October 2008 Archives

In-class Activity

Ex 3-1: Oppose a Position

When you oppose a position, you point out weaknesses in the strongest arguments for the position that you oppose, and you introduce new arguments that support your point.

Your goal is not to make the other point of view look evil, or to make it look like only an idiot would disagree with you. (If that's what you feel in your heart of hearts, then maybe you should pick a different topic.)

This assignment isn't about out-shouting your opponent, it's about demonstrating your ability to use logic to find the best solution to a problem, and a scholarly approach to research should include a willingness to give up your own opinion if you uncover evidence of a better solution.

In order to focus your opposition, you will need to point out a specific argument that you're working against -- an advertisement, an editorial, some event or speech covered in the news.  You'll need to share with me the source of the opinion you are arguing against, so that I can read it (or listen to it, or watch it) myself.
In-class Activity

Essay 3: Persuasive Essay

In-class Activity

Portfolio 2

Today we will discuss Portfolio 2.
Due Today:

ILP4: Checkpoint

A thesis in the form of "I love ballet" or "Ballet makes me happy" or "The best thing in the world is ballet" is not a claim worth arguing -- it is simply a statement of personal preference. 

Claims like "water is wet" or a "Hitler was evil" are so obvious that there's really no need to write a paper about them.

It would be impossible to argue that "ballet is better than" your favorite sport, but imagine a paper that begins this way:
Because a ballet dancer has the agility of a high-jumper and the stamina of a defensive lineman, ballet could be classified as a sport; yet a ballet blends physical performance with creative expression in a way that neither high-jumping nor football can match.
A student who wrote a paper with the above thesis should probably have personal experience with all three activities, since in our class I'm not asking you to do outside research.  But I'm not that interested in the content of the above sample thesis -- I'm just using it as a model of the difference between simple opinion and a complex, arguable point of view.

Update: Here are the examples we went over in class today.

Schools should install metal detectors.

(But who will pay for them? What should be cut to make room for that in the budget? What are the risks and benefits?)

Revision: If X school had metal detectors, then the attack of June 7 in which four students were stabbed by a student with a knife could have been prevented. Our students deserve this kind of protection.

Schools should stop forcing students to open their backpacks.

Revision: Because metal detectors do not prevent all forms of violence, installing metal detectors is a waste of money that could be spent instead on hiring another security guard.

Revision (turning the same topic into a completely different thesis): Training students to submit to unreasonable invasions of their privacy in the name of school security sets a bad precedent for what governments can do to their citizens in the name of "homeland security."

Assigned Text:

SFW 12 c-e: Paragraphs

In-class Activity

Ex 2-4: Explain a Position

In an essay of 2 to 3 pages, made up of several paragraphs, explain something that needs explanation. Choose a topic that is sufficiently complex that two intelligent people could disagree on it.  I am not asking for a set of instructions, such as "How to change the oil in your car," but "Why I won't be buying a battery-powered car any time soon" would probably work.

I don't expect any outside research, but if you do use words that you did not compose on your own, you should cite the source accurately. (Please ask me if you have any questions about citing sources. How to conduct research is a topic for a different course, so I won't cover it here, but as a student you still need to demonstrate academic integrity by acknowledging whenever you use somebody else's words or ideas in your own paper.)

You do not have to supply a framing narrative. (By that, I mean that you do not have to invent a story as an excuse to give your explanation.  You don't need to start like this: "Last Thursday, I was walking through the parking lot when I noticed a tiny two-seater car, and I wondered who else on campus has come up with creative ways to cope with the high price of fuel.  I sat down under a tree with my friend Sharon, whose freckles shone merrily in the autum sunlight...")

If you wish to supply a framing narrative, keep it subtle. (Your goal is to explain something. If telling a story helps you to make a specific point, rather than make general statements about what "some people" think, then by all means use a framing narrative.  But keep the number of characters and settings to a minimum -- don't distract the reader from your main point.)

Refer to SF Writer, 12a-12e (your assigned readings for Oct 16 and Oct 21).

See also this handout on Blueprinting.

Before break, I suggested a formula to help you make sure your thoughts were organized enough for you to start writing your "Correct a Misconception" paragraph.  While I'm not going to suggest any specific formula for the "Explanatory Essay," I will discuss the value of blueprinting.

An A is a kind of B that is unique because of C, D, and E.

While many examples of A may look like Bs because of C and D, the truth is that E and F are more reliable ways of differentiating between As and Bs.

I used to think that I could get to A by doing B and C; however, after I learned that B and C can lead to the undesirable result D, from now on I am going to try E and F instead.
Any of these forumlae could work; any of them might not, depending on the topic that you choose.

