|Assignment: Draft of Major Essay #3—Analyzing & Constructing Arguments
Instructor: Michael Pulley
Class: English 1A, Sec. 17
Initial Due Date: Bring a Draft to Discuss at Portfolio Conference, Week of Oct. 25-29
Final Due Date: Monday, Nov. 1, 2004, 1 p.m.
The ability to argue persuasively through writing is one of the most important skills you will learn about in an English composition course. Argumentative writing is used in innumerable ways in our society. We are bombarded by persuasive rhetoric on a daily basis. All of us turn to forms of argumentation every time we try to convince a friend or family member to accept our viewpoints or behave in a certain manner.
The U.S. media seethes with argumentative content. Ads, written by marketing experts, try to persuade us to buy a company’s products. Argumentation lies at the very heart of the democratic process. Political candidates argue about government policies in an effort to win elections or secure passage of legislation. Business leaders and lobbyists argue for new laws that have favorable impacts on the U.S. business climate. Doctors engage in subtle forms of argumentation when they recommend particular treatments to patients. Managers use argumentative skills to get employees to work harder. Job seekers write persuasive arguments when they send resumes and cover letters to prospective employers.
As you know, the two major candidates in the current presidential race used argumentative skills in their three recent debates. Perhaps the most fiercely debated topic in the election is the war in Iraq, an event that has become a defining issue for the candidates and the country in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist bombings. Terrorism has affected all Americans in many ways, some obvious, others more subtle. This essay will give you a chance to develop and practice your argumentative writing skills by weighing in on this important controversy.
You are required to write a four-to-five page argumentative essay on the following topic: Should the U.S. be fighting the war in Iraq? This is not an invitation to write a simplistic yes-or-no essay on the subject. While you are allowed to bring in other sources to support your argument, you must make significant use of both of our two readings on this topic—Michael Moore’s “Home of the Whopper,” and Robert Kagan and William Kristol’s “The Right War for the Right Reasons.” Simply copying the argumentative thesis of one of these two readings and regurgitating the support found in it will not be considered a satisfactory completion of the assignment.
You must do more than simply mimic one of the two readings. You must form your own argumentative thesis on the subject and look for the specific information in the two readings that will support your original take on the issue and apply that information to your own ideas. While our two readings represent the polar opposites on this specific controversy, you might want to consider taking a middle ground on the subject, such as presidential candidate John Kerry’s claim that the war must still be pursued in the short term yet done so in a more effective manner by using more troops if necessary and seeking more cooperation from other U.S. allies. I’m not expecting you to become an overnight expert on U.S. foreign policy, but I am expecting you to spend some time carefully thinking out what you believe and why you believe it and thoughtfully selecting passages that will support your claims.
Major Essay #3—page 2
I will expect you to demonstrate an understanding of the basic tools of argumentation as defined by Andrea Lunsford in The Everyday Writer. Your essay should establish credibility with readers by demonstrating knowledge and fairness and establishing common ground. You should make use of both logical and emotional appeals. Try to find ways to make effective use of fallacies and look for instances of misuse of fallacies in the reading you choose to disagree with.
Writing the essay using only the two key readings is acceptable, but you are not limited to that approach. For example, you might be interested in obtaining the full texts of some of the sources cited by Moore, and Kagan and Kristol, working these additional documents into your essay and discussing how the authors of our two key readings use the sources they cite. You may be able to use your own personal experience in this essay if you have friends or family serving in the military or stationed in Iraq. Maybe some of your friends or relatives have served in the military in the past. If so, those previous experiences may be brought to bear in your argument. Remember, Lunsford notes that personal experience on a subject can be employed to demonstrate knowledge and establish credibility with readers.
If you elect to bring in other sources besides the two that you are required to work with, you must cite them properly in the text of your essay and on your works-cited page according to MLA style requirements. If you want to use information from the Internet, the MLA requires you to cite electronic information in a very specific fashion. How to cite electronic sources according to MLA style is covered on page 371 and pages 382-89 of Everyday Writer, so you must carefully study these pages to make sure you are citing electronic sources properly if you choose to do so. If you want to use an Internet source, it is best to print out a copy of the article so that you get a record of the website’s URL and the date you accessed the information. You will need to cite the complete URL, or some form of it, and the date you accessed the information, in your works-cited section. If you have any questions regarding this process after you read Lunsford, please feel free to consult me for help.
I want to emphasize that what position you decide to take on the war in this essay will not have any bearing on your grade. Your grade will be based on how well you build your argument, how well you make use of argumentative strategies, how well you articulate your ideas, and how well you cite passages from the readings to support your claims.
You must bring a draft of this essay along with three questions you have about your draft to your portfolio conference. Bring an extra copy for me so that we both can read it and work on it together. We will discuss your questions and your work-in-progress, and then you will get to continue working on your draft until the final due date of Monday, Nov. 1, at the beginning of class. Bring more than one copy on that day also in case we have time for another peer review session. While I will not keep my regular office hours during the week of Oct. 25-29 due to our conferences, I will still be available to answer questions or work with you if you want more help on any issue before or after your conference that week. Simply call me or e-mail me to set up a time to meet.