Summary Synthesis Response 1

Summary-Synthesis Response 1


In Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color, Victor Villanueva examines the significance of language and its ability to stratify people on the basis of race by reflecting on his life as a young Puerto Rican man in Brooklyn. The core message of Bootstraps, which is centered around the authors experiences, sheds light on major disparities between the dominant group versus the minority group. Not only is this an autobiography but Villanueva includes various political and theoretical considerations to formulate his argument which uses his experiences as the guiding force. The minority group is described by Villanueva as the “other”. This included the African American students in his neighborhood and the other students of Latin American descent. All of these students were lumped together as the collective “other” who were socialized into believing that they could not accomplish certain things such as attending university. The idea that Villanueva wanted to emphasize was that through the use of language, he could break down the barriers that were built around him. Another prominent concept that is discussed in Bootstraps is the various forms bias that exists within the minority group. There’s the contrast between “immigrant” and “minority” bias which examines how immigrants tend to assimilate to the dominant group more easily then the minority group. Overall, Bootstraps discusses the power of composition and its ability to oppress various groups of people who cannot assimilate to the dominant group.


In the first chapters of Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness Krista Ratcliffe examines the power of listening as a rhetorical device when engaging in discourse. Rhetorical listening is described as “a trop for interpretive intervention and more particularly as a code for cross-cultural conduct” (Ratcliffe, 17). Rhetorical listening also takes into account the various biases that people may experience such as race and gender. Each bias carries the potential to limit a person’s ability to understand the ideas being presented. The chapter continues to explain how listening is commonly joined with critical reading but due to its complexity and depth, it requires its own comprehensive analysis. One of the major commonalities between Rhetorical Listening and Bootstraps is in the ultimate gain of engaging in rhetorical listening. When a person employs rhetorical listening, they are trying to understand a particular discourse that goes beyond their experiences. Bootstraps highlights the importance of composition and how the discourse that is accepted by the dominant group wasn’t shared with the people on his block. If a person engages in rhetorical listening, you’d be attempting to cross those cultural barriers that was created by language.

In chapter 3 of What Writing Does and How It Does It Ellen Barton discusses the basic concepts and approaches to discourse analysis. Discourse analysis is described as “a method for analyzing the ways that specific features of language contributes to the interpretation of texts and their various contexts” (Barton, 57).  Barton continues to explain that discourse analysis is created organically through the field of linguistics that is primarily focused on the structure of sentences. Barton would likely agree with the concepts presented in Bootstraps considering the similar purpose that is associated with discourse analysis. Barton explains that “discourse analysis looks at the ways in which language in different communicative events functions to create and reflect aspects of culture, including world views; his work also suggested that discourse analysts look at communication cross-culturally” (Barton, 60). This idea also relates directly to the ideas presented in Bootstraps. Understanding in terms of discourse analysis is developed from a broad scope and takes into account various factors.

Chapter 2 of Do You Speak American, the author begins to explore various types of dialects that are present in the American context. The author explores the stark contrasts in how people write versus how they speak. Depending on the region you’re from, they way to you communicate an idea could vary. However, the idea of changing dialects goes beyond just how people talk but is relevant for people trying to establish their identity. The author states that “Johnstone thinks this local accent, which is different from how people talk elsewhere, is really a way of identifying and affirming their place: they are talking about who they are and where they live and what it means to live here” (MacNeil, 45). This concept relates back to an idea presented in Bootstraps in which Villanueva states “A teacher would have to go a long way to understand and convey an understanding of all those where-at” (Villanueva, 2). Villanueva explains how the culture of the “other” was significantly different than that of the dominant group. They did not know about the “dialects of the prestige”. The context in which he grew up in was centered around a different way of speaking and sharing ideas than that of their counterparts. It went far beyond the way in which they spoke but the sense of unity that came from their shared dialects.

Chapter 3 of Composition and Cornell West explores the idea of critical literacy. Critical literacy is defined as “a social practice itself and as a tool for the study of other social practices” (West, 28). “It enables students to consider a wide array of ideological perspectives and develop facility in interrogating those positions” (West, 29). Critical literacy is designed to consider various ideologies and question the power structures that are in place. The author goes on to argue that language is crucial to liberation. The more that the text is interacted with, the more you can participate in the discourse. The ideas presented by Villanueva relates to the idea of critical literacy when discussing the disparities that the students from his block were facing. The way in which they had been socialized into believing that they would be unable to accomplish certain things can be challenged by engaging in the discourse. This idea is further exemplified when Villanueva discovers his passion for reading and writing.


  • How can engaging in discourse allow for a marginalized group be liberated? Are there examples of such?
  • Do minorities have to assimilate to the dominant groups form of composition? Is assimilation beneficial or detrimental?

Word Count: 1025

“This I Believe” Project Proposal

In the current administration, the integrity of the press has come into question. Dubbed as “fake news”, institutions that are charged with reporting on the truth and serving the people have faced undue scrutiny. Reporters play a vital role in our democratic system, and serve as almost an additional check to the government. From the publishing of the Vietnam Papers to the expose on President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, the press are crucial to maintaining a true democracy. I believe that the media, and the stories they tell, serve as additional protection for the citizens they serve.