Monthly Archives: September 2010

“Sixteen Tons”

Today we listened to the song “Sixteen Tons,” and talked about how we might interpret the lyrics to tell us something about cultural stories of coal mining.

Here’s a website that gives some insight into the history of the song, why it was written, how it became popular, and why it was controversial.

Here’s a YouTube video that provides the version of the song as performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford, which is the one we listened to in class.

We focused on two questions:

  • What do Travis’ lyrics suggest about what it’s like to work in a coal mine?
  • How do Travis’ lyrics connect with what was said in our early Working readings about the culture of working-class life?

Auto Industry Writing Assignment

In class today, we watched some automobile commercials from between the 1960s and today. I also assigned the following, for Monday:

Perspectives ~ Writing Assignment, 9/17/10

Using all the texts that we’ve read about the auto industry in America, answer the question below in between three and five paragraphs. Typed, 1-1/2 spaced. Use sufficient evidence to back up your claims.

What has it meant to work in the auto industry in America, and how has it changed significantly since World War II?

 The texts include:

  • the four interviews from Working (including your notes);
  • the comic-style adaptation by Peter Kuper;
  • the NPR interviews; and
  • Michael Moore’s film Roger & Me

 If it’s useful, you can also refer to either the John Henry myth and/or the Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times. Keep in mind that both of those pre-dated WWII.

Due Monday, September 20

Two NPR Stories about NUMMI

We listened to these in class on Monday, September 13. There will be a quiz over them on Tuesday.

Here’s story number one, from March 26, 2010.

Here’s story number two, from April 1, 2010.

Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times

In Perspectives on Friday, we completed reading the four interviews with auto workers from Studs Terkel’s Working. Expect a quiz over that reading on Monday.

After lunch, we watched a clip from the 1934 silent film Modern Times, starring Charlie Chaplin. If you’ve never heard of Chaplin, take a quick look at his Wikipedia page. The clip below is a scene where Chaplin’s character is working in a factory. In class we discussed:

  • What are we meant to understand about factory life from this scene?
  • How does music convey something about the pace of factory work?
  • How do Chaplin’s body language and gestures tell us something about what factory life does to a person?

John Henry

Follow this link to get to the resources we’ll be using to look at the John Henry story: