English

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Ninth Edition

The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing

Rise B. Axelrod University of California, Riverside

Charles R. Cooper University of California, San Diego

Bedford / St. Martin’s

Boston New York

 

 

For Bedford/St. Martin’s

Senior Developmental Editor: Alexis P. Walker Senior Production Editor: Harold Chester Production Supervisor: Jennifer Peterson Marketing Manager: Molly Parke Art Director: Lucy Krikorian Text Design: Jerilyn Bockorick Copy Editor: Denise P. Quirk Photo Research: Naomi Kornhauser Cover Design: Richard DiTomassi Composition: Nesbitt Graphics, Inc. Printing and Binding: RR Donnelley and Sons

President: Joan E. Feinberg Editorial Director: Denise B. Wydra Editor in Chief: Karen S. Henry Director of Development: Erica T. Appel Director of Marketing: Karen R. Soeltz Director of Editing, Design, and Production: Marcia Cohen Assistant Director of Editing, Design, and Production: Elise S. Kaiser Managing Editor: Shuli Traub

Library of Congress Control Number: 2009932161 (with Handbook) 2009932166 (without Handbook)

Copyright © 2010, 2008, 2004, 2001 by Bedford/St. Martin’s All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except as may be expressly permitted by the applicable copyright statutes or in writing by the Publisher.

Manufactured in the United States of America.

5 4 3 2 1 0 f e d c b a

For information, write: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116 (617-399-4000)

ISBN-10: 0-312-53612-7 ISBN-13: 978-0-312-53612-1 (with Handbook) ISBN-10: 0-312-53613-5 ISBN-13: 978-0-312-53613-8 (without Handbook)

Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments and copyrights appear at the back of the book on pages A1-A3, which consti- tute an extension of the copyright page.

 

 

Advisory Board

We owe an enormous debt to all the rhetoricians and composition specialists whose theory, research, and pedagogy have informed The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing. We would be adding many pages if we were to name everyone to whom we are indebted.

The members of the Advisory Board for the ninth edition, a group of dedicated composition instructors from across the country, have provided us with extensive insights and suggestions for the chapters in Part One and have given us the benefit of their advice on new features. The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing has been greatly enhanced by their contributions.

Samantha Andrus-Henry Grand Rapids Community College

Melissa Batai Triton College

Mary Bishop Holmes Junior College–Ridgeland

Jo Ann Buck Guilford Technical Community College

Kevin Cantwell Macon State College

Anne Dvorak Longview Community College

Leona Fisher Chaffey College

Diana Grahn Longview Community College

Dawn Hubbell-Staeble Bowling Green State University

Amy Morris-Jones Baker College of Muskegon

Gray Scott University of California, Riverside

Susan Sebok South Suburban College

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Preface for Instructors

When we first wrote The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing, we aimed to demystify writing and authorize students as writers. We wanted to help students learn to commit them- selves to writing projects, communicate effectively with chosen readers, and question their own certainties. We also wanted them to understand that knowledge of writing comes both from analyzing writing and from working hard on their own writing. To achieve this aim, we took what we had learned from classical rhetoric and from con- temporary composition theory and did our best to make it accessible to students.

The response from instructors and students was overwhelmingly positive: The first edition of The Guide, published in 1985, immediately became the most widely adopted text of its kind in the nation.

As with every new edition, we began work on this ninth edition with the goal of adapting the best of current composition research and practice to the needs of instructors and students. We listened closely to our Advisory Board and dozens of talented reviewers (students as well as instructors), and we were confirmed in our belief that the essential purpose and approach of The Guide is more relevant than ever: Students need clear guidance and practical strategies to harness their potential as writers — an achievement that will be key to their success in their other college courses, in their jobs, and in the wider world.

At the same time, we realized that we needed to reach out to these students, and help them connect with writing, in new ways.

Every aspect of the academic landscape has changed since we wrote the first edition. The texts we read and write, the tools we use to find them, the options we have for communicating, the habits of mind we rely on, even the students them- selves — all are more varied and complex than in the past, sometimes overwhelm- ingly so. At the same time, students and instructors alike are increasingly burdened with demands on their time, attention, and energy that emanate from outside the classroom.

