Commonplace Book #10: Millennials and Hope

The New Yorker article about the youngest elected official in NYC, Ritchie Torres: “Torres spoke about the challenges he had confronted growing up, and closed with a message for his fellow-millennials: ‘Even in our moment of greatest darkness, there is light. And there is hope. And there is hope not only for our own lives, but we should be hopeful about our ability to change the world.’”

Overall, this article about Ritchie Torres was extremely interesting. His background is inspiring, and his positive outlook on life is an attitude we all need to hear about at this time in history. As the country continues to divide, this quote helps us see the light at the end of the tunnel. Although millennials may not be completely in-sync with the rest of the country, I do feel as if we are unified together. When I talk to my mom, she tells my brothers and I, who are also millennials, that when she sees millennials on social media she feels her own sense of hope. We are all motivated to “change the world” as Torres says and see the world the way we dream it to be. This quote specifically stuck with me when I read the article because of how relatable it is. Although it sometimes feels like millennials are stuck with a negative stigma of not caring and laziness, I believe that notion is false, and Torres agrees.

Commonplace Book #9: Television Makes Us Smarter

The New York Times “Watching TV Makes You Smarter” article: “In a sense, this is as much a map of cognitive changes in the popular mind as it is a map of on-screen developments, as if the media titans decided to condition our brains to follow ever-larger numbers of simultaneous threads.”

This article analyzes the television industry and how it has evolved substantially over time. At one point, television was used to strictly for entertainment. Television shows were easy-to-follow, the plots were simple, and the characters were predictable. However, this is not the case anymore. Characters are unpredictable, plots keep us guessing, and audiences need to focus for every second to understand what is happening. Television executives know this, and as the article states, they’re “condition[ing] our brains.” More and more people are getting hooked to these complex shows and they want as many of them as possible. Individuals want well-written and planned shows, and the media is catering to them. Every show that isn’t cancelled is carefully thought about from major executives. They need to be positive that they will make profits, and the more complicated shows are the ones that are kept.

Commonplace Book #8: Trump’s Rhetoric

Washington Post article: President-Elect Trump on climate change — “Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast. I do know this: Other countries are eating our lunch.”

Throughout the entire election, we have seen the way Trump talks and the language he uses in his speeches and to the press. He uses very simple words and does not get very specific in anything he talks about. In this case, his words are so simple that if I did not know he was talking about climate change, I would have no idea what he is talking about. In the end of this phrase, he brings it back to other countries “eating our lunch” or hurting us in the business world. Trump uses these simple words to appeal to his voters. He wants most people to understand him, so he does not talk about complex subjects in specific detail. Additionally, most of his supporters want to “Make America Great Again” and go back to the way things were. Therefore, he brings it back to what his supporters care about, beating other countries. This phrase is a perfect example of Trump’s rhetoric and phrasing and how he purposely caters to his supporters and what they understand and want to hear.


Commonplace Book #7: Opinions vs Decisions

A Passage from David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America

“[A]n education [. . .] that was designed to support a truly direct, deliberative democracy [. . .] would be an education oriented to the ‘strong publics’ of decision-making rather than the ‘weak publics’ of opinion formation” (205).

Fleming makes interesting points in this quote about the education system and democracy working collaboratively. Neither of them can really be successful without the other. In this quote specifically, Fleming is emphasizing “decision-making” over “opinion formation.” Fleming desires the education system to be focusing on decision-making rather than opinion formation. Decision-making involves looking at the situation and the facts that surround it and making inferences or choices that involve all of those variables. On the other hand, opinion formation does not have to involve any of that. People can simply look at anything, and without facts, form opinions or thoughts. This is not a productive way to learn or work and live in a democracy.

In college versus high school, I have found that I’m required to use more decision-making rather than opinion-formation. In high school, we were encouraged to form opinions and discussions often revolved around our opinions. However, looking back, those opinions were not always backed up by facts and reasonable observations based on the situation I was in. Fleming would have encouraged my fellow classmates and I to look at the reasons for why things were happening or what the aftermath would look like. Anybody can form an opinion, but looking at scenarios and making calculated observations or decisions based on them is a skill that everyone should learn and put into effect.

Commonplace Book #6 Editing Rewrite

Fleming elaborates on different sized democracies working for various groups of people and governments. For example, local governments require unity. It is necessary for groups to quickly and efficiently communicate and make decisions. Local governments have no need to be extremely powerful because they are not in charge of larger groups. It is unrealistic for them to hear out people in the democracy; it would be ineffective. Smaller groups are incapable of handling conflicts that extend to the rest of the world, state, and country. They do not have the resources and people to deal with issues that concern everyone.

