6-12-2017 Lesson Plan

Ahhhh, Grades! (15 min)

I wanted to get some business out of the way first. Since we have just two weeks left, I wanted to pass out a rubric for how I’ll be evaluating your final projects. Let’s take a moment and go over this.


Statistics and Trust (20-30 min)

What’d you make of Davies’ argument about a decline of statistics and a decline of expertise? Do you agree with that sentiment? If so, what can be done generally? Most public writing relies almost exclusively on expert knowledge. If that is worth less now, then what?

It’s always been somewhat true that the general public has not trusted statistics. The saying variously attributed to Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli should be familiar: “There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Interestingly enough, it is likely that this saying was recomposed from an earlier saying about expert witness testimony at trial: “there are three types of lies: the liar simple, damned liars, and the expert witness.” See this page for more. All this is to say: depending on your audience, an ethical appeal that relies on expertise and/or statistics can be shaky ground.

So, how do you use statistics effectively for public audiences that may mistrust them (or, too readily believe ones that contradict the ones you use)?

I chose four excerpts from your blog posts that present possible ways to combat this problem that I wanted to put forward to the group as a whole. Let’s poke at them a bit and see what we get out of them:


“I understand why people use statistics though. They are ways to relay a “general truth” about a population, without taking individual lives into consideration. To say that unemployment has decreased from 20% to 16% does not capture the whole story. Those who are unemployed will likely resent the statistic or the politician delivering the statistic. The only way to deal with this issue is to empathize with those still struggling and acknowledging that “it is not enough.” Highlighting the positive aspect of a statistic does not reinforce a point, but rather alienates the other end of the spectrum. Statistics of this nature should never be used to say “we as a society are improving” or “life for Americans is getting better.” Statements like these would make me angry and distrusting. Stating that we, as a nation, are trending in the right direction while empathizing with old coal miners, steel workers, and other unemployed persons would be better. Resentment will always exist with statistics: that is the inevitable truth.”


“A great way to avoid alienating people when you use stats is to tell stories of the exceptions in the stats. In my example above, when speaking negatively about people living with their parents, make sure to say there are some who do this out of necessity and not simply to be lazy. There are outliers in every statistic. Sometimes these stories will blow us away. Aggregation doesn’t account for these personal narratives that may stomp on the insensitivity of a sum so broad sweeping. Not everyone on welfare is lazy. Not every wealthy person got there by working hard. Narratives are so crucial in order to assault the broad brush of aggregation, a sum that does a poor job at showing the whole reality it represents.”


“To combat this distrust, it is pertinent for the author to understand their audience. In my research for my campaign piece, I found that white middle-class suburban families have become the majority of the recipients of school vouchers over urban black families that are more in need of vouchers. This was a statistic I chose to omit from my piece did not want to alienate the majority of my audience. Statistics are a powerful tool, but must be carefully tailored to suit the audience.”


“It is crucial to keep all these things in mind when presenting statistics in your arguments. You want to try to avoid alienating part of your audience through use of statistics. To accomplish this, I think it is necessary to thoroughly explain the method of data collection, how the statistic was formed, and who it applies to. If the statistic is carefully explained, I think it will be accepted by a greater audience.”


Quantitative Rhetoric (45-60 min)

What are all the other possible ways you could express “there’s a 98% chance everything is fine”?


Activity: Pull a statistic from something you’ve done thus far. If you haven’t, work with a partner on what they are up to. Think of as many ways as possible they could rewrite the statistic or present it differently while maintaining mathematical equality. And think of all the possible effects that might have; list them out.


How do you write a sentence? What are the options you have with quantitative information?


What about visual representations?

How do you write with graphs and tables? What have you been told in other classes? How do things change with a public audience in mind? What could you do instead?

Example of table: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/media/jpeg/20090814113412_560.jpg

Example of graph: http://www.svsu.edu/media/writingcenter/Figure%201-600×352.jpg


Any problems to consider when thinking of data visualizations for public audiences in these videos?




Activity: Go back to the statistic that you made multiple sentences out of. Try to make a visual representation of that statistic for a public audience. Keep track of your decisions. Have a title. What are possibilities beyond conventional academic tables and figures?


Break (15 min)


Infographics (30-60 min)

What qualifies as an infographic? What are its characteristics? Are there conventions as a genre you can begin to see as you compare these four? Infographic to use:





Let’s try to define some conventions for this genre and what is possible when composing an infographic. What should we keep in mind in regard to the following: Color? Typography? Arrangement? Size? Use of text? Use of images? Motion?

Where does an infographic go? For what purpose? For what kind of rhetorical situation (problem, constraints, audience)? What media can utilize it? Why would you do an infographic and not an APA table or graph? What is the difference between an infographic and such a thing? How about a bar graph with some nice design elements: infographic or not?


Activity: Go back to the visual representation you made earlier. Would you call it an infographic? Why or why not? Go back and revise it–infographic or not–and make some changes in light of what we have talked about so far.


Collaborative Writing and “Voice” (if time; 15-20 min)

Each collaborative writing group from last time will look at another group’s document and pick out all the moments where it felt “different”. For example: Different types of word choice, sentence types, imagery that comes up, tone (e.g., comical, casual, more formal, earnest and urgent), point of view (first, second, third person), paragraphing approaches (one kind of idea across several paragraphs, one idea per paragraph), do the parts all match toward a larger whole or does it feel disjointed at places (i.e., the logic of the organization is a little off in parts when considering your view of the overall aim of the piece). Then, thinking about voice, which one “wins out” and how would you revise to make sure it does?


Admin (5-15 min)

Blog post for 6/14. What we got going on rest of the way.