Integrating Evicted into WRIT 100/101

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The first-semester, first-year writing courses—WRIT 100 and WRIT 101—use the Common Reading Text as the basis for a major writing project. First-year writing courses use the Common Reading Text as a basis for student reading and writing rather than as a literary study.

Critical Thinking Exercises

(adapted from Rhode Island Center for the Book 2019 Resource Guide and Random House’s Common Reading Guide for What the Eyes Don’t See)
  1. The “whistleblower” has been a significant figure throughout history. With your classmates, create a list of whistleblowers, including both famous and lesser-known examples. Then, in a small group choose a whistleblower to further investigate. Write and deliver a report that includes factual information regarding the whistleblower’s biography, what was exposed, and an analysis of the effects, both immediate and far-reaching. Were the whistleblower’s actions justified by the effects?

  1. This book shows our changing understanding of lead’s impact on humans. Find additional sources that explain how and when scientists began to understand the danger posed by exposure to lead. Then chart the development of our understanding of lead, and explore how public policy has changed to reflect these scientific findings. Make an argument for the most effective public policy response to lead exposure. Support your argument with evidence from your research.

  1. The Washington D.C. and Flint water crises are two examples of the government failing to protect the public. Pick two other public health emergencies (such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak or the 2020 COVID crisis), and compare the responses of local and federal officials. How do we know what best practices are, and how can we ensure that officials follow best practices?

  1. On page 146, Hanna-Attisha claims that there is no greater public health villain than Charles “Boss” Kettering. Do some additional research. Make a three-column list citing Kettering’s positive contributions to society in one column, negative contributions in the second, and mixed contributions in the third. Read over the lists, and analyze the data.  Then make an argument responding to this question: Is Hanna-Attisha’s characterization of Charles “Boss” Kettering fair?  Support your argument with evidence from your list and Hanna-Attisha’s book.

  1. Read the abstract for Hanna-Attisha’s report, “Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Children Associated with the Flint Drinking Water Crisis: A Spatial Analysis of Risk and Public Health Response,” published in the American Journal of Public Health. How does use of geospatial analysis influence how people understand the information about blood lead levels in Flint? What was your reaction to the images included in the report?

  1. Watch Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’s TEDMED Talk “How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime” and Hanna-Attisha’s TEDMED Talk “Flint’s Fight for America’s Children.” How are the advocacy and storytelling tools similar? How are they different? What are the limitations of storytelling in advocacy work? What are the advantages of storytelling?

The Writer’s Practice prompts:


(1) Information Literacy: Helps with analysis, argument, close reading, synthesis, and critically examining information/misinformation and how it impacts communities

Mona Hanna-Attisha encounters a number of roadblocks in her quest to expose the lead problem in Flint, including falsehoods and misinformation. Read "If It Isn't True, Why Do People Believe It?" in The Writer's Practice (77-82). Then, choose one or two examples from the book where Hanna-Attisha and others faced lying and/or misinformation. Next, compose an essay in which you analyze why the misinformation was so powerful and how Hanna-Attisha and others overcame it. Consider the different people involved in the situation and how information and misinformation impacts them. Why did some people lie or provide misinformation? Why might some people believe something that isn’t true even when there is strong evidence to the contrary? Be sure to cite from the text.
(2) Social Activism: Helps with analysis, argument, close reading, synthesis, and getting involved in communities

After Mona Hanna-Attisha’s barbeque and her revealing conversation with her friend Elin Betzano, Hanna-Attisha stays up late researching lead in water. She is angry and scared but says she knew she "needed to stay calm ... needed to be strategic and careful" (68). Why does she decide she needs to be calm and strategic? Read over "Why Am I So Angry and What Can I Do About It?" (163-71) in The Writer's Practice, and then identify one specific part of What the Eyes Don't See that makes you angry or upset. Then, as Warner suggests, write an analytical argument about the problem and consider why approaching it calmly and strategically might be more beneficial than being angry. Is the problem one that impacts Oxford or your home community? If so, what role could you play in addressing the problem? If not, how could you still get involved? How is writing about a problem beneficial? Cite specifics from the text.
(3) Rhetorical Analysis: Helps with reading critically; rhetorical analysis; synthesis; argument; and understanding audience, genre, purpose, and message