For all of these reasons, this edition represents a bold reimagining of our origi- nal vision. The chapters containing the Guides to Writing have been reengineered to reflect and build on the actual writing processes of students, and the Guides them- selves are streamlined and more visual. Throughout the book, we attempt to help students focus on what is important, yet offer multiple options for critical reading and writing. The result of this reimagining is what you hold in your hands: a text that we believe to be more flexible, more engaging, and more pedagogically effective than any previous edition.

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vi PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS

An Overview of the Book The Guide offers everything you need for the writing course.

Part One: Writing Activities

Part One presents nine different genres of writing, all reflecting actual writing assign- ments that students may encounter both in and out of college. While the chapters can be taught in any order, we have organized Part One to move from writing based on personal experience and reflection, through writing based on research and obser- vation, to writing about controversial issues and problems.

Each chapter follows the same organizational plan:

Three brief illustrated scenarios providing examples of how the genre is used in college courses, in the community, and in the workplace

A brief introduction to the genre A collaborative activity helping students start working in the genre An orientation to the genre’s basic features and to questions of purpose and audience specific to the genre A set of readings illustrating the genre accompanied by questions and prompts designed to help students explore connections to their culture and experience and to analyze the basic features and writing strategies

A “Beyond the Traditional Essay” section discussing examples of the genre drawn from unexpected contexts — advertising, blogs, museums, even public parks

A Guide to Writing, tailored to the genre, that helps students refine their own writing processes, with activities for invention and research, easy-reference guides for drafting and revision, a Critical Reading Guide for peer review, strat- egies for integrating sources, and more

Editing and proofreading guidelines, based on our nationwide study of errors in first-year college students’ writing, to help students check for one or two sentence-level problems likely to occur in a given genre

A section exploring how writers think about document design, expanding on one of the scenarios presented at the beginning of the chapter

A look at one student writer at work, focusing on one or more aspects of the writing process of a student whose essay is featured in the chapter

Critical thinking activities designed to help students reflect on what they learned and consider the social dimensions of the genre taught in the chapter

Part Two: Critical Thinking Strategies

Part Two consists of two chapters that present practical heuristics for invention and reading. Chapter 11, “A Catalog of Invention Strategies,” covers clustering, looping, dramatizing, and questioning, among other strategies, while Chapter 12, “A Catalog of Reading Strategies,” includes annotating, summarizing, exploring the significance of figurative language, and evaluating the logic of an argument.

 

 

PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS vii

Part Three: Writing Strategies

Part Three looks at a wide range of writers’ strategies: paragraphing and coherence; logic and reasoning; and the familiar methods of presenting information, such as narrating, defining, and classifying.

In the ninth edition of The Guide, a new Chapter 20 provides students with criteria for analyzing visuals and illustrates them with several lengthy sample analyses and one full-length, documented student paper. Part Three concludes with a heavily illustrated chapter on document design, which provides principles to guide students in construct- ing a wide range of documents, along with examples of some of the most common kinds of documents they’ll create in school, at work, and in their everyday lives.

Examples and exercises in Part Three have been drawn from a wide range of contemporary publications as well as reading selections appearing in Part One. The extensive cross-referencing between Parts One and Three allows instructors to teach writing strategies as students work on full essays.

Part Four: Research Strategies

Part Four discusses field as well as library and Internet research and includes thorough, up-to-date guidelines for using and documenting sources, with detailed examples of the 2009 Modern Language Association (MLA) and 2010 American Psychological Association (APA) documentation styles. An annotated sample student research paper models ways students can integrate citations into their own work in accordance with the rules for MLA documentation. The final chapter in Part Four, new to the ninth edition of The Guide, offers detailed guidelines for creating anno- tated bibliographies and literature reviews.

Part Five: Writing for Assessment

Part Five covers essay examinations, showing students how to analyze different kinds of exam questions and offering strategies for writing answers. It also addresses portfolios, helping students select, assemble, and present a representative sample of their writing.

