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Wednesday, October 22

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Mid semester survey

Introduction to Evaluation: WOW Chapter 9


Read “Start Your Engines: Remote Possibilities” (pages 266-269 in WOW))

 Essay I Revisions (<75%) are due on or before Monday, October 27. See syllabus for revision instructions.





Mid-semester Survey: Your (anonymous) impression of the course thus far

  Please respond to the following questions on a sheet of paper:


1. What have you liked about the class thus far?

2. What do you dislike about the class thus far?

3. What would you like to see, or see more of, in the class in the future?

4. In the beginning of the semester, I try my best to make sure students know what to expect from the course and my teaching methods. Think back to the beginning of the semester and to the objectives/policies/procedures described in the syllabus. Can you think of anything that I didn't mention--something that would have been helpful to know at the beginning of the semester?

5. How would you describe the class in one word?

6. Any other comments you'd like to add?





WOW Chapter 9: Evaluating an Experience


Read page 255






Arguments over evaluations occur whenever people disagree about the positive or negative qualities of a thing. 


When we judge something as good or bad, or when we say we like or dislike something, we have a standard of evaluation underlying our judgment. In life, often, we may not express what that standard is, but over time, because of our experience and education or because of cultural experience, familial influences, or peer influences, we develop a standard of evaluation.


Evaluation arguments set out criteria and then judge something to be good or bad or best or worst according to those specific criteria (WOW page 275). Usually we rely on these  criteria in order to evaluate something:


  • aesthetic standard (judgement based on appearance--beauty, size, shape, color, etc.)
    • The aesthetic standard is commonly used to judge works of art or the "performance" aspect of an activity, such as a political candidate's speaking skills or a figure skater's technique. When you evaluate by an aesthetic standard, you ask one or more of these questions: Is it well constructed, beautiful, pleasing to the senses? Is it well performed? Is it a good example of its kind? Each of the following claims -- that trees are beautiful, that a rock concert was electrifying, that a political speech was fumbling and ineffective -- is based on an aesthetic standard. 
  • practical standard (judgement based on usefulness, functionality, cost/value, accessibility)
    • When you use the practical standard of evaluation, you judge things by their feasibility and usefulness, according to such criteria as cost and efficiency.
  • ethical standard (judgement based on ethics and morals)
    • when you use the ethical standard, you judge things by their moral worth, their rightness or wrongness according to particular moral, ideological, or religious values. 



In order to understand how we use evaluation criteria, let's think about how we use evaluation on a daily basis.


What do we judge on a daily basis? How do we use evaluation everyday?

What are some examples of how we may use evaluation arguments to make decisions?




How might we evaluate a photograph?

a restaurant?

a website?

a college class?

a pair of shoes?



Road Map

An Evaluation Argument is similar to a Definition Argument, in that we can compose a skeleton thesis. 



X is A, B, and C.


SOMETHING is a_____________ because it has these criteria.



Something is a  good ( or bad, the best, the worst)______________ if measured by certain criteria (practicality, aesthetics, ethics).




What is that "some thing" we might evaluate?




  • Example: The recent decision to demand that all students in public schools in Oakland County are required to uniforms is a sound decision because it will save parents money, break down barriers between socio-economic groups, and prevent violence.


  • You might evaluate the policies or procedures of non-governmental entities, such as those of a professional sports associationa school, or anything other organization that impacts a significant number of people.


  • Example:  Macomb County Community College's decision to run 8-week four and a half hour composition classes is ludicrous because it requires a ridiculous amount of preparation for both instructors and students,  students lose  focus after that long of a class, teachers become frazzled,  and ultimately, the learning environment is compromised.  


  •   You might make an aesthetic evaluation of  a television show, a music group, a musical genre, a film, or perhaps even a video game or computer program.


  • Example: Facebook is the best social networking site because.... 


Evaluation Practice: Comedy Central's Key and Peele


We can evaluate all types of "things:" policies, legislation, school rules, class procedures, and of course, pieces of pop culture. Love it or hate it, many people have an opinion about Comedy Central's hit comedy show Key and Peele. As such, it serves as a good topic for an evaluation argument.