But whatever structure you apply to your paper, make sure that you go into detail in the order your introduction promised.

Assigned Text:

SFW 12a-b: Paragraphs

I can't always promise to write up a summary of the exercises we did in class; however, because we won't see each other again until the assignment is due, I thought it would be useful for me to offer a bit of a refresher.

Summary of what we did in class on Thursday.

1) List examples of misconceptions.

2) Choose one, and associate it with a specific source --  that is, a specific advertisement that relies upon a misconception to deliver its message, a specific speech that a politician gave on a particular date, a specific law or university policy, or a belief that led you to act in a certain way that you no longer condone.

3) I suggested a formula, but pointed out that the formula is just a tool to help you organize your ideas, not an example of language that you should use in your paragraph.

I hate green.  I love that shirt.

These are two simple statements.  If you plunk them down right next to each other, your reader will assume they are related. But how?  The English language gives you countless ways to SHOW your reader the connection between these statements.

Fall Break

No Class
Assigned Text:

SFW 11b-d: Rhythm

Sometime today, I will take a look at the work you have completed in MyCompLab so far, and record a preliminary grade, which I will use when I calculate your midterm grade.

SEE Method

Statement, Example, Explanation
Assigned Text:

SFW 11a: Style

For this assignment, I am asking you to print out several pages, and staple them all together. I will create a slot in Turnitin.com so that I can report your grade, but you won't need to upload anything there.  (Note -- you will still need to upload ILP3 and Ex 2-0, as usual.)

1) From within Turnitin.com, print out the comments I wrote on at least two of your paragraphs, and on the rough draft of your Paper 1.    In the margins of those printouts, add your own hand-written comments, demonstrating what you learned from each assignment. 
For example, if I asked you to SHOW instead of TELL, suggest a new detail that would SHOW.  If I noted that your paper had several different main ideas that conflicted with each other, tell me which idea you feel is the most important.  If I noted that your submission did not make me feel like I was there with you living a single, specific even through your senses, pick such an event, and demonstrate your willingness and ability to make changes based on the suggestions I offer.  It's not necessary to revise the whole paragraph. All I'm asking for this assignment is that you reply in a meaningful way to some of the most useful suggestions that I make.
2) Print out your original ILP 1 submission, and the comments I left on your ILP2 checkpoint.  In the margins of your ILP2 printout, hand-write responses to the feedback I offer, calling my attention to specific changes you made (usually adding more details, backing up claims with evidence, and updating me with news of your recent accomplishments) in order to create ILP3.

3) Include a brief statement that SHOWS your improvement since the beginning of the term.  Do this by completing the following steps:

3A) Quote a specific passage that  you submitted in an early writing assignment, and explain what weakness it illustrates.  Explain, by quoting a comment I supplied, or something you found in the textbook, why this particular passage represents a writing weakness.

3B) Quote a specific passage from a more recent writing assignment, and explain why it illustrates your progress towards developing new strengths to compensate for the weakness you identified in 3A.

4) Identify one specific area of improvement that the MyCompLab pre-test called to your attention, and SHOW evidence of your progress in that area.  Be as specific as possible, quoting (as in 3A and 3B above) from submissions, in order to illustrate your development.
In-class Activity

Ex 2-2: Describe a Change

Due Today:

ILP3: Revision

Quote passages from your own work, including passages from the rough draft and revision of Ex 1-0, to illustrate your recent development as a writer.

Recent Comments

Dennis G. Jerz on Ex 3-3: Pro/Con II: You may argue against any previous submission. I w
Timothy Koch on Ex 3-3: Pro/Con II: for this paper, can we argue against any of the pr
Dennis G. Jerz on Ex 3-2: Pro/Con Combined: Elyse, one problem is that I've scheduled an in-cl
Elyse Grogan on Ex 3-2: Pro/Con Combined: hi, i was jus wondering if there is any way possib
Dennis G. Jerz on Self-Assessment: Thanks for that feedback, Meghan. Now that we'll b
Meghan Fisher on Self-Assessment: I like when we have give and take in class. Today
Dennis G. Jerz on Ex 2-4: Explain a Position: You can think of this as the "pro" side of an argu
Elyse Grogan on Ex 2-4: Explain a Position: i am not sure that i understand this assignment co
Dennis G. Jerz on Ex 2-1: Explain (for a novice): Amanda, thanks for letting me know you are interst
Amanda Casper on Ex 2-1: Explain (for a novice): Dr. Jerz, could you please add some basic informat
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