After reading What the Eyes Don't See, we know that Mona Hanna-Attisha helped expose the Flint water crisis and provided help for the children she treats and all of the people in Flint. So what is her purpose in writing the book? Read over "Reading Like a Writer" in The Writer's Practice (35-40). Then, consider some of the terms Warner uses in that section: genre, purpose, audience, message, etc. How do they apply to What the Eyes Don't See? Why? Compose a thesis-driven essay in which you analyze the genre, purpose, audience, message, and goals of What the Eyes Don't See. Is the purpose just to highlight what happened in Flint? Is it larger? Who might read a book like this one outside of a school assignment? Why? Are there social benefits to books like this one? Why? Be sure to cite from the text.
(4) Ethical Dilemma: Helps with writing a complex thesis, synthesis, analysis and argument, critical reading and thinking, and bigger picture thinking

Many of the people in What the Eyes Don’t See face ethical dilemmas. Think about some of the people in the book and their ethical situations. Also, read “What’s the Right Thing To Do?” in The Writer’s Practice (69-74), and consider Sally’s situation. Then, select a person in the book to analyze more closely, and compare and contrast the situation with Sally’s. Finally, compose a thesis-driven essay in which you consider what each person should do and why. Are the situations black and white? Why, or why not? What bigger picture complications exist, and why do they matter? Who is impacted directly and indirectly? Why? Try to bring the situations together so that you have one focused idea that encompasses both people. Be sure to cite specifics from the text.
(5) Researching Like an Academic: Helps with researching skills, synthesis, understanding audience, critical reading, analysis, and bigger picture thinking

In What the Eyes Don’t See, Mona Hanna-Attisha has to become very knowledgeable about lead in water quickly so that she can learn how to solve the problem in Flint. She also has to talk with a wide variety of people, from water experts to children and their parents. Learning how to do serious research but talk about it with non-experts is challenging but a valuable skill in college. Take one complex area of What the Eyes Don’t See that you would like to read about further (e.g., understanding lead levels in water, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), water filtration, pediatrics, etc.). Also, read “Huh? Say What?” in The Writer’s Practice (131-38), and then complete the writing activity in that section, which asks you to read an academic article and then write an essay in which you break it down to non-academics to show why such research might be interesting to broader audiences than it usually reaches. For this assignment, though, you should draw from both your chosen article and What the Eyes Don’t See. Be sure to cite both works.

The New York Times prompts:

(1) Arguing For or Against Huge Social Changes: Helps with analysis and argument skills, critical reading and thinking, synthesis, and bigger picture thinking

In What the Eyes Don’t See, Mona Hanna-Attisha describes environmental injustice directly on pages 195-97 and indirectly in other parts of the text. Go back over that section and think of other areas in the book where she covers related ideas. Then, read “I’m Sick of Asking Children to be Resilient” (May 12, 2020) in The New York Times, where Hanna-Attisha uses the idea of environmental injustice to call for huge changes to health care and education, even for ideas such as universal basic income. Finally, compose a thesis-driven essay in which you consider what Hanna-Attisha is calling for, and argue how likely and/or realistic such changes are and why. What makes America the same and different from places where such social policies are the norm? Why does this matter? Target one or two of her ideas to help you stay focused, and feel free to look at and use other sources to help you, but be sure to at least cite the book and the article.
(2) Shame and the Age of Social Media: Helps with analysis and argument skills, reflection, critical reading and thinking, synthesis, and bigger picture thinking

In What the Eyes Don’t See, Mona Hanna-Attisha brings up aeb, or what she says English-speakers might call shame. Hanna-Attisha worried about bringing shame on her family, friends, colleagues, and others if her plan to solve the Flint water crisis failed. Read back over Chapter 18 on pages 240-49. Also, read “The Shame Culture” (March 15, 2016) in The New York Times. Then, compose a thesis-driven essay in which you explore and analyze the role of social media and modern technology in Hanna-Attisha’s fight. Did living in the age of social media help or hurt Hanna-Attisha and her cause? What about other technology? Make an argument about the benefits and drawbacks of the modern digital world during the Flint water crisis, deciding which outweigh the other. Feel free to look at and use other sources to help you, but be sure to cite the book and the article.
(3) Two Americas?: Helps with critical reading and thinking, synthesis, reflection, analysis and argument, and bigger picture thinking

Near the end of What the Eyes Don’t See, Mona Hanna-Attisha proclaims that there are two Americas. What does she mean by this? Read back over pages 323-25, and also think about parts of the book where her point is exemplified. Also, read “I Helped Expose the Lead Crisis in Flint. Here’s What Other Cities Should Do.” (Aug. 27, 2019) in the New York Times. Then, compose a thesis-driven essay in which you analyze Hanna-Attisha’s claim about two Americas. Is she correct? Why or why not? If so, what are the conditions or problems that lead to two Americas, and can anything be done to improve the situation? Why does Hanna-Attisha think the American Dream worked for her but doesn’t for some others? Are we destined to see problems like lead in the water and other environmental issues in cities beyond Newark and others mentioned in the article? Why, or why not? Are all cities equally at risk for such problems? Feel free to look at and use other sources to help you, but be sure to cite the book and the article.
(4) Not Just Writing, but Presenting: Helps with analysis and argument, understanding multimodalities, synthesis, critical thinking and reading, and understanding audience

