Essay Assignment

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Assignment #2: On the Limits of Civic Responsibility in the Context of Some Current Issues

(GWRIT 103-Turner)

Requirements: 3-5 pages, typed or word-processed.

Sources: you must find and use a minimum of 5 sources, only ONE of which may be an Internet (“.com”) source.

Further, one of your cited sources MUST come from the Reading Schedule of your syllabus (that is, you must quote from, paraphrase, or briefly summarize one of the following texts: Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant,” Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Theodore Rosa’s “Descartes Angel,” Lani Guinier’s “The Tyranny of the Majority,” or Ursula LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

These researched materials are to be used in the context of an ARGUMENT; that is, in an essay which makes inquiries into a subject about which you have some interest, reasons its way to a conclusion, and which then presents an opinion in which you most fervently come to believe as a result of your investigations, one which you want to convince your readers to share. An effective argument develops from a desire to inquire and understand, is a product of your ability to present logical cogent reasons for your belief, arises from your own experiences and knowledge as well as from your thoughtful and considerate handling of supporting evidence. Clearly, a strong and powerful emotional commitment and intellectual investment in the idea you would communicate is essential.

In this second essay I would like you to do the following:

Choose one of the topics listed below to help you think about how your individual and even solitary acts—of communication, of civil disobedience/obedience—might affect the future of the United States (its democratic design) and might even affect the fabric of your immediate world (this classroom, this university).

Next, formulate your own pointed and limited question at issue, a question that will be of significance to you, and to your audience.

Then, after choosing a topic and composing a question to be answered, after doing some preliminary research, construct a working thesis statement, one which is a complete sentence, containing both an assertion and a reason for that assertion.

Your Suggested Topics:

The legalization of stem cell research
Changing social security and the President’s State of the Union Address
Changing the welfare system
The war on terrorism (Homeland Security?) / the war in Iraq / nuclear arms
Minority rights (and/or affirmative action)
The use of steroids in sports
Our looming technologies: projected benefits/perils of increasing sources of artificial intelligence
The decline of the American worker: outsourcing jobs overseas
Looming monopolies: Microsoft / Wal-Mart / Target
JMU: can I park.

Be aware: your task is not to write a research paper, but to construct an argument which uses research as backup and in support of a stand that you take, an opinion you hold, one which you may discover only through the act of writing. As William Carlos Williams said, “When we name it life exists” and not before. Therefore I want to remind you to choose a topic about which you feel strongly, since all writing is personal. And remember what Joan Didion says: STYLE IS CHARACTER. So, hold onto your voices and your hats, and present your opinion to those who will hear and read your words.

Format: type it and double-space it, leaving at least 1” margins on all sides

Your paper must this time include a Works Cited page (see the Sample Works Cited Page in The Everyday Writer) and must follow the correct MLA form of in-text citation.


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