UCCI Course Description

Bullets of Truth: English and Public Services

Overview Course Content Course Materials
Length of Course
Full Year (2 semesters; 3 trimesters; 4 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
English (B) - English
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Public Services
CTE Pathway
Public Safety
Grade Level(s)
9 - 10


Bullets of Truth: A Search for Justice in a World of Injustice is a college preparatory 9th or 10th grade English course integrated with the Public Services CTE Sector that enables students to understand where the skills of English intersect with the elements of public service. Throughout the course, students are provided an authentic, rigorous pathway to learn about public service theories, skills, backgrounds, and professions that prepare them for further education and career opportunities in the field of Public Service. By analyzing the complex term “justice,” students will examine how society negotiates and explores human behavior and impulses and will analyze modes of societal norms using various techniques and theories. Students will demonstrate critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills by writing multiple essays and engaging in formal academic discourse. Students will access and utilize a variety of technological and multimedia tools by creating online polls, blogs, and presentations. Each assignment is designed to build on the former, pushing students to explore and analyze the causes and effects of crime in their own communities, as well as in the larger world. They will culminate this year-long study by writing a proposal which provides a solution to a local or global issue and presenting this proposal to an authentic audience.

Course Content

Unit 1 : Justice, Power, and Control in a Social Context

Unit 1 Description

In this unit, students will analyze justice, power, and control in a social context. They will define and develop a deeper understanding of the elements of justice, injustice, and the purpose of punishment. Students will collaboratively read and view texts (such as informational articles and TED talks) to access the concepts of Power, Control, Respect, and the Aristotelian appeals ---Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Students will apply these concepts to films and other visual texts, such as Gaslight or The Bad Seed, The Truman Show, The Green Mile etc. in order to evaluate the effectiveness of their arguments or development of their themes in a written critique that will be published online. Students will continue to develop their understanding of justice within society by reading a novel or play, such as Of Mice and Men.  Students will then participate in a Socratic-style discussion using evidence from the texts to delve into the notion of regulation of behavior in society, such as punishment, within the context of the novel; analyzing characters, motivations, and outcomes of crime. Students conclude the unit by writing an argumentative essay in which they trace the development of one of the character’s relationships, using the concepts on the Power, Control, and Respect wheels to explain why that character’s interactions with others are just or unjust. Students will employ the three Aristotelian appeals to create and defend effective arguments.

1: Ya feel me?

Students will meet in groups to prepare an informational jigsaw presentation on the three Aristotelian appeals--Ethos, Pathos, and Logos--as well as the Power/Control and Respect Wheels with the purpose of understanding how the appeals are ways to have power and control or show respect. The informational readings and presentations will teach students how to understand that Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are ways to have power and control over someone or show someone respect. In teacher assigned groups students will read, annotate, and discuss their assigned informational materials (such as the Power/Control wheel, Respect wheel, and the John Edlund text). Once the groups demonstrate understanding of the concepts, students will teach their peers using a presentation style of their choice (such as a skit, powerpoint presentation, etc.). Students will develop note taking and summary writing skills to record the tools and concepts taught using a graphic organizer or an online format. This will prepare students to apply an interpretive lens to public service careers (i.e. lawyers, correctional officers, etc.).

2: Critique Me!

Students will view a film, such as Gaslight or The Bad Seed, that illustrates a conflict grounded in Power and Control and will critique it using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos as well as the Power/Control and Respect wheels. Students will take notes as they watch where in the film they see evidence of the rhetorical devices and elements of the Power/Control and Respect wheels. After they have recorded their notes, students will work in groups of three to create a critique of the film applying the rhetorical devices and the wheels. Students should have the option to publish their critique to a class blog or other public forum. By analyzing the dynamics expressed in the films, students later will be able to see how professionals in the public service field operate when there is a desired behavioral outcome. This assignment is laying the groundwork so that students will make this connection in Unit 3.

3:  Does the punishment fit the crime?