Part Six: Writing and Speaking to Wider Audiences

Part Six includes chapters on oral presentations, collaborative learning, and service learning, offering advice to help students work together on writing projects and to write in and for their communities.

The Handbook

The Handbook offers a complete reference guide to grammar, word choice, punctua- tion, mechanics, common ESL problems, sentence structure, and usage. We have designed the Handbook so that students will find the answers they need quickly, and we have provided student examples from our nationwide study so that students will see errors similar to the ones in their own essays. In addition to the section on ESL problems, boxes throughout the rest of the Handbook offer specific support for ESL students.

 

 

viii PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS

Proven Features

While this edition of The Guide represents a bold reimagining of the way students work, it has retained the three central features that have made it a best-seller since its first edition: the detailed, practical guides to writing in different genres; the sys- tematic integration of reading and writing; and continuing attention to changes in composition pedagogy.

Practical Guides to Writing

Each chapter in Part One offers practical, flexible guides that help students with different aspects of writing, such as invention or revision, as they write. Common- sensical and easy to follow, these writing guides teach students to assess a rhetorical situation, identify the kinds of information they will need, ask probing questions and find answers, and organize writing to achieve a particular purpose for chosen readers.

In the ninth edition, we’ve done even more to make these guides effective and easy to use, by streamlining them, by adding easy reference charts and tables, and by offering students multiple entry points into the composing process.

Systematic Integration of Reading and Writing

Each chapter in Part One introduces a single genre of writing, which students are led to consider both as readers and as writers. Chapters begin with an essay written in the genre by a student writer using The Guide; these essays are annotated with questions designed to encourage students to discover the ways in which the essay exemplifies that genre’s basic features.

Each of three professional readings in the chapter is accompanied by carefully focused apparatus to guide purposeful, productive rereading. First is a response activity, Making Connections, which relates a central theme of the reading to stu- dents’ own lives and cultural knowledge. The section following, Analyzing Writing Strategies, asks students to examine how the writer makes use of the basic features and strategies typical of the genre. Essays that include visuals are followed by an Analyzing Visuals section, which asks students to write about the way(s) in which photos, graphs, and other visual elements enhance the text. Finally, in Considering Topics for Your Own Essay, students approach the most important decision they have to make with a genre-centered assignment: choosing a workable topic that inspires their commitment to weeks of thinking and writing.

Continuing Attention to Changes in Composition

With each new edition, we have responded to new thinking and new issues in the field of composition and turned current theory and research into practical class- room activities — with a minimum of jargon. As a result, in every new edition The Guide incorporated new material that contributed to its continued effectiveness, including more on appropriate methods of argument, research, and working with

 

 

PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS ix

sources; attention to new technologies for writing and researching; activities that promote group discussion and inquiry and encourage students to reflect on what they have learned; and material on document design, oral presentations, and writ- ing in the community.

Changes in the Ninth Edition

In this edition, we have taken instructors’ advice and revised the text to make it an even more effective teaching tool.

Streamlined and redesigned Part One chapters provide more visual cues for students who learn visually, more “easy-reference” features for students who need help navigating a lengthy text, and more “ways in” to each assignment for students whose writing processes don’t conform to an imaginary norm.

The Basic Features of each chapter’s genre of writing are now introduced at the start of the chapter, to lay the groundwork for students’ understand- ing of the genre and to prepare them for their work with that chapter’s readings.

A new color-coding system calls out the Basic Features in the annotated stu- dent essay, the post-reading apparatus, and throughout the Guide to Writing, helping students see the connections among the chapter’s various parts and more easily grasp what makes a successful example of a given genre.

New “Beyond the Traditional Essay” sections illustrate and discuss ex- amples of that chapter’s genre of writing drawn from advertising, blogs, museums — even public parks.

New easy-reference charts in each Guide to Writing — “Starting Points” and “Troubleshooting Your Draft” — help students self-assess and efficiently find the advice and models they need for overcoming individual writing challenges.

