1.Writing an Integrative Paper

PALOD-Fall 2002

The concepts of the "Integrative Paper" and the "Integrative Seminar" are rooted philosophically and pedagogically in the fundamental concepts of the program.Those roots, I hope, have been adequately explained in lecture through a) the parable of the blind persons and the elephant, b) the inadequacies of that parable as an analogy for the condition of the contemporary individual seeking knowledge, and c) the translations of the parable and its inadequacies into the analogy of pedagogies based on connecting numbered or unnumbered "dots."This little essay is a supplement to and reminder of those lectures.

Integrative essays are to be comprehensive, comparative and coherent with the source of the coherence generated by you yourself., by the things/issues, ideas/images and conversations that are most important to you. The “dots” that you are integrating are not numbered (as they were in traditional education): you must connect them out of your own experience, concerns, aspirations, fascinations, emotional reactions, etc.

1.The Comprehensive dimension.

a) In preparation to write, list in your portfolio all the“dots” in the program that have caught your attention and which you will be attempting to integrate. Your initial list should be more specific or concrete: for example, not just "Dead Man Walking: but the final conflicting images of “Dead Man Walking;” not just Women's Ways of Knowing but the challenge of "Nothing human is foreign to me"And other such specifics: for example, the passion of Elizabeth Costello in the Lives of Animals, the scene of the "Wall of Fame" in Sal's pizzeria burning down in Spike Lee's movie "Do the Right Thing.", and my feeling of "sell-out" when I try to play the believing game (described in Women's Ways of Knowing).Etc., etc., etc. 

b) Narrowing the ComprehensiveDimension:In the second step of preparation, turn your attention to a listing of the darker or larger dots, those ones that have been most impressive or shocking or gripping or upsetting to you.If you have been following my suggestion, many or most of these larger dots should already have elicited a small paragraph from you on the little red “Passion Cards,” or in red ink in your notebook. (If you haven’t been following that suggestion, this assignment will likely be more academic and more difficult than it could have been.)For example, you might list from your little red cards the conversations between Sister Helen and the priest, a seminar-mate’s at-first-incomprehensible observation about the impracticality of Sister Helen’s approach, the emotional transitions in “The Color of Fear,’ the frequency with whichanger and rage has been mentioned in positive terms, etc., etc.,etc.Please note: it is obvious (or is it?) that in moving to these darker or larger dots, you are already drawing upon the third dimension of the “Integrative Paper,” viz. the personal as the source of meaningful coherence; BUT it is not in the spirit of the first or comprehensive dimension of this assignment to narrow in on one or just a few things that interested you.Rather attempt to connect as many of the dots of the program as possible in a way that is meaningful to you.

2.The Comparative Dimension: The opposite of “comparative” and more so of 

“integrative” is “fragmented/sequential listing.”Avoid at all costs an essay that sounds like “First we read this (and I found that interesting) and then we looked at that (and I was disappointed with the acting) and then we had a potluck (but the anchovies were stale).What the comparative dimensions demands is that you COMPARE and RELATE the numerous images, concepts, facts, stories, impressions, parking-lot conversations that you have meaningfully encountered.For example, how does Sister Helen’s journey relate to the elephant parable and/or to what Belenky et al (inWomen's Ways of Knowing) say about using your self to understand? 

3.The Integrative Process.The first word of your paper should be “I.”(Example: I 

have been fascinated for years, long before coming into this program, with what has become known as Rodney King’s question “Why can’t we all get along?") Use this word “I” frequently.(Papers written in the passive voice with no use of the word "I" will be returned for rewrite.) We are not looking in this paper for conclusions or strong arguments in favor of one position or another.A well-articulated doubt or “lingering question” is much better than an artificial or forced conclusion.The point of the essay is how YOU at this point in time are processing into your work and life and worldview what you are encountering in this program.

4. The Social Dimension: Peculiar to the PALOD programis this social dimension of the integration.(See syllabus).An integration based solely on your own experience is enough for some purposes and programs, but not for this one. As you should have been doing in your small groups when you encounter a reading or interpretation starkly different from your own, we attempt to incorporate it into a less partial reading than our own limited experience allowed.So too here: you should become familiar with the integrative efforts of at least two other students (presumably in your small group), explicate what you have learned from them and then articulate your less partial understanding.This effort (needless to say?) is being recommended to you as a model of how to engage in life-long learning.