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Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice: Black and Brown Lives Do Matter

Teaching Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice

We anticipate many faculty will assign students to attend and write about one or more of the public programs scheduled during the year on Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice.  Dr. Mindie Dieu offers some helpful pointers to bear in mind as you develop an assignment prompt that suits your specific class, as students report and reflect  upon an event they have attended.

Writing Prompt Format Ideas (Narrative)

Dr. Mindie Dieu

Disclaimer: These ideas are broad enough to be adapted for a freshman class all the way to seniors. They will need to be adapted. Do consider the length and depth of the paper, varying amounts of primary and secondary research necessary, word count, citation style, and the purpose of giving the assignment in your class.

Part 1 Introduction: Here the student will give a hook to interest the reader; a startling statistic, a quote, a fact which might make the reader interested in further reading. The topic is introduced, including the venue, date, purpose of the gathering, and speaker or speakers for the event. Briefly discussing the biographies of each speaker or leader helps give background and context to the paper.

Part 2 Summary: This is a narrative and includes details from the senses. What are the sights, sounds, handouts, tones, voices, and feeling of the venue? What does this tell the reader about the importance of the event? For example, there might be an event in the SURC, but only 25 people showed up. This does not need to be in first person.

Part 3 Literature Review: The purpose of this section is to give a broader base for interpretation of the event. Articles have been posted in the Canvas site for everyone’s use. A professor might require one or more of those for their class to read. Here the student will relate current scholarly articles (though not restricted to those available in the Canvas site), to the event to get a broader sense of the regional or national context of the topic. Questions to answer might include "How does this event fit in with what we know about Mass Incarceration/Racial Justice on a broader scale?" and "What do scholars have to say about this topic? What are some of the differences in their perspectives?”

Part 4 Interpretation: Once the first three parts have been accomplished, we ask the student to integrate the information into their world view. Questions to answer in this section might include the following: “Given what you know of mass incarceration/racial justice, discuss the strongest points of this presentation.”; "Select three of the most powerful quotes or ideas (don’t forget to give proper credit to speakers/readers), and discuss them in terms of Mass Incarceration/Racial Justice."; "In this class, we focus on ______________. How does this even relate to the class’ focus?" or "Given what you now know about Mass Incarceration/Racial Justice, what is the biggest drawback to the ideas in this presentation? How, in the future might we solve that problem?" 

Part 5 Summary: Sometimes, professors allow first person discussion in the summary. It is not necessary but possible here. The summary will bring together the four parts, not introducing any new ideas, but integrating the information in order to bring about a call to action. They also might bring in the original hook, to reiterate the previous theme, and to tie the ideas together into a satisfying conclusion.

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