Seminar Read “ This Is Water, ” the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address, delivered by  David Foster Wallace  (abbreviated here as DFW). Then pick 2 of the

Seminar Read “

This Is Water,

” the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address, delivered by 
David Foster Wallace 
(abbreviated here as DFW). Then pick 2 of the following questions to answer in at least 6 sentences each. Be sure to support your insights and analysis with specific quotes from the text.

1. According to DFW, how is it “within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down” (8)? What, specifically, is required to experience it as such? And why is doing so of the utmost importance?

2. DFW asserts that “the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted” is that “you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship. Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship” (8). Thinking of worship in this way: not in its religious sense but as finding something meaningful and holding it in reverence and regard, what have you recently and consciously worshipped/ found meaningful? Alternatively, what have you recently and consciously decided is not worthy of worship/ meaning? Why?

3. DFW acknowledges that “there are different kinds of freedom” but the most important kind “involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day” (9). Why, in his opinion, is this the most precious form of freedom? Does this even sound like freedom to you? What is “freeing” about it?

4. DFW claims that “the real value of a real education… has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: ‘This is water.’ ‘This is water’” (9). First, what does he mean? What exactly is “hidden in plain sight”? Why does being aware trump all? Second, why is it “unimaginably hard to do this” (10)? Furthermore, do you agree?

5. How does this speech (for college graduates) compare to McCullough’s speech (for high school graduates). On one hand, what do they have in common (e.g. in terms of messages)? On the other hand, what distinguishes or differentiates them?

STEP 2: Read this week’s critical thinking tip–”

The Doubting & Believing Game

“–and explain, in at least 5 sentences, how it relates to DFW’s speech. More specifically, how does DFW encourage us to play this game? As usual, be specific, quoting from the text in order to provide concrete examples and help illustrate your points.

STEP 3: Come up with your own question for discussion, and answer it in at least 5 sentences. Be sure the question is an open-ended discussion question rather than a fact-based question. In other words, it should encourage conversation and needn’t have a clear answer; instead, it should value exploration over verifiability. It is your responsibility to get your group to really think about and answer your question as you will be graded on the depth of the discussion as well as the quality of your question and response.

STEP 4: Comment constructively on the responses of at least 2 peers in at least 5 sentences each, going beyond mere acknowledgement and/or flattery, furthering an exploratory and analytical discussion that complicates–rather than simplifies–the subject matter at hand.

MLA Tips: 

MLA in-text citation for a speech


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MLA in-text citation for a single source


Ground Rules

· When challenging your peers’ interpretations or offering alternative views, try to refer to evidence from the text to support your ideas.

· Be respectful. Don’t put down the ideas of another student. 

· Ask questions if you do not understand what someone has said.

· Remember this is a discussion first and foremost (characterized by inquiry, participation, and communal spirit), as opposed to debate (characterized by persuasion, prepared rebuttals, clear sides).


· Help one another understand the ideas, issues, values, and rhetorical features reflected in these texts. Through a process of listening, making-meaning, and finding common ground, work toward shared understanding rather than trying to prove a particular argument. A Socratic seminar, like this one, is not used for the purpose of debate, persuasion, or personal reflection, as the focus is on developing shared meaning of a text.

· Have a robust discussion. In such a seminar, the participants–namely, you–carry the burden of responsibility for the quality of the discussion. Good discussions occur when participants study the text closely in advance, listen actively, share their ideas and questions in response to the ideas and questions of others, and search for evidence in the text to support their ideas. 

Submission Guidelines

Be sure to number the questions you responded to, single-space your answers, and proofread your work carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

To post Steps 1-3, click “Reply” at the bottom of the screen. You may either (a) copy & paste your pre-written response in the text entry box that appears, or (b) click “Attach” (bottom-left) and upload your pre-written response. Then, click “Post Reply.” Keep in mind that you must post before you can see other replies.

To post Step 4 (your peer responses/ discussion contribution), find at least 2 reading responses that pique your interest and click on “Reply” at the bottom of each post.

Rubric & Grading:

To view the grading rubric, see below–or click the toggle button on the top-right-side of the screen (above the light blue bar) and select “Show Rubric.”

Otherwise, consider that the following criteria will be used for assessment… 

· preparation (does the student’s work reflect a close reading of the text?)

· engagement (did the student thoughtfully engage with their peers?)

· respect (no interruptions or put-downs)

· meaning-making (students understand the text more deeply at the end of the seminar)

· use of evidence (student comments always refer back to specifics from the text). 

Keep in mind that I will be assessing each of you by these means. So, failure to prepare and engage, be thoughtful and respectful, or support your ideas with evidence, will result in a reduction in your grade.


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