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UIW English 1312: Education and Empowerment

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UIW English 1312: Education and Empowerment

Week 2: Weekly Lesson Plan

August 27th – September 2nd

All Assignments for Week #2 must be completed by Saturday, 9/2/2017 at 11:59pm.

The Statue of Liberty on the man-made island of Odaiba in central Tokyo – 2013


·       2.1 Warrants/Reasons

·       2.2 The Rhetorical Situation continued

·       2.3 Dead Topics

·       2.4 The first essay assignment

·       2.5 Pro Tip of the week

Assigned Readings:

·       APA Formatting PowerPoint/Video – Audio Lectures with slides. Find under “Week Two Class Notes.” Watch/listen to 6:30 or the first five slides.

·       Essay Structure PowerPoint/Video – Audio lecture with Slides. Find under “Week Two Class Notes”.

·       Pp. 100-105 in the textbook

·       “The Essentials of a Good Education” – Ravitch – pp. 105-112

·       “Against School” – Gatto – pp. 114-122

·       Additional chapter introductions – See essay assignment below


·       Discussion Thread Responses: While there is no exact minimum number of posts, you should respond to other students and my original post in each thread in a meaningful way, and a minimum of four days of posts during the week.

o   Rhetoric and Readings thread

o   Essay thread

2.1 Warrants/Reasons

As you may recall from last week, Warrants are a general principle or assumption that establishes a connection between the data (support) and the claim (What warrants/merits me saying this?).

A simple way to think of reasons is to bring to mind the last movie you saw. Did you like it or not? What are your reasons for that opinion? (I.e. the action, the acting, the emotional scenes, or whatever).

In academic writing, your reasons should be stated in a map alongside the thesis at the end of the introduction.

Hence, a sample thesis and map for the film example:

The Hobbit is not a very good movie because of the unnecessarily long runtime, the shifts in tone, and the plastic look of the high-frame-rate cinematography.

The yellow part is the thesis (topic= The Hobbit, Opinion/point = not a very good movie). The map that follows in green contains the reasons and outlines what the three body paragraphs/sections will be about in turn. The map reasons should match the topics and order of topics of the body of the essay.

With map points, you want to briefly forecast the supporting reasons and avoid too much detail. If the map points are too detailed there starts to be development for a topic in two places in the essay. Instead, briefly forecast each point and then save the development of the point for the body of the essay.

Warrants reflect our personal experience and our participation in a culture. As a result, THE AUDIENCE MAY NOT ALWAYS AGREE WITH THE REASONS OR ASSUMPTIONS OF THE WRITER. Please remember that we all come from different backgrounds and have diverse values, thus we need to treat the opinions of others with respect. After all, as has been mentioned, a thesis states your opinion on a subject. Since a thesis has to be arguable, reasonable people can disagree with you and argue something different about the same topic. This is the essence of an academic argument. Someone else can make a different argument about something. If there is only one correct point of view on a subject, then it is not an argument, but a fact, and the approach doesn’t work.

2.2: Audience – Purpose – Context

Last week, we looked at the rhetorical situation briefly. Now, we are going to look at the situation a little more in depth. The example I am using is an article from The Atlantic on organic farming.

Audience – The audience for an article is the people the author had in mind as the target audience when writing the piece. This is never “everyone,” “Facebook users,” or “Americans,” as these are far too broad. Figuring out the audience for a text can require some research.

For an article like this from a specific place like The Atlantic, the first thing that limits the audience in some way is readers of this particular publication. Based on my knowledge of this publication, I would say their readership is generally educated and interested in literature, politics, and foreign affairs. The ads imply a well-off readership as well since Rolex and fancy clothing and car brands advertise. Of course, when looking at the website of a publication these days, the ads are usually targeted to you personally, so this might not be a fruitful approach.

The magazine also aims to be politically moderate. The way something is written also works at narrowing the audience. Targeted at this readership, the diction, sentence structure, and subject matter also reflect this. Based on the relatively advanced vocabulary and the complex concepts relating to this kind of farming, I could also argue that the intended audience has a base knowledge and interest in organic foods.

Purpose – Is the purpose to inform, persuade, or something else? The purpose here is to inform readers about the challenges of organic farming, but also in some ways to argue for the benefits of organic foods.

Context – The first level of context and where you should start is what type of writing is this (magazine article, a story, a newspaper article, a scholarly book, etc.).

The context can also be the context of the particular publication, but also the current societal debate on the given issue. For example, a current article on something like taxes will be tinted by the current political climate during the recent election cycle. With the organic-foods article, the context is the current rise of that type of farming, as we see more and more organic foods in places like Wal-Mart alongside more traditional outlets like Whole Foods. That being said, the type of writing is where you should start when discussing the context of something.

2.3: Dead Topics

When writing essays in this class (or any class), generally avoid what Mauk (2016) calls “dead” topics (p. xxii). Basically, these topics are often already set in stone, such as texting while driving, motorcycle helmet laws, or seatbelt laws.

With some of these topics, we have agreed as a society that, for example, texting while driving is a distraction and is a bad thing. These have often also been established beyond a reasonable doubt scientifically. Reasonable people agree that texting while driving is a bad idea, but a lot of us still do it.

With other “dead” topics, the debate can be so heated and the sides so entrenched in their positions that it is difficult or impossible to add anything meaningful to the discussion.

In Mauk’s (2016) words from the book The Composition of Everyday Life,

Student writing is often stiffened by the popular-but-distant topics of the day: gun control, abortion, cloning, cell phone use, and so on. Of course, for some students, these topics intersect with everyday life, but for the vast majority, they are glorified encyclopedic preformulations. They offer no possibility for new connections, no possibility for radical rethinking, no hope for discovery, and no exigence whatsoever. They are dead. (p. xxii)

Therefore, avoid any topics that fit the criteria above. This can include, but is not limited to abortion, gun control, prayer in public schools, the death penalty, seat-belt or helmet laws, texting laws, smoking bans, marijuana legislation, gay marriage, and many, many others.

 If you have any questions or concerns about a topic you are considering choosing, email me any time.

2.4: The Position Essay Assignment

Position Essay Assignment

70 pts                        

-Final draft due Saturday of Week Three at 11:59pm CST on Blackboard under Week Three Assessments as a .docx file

-Rough draft due to the UIW Online Writing Center no later than Tuesday of Week Three. Please forward their email and the file with comments to me as soon as you receive it. 

           Select an issue on which you have a clear position (read: opinion). In a writing between 900 and 1200 words, explain and defend that position. This issue must be related to one of the topics we’ll cover in our readings this term, listed in further detail below. The issue should also be reasonably arguable, which means that a position on the dangers of texting while driving is not appropriate for this assignment (See “dead topics” above). A more debatable topic, such as whether Facebook harms our lives, would be more appropriate. Whatever you choose, you’re going to spend a lot of time and energy with the topic, so make it something you care about.

          Your purpose, as you may have guessed, is to persuade.Your audience has a general awareness of your topic, but hasn’t yet formed an opinion. For this argument, success can mean anything from convincing your audience completely to moving the audience slightly closer to your view to simply stirring in your audience a willingness to consider your position as valid.

          While there is no required research component to this essay, keep in mind that this paper will be expanded further later in the semester into a full-blown researched essay. This means that you must select a researchable topic. Also, you may consider conducting some preliminary research to establish a strong foundation for the presentation of your ideas. A successful position essay has a narrow focus, and research is often the key to narrowing that focus.

See the rubric for assessment information.

A note of caution before choosing a topic:

The tendency and, perhaps, the easy option here, is to select a very broad/general topic. However, this will rarely lead to a successful essay. Therefore, be careful with broad topics like “social media,” “technology,” or “education.” Think of ways to narrow the chosen topic in some way in order to figure out what it is you want to say about it. For example, the “technology” topic is enormous and can include things like social media, self-driving cars, AI, the singularity, job losses from automation, and a million, literally, other topics. Therefore, choose a subtopic to focus on.

Social media is smaller than technology as a whole, but is still a huge topic since this encompasses facebook, which is different from YouTube, which is different from Twitter, which is different from a dating site, which is different from…

Even something smaller like facebook is a very broad topic on its own since I (a middle-aged English instructor) use it very differently from my elderly, retired father or my ten-year-old nephew.

Thus, focus your topic to something much smaller and figure out what you want to say about that smaller topic.

Potential Topic areas (In addition to reading the introductions, it can help to briefly look at the corresponding chapter readings for that topic, to look at the assigned readings, or to think about how this issue has been in the news recently):

Education and Empowerment (intro on pp. 101-105)How is our view of education tied up with the idea of the American Dream?What are the causes and effects of recent negative views on public schools/teachers?What factors affect whether education leads to empowerment?How does education shape identity?

The Tech Frontier (intro on pp. 214-218)To what extent is technology a marker of progress?What shapes the American belief in (or suspicion of) technology?How does it alter our sense of self to be constantly “plugged in”?How does technology affect topics like communication, jobs, privacy, critical thinking, or civil liberties?Individual Opportunity (intro on pp. 346-350)What are the causes and effects of the American focus on the individual?To what extent does hard work guarantee success in America?How has social class been linked to the perception of moral success or failure?

The Melting Pot (intro on pp. 568-571)What is implied in the image of a melting pot as a metaphor for a multicultural nation?What social or practical factors affect harmony and equality within a diverse America?What role have race and ethnicity played in the American experience?What is behind the fear of difference?


What is our relationship to food? How do food issues relate to health care, the environment, jobs, and/or so on? Related issues can include food labeling (nutrition, calories, and ingredients), fast-food jobs, and/or safety, for example.


What do our consumption habits tell us about ourselves and our identity? Related issues can include jobs, production, the environment, social class, and so on.

Position Essay Assessment Rubric 70 pts.  



Needs Improvement



The argument benefits from a clear, concise, and highly inventive thesis statement which establishes an arguable viewpoint in the first paragraph. The focus is consistently maintained throughout the task of persuading readers to change.

20     19     18

The argument benefits from a clear and creative thesis statement which establishes an arguable viewpoint in the first paragraph. The focus is largely maintained throughout the task of persuading readers to change.

  17    15    13     

The argument has a thesis statement which is not particularly original, yet is easily found. The thesis does not establish an arguable viewpoint and does not serve to guide readers through the task of persuading them to change.

11        9       7    5

The argument has no thesis statement and/or the thesis does not establish an arguable viewpoint and/or the text is plagiarized. The essay lacks a guiding focus for the task of persuading readers to change.

3        1         0


The main focus is developed through a variety of authentic, original, and engaging supporting points to logically substantiate the argument(s) and demonstrates awareness of potential counterarguments.

20     19     18

The main focus is developed through several authentic supporting points to logically substantiate the argument(s) and demonstrates awareness of at least two potential counterarguments.

  17    15    13     

 Attempts to develop the main focus through supporting points may not logically substantiate the argument(s).

One potential counterargument is mentioned but without adequate development.

 11        9       7    5

Few attempts to develop the main focus beyond general statements. Supporting points may not logically substantiate the argument and/or may be off topic and/or plagiarized. No counterarguments are acknowledged.

 3        1         0


The argument exhibits a clearly identifiable and highly effective strategy for organizing and presenting the position through purposeful topic sentences and cohesive transitional devices. Paragraphs exhibit a logical flow with no gaps in consistency. All supporting evidence is explicitly related back to the thesis.

10         9

The argument exhibits an identifiable strategy for organizing and presenting the position through purposeful topic sentences and cohesive transitions. Paragraphs exhibit a logical flow with only a few gaps in consistency. Most supporting evidence is linked explicitly back to the thesis.

 8         7        6

The argument attempts a basic and formulaic strategy for organizing and presenting the position through topic sentences.   Transitions are basic and highly predictable. Organization within paragraphs exhibits gaps in consistency.

5         4        3

The argument makes no attempts at a strategy for organizing and presenting the position. Few, if any, transitional devices are used.

Organization within paragraphs exhibits serious gaps in consistency. Supporting evidence is off topic.

2          1        0


The text is stylistically interesting, containing a variety of skillfully constructed sentence structures. Word choice is intentional, inventive, and purposeful. Vocabulary is sophisticated and well-suited to the rhetorical situation.

 10         9

The text flows through the use of varied sentence structures. Word choice is intentional and purposeful. Vocabulary is appropriate for the intended audience and purpose of the argument

8         7        6

The text attempts an authorial voice, although inconsistently. The text is either unduly wordy or distractingly choppy. Little variety in sentence structure negatively impacts communication potential. Word choice is basic and functional rather than appropriate to the rhetorical task.

5         4        3

No attempts at authorial voice are evident. The text is either unduly wordy or distractingly choppy. Little variety in sentence structure negatively impacts communication. Word choice is basic and general and not at all appropriate for the rhetorical task.

 2          1        0


The text is completely free of distracting sentence-level mistakes and reflects effective revision/editing practices.  APA conventions (formatting, citation, and documentation) are followed consistently and correctly throughout the text. 

10         9

 The text is largely free of distracting sentence-level mistakes and reflects attention to revision and editing practices. APA conventions (formatting, citation, and documentation) are largely followed throughout the text.

8         7        6

Noticeable errors and mistakes in spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation distract from the meaning. Prevalent problems with sentence structure impact communication potential. APA formatting, citation, and documentation are attempted, though not always successfully.

 5         4        3

Serious sentence-level errors (such as SF, RO, CS) negatively impact meaning and communication. No attempts at basic APA formatting. Serious lack of effort to revise and edit is apparent and/or the text is plagiarized.

 2          1        0

2.5: ProTip – Present Tense

In academic writing, when describing events in real life that happened in the past, they should be described in past tense.

Ex: He then walked across the street to the ATM and removed money.

However, events that happen in a book or film, even if that book or film is decades old, should be described in the present tense.

Ex: The main character then walks across the street and removes money from the ATM.

Characters and events in films and books are stuck in a time warp, forever doing whatever it is they are doing.

Similarly, when discussing writers in writing, we should also stay in present tense.

Ex: Hemingway writes that he enjoys deep-sea fishing in his autobiography.

Ex: Pollan argues that we should only eat organic foods.

Ex: Dalton makes the argument that…

If I changed these last examples to past tense and state that “Dalton made the argument that…” or  “Pollan argued…” it would sound as if they no longer argue or make this particular point. However, that piece of writing is forever making that argument even if the author has changed his or her opinion since then.

However, if we are writing about the act of writing something, then that should be past tense.

Ex: Hemingway wrote his autobiography while living in Paris.

Contrasted with material in the book:

Ex: Hemingway argues in his autobiography…

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