Newly designed Invention activities highlight different paths through the processes of generating and shaping material.

Chapter 5, newly revised as “Finding Common Ground,” now teaches students how to analyze opposing positions and find “common ground” between them — a key step in analyzing and synthesizing sources and in con- structing academic as well as civic arguments.

New material brings the book up-to-date and teaches students what they’ll need to succeed at academic writing.

To help students understand and evaluate the visual data that increas- ingly dominate our culture, we have added a new Chapter 20, “Analyzing Visuals,” which provides clear guidance on how to critically read and write about photos, ads, works of art, and other image-based texts. The chapter also offers a multi-stage model of a student’s analysis of a photo by Gordon Parks, as well as exercises in visual analysis that students can do in class or on their own.

 

 

x PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS

To help them cope with information overload while doing research, we have added a new Chapter 25, “Annotated Bibliographies and Literature Reviews,” which offers detailed guidance on these important elements of the research process.

To help them make useful connections between their previous writing ex- periences and the writing they will do in college, Chapter 1 now focuses on the literacy narrative, encouraging students to reflect on their own literacy experiences in preparation for the reading and writing challenges they’ll en- counter in the course.

Fifteen new readings, with at least one new reading in every Writing Assignment chapter, introduce compelling topics, multicultural perspectives, and fresh voices, including Trey Ellis on a family member’s battle with AIDS, Saira Shah on finding her roots in Afghanistan, and Amy Goldwasser on what kids learn online — and why it matters.

Additional Resources You Get More Help with The St. Martin’s Guide

The benefits of using The St. Martin’s Guide don’t stop with the print text. Online, in print, and in digital format, you’ll find both free and affordable premium resources to help students get even more out of the book and your course. You’ll also find course management solutions and convenient instructor resources, such as sample syllabi, suggested classroom activities, and even a na- tionwide community of teachers. To learn more about or order any of the prod- ucts below, contact your Bedford/St. Martin’s sales representative, e-mail sales support (sales_support@bfwpub.com), or visit the Web site at bedfordstmartins .com/theguide/catalog.

Student Resources

The St. Martin’s Guide Student Center (bedfordstmartins.com/theguide). Send students to free and open resources, allow them to choose an affordable e-book op- tion, or upgrade to an expanding collection of innovative digital content — all in one place.

Free and open resources for The St. Martin’s Guide provide students with easy-to-access book-specific materials, exercises, and downloadable con- tent, including electronic versions of the Critical Reading Guides, Starting Points and Troubleshooting Your Draft charts; tutorials for the sentence strategies in the Part One chapters; and additional essays on topics of con- temporary debate for use with Chapter 5, “Finding Common Ground.” Additional free resources include Research and Documentation Online by Diana Hacker, with clear advice on how to integrate outside material into a

 

 

PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS xi

paper, how to cite sources correctly, and how to format the paper in MLA, APA, Chicago, or CSE style; and Exercise Central, a database of over 9,000 editing exercises designed to help identify students’ strengths and weak- nesses, recommend personalized study plans, and provide tutorials for com- mon writing problems.

The St. Martin’s Guide e-Book and enhanced Web site let students do more and pay less. This flexible e-book allows users to highlight important sections, insert their own sticky notes, and customize content; the enhanced Web site includes Marriage 101 and Other Student Essays, a collection of 32 essays inspired by The Guide, and a peer-review lesson module and online role- playing game. The St. Martin’s Guide e-Book and access to the enhanced Web site can be packaged free with the print book or purchased separately at the Student Center for less than the price of the print book. An activation code is required.

Re:Writing Plus, now with VideoCentral, gathers all of Bedford/St. Martin’s premium digital content for composition into one online collection. It includes hundreds of model documents and VideoCentral, with over 50 brief videos for the writing classroom. Re:Writing Plus can be purchased separately at the Student Center or packaged with the print book at a significant discount. An activation code is required.

