assignment 2-3: forming interpretive questions

Due: Friday, September 23
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In class on Wednesday, we worked through some observations about “Back to the Land.” (Check out this document to see a list of these observations.)  Then, we tried to explain some of these observations as choices or strategies that Kalman is using to accomplish a purpose, with an audience in mind and a context at hand. For Assignment 2-3, write two (or more, if you like)  interpretive questions about “Back to the Land.” We will discuss these questions on Friday.

You can use the DK Handbook page 108 and page 120 to help you. Please give your questions a lead-in or a bit of context so that we know where you’re coming from and so that you are not just rephrasing an oberservation from the list as a question. For example, don’t simply ask

Why does Kalman compare agrarian lifestyles with city lifestyles?

This question is too broad, and it gives no context for how you believe Kalman defines “agrarian lifestyle” and “city lifestyle.” The question doesn’t add anything to the discussion because it simply takes a binary from the list and poses it as a “why?” question. Instead, do a bit more work by being specific and adding some interpretation to your interpretive question.  To be more specific, you could cite a passage as an example of what you mean, you could define/analyze a key term in your question, or you could explain a point of uncertainty in your thinking so that we know where the question comes from. For example,

It seems to me that Kalman defines agrarian living in connection with democracy–but not just any democracy. The democracy of a simpler, “happier” past. A democracy defined in contrast to the city lifestyles so many Americans lead today. Is there any truth to this vision of America’s simpler, more wholesome/healthy past, or is it just an ideal or a rhetorical move intended to show us readers how their lives and “way of being” (127) has changed over the centuries?

Finally, here are some links I showed in class to give more context to Kalman’s essay:
NPR article on Tea Party and history
Wikipedia on Food, Inc. (the documentary)
Wikipedia on organic farming history etc.

13 thoughts on “assignment 2-3: forming interpretive questions

  1. Throughout the text, Kalman clearly depicts the financial differences of fast-paced city dwellers and country farmers.
    Kalman writes “do the wealthy have access to the really healthy food while the less affluent do not?”. In her writing, she accentuates that farmer’s markets are strictly for elitist and fast food is available to everyone else.
    The documentary Food Inc. partly focuses on the eating habits of Americans. In recent studies, Americans have shown to spend less disposable income on food now compared to any other time in history. Is it really a wealth concern? Or does our desire for money out rule eating good, healthy meals. Kalman questions if only the wealth had the ability to eat healthy foods — could this only be true due to an effort decrease?
    Clearly, there are goals present in this essay that have the ability to be reached. The only question left is whether it is a price that we are willing to pay.

  2. 1. When Kalman writes, “You would need to walk to California to work off the excess. Which I did. In my head”, why doesn’t she just say that she’s flying to California? Is she trying to say that when most people say they are going to exercise yet they never really do?
    2. “He does not spray his crops………A plant will protect itself naturally if it is healthy.” Is Kalman trying to say that all the things farmers spray on their crops making the food unhealthy for us and actually contaminating the food rather than protecting it?

  3. It is clear that Kalman whole point is to try to help influence the reader that eat fast food to make healthier choices. She puts pictures of fresh carrots and farm animals to make her point a bit more obvious. She even shows kids doing there own gardening and churning butter. All of these help the reader understand her point. I just don’t understand why she goes off in so many different tangents while doing so. She talks about being at Micky Murchs’ farm and “getting flashbacks to the ’60’s” then go to Alice’s house where she gets an egg that Alice cooks, but then starts to talk about when she was out one morning and saw a crazy lady staring at all the tress. If she really wants people to eat healthy and not choose fast food, don’t you think she would just be straight forward with her point or is she confused as well?

  4. When Kalman is talking about people who eat junk food or fast food she says that they are uneducated and in the case of the lady looking up the tree, crazy. Is this tactic of talking down on people who eat non organic food necessary to inform the audience about organic food?

    Why does Kalman insist on showing so many pictures of children who are getting educated about organic food? Is this because she wants to portray that if young children can learn about organic food than anybody else no matter what age or social class can learn about organic food?

  5. 1. In Kalman’s essay pages 92 and 93 she has a picture of a cow in a pasture with the phrase, “Land of cows that we eat. Should we? Shouldn’t we?” When I see this I think, is Kalman trying to say that eating meat is unhealthy? Is eating meat not organic? Also, is there any other healthy ways to get protein that you would normally get from meat without taking supplements?

    2. Children these days are entertained by video games, computer games, and technology in general so when Kalman shows a little boy churning butter with a smile on his face you have to stop and question that. In our society today is it realistic to think children could be entertained by something other than their technology and become more down-to-earth where churning butter is fun?