Following the reading of Of Mice and Men or a similar literary work, students will participate in a socratic seminar on the sentencing of Lennie/George in the novel (or the appropriate characters from a different text). Prior to the socratic seminar students will generate relevant questions that should be asked in deciding what the punishment for the selected character should be, using articles on the five purposes for punishment as support. Following the creation of the questions, students will exchange and prepare answers with textual evidence for the discussion. The class will engage in a socratic seminar expressing the various viewpoints. At the end of the seminar, students will reflect in writing, on what argument they believe provided the best evidence and explanation of what punishment should be carried out, by whom and why.

Possible Sources:

4:  R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me

Students will analyze how a character’s actions relate to one of the Power/Control or Respect wheels and explain how these actions show manipulation and its impact. Students will choose a character from the selected book to analyze, using one of these wheels. The students will have to use evidence to defend how the character’s actions relate to the wheel and why these actions are manipulative. Students will use the rhetorical elements of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos to convey their position in an argumentative essay or a closing argument. These skills are laying the groundwork for the activity “Be Professional” in Unit 3, where they will analyze communication and manipulation in a real world context.

Unit 2 : Roles within Public Services

In Unit 2, students will explore the roles that both civilians and professionals within public services sector play in monitoring and ensuring justice in our society, as well as how their roles cause them to view events differently. Students will reexamine how their own experiences affect their perceptions of justice through collaborative activities. These include classroom discussions of justice, analysis of bias in media coverage of current events, and an optional exploration of the evolution of communication technology and its impact on the legal system. Students will then research different public service professions and how professionals viewing events through their own lenses lead to different understandings of what is just or unjust. To further the students’ exploration, they will research and analyze a current event for posting to a public forum. To end this unit, students will view a documentary on the Stanford Prison Experiment and step into the roles of the participants in that experiment in order to analyze the different experiences of the different actors in the experiment.

1: Part 1: Justice, it’s what’s for breakfast…

Students will participate in a collaborative activity of the teacher’s choice to begin thinking about and reassessing their definition of justice. (See possible activity below.) Following this activity, students will engage in a class discussion in which the definition of justice will be articulated and agreed upon by the class. This class definition of justice should inform students’ analysis of the situations and subjects investigated in this unit and the remaining units.

1: Part 2: DARE you judge me?!?!

To develop students understanding of how personal bias can influence outcomes, students will view news clips on current events in order to compare and contrast the views and biases presented in a variety of news reports. While viewing the clips, students record how the speaker is discussing an event, keeping in mind the rhetorical elements of Ethos, Logos and Pathos, as well as the Power and Control Wheel. They will create a Venn diagram (or other appropriate graphic organizer) detailing how the different news sources conveyed their information, using using the tools previously mentioned to explain the bias.To wrap up, students will produce a one or two paragraph analysis of their discovery, keeping in mind their newly formulated class definition of justice.

OPTIONAL Assignment: Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto.

Students will look at a timeline of modern communications technology. They will compare how the laws have changed as technology has advanced over time. Once they have created this timeline, students will choose adults from a variety of generations (i.e. 20 year old, 30 year old, 40 year old, 70 year old, etc.) to interview on their perspectives of the change in technology. After this, teachers can opt to have students write a personal response essay to the question: How does our modern use of technology (i.e. Instagram, Snapchat) further justice or injustice (for example the filming and re-posting of a conflict, internet shaming, etc.)?

Possible sources for task 3:


2: I thought you were my friend :(

Students will respond to the Stanford Prison Experiment using elements of role playing and analysis. Students will investigate the reasoning behind the Stanford Prison Experiment through informational texts and visual aids. After exploring the texts in teams, students will view the documentary on the Stanford Prison Experiment (can be found on YouTube) and write an analytical essay in which students choose and examine a role. They will create an online document using visual aids to express what they have learned about why the person in that role behaved as he or she did, and what that person learned. The online document will be viewed and commented on by their peers.

3: Be Professional

Students will explore professions and media outlets that are responsible for monitoring justice and how these roles relate to perception.