As Mona Hanna-Attisha and her team work to expose and correct the Flint water problem, she is asked to present her information to certain groups varying from doctors to politicians to reporters and the public. Hanna-Attisha and research coordinator Jenny LaChance decide early in their work to use numbers, graphics, images, etc. in their presentations. Revisit parts of What the Eyes Don’t See where Hanna-Attisha makes presentations (e.g., 224-32, 253-58, etc.), and consider the preparation for those presentations. Also, read “The Reach of Lead in Flint’s Water Supply” (Jan. 15, 2016) and “How Officials Distorted Flint’s Water Testing” (updated July 29, 2016) in the New York Times. What do graphics, numbers, images, etc. do for the information being presented? Why? Are there potential problems with using such methods to relay information? Why, or why not? Would the pleas for help from Hanna-Attisha and her team have been as successful without such methods? What difference does it make for popular publications like the New York Times to include such methods in pieces? Compose a thesis-driven essay in which you analyze the effectiveness of graphics, numbers, images, etc. in the work to expose the Flint water crisis and in informing the larger public about it. What might have been most effective? Ineffective? Why? Were/Are there situations when such methods are not advisable? Feel free to look at and use other sources to help you, but be sure to cite the book and the articles.
(5) Rhetorical Analysis: Helps with reading critically; rhetorical analysis; synthesis; argument; and understanding audience, genre, purpose, and message

After reading What the Eyes Don't See, we know that Mona Hanna-Attisha helped expose the Flint water crisis and provided help for the children she treats and all of the people in Flint. So what is her purpose in writing the book? Consider what you think Hanna-Attisha’s purpose was in telling her story. Also, read “How a Pediatrician Became a Detective” (June 9, 2018) in the New York Times. Then, reflect on some common terms that we all should consider when we write: genre, purpose, audience, message, etc. How do they apply to What the Eyes Don't See? What about the article? Why? Are the audiences the same? Compose a thesis-driven essay in which you analyze the genre, purpose, audience, message, and goals of What the Eyes Don't See as well as the article and any other writings by Hanna-Attisha that you want to look at. Is the purpose just to highlight what happened in Flint? Is it larger? What types of people might read a book like this one outside of a school assignment? What types of people might read the article or other shorter pieces written by Hanna-Attisha? Why? Are there social and/or cultural benefits to books like this one? Why? What about from shorter opinion pieces like the ones Hanna-Attisha writes? Feel free to look at and use other sources to help you, but be sure to cite at least the book and the article.

NPR prompts:

(1) Silver Linings Playbook: Helps with analysis and argument skills, critical reading and thinking, reflection, synthesis, and bigger picture thinking

In What the Eyes Don’t See, author Mona Hanna-Attisha writes about how she helped expose a terrible situation in Flint and made it better. Though the book is full of the negative effects of lead in drinking water and what it can and did do to people, there are happy stories that emerge from the situation. Consider the positives that Hanna-Attisha writes about. Also, read “Troubled by Flint Water Crisis, 11-Year-Old Girl Invents Lead-Detecting Device” (Oct. 20, 2017) on the NPR site. Then, compose a thesis-driven essay in which you detail how individuals, the city of Flint, the state of Michigan, and America benefited from the water crisis, even though it never should have happened. Ask yourself how such positive outcomes might matter in the bigger picture. Feel free to look at other sources for information, but be sure to at least cite the book and the article.
(2) Trust in the System: Helps with analysis and argument skills, bigger picture thinking, synthesis, and critical reading and thinking

In What the Eyes Don’t See, Mona Hanna-Attisha details staggering levels of apathy and dishonesty from some local and state government officials during the Flint water crisis. Make a list of the people and agencies involved and how you think they handled their responsibilities. Also, read “Even As Levels Improve, Flint Residents Choose Bottled Water Over Tap” on the NPR site (Dec. 14, 2016). Then, compose a thesis-driven essay in which you explore how lack of trust, faith, and/or belief in governmental bodies leads to problems in communities. What impact did the lying and lack of concern have in Flint? Why? What other problems, both foreseen and unforeseen, might such practices lead to? What are the bigger picture implications? Feel free to look at other sources for information, but be sure to at least cite the book and the article.
(3) Give a Fish or Teach to Fish?: Helps with critical reading and thinking, synthesis, analysis and argument, bigger picture thinking, and research

