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SPEECH 214
RHETORIC OF REGGAE MUSIC
An examination into one of the University of Vermont’s Favorite classes

Andrew Rosenstock

I want to ask you, the reader of this paper, an age-old question. "Is it possible to learn a great deal of knowledge about a subject, and at the same time enjoy yourself." Now I know that to most people this question seems ridiculous, the answer is obviously no. They would say that learning and enjoyment don’t go together. That is why so many people hate college, because it is not "fun." College is meant to be a tough 4-year experience that gets you ready for this so called "real world" that we keep hearing all about. Well one man named Alfred Snider had a realization. He realized that yes you can take an interesting class and, that yes you can learn a great deal of knowledge that would effect your daily life. But most importantly he realized that people could do both of those and enjoy it at the same time.

I plan to interview people who have taken this class before, and who are taking it now, and to see if they both have actually learned anything from this class. I also plan to find out if not only have they learned something, but also if and how it has helped to change their views, feelings, thoughts, or basically how this class has changed their lives. Before I get into the statistical part of this paper, I want to give you a brief overview of both this course and of Alfred Snider, himself.

Alfred Snider teaches a plethora of different classes. His most popular one would be Rhetoric of Reggae, Speech 214. It is for this class, Speech 214, that I am writing this paper. "The purpose of this course is to examine the origins, characteristics, social phenomena, and messages to be found in an African-Caribbean musical form known as reggae music. Reggae music will be examined as a rhetorical movement and as a social movement. The province of rhetoric is to evaluate, criticize, and advocate. Reggae music does all of these."

A typical class is around three hours long and meets once a week. It usually is about one hour forty five minutes of lecture, and one hour fifteen minutes of either watching documentaries, on either reggae music or Jamaican culture. On special occasions, when the performers have time, reggae performers come to class and talk about their specialty of reggae music, i.e. dub, rock-steady, dancehall…etc. Now granted not all classes are set up the same way, but this is a pretty standard class. The classes are in a 350 seated class, and every single class 98% of the seats are full. The only reason there is 2% missing is because, as with almost every great class, people hear that is either easy, or that they can skip classes and still be ok. Well these people are wrong. This class is neither easy nor can you skip classes. There are discussion groups that meet once a week. In these groups you talk about what happened in class this week, and go over the lectures. If you miss class you don’t do to well in the groups. Not doing well in these groups isn’t good because the groups count for 33% of your final grade in the class. That is the second reason why most of the students are always in class. The first reason is because they took the class to learn about an interesting unique subject. How can they learn about it if they don’t go, so they go.

Alfred Snider went to Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. He majored in Asian Civilization, and he minored in Speech Communication. He spent a lot of his time there being a debater, since he always had a deep love for the art of debate. It was at Brown that Alfred Snider first got into reggae music. One of his Professors told him about this really great film playing in Boston, "The Harder They Come." This movie hit him really hard, because he saw all these things going on that he knew were important but he didn’t quite understand them, or understand everything that was going on. He decided that he liked the music a lot from that film so Snider went out and bought some reggae album. The first album that he bought was Burning Spear’s "Marcus Garvey," which any reggae fan will know and appreciate. Straight out of college he was hired to be a debate coach at Seton Hall University, in New Jersey. He coached there for only two years before being hired by Boston College, to be there debate coach. While living in Boston, Prof. Snider decided to go to Graduate school at Emerson College. He got his Masters degree in Rhetoric and Public Address. While doing this he had a huge realization, he realized that he really enjoyed academic life. So he decided to go for more education. He got a graduate fellowship to get his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas, at the Lawrence campus. While earning his Ph.D., at Kansas he also coached debate there. He did his Ph.D. work in Communication Studies, with his area of specialty in Personal and Social Influence. After getting his Ph.D. his first faculty position was at Wayne State University in Detroit, and he also coached debate there. He was only there for two years before being recruited by the University of Vermont. He has been teaching at the University of Vermont for 19 years now. He re-found his love for reggae music when he came up to Vermont. There was a reggae radio show on the universities radio station, WRUV, called Trenchtown Rock. He started listening to it all the time. He was one day wearing a pin that said, "Try Jah Love," and he ran into the girlfriend of Trenchtown Rock’s DJ. She saw that he liked Reggae music, and suggested that he meet up with her boyfriend, since he was active in the local reggae scene. He met the DJ, and started hanging around the station. (This was also due to the fact that his office was very close to the radio stations old location.) The WRUV DJ’s convinced Alfred to become the radio stations advisor, which he agreed to do. He also decided to become a DJ and have his own radio show. While at WRUV some people came up to Snider with the idea of having a free outdoor reggae concert for the local people. It was to be called the Vermont Reggae Festival. It seemed like a great way to help popularize reggae music in Burlington, so Alfred agreed to help out with it. It was a success, and has happened every year since, getting bigger and bigger every year.

