Monday, January 15, 2007

Exploring Garbage Land

Hi everyone, this note is to clarify my expectations for reading Garbage Land. A couple of students have emailed me asking me questions like, "What about the section that says investigate? Is the record a detailed record or just a general record? Do I have to go to the library to find out information about the history of garbage in South Bend? Are we supposed to be recording the weight of our garbage and all that or just a general recording of what goes in the trash? Is the investigate part supposed to part of the written assignment or just stuff you want us to do and discuss on the blog? "

These are great questions to ask. It shows that you have been reading the book and taking this topic seriously.

Here's my position in response to these questions: I’d like you to make some of these decisions for yourself. It would be very impressive if you took your own initiative and recorded the weight of your trash. It would certainly illustrate how much garbage you are consuming on an individual level, AND it will provide you with data you could use for statistical purposes. Most important, recording the weight of your trash may establish a greater personal connection with this topic. I’m not, however, going to make this a "requirement" as part of the reading discussion questions. In addition, it's perfectly reasonable to select one or two reading discussion questions to answer, just as long as you demonstrate that you've read the material and thought about how the topic relates to you. And you're always welcome to share your thoughts about the reading on the blog. Posting your comments on the blog is a great place for us to engage in an informal discussion about the reading or anything else you want to say about the project.

As I told the student who asked me those questions, the reading exercises are less about me telling you what to do, and more about you creating an experience for yourself. My goal is to offer you some guidelines and options that fit within the course expectations. Ultimately, however, you have the control to decide how you’d like to master those goals. I hope this gives you enough freedom to explore the topic in such a way that you create a meaningful experience for yourself. Because I think this topic is broad enough for us to make several personal connections, I don’t think it’s my place to tell you *how* to make a particular connection. My goal is to simply offer you some ways to make those connections for yourself.

Admittedly, this may be an approach you're not used to, which is understandable. Just remember that we're embarking on a journey that most people have not taken: For goodness sake, we're learning about garbage, plastic bags, and statistics! :0)

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