It is easy once mired in any debate to lose track of what we really want for our people. As a writing teacher devoted to authentic writing I do not want my students to write arguments that do not matter to them. I want them to write about problems and worries and challenges that matter to them and to their people. I wrote about mothers sending their babies off to school who worry about the physical and emotional safety of their children. I wrote about teachers opening hearts and minds in the classroom while knowing they do not have enough resources (personal or practical) to meet the needs of their students. I wrote about school staff devoted to the mission of transporting, feeding, and physically caring for children while worried about paychecks that do not cover the transportation, food, and housing of their own families. I am crying again just thinking about how much these worries overwhelm me because I want a complete overhaul of our nation’s education system even if my model argument is for a much smaller scale proposal. What do you want for your people? Write about that.