As we watch a few skits from the show, jot down some notes that would help you to create an evaluation argument about the show.


Think about how you would evaluate it...as the best comedy show? the worst?  the most creative? the funniest? the most offensive?

why? based on what criteria?


Substitute Teacher: 






Dueling Hats:



Black Ice:





-What types of criteria do you think people and critics use to develop their evaluation of Key and Peele?







Ethics: Is it ethical to make fun of minority groups in the name of satire? (SATIRE: : a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn)

-Aesthetics: Does the show help us understand ourselves as humans and as Americans?


-Does Key and Peele actually help increase knowledge and awareness?

Does it offer some use value?



Positive Evaluation


Key and Peele is good sketch comedy because......


Key, Peele Find Laughs in Racial Quandaries  

By Frazier Moore ,  Pittsburgh Tribune  Nov 2012.


As a comedy team, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are very funny.

As guys who both lay claim to biracial status (black fathers, white mothers), they share a state of informed in-betweenness that gives their comedy extra punch and extraordinary insight.

Race fuels much of "Key & Peele," their sketch-and-standup half-hour series airing at 10:30 p.m. Wednesdays on Comedy Central. Straddling the great divide between white and black, they deliver a special brand of laughs, along with the occasional epiphany.

"There's been a lot of racial comedy over the years," Peele says. "But being biracial, mixed individuals, we realized there's been nothing from our perspective."

Even so, their mission isn't social reform.

"We're not trying to lead anybody toward any specific conclusion," says Peele, "except that, ultimately, race is an absurd thing."

"It always boomerangs back to culture," Key adds.

The comedy of Key and Peele is clever, keenly observed and fearless. But never mean.

Consider their sketch set in the antebellum South. They play slaves who, placed on the auction block, grow increasingly indignant that no one is bidding on them, while all the other slaves are snapped up.

In person, Key and Peele are both affable, reflective chaps who genuinely seem to get a kick out of each other.

Key, the tall, hyper and bald partner, is 41 and grew up in Detroit. Peele, husky and more laid-back, is 33 and hails from New York.

They met a decade ago in Chicago, where Key was performing in a Second City improv troupe and Peele, then in the Amsterdam-based Boom Chicago comedy group, was visiting as part of a cast swap between Boom and Second City.

Both soon found their way to Los Angeles, where they spent several years in the ensemble of Fox's "Mad TV." Key also appeared on the sitcom "Gary Unmarried" and "Reno 411!" Jordan performed on "Chocolate News" and "Childrens Hospital."

Then, earlier this year, they unveiled the first season of "Key & Peele," an ideal showcase for them to find the funny in issues that may or may not address race explicitly, but often use race as a way to score laughs.

"You can talk about a comfortable WASP experience or a comfortable blackness," says Key matter-of-factly, "but we've never occupied either of those spaces."

All the better for their comedy to demonstrate how people modify their style in response to each person they encounter.

One sketch finds Key as a man with a cellphone speaking "white" to his wife about attending the theater. But when he's joined at a street corner by a glowering ghetto-looking dude (played by Peele), the man begins adapting with "blacker"-sounding lingo. Then the traffic light changes and Peele's character, out of earshot of Key, breathes relief in effeminate tones: "Oh, my God," he trills into his own cellphone, "I almost totally got mugged right now."

Key and Peele call it code-switching, and all code-switching, they say, is playing characters. They've been doing it all their lives.

"I wonder," Peele says, "how much both Keegan and I were pulled toward a performing career -- where we're shifting personalities and doing different characters -- because we grew up walking a sort of racial tightrope."




Negative Evaluation


Key and Peele is bad sketch comedy because...