Commonplace Book #5: Georgia Referendum

Georgia Referendum to Amend State Constitution:

“Shall Property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?”

In its root form, this sentence could be summed up as, “Should the property continue to be exempt from taxation?” By discovering the root, it makes it easier for the audience to understand the main point. With additional words such as utilized, providers, continue, and affordable, the encoder can add more meaning to the sentence. For example, although on its own the word “continue” is simple, in this context, it tells the audience that there is something that is habitually occurring in Georgia. Without the word “continue”, the entire sentence may have a different purpose. In this situation, the encoder would be the people who are running the referendum. The audience would be those who live in Georgia, specifically they might be the ones who are providers of college and university student housing. meaning of this sentence would be how people are wondering if property taxes should remain exempt for the University System of Georgia and other providers of college housing and facilities. The rhetorical situation is that some individuals may believe that property taxes should be paid. The rhetorical situation may also be that taxes should continue to be exempt because it is more important for costs to stay affordable. Since this statement is from a Georgia referendum which is government related, they may be leaning more towards more taxes being paid.

Commonplace Book #4: Gender Inclusive Bathrooms


The sign states that it is a gender inclusive bathroom with two stalls. A gender inclusive bathroom means that any person can use it, regardless of what gender they identify as, or if they do not identify with a gender at all. This sign is located at American University, which is crucial for a school that prides themselves on establishing an inclusive environment.  American University, or specifically the Housing and Dining Program, authored this sign. Most likely, their purpose was to ensure that all students on campus feel safe and comfortable. In my opinion, American University is taking a step in the right direction in providing gender inclusive bathrooms on campus.


Commonplace Book #3: My Favorite Sentence

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” Dead Poets Society 

Root Sentence: Ideas change the world.

All the other words in the sentence are supporting and making the root sentence stronger. The first half of the sentence, “no matter what anybody tells you”, is not completely necessary, but it is important to the overall message of the sentence. The root sentence on its own is strong and makes sense, but the overall sentence is much stronger with the supporting words.

My Sentence: Politicians and other popular figures may tell you that ideas change the world.

Similar to the original sentence, both have the same concept of “ideas changing the world”, however in this case, there are different subjects or people involved.

Commonplace Book #2: The Conversation

Intro 1: “Many readers believe that schools with high suspension rates are boosting the achievement of the students who don’t misbehave. However, research on the state of Indiana, which controlled for poverty and race, found that lower-suspending schools had higher achievement rates (Skiba, 2014). Similarly, a study that tracked every middle school student in Texas over six years and controlled for over 80 variables found no academic benefits in schools with higher suspension rates (Fabelo, 2011).” Source:

In this introduction, the writers do use “they say” by summarizing the other side of the discipline gap. They argue that, “schools with high suspension rates are boosting the achievement of the students who don’t misbehave”. The authors do a quality job of immediately countering this argument by inserting their “I say”. They used evidence from a credited source to prove that “lower-suspending schools had higher achievement rates”. This format mirrors Graff’s form almost identically. It’s a very effective example of how to embrace the “they say/I say” skill.

Intro 2: “The term ‘Third World’ was used frequently in histories of the societies, economies and cultures of many parts of the world in the second half of the twentieth century. But, although the phrase was widely used, it was never clear whether it was a clear category of analysis, or simply a convenient and rather vague label for an imprecise collection of states in the second half of the twentieth century and some of the common problems that they faced. Not even enthusiasts for the term provided any precision.” Source: B.R. Tomlinson “What was the third world?”

In this introduction, the writer also has a quality example of using “they say”. The other side claims, “the term ‘Third World’ was used frequently in histories of the societies, economies and cultures of many parts of the world in the second half of the twentieth century”. Like Graff states in the book, the author should summarize without sound accusatory or bias. Tomlinson does an excellent job of summarizing without showing which side he agrees with. In the next line, he effectively uses “I say” to counter the previous argument. This introduction is a wonderful example of the “they say/I say” method.


Commonplace Book #1: Sentence Structure and Phrasing

Political disintegration plagues Congress. House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker last year.

  • Political disintegration plagues Congress; House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, and House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, which is why House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, because House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.
  • Political disintegration plagues Congress, and therefore House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker.

I didn’t see the step; now I have a bandage on my head.

  • I didn’t see the step. I have a bandage on my head now.
  • I didn’t see the step, and I have a bandage on my head now.
  • I didn’t see the step, because I have a bandage on my head.
  • I didn’t see the step, so have a bandage on my head now.

Sentences completely change based on the phrasing and punctuation. Some of these sentences now mean differently due to the context in which the punctuation is in. For example one sentence says the bandage is on their head after the fall, now it says they fell because they had a bandage on their head. Punctuation makes a huge difference.