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immigration detention and private prison profit making

The Historical Conversations Project

Two major projects comprise the 39C curriculum: The Historical Conversations Project (HCP) and The Advocacy Project (AP). This first one, the HCP, asks you to do four things: (1) define and describe a significant political/social/cultural problem; (2) justify and frame this problem to convince your audience that the problem you’re addressing and the questions you’re asking are alive and relevant right now; (3) summarize and critically evaluate various conversations and debates made by credible scholars and organizations about your topic; and (4) describe and decipher the historical contexts of the problem at hand by locating evidence from both the past and the present that tie the problem as we see it today to its past.

Over the next four weeks you will work on this project, which will be submitted for a grade at the end of week four. One of the main purposes of this first assignment is to expose you and your peers to various topics, arguments, histories, and background knowledge that will enable you engage with each other over the course of the quarter. Another purpose of the HCP is to begin the process of teaching you how to locate, evaluate, select, arrange, and integrate sources into a multi-modal composition. As a genre of communication—and in the case of this assignment, one that frames a problem, delivers arguments, uses evidence, and speaks to an audience that you define through your research—a multi-modal composition can be a synthesis of various rhetorical positions—visual and written for example—that work together to deepen argumentative positions and claims.

You may be asking yourself (and you should ask your teacher), “What is a composition and what does it mean if it’s multi-modal?” In your case, you will locate at least two pieces of evidence, one from the present that helps you define the problem you are exploring and one from the past that deciphers this problem’s historical context. And then you will use credible sources to describe for your readers how these distinct pieces of evidence work together to explain the viability of the contemporary problem.

You will need to ask a number of questions in order to understand how your key pieces of evidence speak to each to each other: How does the “artifact” from the past illustrate the evolution of the problem? What arguments do scholars make about the problem’s past and its present? What are scholars and credible people and organizations debating about the problem and its past? As you explain how and why certain historical changes tie your central pieces of evidence together, you will have to think creatively to arrange your arguments and your evidence, both your key pieces of evidence and scholarly sources, to persuade your audience that the historical foundation you have located is meaningful to our understanding of the problem in the present.

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