It isn’t a big surprise that one day some students cam up to Dr. Snider with an idea. They liked his radio show, they liked his concerts, and they liked his teaching style; why not combine them all? Dr. Snider has a class he teaches, Issues and Public Address; this class is a class where Snider takes a theme that is important and pursues its rhetorical dimensions. His previous themes had been presidential campaigns and TV evangelism. The students suggested that he teach one on the rhetoric of reggae music. Alfred didn’t like the idea at first, but the student wouldn’t take no. He told Snider that if he taught the course that this student would be the TA and do all the paper work that would need to be done. Dr. Snider realized that if it meant that much to one kid maybe others would be interested. So the first class was limited to 25 students, and they ended up with 60. The next time it was taught there was over 200 students. And every time he teaches it the classes just get bigger and bigger. So that is in a nutshell how Speech 214 got started.

To gather the information, which was needed for this report, I interviewed a whole lot of people. The interview was an impersonal survey, which consisted of the following questions.

1. How much have you learned about the history of and behind Reggae music?

2. How much have you learned about Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean culture?

3. Have you learned a lot about the structure of and different types of reggae music?

4. Have the lectures been useful?

5. Have the videos been useful?

6. How much have you gotten out of your discussion group?

7. How much do you participate in the discussion groups?

8. Have you learned things in this class that negated a stereotype that you had before taking the class?

9. Was this course easier or harder than most courses you have taken at UVM?

In addition I asked about whether or not they would recommend this class to others, would they like to see it is a race relation class, and what would they like more and less of in class. The first nine questions (the numbered questions above) were asked on the following scale.

1 2 3 4 5

A little Some A lot

Out of the last four questions, the recommendation and race relation questions were yes and no answer types. The questions pertaining to what would you like more and less were just comment answer types.

I took a random sample of the reggae class population, that way it wouldn’t be all the same type of people giving the same types of answers. I did this by sending out an email on the Reggae listserv. I also passed out surveys to people in class who didn’t reply to the email. The sample was of 115 students. I am going to go through the data one question at a time.

1. How much have you learned about the history of and behind Reggae music?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 4.5826 4.6505 3.0000 5.0000

What all these numbers are saying is that the number of people asked, N, is 115. The mean is equivalent to the average answer, so in this case the majority of the people felt that they have learned a lot in this class, since 4.5826 is very close to 5. Also the lowest answer given was a three, which would be average. The TrMean is the trimmed mean; this takes the lowest 5% and the highest 5% and cuts them out. This way you get rid of any outliers, numbers that are really of course, which can distort the average. The fact that the TrMean is pretty much the same as the real mean, shows that for all the low scores there were high scored to basically keep the mean the same. The lowest answer given was three, and the highest answer given was five. So all in all, the answers were fairly high for this question.

2. How much have you learned about Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean culture?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 4.4522 4.5049 3.0000 5.0000

The answers for this question show very similar results to the first question. Again a high and low of five and three, respectively. The mean and TrMean were a little lower, about .1 lower, then question 1. But both of those means are still good. They show that people are learning much about the cultures.

3. Have you learned a lot about the structure of and different types of reggae music?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 4.1391 4.2136 2.0000 5.0000

The answers for this question seemed to be a little lower. Again there was a maximum of five, but this time the minimum was of two. Both the mean and the TrMean dropped around .4 worth, in comparison to the previous question, which is a pretty big drop when you are dealing with N of 115. Yet still again it would appear that people are learning. People feel like they have learned a pretty good amount about different types of reggae music.

  1. Have the lectures been useful?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 4.4870 4.5437 2.0000 5.0000

If you have you have ever seen Alfred Snider give a speech, lecture, or a debate, you know this man can talk. He knows a great deal of knowledge, and he knows how to present it in an enjoyable way. I think that is why people gave this answer such high results. But once again there was also a couple of two’s given for an answer. So I guess not everybody, enjoys listening to Dr. Snider.

5. Have the videos been useful?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 4.4000 4.5049 2.0000 5.0000

The results to this answer are almost exactly similar to the preceding question. It is not surprising though, that many people would like to watch movies about reggae. Most people take the class because of an interest in reggae music. If you are into reggae, then hwy would you not want to watch videos that can teach you. What better way to learn, than by watching videos.

  1. How much have you gotten out of your discussion group?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 3.374 3.417 1.000 5.000

This question had given different results then I had thought that it would have given out. I personally get much out of my discussion group. I think that some TA’s don’t take their groups seriously, and also that a lot of students don’t take it at all seriously. Where as every other question had mean and trmean results of above four, this one resulted in just a little above three. This means that on average many people aren’t getting too much out of their discussion groups. Too me, this is a shame, because the discussion group is a huge part of the class.

7. How much do you participate in the discussion groups?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 4.0609 4.1553 1.0000 5.0000

This doesn’t make that much sense to me. If people were really participating in their groups, then I think that they would get more out of them, unless the TA’s weren’t into it. I don’t see how so many people could be participating in their groups, and not get things out of it. If everyone participated, then that would be the point of the discussion groups, and people would like them. A mean of 4.0609 means that 81% of the class is participating in their groups.

The following is a graph of question 6 verses question 7. Question 7 is the Y-axis, and question 6 is the x-axis.

As you can see the graph shows a relation of the more participation that there is in the discussion groups, then the more knowledge is gained.

  1. Have you learned things in this class that negated a stereotype that you had before taking the class?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 3.078 3.087 1.000 5.000

The hope was that more people would learn something new to cross out, some previous bad idea they had had. It is too bad that not everyone did. One of Snider’s lectures is about negativity and about how words and ideas do hurt, "contrary to the old nursery rhyme."

9. Was this course easier or harder than most courses you have taken at UVM?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 2.9391 2.9029 2.0000 5.0000

 

The answers to this question were not too surprising. The average was just under three, which is equivalent to just as hard as other classes. This survey was given out before the main term paper was due, so many people felt that this class was about the same as others. But taking that into consideration and taking into consideration the results we got, this class is still just as hard, if not harder then other classes.

Now we get into the yes or no questions. For these yes is 1 and no is 2. Comments were asked for in this section.

Would you recommend this class to other people?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 1.0522 1.0000 1.0000 2.0000

Considering that many people enjoyed the class, and learned a lot, it is not a shock that pretty much everyone would recommend this class. When the TrMean gives you an exact number, that is a great sign. This class is definitely going to be recommended by the students of this class.

A whole lot of people didn’t leave comments, and some just wrote down stupid things. But there were a couple of comments that really stuck out.

"Yes, It educates you on many issues that most white middle class students are ignorant of."

I feel that this comment goes along as a good comment for questions 6, 7, and 9 rather well.

"Great course if you go to class and discussion groups and due your paper early."

"It is an educational class, yet still interesting and it keeps you wanting more."

Should this class count as a race relation class?

N Mean TrMean Minimum Maximum

115 1.0739 1.0243 1.0000 2.0000

Because of the fact that this class deals with the race and culture of the Jamaican people, there really should not be any comment as to whether or not this should count as a race relation class. It would seem like to this class that it also seems quite clear that it should be. Almost everyone voted yes for this question. There were a few who voted no. There reasons why.

"Because this is only about one race and culture."

"This is such a small aspect of culture."

This next person wasn’t sure how to vote, so s/he chose both.

"I think that it should either count as a non-European history, music history (fine arts), or anthropology class, because it covers such a wide range of topics. It could also count as a race relation class because we do learn about a race and a culture. I think the fact that it only counts as a speech class shows how close minded UVM really is."

There was also two other comment questions asked. What would they like more of, and what would they like less of? The main thing people really seemed to want less of, was the three-hour lectures. They wanted to break off the class into a twice a week class, instead of once a week. That way the class wouldn’t "drag on so long." People wanted to have more guest lecturers, and less of the Dr. Snider, reading lectures. Many people felt like the class should be smaller, they feel that 250 plus kids is too many. One student said he wanted more, "student participation." There was also a bunch of really dumb comments that were given. I feel that all-in-all people took this survey very seriously though, even if there were a couple dumb answers.

Not only did they take my survey seriously, but also that they take the class seriously. I realized more and more, that as the semester goes on, that students end up showing up less and less. Still, keeping in mind that this happens with every class, I think people really have gotten a lot out of this class. I know that I have gotten more out of this class then most of the classes I have taken here at UVM. That and I had great time in the class.

The way to read this is that each line horizontally is one survey. Going down is all the answers to that question.

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 yes/no race relation

4 5 3 4 4 2 2 4 3 1 1.0

4 5 4 5 4 3 3 2 3 1 1.0

5 5 3 5 5 3 3 3 3 1 1.0

4 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 2 1 1.0

4 3 3 5 5 3 3 3 3 2 2.0

5 3 2 4 4 2 2 3 2 1 1.0

4 5 3 5 5 3 3 3 3 1 1.0

5 5 4 4 4 3 3 2 3 1 1.0

5 5 4 4 4 5 5 3 3 2 1.0

5 5 3 4 4 1 1 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 4 5 3 5 3 3 1 1.0

4 4 3 5 2 5 5 3 5 2 1.0

5 4 3 4 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

4 4 4 5 4 4 5 5 3 1 2.0

5 5 5 4 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 5 4 5 3 3 3 1 1.0

4 3 3 4 4 3 3 2 3 1 1.0

5 5 4 4 5 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 4 2 4 1 3 1 1.0

3 4 3 3 4 5 5 3 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 3 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 4 5 1 5 2 2 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

4 5 3 4 2 2 3 3 3 1 1.0

4 4 5 5 4 3 4 4 3 1 1.5

5 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 1 1.0

4 4 5 4 4 4 4 5 4 1 2.0

5 4 2 4 3 2 3 3 3 1 1.0

3 4 3 5 5 1 5 1 3 1 1.0

4 4 5 5 5 3 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 3 3 4 2 1 1.0

5 5 5 4 5 1 3 1 2 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 3 4 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 4 5 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 1 2 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1 2.0

5 5 4 4 4 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 5 5 3 5 1 3 1 1.0

5 5 3 4 4 1 1 4 3 1 1.0

4 5 5 4 5 3 5 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 3 5 2 5 5 3 5 2 1.0

5 4 3 4 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

3 4 4 5 4 4 5 5 3 1 2.0

5 5 5 4 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 5 4 5 3 3 3 1 1.0

4 3 3 4 4 3 3 2 3 1 1.0

4 5 4 4 5 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 4 2 4 1 3 1 1.0

4 4 3 3 4 5 5 3 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 3 5 4 3 1 1.0

3 5 5 4 5 1 5 2 2 1 1.0

4 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 3 4 2 2 3 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 4 3 4 4 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 4 4 4 4 5 4 1 1.0

5 4 2 4 3 2 3 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 3 5 5 1 5 1 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 3 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 3 3 4 2 1 1.0

4 5 5 4 5 1 3 1 2 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 3 4 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 4 5 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

4 5 5 5 5 5 5 1 2 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

4 5 4 4 4 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 5 5 3 5 1 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 1 1.0

4 4 5 4 4 4 4 5 4 1 2.0

5 4 2 4 3 2 3 3 3 1 1.0

3 4 3 5 5 1 5 1 3 1 1.0

4 4 5 5 5 3 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 3 3 4 2 1 1.0

5 5 5 4 5 1 3 1 2 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 3 4 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 4 5 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 1 2 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1 2.0

5 5 4 4 4 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 5 5 3 5 1 3 1 1.0

5 5 3 4 4 1 1 4 3 1 1.0

4 5 5 4 5 3 5 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 3 5 2 5 5 3 5 2 1.0

5 4 3 4 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

3 4 4 5 4 4 5 5 3 1 2.0

5 5 5 4 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 5 4 5 3 3 3 1 1.0

4 3 3 4 4 3 3 2 3 1 1.0

4 5 4 4 5 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 4 2 4 1 3 1 1.0

4 4 3 3 4 5 5 3 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 3 5 4 3 1 1.0

3 5 5 4 5 1 5 2 2 1 1.0

4 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 3 4 2 2 3 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 4 3 4 4 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 4 4 4 4 5 4 1 1.0

5 4 2 4 3 2 3 3 3 1 1.0

5 4 3 5 5 1 5 1 3 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 3 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 3 3 4 2 1 1.0

4 5 5 4 5 1 3 1 2 1 1.0

5 4 5 5 5 3 4 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 4 5 5 4 4 3 3 1 1.0

4 5 5 5 5 5 5 1 2 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

4 5 4 4 4 5 5 4 3 1 1.0

5 4 4 5 5 3 5 1 3 1 1.0

3 4 4 4 3 3 3 2 2 1 1.0

3 4 4 3 5 5 3 4 3 1 1.0

5 5 5 5 4 4 4 3 4 2 1.0