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Writing Across the Curriculum


LAC 363: Mexican Migration to the U.S.:
History, Culture and Civil Rights
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor David Badillo

Role of Writing

In LAC 363, students will analyze, interpret, paraphrase, and evaluate paper topics according to the framework of the assigned texts and develop new avenues of knowledge, research, and writing. Each of the assigned texts provides a different glimpse of the key intersections of history, migration, the law, and acculturation. Each book, therefore, requires students to adopt a distinctive framework and different analytical tools.

The first paper (5-6 pages) consists of an essay analyzing one of the chapters in Gonzales’ Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the U.S. This text is historical, chronological, and thematic, but it also explores the sociological and anthropological background essential to understanding how Mexican-American society has become so varied. The text adds numerous twists and stories that challenge some of the traditional assumptions one might have brought into the course through mere acquaintance with current trends. To perform this assignment, students will need to familiarize themselves with all of the assigned chapters and then focus on one in particular.

The second text, Immigrant America: A Portrait, is a minor classic in the field of sociology that includes personal stories; it thoroughly examines the larger U.S. immigrant experience. Research on this topic, therefore, will allow students the opportunity to explore a particular social, political, or economic aspect of migration and settlement. Here authors Portes and Rumbaut analyze the effects of immigration on individuals as well as on U.S. society as a whole and illustrate the challenges they face due to their ethnic and/or immigration status. The text also compares and contrasts immigrants from different regions of the world—Hispanic/Latino, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, and others. Students will use this work as the basis for launching research beyond this text, culminating in a 5-7 page paper on themes in Mexican migration.

The final paper requires students to understand, evaluate, and compare perspectives within a major contemporary debate based on reading Persistent Inequality: Contemporary Realities in the Education of Undocumented Latina/o Students, which focuses on educational aspects of civil rights among Mexican Americans nationally and also examines specific events such as court decisions and anti-immigrant legislation. The final assignment (5-6 pages) requires that students develop a scholarly argument that uses education as a prism for viewing civil rights.

Disciplinary Writing

Students will gain facility with the following types or genres of writing:

  • Research papers that require students to consult outside sources, creating their own bibliography of up to dozen sources—both primary and secondary—and assessing research in a specific area of migration. The resulting paper requires proficiency in organization across themes and within a logical chronology. Here the balance between quantitative and qualitative work will depend on the extent that the student’s particular project relies on demographic data (e.g., U.S. Population Census, NYC Department of City Planning). However, even heavy reliance on such data will require students to present findings in smoothly written prose.
  • Essays that require students to summarize, interpret, and critique historical and sociological concepts and synthesize material within and between chapters of texts while formulating a scholarly argument.
  • Low-stakes writing including proposals for the research paper, synthesis notes, and reflections on progress with the components of the papers.

Expectations of Students in a WIM Course

In this course students will:

  • Learn to develop expository writing skills and strategies while learning historical and sociological approaches to migration, including schools of immigration/migration theory, contexts of old and new immigration, as well as other introductions to related disciplinary approaches to migration, e.g., the fields of educational sociology and legal studies.
  • Assess their progress in writing by reflecting on assignments as they are undertaken, breaking down research tasks into discrete components and evaluating different phases of the writing process—from constructing outlines and research proposals to editing their own work prior to submission.
  • Improve their skills in all phases of research and writing and will also, through a formal class presentation of preliminary research findings, verbalize their progress on their original research projects. 
  • Contrast different historical and social developments in the area of migration, acculturation, and civil rights, and thus sharpen their comparative skills, learning to discern similarities and differences among cities and communities; ethnic and racial groups; and court cases and legislative processes.
  • Gain and demonstrate familiarity with use of historical sources as well as secondary sociological (both quantitative and qualitative) and historical sources. 

Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course

In this course faculty will:

  • Present detailed instructions for students to conceptualize and write papers using a multi-step approach (i.e., students will submit a two-paragraph proposal with preliminary bibliography prior to the class library workshop, and later receive feedback on drafts).
  • Provide comments and specific suggestions to assist students in gleaning sources, developing research strategies, and focusing on writing weaknesses.
  • Devote some class time to matters of note-taking, choosing research topics, and developing comparative frameworks.
  • Organize in-class discussions involving informal peer review so that students can share and develop strategies for research and writing, and update the instructor and other students of their progress in the three high-stakes assignments.
  • Provide feedback on ongoing projects, and create opportunities for students to provide input to their peers.
  • Utilize a letter-grade system that will be accompanied by detailed comments on student research and writing quality to allow for improvement of subsequent narratives.

Criteria for Assessing Student Writing

  • Assessment will be based on students' effectiveness in demonstrating clear expository writing and argument on historical and sociology themes related to Mexican migration to the U.S. in high-stakes assignments. 
  • Low-stakes material will be credited as part of the general participation portion of the grade, i.e., they will be discussed in class but not graded. These will serve as preparation the three graded assignments.
  • The second paper will be weighted more heavily than the other two, due to its more extensive research component. Faculty will provide guidelines for each paper to help focus students’ arguments and gathering of relevant material. The library workshop is designed specifically to assist students in sharpening research skills for the second paper. 
  • All papers are expected to be expertly edited for proper grammar and clarity. Erroneous usage and poor and/or careless writing will lower the grade for that assignment.