Lie to me once, shame on you

Lie to me twice, shame on me. But what if you lie to me with maps? No idea what happens then. But our class is prepared for that contingency now.

This spring, we read parts of How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier (thanks to the recommendation of my friend and professor at AUM, Terry Winemiller, geography guru).

We talked about visual rhetoric this semester (which Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham said was a cool thing when he visited our school earlier this spring!). We talked about ethos, pathos, logos this semester, too. We talked about ways we persuade… even when we aren’t thinking about it, even when it’s only with an image.

As the spring term winds down, students are creating, or have created, their final projects: 1) an analysis of several maps using How to Lie with Maps, and 2) thoughts on the map of Montgomery they recreated for our partner writers at Oklahoma City University (we just exchanged maps at a symposium hosted by OCU on April 18).

Below are the blog pages where students from this Honors Composition II class created their map/research/writing projects.

I’m dazzled.

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What do we see when we go looking?

We are getting ready for visual rhetoric and maps… that’s what we’re doing and have been doing, weaving ideas, thinking processes, and images into our writing that we’ve been sharing and commenting upon.

The title of this post may strike you as odd at the start and before you get to the end, even at the end, but it’s a central idea, a core notion, that underpins what I hope you will take with you long after you are gone from AUM. Ponder this and it for awhile and we’ll talk.

Before I post about maps and visual rhetoric, I want to spend a moment on the following, because sometimes attention needs to be paid to those who have left us too soon, and who have left us a legacy.

I want you to read Dr. Hessler’s post about her connection, through a friend, with Anthony Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize winner (for International Reporting in 2004). Just a few days ago he died in Syria. The NY Times covered his death in a brief story from 16 February 2012. His is a great loss to writing and to perspective.

His work as a writer, to reveal events to readers far away and removed from the moment, is so important to who we are as thinkers and writers in higher education. Freedom of the Press. The First Amendment. We exist in our country, in our city, in our school because we have been guaranteed certain freedoms. Shadid’s life exemplifies freedom of the press and the risks journalists take to ensure information is free, that stories get told, that we do not live in a place that limits what we can learn or how we can learn it.

I’m not suggesting that education does not have its biases in various ways or overall, but given collectively, the liberal arts agenda–students could learn a great deal about the world, the past, envision the future, from multiple perspectives, opening their hearts and minds to the world in new ways. We live in the midst of a chaotic time, inundated with images and information. Part of our job is to read and learn and consume, responsibly and rationally, knowing what triggers our emotions, our minds, what evokes our respect. In other words, the appeals of Aristotle are alive and well in how we approach the world… how are we persuaded to know what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s real, what’s unreal, what’s too much to know?

I’m reminded, as I’m writing about this connection between my friend and her friend and this incredible writer, of the four freedoms that Norman Rockwell painted for four consecutive covers of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943 (mid-WWII). They were inspired by an address that President Franklin Roosevelt gave to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941 (about a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor). This image is an excerpt from his address in the Wikipedia entry on Rockwell’s paintings.

Excerpt from FDR's address to Congress 6 January 1941.

The “crash of a bomb” is still a horrific crash that kills our dreams, that kills our people, that kills our hope… a horrific reality 70+ years after Roosevelt first uttered the phrase.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on a man, a writer, who helped readers understand the crash of a bomb and the connection and relevance that has for our friends in Oklahoma City.

Please read Dr. Hessler’s post and the essay by Shadid and think/write about your reaction to him as a writer. Let us take a bit of time to remember this man, his writing, his work, his interconnectedness to the world, that he provided to the world, and let us be part of that.