Essay Assignment

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Paper 3: Negotiating The Environment: Critical Thinking in our Civic Lives

Select one of the following topics to develop into a 4-5 page (1250 word minimum) essay. No matter which topic you choose, you must establish an appropriate audience and specific purpose for your essay. While the essay must be argumentative in nature, how you craft your argument is up to you. A goal of this course and assignment is to help you develop strategies for thinking and writing in your personal, academic, and civic lives. Since this is a relatively short essay, be sure to select a topic that is narrow and specific enough to fully explore in four to five pages.

As with the last essay, you must include a visual element in this essay to help support your argument.  You may choose a photograph, chart or graph, diagram, or any other visual element.  See EW Chapters 5 and 10 for more on thinking visually and using words and visuals together to craft your argument. 

As always, the content of your essay must reflect more than superficial thought on the subject. Follow all paper and research guidelines, and keep the grading criteria in mind. For this paper, you must cite at least 5 sources; use proper MLA documentation. This must be an original essay written in response to this assignment. The Honor Code applies to this and all work done in this course. Due dates and other policies appear on the syllabus. Please see me with any questions.

1. In "A Defense of the Open Road," Lance Armstrong argues against a proposed law that he feels would interfere with his rights and his quality of life. Consider a specific proposal or law enacted in your hometown or at JMU that you feel would (or already does) interfere with your rights and/or your quality of life. Write an argument in which you explore why the proposal or law is harmful. Remember that you will use a variety of types of arguments in order to craft an effective argument against this proposal or law. Choose a specific audience and purpose.

2. In "I Hate Trees," Rosa Ehrenreich goes against the tide of popular opinion to explain why she "hates trees" (because she feels environmental activism overshadows human rights). Think of something many other people love but you hate. Craft an argument in which you explore the reasons you hate this thing (be it place, object, person, trend, hobby, or something else you find troubling), supporting your argument with reasons and evidence. Acknowledgment and response will be particularly important for this paper (think of Ehrenreich's admission that, yes, she actually does recycle). Be sure to select a specific audience and purpose. Do not try to imitate Ehrenereich; instead, focus on expressing your unique ideas, in your own unique voice.

3. In "The Obligation to Endure," from Silent Spring, Rachel Carson identifies a practice that endangers something she values; she argues that the use of chemical pesticides endangers the environment, and, in turn, human beings. Identify a practice that endangers something you love, and craft an argument calling for the end of the practice.  It's best to choose something narrow and specific. (Remember that Rachel Carson was writing a book). Select a specific audience, one with the ability to actually work toward the end of the practice.

4. The essays we have read deal with something of value to the author--be it cycling for Armstrong, land and family for Williams, or nature for Carson. Finding something of value to you can help you craft an effective argument. As with the last essays, you have the option of choosing your own topic or adapting one of the above topics, in consultation with me. This will be your last opportunity to design your own topic, so take advantage of it; it's important to care about your writing. After selecting an interesting and appropriate topic, select a specific audience and purpose for your essay. Be sure to narrow your topic into a specific arguable thesis.  Please see me with any questions.


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