Librarians Rule! Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

My English 101 class spent the evening last night with Jack Bales, the Humanities librarian at UMW. Jack’s teaching style is wonderfully enthusiastic and rigorous. He worked us through the intricacies of database searching with dash and exactitude. He spent a bit of time discussing the reliability of sources using an example that may be old hat for some, but struck my class and I like a MAC truck. He did a search for Marting Luther King in google and clicked on the first link that was not an ad, titled “Martin Luther King Jr: A True Historical Examination” (here). The site looked relatively hospitable at first glance, an image of Dr. King, some bio info, a quiz for students, etc. Yet, Jack navigated down to the “Hosted by Stormfront” link to illustrate that this site was run by a group of white nationalists who where exposing the “truth” about Martin Luther King. Scary!!! A lesson on google and sources that will not soon be lost on anyone in that classroom.

After this, Jack took us on a tour of the library databases to prepare the students for their research projects. I had met with him before the meeting to discuss the particular research needs of the class would be conducting. The short version: the students will be expected to trace the history of advertising of a single product over the last 60 years in an attempt to examine what advertisements at different moments might tell us about a particular culture (in this case the U.S.) during distinct time periods (here defined loosely as decades). Jack did research in preparation for our class and delivered a compelling presentation on using the tools at UMW to find resources dealing with the history of advertising. Durng his presentation he used the example of negative political campaigning (how timely!) as the subject of his searches. He started off by linking to Lyndon B. Johnson’s infamous “Daisy Ad” from 1964 which sunk Goldwater and sealed the election for the Democrats. I have never seen this commercial before, and I have to say the visceral power of the visual rhetoric is remarkable (I have included the video from youtube below). During Jack’s search for resources on political ads in Lexis/Nexis and InfoTrac, we came across (and Jack had obviously done the preparation perfectly) articles on the the most recent riff of the Daisy ad, “These Are the Stakes!” -a contemporary derivation, this time by the GOP, that combines healthy parts of fear, terror, and paranoia capitalizing shamelessly on the 9/11 attacks (you can also view this commerical below, a la youtube).

I can not begin to tell you how inspired this session was for everyone involved. Thanks Jack -great stuff, beautifully delivered!

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5 Responses to Librarians Rule! Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

  1. Roy Strohl says:

    Thanks Jim.

    You captured the enthusiasm that Jack brings to all of his classes. He is a great spokesman for what is so exciting in the contemporary library and the use of the new information techonologies.


  2. Mikhail says:

    Great post, Jim. Doesn’t the Goldwater ad take something from Frank Whale’s 1933 Frankenstein or ia that just a coincidence? Just thought I’d throw that in.

  3. jimgroom says:

    Interesting you should say that Mikhail, because when I saw the Daisy ad for the first time Monday night all I could think about while watching the little girl picking petals from the flower was the scene from Frankenstein you’re talking about. This vision of innocence from a classic film reframed for nuclear annhilation may have been a more apparent allusion in ’64 than it is today -making the visual rhetroic of that commercial that much more powerful in its historical context. I am really struck by the aesthetic differences between the two ads, the 60s ads is visually so much more gripping and affective than the current iteration. Seems to me that the GOP has seen one too many music videos!:)

  4. Matt says:

    Great post (Jack sounds wonderful) — and great research assignment!

  5. jimgroom says:

    Thanks Matt,

    Jack is as enthusisatic as they come, and my class caught the bug instantly. When I met with the students the following class, they were all talking about the daisy ad and how they had seen the new GOP version on the internet. It gave us all a lot to talk about, as you can imagine. As for the research project, it all grew somewhat organically from the book I am using, Ways of Reading, on Mikhail’s recommendation. And while the readings are intense and the subject matter is often times difficult, I find that we are all a lot more engaged during discussion and when framing the paper assignments.

    I am going to document some of the wiki/blog work I have been doing with this class on bavatuesdays very soon. Thestudent’s blogs have really blown me a way, and I have to start showcasing there work here very soon. They more than deserve a shout out! In fact, I recently experimented with a virtual workshopping class using the wiki, and I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the possibilities of using some of these tehnologies to frame a very focused, yet distributed,writing workshop model. 101 was never this much fun!

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