Thursday, October 27, 2011

Controversial Cupcakes

I want my students to write about subjects that make them think. I never assign essays about vacations or anything where they could slip into autopilot. At the beginning of every class period, I give them something that I think they will have a strong reaction to--a video, an article, or something a little more creative. Today, I recreated the racist bake sale that happened at Berkeley a few weeks ago to protest California Senate Bill 105 that would allow California universities to again consider race and gender in admissions. Basically, they put out the baked goods and posted a sign with different prices for different races: Caucasians $2.00, Asians, $1.50, Latinos $1.00 and so on, with a 25% discount for females. Needless to say, it caused quite a stir in Berkeley and quite a stir in my classroom!

When the students walked in, their faces said, "Cupcakes!" and then they saw the sign and they got real quiet. They did a double-take, and then and started looking around at each other, wondering who was going to say something first. When I explained what was going on, the look of relief was priceless. They thought I'd gone loco. A Native American girl, who, according to the sign would get a free cupcake with her discounts, broke up the class when she said, "Does this mean I don't get a free cupcake?"

After a discussion about the senate bill and affirmative action, they wrote their response papers. They were passionate, varied in viewpoints and did some outstanding writing because they were engaged. The best part was handing out the cupcakes on break, listening to them still talking and debating. Engaged and well-fed students are happy students!


  1. I love this post! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Wow! I love this idea. Great job helping them interact with controversial ideas in their world in a way that is really powerful!