  6. 1) In agreeance with Jackie S. when the author states “You would need to walk to California to work off the excess. Which is what I did. In my head.” Was she trying to state that Americans should expand their options when exercising rather than settling with the “easy” way (diet pills)? Is she trying to make a observation about the lack of excercise in America by giving a metaphor?
    2) On page 89 the author states “California, land of immense and ancient tress covered in litchen”, then a picture of trees are shown on the following page. What does this mean? I don’t understnad the statement or the picture.

  7. When i was reading this i realized that she not only is trying to tell us that were eating unhealthy, but she’s also trying to put down the general public for the obesity issue in america. She uses a tone that sounds snarky and very pretentious. She keeps hammering down the point that we need to keep exercising but in snide remarks like “You would need to walk to California to work off the excess”. My question is simply if she’s trying to imply on there being another problem other then the general public not eating healthy?

    Kalman briefly remarked on how most kids are into the media and are constantly either watch T.V. or they play video games non stop. my question is Is electronic media the main reason to why kids are becoming obese?

  8. In Back to the Land, Kalman says “if you eat too much of this food you will become sick and also FATAFAT and no amount of FATAFAT pills will help you.” It seems almost obvious that she is referring to diet pills, but why doesn’t she come right out and refer to them as diet pills? Or is there something else she is referring to?

    When Kalman visits Bob Cannard’s farm, and spots the carrots in the sink that are grown organically and Bob tells her “that these organic carrots contain more nutrients than carrots not grown organically.” She asks “so what do we do about that?” I wonder if all organic farmers refrain from spraying their crops, and why she ended that passage with such an open ended question. What happens if a plant isn’t healthy? Does he spray them with pesticides if they are sick?

  9. In the text, Kalman talks about “ some inherent value of life that we have lost, “ relating to democracy. The way she states it is also about the food that we eat today. She feels as though we have lost a sense of democracy through our new traditions of eating, so my question is how do we integrate farming into our daily lives again to regain the sense of democracy that we lost?
    In the text I see several pictures of children living a simple life. The children “ sit down together and eat. Then talk. And Philosophize.” There is a list of simple things that children do, as children would do in the early days of America, like folding tablecloths, and sitting down at the table. I feel like these children are living in a more rural area, compared to a city setting. I believe children in a city setting can do the daily events that rural children can. So my question is how do we integrate the daily events of rural children to city children?

  10. When Maira Kalman writes, “I see sheep. I see little Bo Peep. But that is not the way it really is.” Then she continues to say, “Is there some inherent value to that way of life that we have lost?” As she looks out the plane, is she saying that literally she sees heards of sheep and a sheep herder? and complaining that that is one of the few examples left of quality farming in society? Or does she mean to reference that with more of a philisophical approach by implying we are all sheep being herded into a society of bad eating habbits? The little Bo Peep methaphor adds complexity, like kalman likes to do in her writing. She can not just say she sees a herd of sheep. And there should be more of those. But I think thats what shes conveying.

  11. 1.In Back to the land Kalman says “you would need to walk to california to walk off the excess which is what i did in my head”. But really Kalman took a plane, why wouldn’t she say that she just went over all of the places she traveled while she was on the plane?
    2.In the book Kalman has a picture of a cow and it says “should we? shouldn’t we?”. Is she referring that it is unhealthy to eat meat and that we should be vegetarians.

  12. 1. In Kalman’s essay she asked the question “Do the wealthy have access to the really healthy food while the less affluent do not (88)?” In the society rumor has it that organic food is much more costly than fast food. In reality a burger at McDonalds or Burger King costs just as much as a pound of carrots. So the question really is, if the less affluent people have enough money to buy a pound of carrots what is stopping them from choosing the bag of carrots over a burger?

    2. I noticed that Kalman believes that you eat what your taught to eat after she states that “the fabric of our lives is a bound in the food that we eat and the way we sit down to eat. (89)” Your parents are the hands that feed you so yes, you learn what to eat from them. But maybe it isn’t the parents, maybe its what tastes good to the children and what they will eat. Why is it that healthy food doesn’t taste as great as fattening food? What can be done to make healthy food more appetizing?

  13. 1. In Kalman’s essay on pages 92 and 93 she has a photo of a cow and the words “should we? Shouldn’t we?. Is Kalman posing the question of should Americans give up meat eating in order to have a healthier diet? Does meat actually make a diet less healthy?
    2. When visiting Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, Kalman encounters children who are enthusiastic about cooking and preparing healthy meals and who are interested in intellectual conversation. In modern times technology has swept our nation and children seem not to be enthusiastic about anything unless it is technology based. Is Kalman trying to point out that there are other ways for children to keep themselves occupied in an enjoyable way without the use of electronics?

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