Using learning from assignments one and two, and after researching, students will write an expository essay examining how public service professionals (including first responders, law enforcement officers, public defenders and district attorneys, judges, correctional officers, probation officers, and legislators) carry out justice and how their profession affects their view of events (i.e. a police officer watching a crime will perceive it differently than a public defender will).

Please use supplementary links, for example:

4: Express yourself!

Students will create and contribute to an online forum -- such as Blogger, WordPress, or Edublog (to be designated by the teacher) -- examining social issues with their peers.  Choosing from media presentations of current events related to the public services that are published every day, students will post a mini-critique on the use of the rhetorical strategies in the presentation of the event, on differences in viewpoints for professionals and private citizens, and on applications of power, control and respect in interactions betweens professionals and civilians. Peers will review and comment appropriately.

Suggested Activity for Assignment 1, Part 1:

Students will brainstorm in partners their conception of justice. Then, they will participate in a gallery walk looking at different images that may or may not display justice. One student will leave a note explaining what makes the image just or not. After students have left their notes, they will complete another circle where they will read their peers’ comments. Following this the teacher will use this as an opportunity to engage in a  class discussion where the definition of justice will be articulated and agreed upon by the class.

Unit 3 : Theories of Crime

In this unit, students study theories of crime. They shift from the interpretive lenses they used in the previous two units (Power/Control and Respect Wheels, Classical appeals) to using a criminological focus to examine the texts and events they study. They apply one theory to a text, and then apply that theory to an authentic social problem and its solution.  Students will study several crime theories in an effort to find one that they find convincing. They will analyze a text such as The Other Wes Moore or My Friend Dahmer relating to a crime or criminals and use it as a source of evidence in support of their chosen crime theory. Their final presentation uses their chosen theory to explain a specific crime in their community and propose solutions or policies based on that theory. Whether their chosen theory explains crime as a biological, psychological, or sociological phenomenon, students will find that virtually all the policies or solutions will raise issues of social justice -- e.g., employing eugenics as an attempt to reduce crime through biology, identifying and treating potential offenders through psychology, or re-engineering society or the economy for sociologically-based solutions.

1: Ninety-Nine Problems….

Students use textbooks and/or online resources (e.g., Fuller, CRF) to investigate various crime theories and remedies. Students choose one theory from each of two different categories (e.g., psychological theories, biological theories, sociological theories) and write a justification of why their choice appeals to them, which may include comparing and contrasting or differentiating elements of the theories. In order to create a more relevant experience relating to social justice, students should not focus on the rational choice theory.

2: If I Did Kill Her….(Ask O.J.)

Using the theory from Assignment 1 students will apply it to a text (e.g., My Friend Dahmer, or The Other Wes Moore) containing one or more characters who commit a crime. Alternatively, they find a local news source case study of the perpetrator of a crime. Students write an expository essay in which they cite evidence from the text that supports the theory of crime they have chosen.

By extracting evidence from the text to support their chosen theory, they produce an explanatory writing piece.

3: Support Your Local Sheriff!

Using multiple sources of information (Uniform Crime Reports, National Crime Victimization Survey, police department policy statements, student-generated student/community polls), students choose a specific crime with a significant impact on their community for their analyses in Assignment 4. They write a short expository piece justifying the relevance or importance of their choice, based on public perception, trends or actual volume of this crime in their community.  The writing will also show briefly how their chosen crime theory explains who is committing this crime in their community and why.

4: What? Why? Who?

Students should refer to current models of crime prevention programs (Operation Ceasefire, Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime) to consider how crime theories are implicit in those models and how these policies incorporate crime theories.

Students then create their own proposal for social change -- either a written product (petition, op-ed, or proposal), a speech, or a multimedia product -- explaining how their chosen theory accounts for their chosen crime and propose changes in policy or treatment for this type of crime based on their theory. Students present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically. Part of their proposal includes a determination of who is the appropriate audience with the capability to enact the proposal.

