Essay Assignment

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GWRIT 103 Paper #3 prompt – That Which is Unspeakable                                       Jefferson

Due:  April 4 in class, a 4-5 page paper formatted as shown on your syllabus that uses a springboard source, works though a strong thesis, and employs sources found through JMU databases to argue for some understanding of a specific free speech issue. 


1.    Find a relatively recent print argument (perhaps an editorial or commentary or report) that expresses an opinion on a freedom of speech issue that you’re interested in, whether in the education, public, political, or international arenas.  Keep in mind that the article you select should be argumentative—it should take a stance and at least attempt to defend it—and it shouldn’t be by some wacko. This article will serve as your springboard into argument, and I highly recommend that you DISAGREE with it, or with some aspect of it.  Try to find an article whose issue or style of engaging the issue makes you see red. OUTRAGE is a good place to start (though not a place to stay in). As you look for this “springboard source” and for other sources which will either inform or help you to make your argument, remember that there are literally hundreds of articles out there: take some time, look around, follow the trails that names or references suggest to find more interesting, pertinent, original, or useful sources.

2.   Offer your argument in response to your “springboard source.” Set your argument up by identifying the context (what is the situation into which your source throws its two cents, and what is the question at issue).  Identify the principle claim of your source and then announce your stance clearly and strongly.

If you think about it, this is exactly how many of the letters to the editor in newspapers and magazines are formatted. Here are two sample letters, from page E3 of the “Forum” section in the February 19, 2006 Sacramento Bee:

The wise, courageous Bee

Re "Why The Bee didn't run the anti-Muslim cartoons," Feedback,
Feb. 12: Armando Acuna's column revealed intense debate within
The Bee about reprinting the disgraceful caricatures of Prophet
Muhammad, first published by a Danish newspaper. I applaud The
Bee's wise and courageous decision to not reprint the cartoons.

Howard Weaver's view that "These cartoons were at least as offen-
sive as a vile racist slur" is correct. Given the current tense West-
Muslim relationship, these cartoons and their subsequent defense
as "free speech" ominously conveyed the West's utter insult of Is-
lam's prophet and contempt for Muslims' feelings.

Free speech is not absolute. Editors routinely make decisions not to
publish objectionable material without raising free-speech issues.   
In much of Europe, denying or trivializing the Holocaust is a crimi-
nal offense.

With freedom comes responsibility. Freedom of speech includes
freedom not to speak. Publishing the cartoons that hurt only the
weakest segment of our society - the Muslims - would have been
easy. It took real courage and wisdom to say "No."

- Rashid Ahmad, Elk Grove

Wrong choice on cartoons

Re "Why The Bee didn't run the anti-Muslim cartoons," Feb. 12:
Public Editor Armando Acuna's article was exemplary. It is
impossible for any rational person not to concur with Acuna
that The Bee should have printed the Denmark cartoons.

This questionable news publishing business, i.e. The Bee, need
 not have minds like Howard Weaver, Mort Saltzman or David
Holwerk in any de-cision-making capacity beyond how many
times the finished product is folded before the rubber band is
applied, as this is more to their depth.

Newspapers - actual newspapers - should present this world's
news each day the only way possible: truthfully as it occurs.
Sophocles defined truth as "the strongest argument." Other
Bee editors may rest assured that telling the truth, no matter
how unfamiliar the territory may seem, is the correct thing to do.

- Garr Ooley, Citrus Heights

3.   You must have a properly formatted strong thesis either in or attached to your paper. In other words, you can certainly decide that the “A+B because A+C” form (to be discussed this week) does not sound nice as part of your paper (this often happens when we try to jam complex ideas into single sentences), but your love of beauty does not relieve you from composing and submitting the sentence.

4.    In the body of your paper, show how and why your readers should understand the issue as you do. 

  • You will need to cover the common ground you have with your primary source and with your audience. Where do you agree with the source and what background must your audience have in order to see the issue clearly?
  • You will need to work through your single best reason for believing the issue should be understood as you understand it, and not as your source does. Doing so will a. allow you to set aside the argument offered by your primary source, b. allow you to “earn” your claim for how the issue should be understood, and c. position you to offer commentary that you perhaps couldn’t offer on page 1.
  • You will need to be fair to your source. You are not disagreeing simply to disagree, and not saying things strongly simply to be strong. If the source makes good points, concede them. Where it fails, engage them carefully and analytically, supporting your own understanding with research that you engage and make yours.

5.  You must use proper documentation and you must use (introduce, engage, analyze, and cite) at least three sources. At least two of these sources must be sources you find through JMU databases (i.e.: not from online “.com” sources). Include a Works Cited page as a last page of your paper. 



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