Key and Peele Are Selling Comedy Blacks Arent Buying

John S. Wilson, Huff Post


Key & Peele, a sketch comedy show on Comedy Central, is peddling offensive comedy. I watched a variety of clips spanning 5 episodes. Not only were the subjects of their humor not ever any non-black group, but jokes solely focused on either parodying aspects of black culture (think black fraternities or soul food), or, worse, "black pathology," an all-encompassing category for any negative behavior exhibited disproportionately in urban areas for which, apparently, blacks have been genetically predisposed for over 25 years (according to the media). And maybe that's why Key and Peele feel the need to remind audiences they're only half-black. Less chance of the pathology gene manifesting itself perhaps?

Comedy Central, the home of South Park, isn't exactly a place known for its humility. Notching Comedy Central's best premiere in two years, the Key & Peele show earned 2.1 million viewers and was recently renewed for a second season. Clearly, it's a success. The brainchild of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the show seeks to deal with issues of race in a fresh and "universal" way that lets the audience in on the joke.

But apparently, when Key and Peele say their comedy is universal what they really mean is that blacks will be the butt of the jokes and others will be the ones universally yucking it up. If that's their thing, that's fine, after all it is their show. But they shouldn't serve audiences horse crap and call it horseradish.

This isn't to say there isn't a demand for these kinds of jokes. Far from it, there certainly is. But why is that? And more important, why do Key and Peele believe they should be the ones supplying it?

I'm neither a mental health professional or expert on race. But even a layperson can recognize the level of self-loathing required to produce such comedy. Key and Peele go to extraordinary lengths to consistently remind their audiences of their biracial heritage and who they are both a product of: white mothers and black fathers.

Let's step back a bit. There's been a movement afoot in the U.S. for biracial people to be recognized as multiracial (as proven in the 2010 Census results). For too long they have had to 'choose a side' and predominantly identify as one race or another. The Census, college applications, and government forms all have forced this decision and some still do today. But overwhelmingly, that is changing. Those who are biracial espouse the view that it is their right to be identified accurately and holistically.

In the biracial movement, there's an implied disadvantage in a system that pits individuals in a tug-a-war between one race and another. But what about the advantages that biracial individuals have? Interestingly, studies show that "depending on the ethnic composition of their environment, many mixed race individuals will adopt that racial identity that is most congruent with their environment and/or most rewarded." In other words, as individuals take note of the world around them they are more likely to identify with the race that will yield the most benefits for them as they advance through society. Research has yet to show if individuals also base this decision on how they physically look -- skin tone, features, or hair texture -- and if they can "pass" as white or not. But it can be presumed that an individual, who is already leaning toward identifying with the white race, would find it that much easier to do so if they look the part.

Key and Peele are far from looking the part. With light brown hues, there is little doubt they were always perceived by others as black, or at least mixed. And maybe this is where the tone of their comedy emanates from: a sense that they have always been on the outside looking in and now they get to produce the stuff their non-black peers have always found incredibly funny.

Further research shows that there is a "protean identity, in which an individual can change his or her racial identification to suit the needs or appropriateness of the situation -- thus allowing someone to -- choose his or her identity." The biracial individual is essentially a chameleon equipped to change identity to suit a particular purpose at a particular time.

"When we write, we say, 'This is a really funny premise, it's pretty universal; we just happen to have melanin in our skin,'" Key recently said to The Root.

He went on to say: "At its core, race is an absurd notion," he says. "For some reason we find ourselves obsessed with something that's primal: If you don't look like me, you must be from a tribe that's not next door to me. It is intertwined with our basic fears. Only in this point of time, as the world gets smaller and smaller and we achieve a greater sense of what it means to be human in this world, can we find the humor in it."

But why should the subject of that humor only reside in black culture? Taking negative stereotypes that have existed for years and regurgitating them in some "universal" packaging that is little more than spoon-fed coonery is neither funny nor courageous; least of all is it achieving a "greater sense" of anything.

When did black comedians ever have to strive for "universal" appeal? Or package jokes differently in order pander to a particular racial group? There is a long list of black comics who were or are successful with a broad range of audiences: Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, and Redd Foxx, are just a few. Usually when comics seek a "universal" audience they just clean up their acts and use less profanity. They sterilize their comedy and take it down a notch from an R-rating to PG. Eddie Murphy in Dr. Doolittle or The Nutty Professor is a perfect example.







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