Essay Assignment

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Project #3 Assignment


Feelings of difference can create serious identity issues and questions about how to live in a culture that ostracizes those with a particular difference. The struggles of people who exhibit some kind of difference from the “norm” in our society were a common theme in all of the selections we’ve read, viewed, and will continue to read in this unit. For example, when Steven Lofton declined to fill out the question on the Florida adoption form that asked about his sexuality, he and his long-time partner, Roger Croteau, were forbidden to adopt, creating a precarious situation for Bert. Such situations and feelings were not limited to homosexuals, though. Nora Ephron had a physical difference that she felt impacted her adolescence, and she takes an irreverent look at this difference in “A Few Words about Breasts” (a piece you’ll read for Thursday).

It’s easier to blend in, to hide, to follow the crowd, to refuse to think independently. Yet, we find in this unit various examples of ordinary and extraordinary people who courageously stand up and break free of what Martin Luther King, Jr., calls “the paralyzing chains of conformity.” Rosie O’Donnell, for example, identified herself as a lesbian adoptive parent so that she could put a face on the issue of gay adoption. Many of these readings describe struggle with difference, but they also demonstrate strength and tenacity.

In the chapter on persuasion, The Aims of Argument contends that “Persuasion begins with difference and ends with identity” (228). Everybody has some kind of difference. Often, this difference is exalted—it can be considered one feature that helps to make a person an individual. On the other hand, a difference can become a source of teasing and prejudice, a source of feeling apart from the crowd. Such a difference might be religious, ethnic, gender related, familial, physical, or situational.

How are you different? How has this difference impacted your life? What have you learned about getting along in the world, adjusting, the human ability to adapt, or humanity, or cruelty? For this assignment, you will create an argument about something about you that’s different, that sets you apart from others, whether in a positive or a negative way. To create an original argument will require deep thought and careful observation. You must also figure out a way to use sources (at least three—see guidelines on back) that support your argument in a meaningful way.

In this unit, we are considering narrative—telling a story—as an effective way of building one type of evidence for an argument. Narrative can be a risky way of writing, for it requires you to expose a part of yourself to readers. The best writing, though, is always risky, so you’re encouraged to incorporate narrative as part of your argument. Note that you don’t have to use narrative if you feel uncomfortable doing so. If you choose to use narrative, you’ll need to navigate carefully the terrain between narrative and argument. Also, keep in mind that your argument ought to avoid clichéd themes like “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Some of the concepts we’ve been covering in this unit that you should give special consideration when composing your argument follow: using transitional words, phrases, and sentences to guide readers from idea to idea and to create a sense of cohesion and fluidity; creating a vigorous style, enhanced by vivid detail, description, and possibly even metaphor and simile; and closing your paper effectively, leaving a strong final impression. Keep in mind the suggestions and strategies from the textbooks for meeting the expectations of your readers in each of these categories.

The student examples you’ll read as your Issues and Outlook reading for Tuesday would each qualify as relevant and appropriate arguments for this assignment. With each, you’ll notice different levels of exposure from the writer. You must determine how comfortable you feel with divulging personal information in a paper written for your classmates to read. First person is, of course, acceptable. Essentially, your argument could take one of many different angles, but it must meet the following criteria and deadlines:   

  • The thesis must be arguable and focused (typed working thesis due on Tuesday, March 27th). Five point portfolio deduction for missing this deadline.
  • Your argument must also have a research dimension. For your research for this assignment, you must use “print” sources, at least two. “Print” sources include books, magazine articles, newspapers, films, news programs, etc. Any materials found through the library’s research databases count as print sources, even though technically they are electronic and web-based. You may even think of interviews as appropriate sources, even though they’re not “print.”
  • The argument must consist of at least 1,150 words
  • Four copies of your full rough draft must be brought to class on Thursday, March 29th (if you do not have a completed rough draft in class on this day, then your grade on the final version will be reduced by ten points). Absence from class is not an excuse.
  • Comment sheets must be posted to the File Exchange by class time on April 3rd. Also bring to class a draft on that day.
  • Portfolios must be submitted at the beginning of class on Thursday, April 5th.


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