- N&D Read to end of book
- Complete Questions on Selling and Evaluation
- Jeske lecture next Wednesday on campus. Available as 10 BP towards preDraft 2 points or as an EXABS
- All along the way, in any class, you should be thinking about an angle on an essay. What interests you about the topic? Where are there disagreements with what is written? What IDEAS do you want to defend or refute or change or suggest?
- My rough draft of paper topics:
- Ehrenreich’s investigation says something like:People who work full time jobs should be able to expect more than scraping by. According to her observations, this is very hard to do. But the solution isn’t so obvious. Assuming she has identified a real problem, what should we do to correct this problem? Go beyond education.
But it also half-raises questions without truly answering them, escorts paradoxes onstage then shoos them off again without letting us get a really good look at them and generally shies away from admitting that however intolerable the conditions Ehrenreich describes may be, any viable alternative to tolerating them is far from obvious.
- Some sort of investigative field work—SDSU in the lab?
- Housing? Take 30% of Washington Minimum Wage and look for houses in Yakima.
- Minimum Wage Debate—oral/written; some/all students?
- Fake/Real Job Descriptions, brochures, want ads
- Two-three questions from the discussion questions
- Satire of investigative report on the “working rich”
- What about low wage jobs for men? What are the difference do you think? What kind of research could you do?
- What does it mean to be an ethical employee or an ethical employer?
- If, as Ehrenreich points out, the working poor aren’t very vocal about their conditions, why should we do anything? In other words, if the working poor don’t seem to care, why should we?
A recent survey of attitudes about poverty sponsored by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government suggests that this resistance to classic left ideas about poverty is fairly common among the poor. For example, the low-income Americans surveyed were only slightly more likely than the affluent to blame the plight of the poor on circumstances beyond their control, rather than on personal failings or lack of initiative
j. Explain how poverty is also a “frame of mind”. Explore how the conditions reflect “the relentless grinding down of dignity and, by extension, hope.” What doe this suggest about possible solutions to the problem?
While it's not true that everyone has a broke diary, plenty of people do. I can remember times during my college years when for weeks I ate only a meagerly topped baked potato for dinner each night -- my best friend referred to one such period as "the Depression." The fact that he could joke about my penury and Nissel can treat hers as almost a lark serves as a reminder that poverty is more than a matter of low income; it's also a frame of mind. Both Nissel and my collegiate self expected our "broke diaries" to be slender volumes…. So perhaps worse than the grim mathematics of the life Ehrenreich sampled is the relentless grinding down of dignity and, by extension, hope.
k. One of the issues that comes up in the discussion of this book is Ehrenreich’s position as a tourist in the land of the working poor. Explain the “clashes” created by her attempts to right the wrongs of the social order and her coworkers desires/beliefs.
Ehrenreich's image of the working poor as, in fact, simply victims of an unjust social order clashes with their need to believe that they have some say in their own fates -- and to hold the people in their lives morally accountable.
A couple more quotes from Salon:
Still, Ehrenreich is right: It takes more than the work ethic to climb out of poverty today. "Nickel and Dimed" never quite makes the crucial point that it's not humanly possible to pursue the education and training required to improve your lot while you're supporting yourself (let alone children) with minimum-wage jobs -- but any observant reader can see it. There simply isn't enough time. Ehrenreich demonstrates that the method of calculating the poverty threshold is ludicrously obsolete: It's indexed to the cost of food, not housing, the mushrooming expense that more than anything else keeps people in the hole. Minimum-wage jobs should be no more than temporary stopovers on the way to better things, but that can't happen if people have to work every waking hour to keep a roof over their heads.
What makes "Nickel and Dimed" such an important book is how viscerally Ehrenreich demonstrates this. Is it fair, then, to fault her for not proffering a clear solution?
What is to be done, then, about the shameful hardships they suffer? Ehrenreich ends with an unconvincing bit of socialist bravado: "They are bound to tire of getting so little in return and demand to be paid what they're worth. There'll be a lot of anger when that day comes, and strikes and disruption." Yet nothing in "Nickel and Dimed" suggests that the working poor harbor any such inclinations. Still, I can't blame Ehrenreich for wanting to end on a hopeful note, however forced. As the poor people she met while writing "Nickel and Dimed" can testify, most of the time hope is all you've got to keep you going.
Discuss ideas to write about at tables in groups of 3-4. Present them to the class and we’ll vote on our top two.
- Questions 1 and 2 at tables from Selling in Minnesota
- Wal Mart DVD?