Unit 4 : Social Inequities

Students consider how society can be made just in a sustainable way. In an online exchange using Blogger (or a similar platform), they read, share, and respond to informational texts relating to current issues and in an effort to explore social inequities. They also carry this discussion to texts concerned with social inequity, such as Two Badges or The Merchant of Venice. Synthesizing their conclusions about the definitions of justice, ideas about power and control, they identify inequities in their communities and propose solutions. By varying rhetorical strategies, they target their proposals to diverse audiences.

1: We’re all weird here….

Students annotate and read a short text, such as “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut or “The Yellow Bellied Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss, in which the author satirizes or comments upon the concepts of equity and equality in contemporary society. As a class, they use the annotations to build a group hypothesis regarding the possible complications and problems inherent in applying the two terms to the implementation of justice. Each student writes a reflection about the success or shortcomings of the group’s hypothesis, or about the applicability of the hypothesis to an actual issue in society.

2: But he has two and I only have one!

Students explore the distinction between equality and equity within an issue currently relevant in their school (off-campus lunch, transgender rights, bullying, etc.) through an educational blog exchange (Blogger, WordPress, Edublog, etc.). Students will find an online article from a reputable news source that supports their issue of choice. They will create a blog post that states their issue of choice, explains why that issue is a concern, links to the article, and uses evidence from the online article to support their claims.  Students will engage their peers in a critical discussion online by posting questions, comments, and responses to peers’ blog submissions. Both in their own posting and in responding to other student’s posting, students will include discussion of how the article they chose, or the responses to it employ Ethos, Logos and Pathos as rhetorical strategies.

3:  Taking it to the Streets

This assignment expands the scope and focus of Assignment 4 in Unit 3 by examining a critical issue of social justice in the community.  Using definitions of justice, ideas about power and control, and theories of crime they have examined throughout the year, students identify a source of inequity in their communities (within education, criminal justice, social welfare, health, etc.) and propose a solution in the form of a policy recommendation for a program to be implemented. Their proposal uses the rhetorical appeals to Ethos, Logos and Pathos in order to persuade their target audience (their peers). This assignment will be made available to the class either online or via live presentation.

4: Now We Go Public!

Students create and conduct a peer survey using Google Forms or a similar product to identify which of the proposals they consider the most viable. Depending on the results of the survey, the class will divide into groups of students who will develop versions of the most viable proposals so that they are tailored for publication to an authentic audience (e.g. school classrooms, school administrators, school board, city council) through an appropriate medium (e.g. social media, op-ed, ‘zines). Student teams will revise the structure, language, and rhetorical strategies of the projects in order to reach their new audience.

Course Materials

Two Badges - Mona Ruiz: Memoir of a former gang member who becomes a valued member of the LAPD

My Friend Dahmer - John Backderf: Backderf, a graphic novelist, portrays the adolescent and young adult life of his school friend, serial killer Jeffery Dahmer.

The Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare: A money lender punished for pursuing payment of the money he lent

A Place to Stand - Jimmy Santiago Bacca: Memoir of a man arrested for selling drugs who learns to read in prison and becomes a Poet Laureate

Always Running - Luis J. Rodriguez: Memoir of a man growing up with and involved in gang violence who becomes an agent of change in his community.

A Piece of Cake - Cupcake Brown: Memoir of a woman who is exposed and involved with drugs and gang life at a young age who becomes a lawyer

Maus I & II - Arthur Spiegelman: Graphic novel memoir following the months and years leading up to and during the Holocaust

A Hole in My Life - Jack Gantos: Memoir of a man who becomes involved with a get rich quick scheme, becomes imprisoned and spends his time analyzing his choices and future

An Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian - Sherman Alexie: Memoir which follows the experience of a Native American Man and the injustice he faces.

Monster - Walter Dean Meyers: Fictional account of a young man arrested and going through the justice system and being sentenced

Random Family - Adrian Nicole Le Blanc: Memoir following multiple generations of a Puerto Rican family and their experiences with discrimination, the legal system, and injustice.

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafazi: Autobiography that follows the life of a young girl fighting for the right to education in a country rife with crime.

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