Near the end of What the Eyes Don’t See we learn that state and even federal agencies devote money and resources to Flint to help with the water crisis. Mona Hanna-Attisha even acknowledges her pleasant surprise when then-Governor Rick Snyder informs her that much of her wish list for the city and its children was to be added to the upcoming state budget in 2016 (305). But Hanna-Attisha clearly sees the difference between short-term aid and long-term investment (302-03). Think about the long-term investment, or the lack thereof, in Flint. Also, read (or listen to) “3 Years After Flint’s Water Crisis, When Will Things Be Back to Normal?” (Dec. 14, 2018) and “5 Years After Flint’s Crisis Began, Is the Water Safe?” (April 25, 2019) on the NPR site. Then, compose a thesis-driven essay in which you analyze the difference between short-term aid and long-term investment. Which is more the case in Flint? Why? What factors contribute to determining which approach is used in a community? How have state and federal agencies handled their work in Flint in the years since the water crisis was uncovered? Why does this matter in the bigger picture? Look at other sources for information that helps your research, but be sure to at least cite the book and the articles.
(4) Social Activism: Helps with analysis, argument, close reading/listening, synthesis, reflection, and getting involved in communities

In What the Eyes Don’t See, Mona Hanna-Attisha often references her high school days, when she was involved in some organizations like SEA, where she fought against environmental injustices. She says of those days, “[o]nce you have had a chance to change things, to have a real-world impact, you never forget it” (45). Hanna-Attisha has gone on to be a busy activist for many causes that impact children. Listen to “Pediatrician Who Exposed Flint Water Crisis Shares Her ‘Story of Resistance’” (June 25, 2018) on the NPR site, and then identify one specific issue in What the Eyes Don't See and/or Hanna-Attisha’s interview that you could see yourself getting involved with. Then, write a thesis-driven analysis about the problem and reflect on why you are drawn to it. Is the problem one that impacts Oxford or your home community? If so, what role could you play in addressing the problem, even if it is minor? If not, how could you still get involved? How is writing or speaking about a problem beneficial? What does making a “real-world impact” mean to you? Why? How does the work Hanna-Attisha and others have done inspire or impact you? Be sure to cite specifics from the book and the interview.
(5) It’s a Family Affair: Helps with analysis and argument, synthesis, and close reading/listening

What the Eyes Don’t See is full of stories about family members and how they have influenced Mona Hanna-Attisha’s life and her choice to become an activist. Look back over the text, and pick one of Hanna-Attisha’s family members, past or present, that you would like to write about. Also, read and listen to “Meet the California Family That Has Made Health Care Its Business” (July 30, 2015) on the NPR site. How are the two stories similar? How are they different? What role can family play in shaping someone to become an activist, even though Hanna-Attisha acknowledges that being an activist and advocate means facing resistance and many disappointments. Compose a thesis-driven essay in which you focus on one of Hanna-Attisha’s family members, past or present, and how he or she helped shape her as an activist. Why was this person so influential? Why is family so important to Hanna-Attisha? What is aeb, and why does it matter in Hanna-Attisha’s life? How has Hanna-Attisha faced similar challenges as the Lee family? Feel free to look at other sources for information that helps your research, but be sure to at least cite the book and the article/podcast.

Prompts not related to other texts

(1) Rhetorical Modes: Helps with understanding rhetorical modes and analysis

In What the Eyes Don’t See, Hanna-Attisha blends narration, description, exposition, and argumentation.  Using representative passages, compose a thesis-driven essay analyzing how this variety of rhetorical modes contributes to the reader’s understanding of the story of Flint, Michigan, and public drinking water.
(2) Author and Purpose:  Helps with evidence identification and collection, as well as understanding the intersection of author, purpose, message, and audience

In the “Prologue,” Hanna-Attisha describes the book in this way: “[T]his is … a story about the deeper crises we’re facing right now in our country: a breakdown in democracy; the disintegration of critical infrastructure due to inequality and austerity; environmental injustice that disproportionately affects the poor and black; the abandonment of civic responsibility and our deep obligations as human beings to care and provide for one another” (13). Trace one of those crises throughout the book, and consider how successfully Hanna-Attisha demonstrates that the crisis is, in fact, partly responsible for the Flint water situation.  Then, compose a thesis-driven essay in which you agree or disagree with Hanna-Atisha’s contention that the crisis you have selected is somewhat to blame for the Flint water situation, using specific examples from the book to support your argument.

Common Reading Experience Resource Guide