Sticks and Stones and Other Student Essays, Seventh Edition. Available for packaging free with new copies of The Guide, Sticks and Stones is a collection of es- says written by students across the nation using earlier editions of The Guide. Each essay is accompanied by a headnote that spotlights some of the ways the writer uses the genre successfully, invites students to notice other achievements, and supplies context where necessary.

Who Are We? Readings in Identity and Community and Work and Career. Available for packaging free with new copies of The Guide, Who Are We? contains selections that expand on themes foregrounded in The Guide. Full of ideas for class- room discussion and writing, the readings offer students additional perspectives and thought-provoking analysis.

i·series on CD-ROM. Free when packaged with new copies of The St. Martin’s Guide, the i·series includes multimedia tutorials in a flexible CD-ROM format — because there are things you can’t do in a book:

ix visual exercises help students visualize and put into practice key rhetorical and visual concepts.

i·claim visualizing argument offers a new way to see argument — with 6 tutorials, an illustrated glossary, and over 70 multimedia arguments.

i·cite visualizing sources brings research to life through an animated introduc- tion, four tutorials, and hands-on source practice.

 

 

xii PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS

Course Management

CompClass for The St. Martin’s Guide (yourcompclass.com). An easy-to-use online course space designed for composition students and instructors, CompClass for The St. Martin’s Guide comes preloaded with the St. Martin’s Guide e-Book as well as other Bedford/St. Martin’s premium digital content, including VideoCentral. Powerful assignment and assessment tools make it easier to keep track of your stu- dents’ progress. CompClass for The St. Martin’s Guide can be purchased separately at yourcompclass.com or packaged with the print book at a significant discount. An activation code is required.

Content cartridges for WebCT, Angel, and other course management systems. Our content cartridges for course management systems — Blackboard, WebCT, Angel, and Desire2Learn — make it simple for instructors using this online learn- ing architecture to build a course around The Guide. The content is drawn from the Web site and includes activities, models, reference materials, and the Exercise Central gradebook.

Ordering Information (Package ISBNs)

To order any of the following items with the print text you order for your students, please use the ISBNs provided below. For different packages or a more complete listing of supplements, contact your Bedford/St. Martin’s sales representative, e-mail sales support at sales_support@bfwpub.com, or visit the Web site at bedfordstmartins .com/theguide/catalog.

9th Edition (hardcover) Short 9th Edition

The St. Martin’s Guide e-Book and

enhanced Web site

ISBN-10: 0-312-58408-3

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-58408-5

ISBN-10: 0-312-58409-1

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-58409-2

Re:Writing Plus ISBN-10: 0-312-63790-X

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-63790-3

ISBN-10: 0-312-62901-X

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-62901-4

Sticks and Stones and Other

Student Essays, Seventh Edition

ISBN-10: 0-312-62539-1

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-62539-9

ISBN-10: 0-312-63793-4

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-63793-4

Who Are We? Readings in Identity

and Community and Work

and Career

ISBN-10: 0-312-62532-4

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-62532-0

ISBN-10: 0-312-63791-8

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-63791-0

CompClass for

The St. Martin’s Guide

ISBN-10: 0-312-62533-2

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-62533-7

ISBN-10: 0-312-63792-6

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-63792-7

 

 

PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS xiii

Instructor Resources

You have a lot to do in your course. Bedford/St. Martin’s wants to make it easy for you to find the support you need — and to get it quickly.

Instructor’s Resource Manual (ISBN-10: 0-312-58260-9/ISBN-13: 978-0-312- 58260-9 (print); also available for download at bedfordstmartins.com/theguide). The Instructor’s Resource Manual includes helpful advice for new instructors, guide- lines on common teaching practices such as assigning journals and setting up group activities, guidelines on responding to and evaluating student writing, course plans, detailed chapter plans, an annotated bibliography in composition and rhetoric, and a selection of background readings.

Additional Resources for Teaching with The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing, available for download at bedfordstmartins.com/theguide, supports classroom in- struction with PowerPoint presentations offering lists of important features for each genre, critical reading guides, collaborative activities, and checklists, all adapted from the text. It also provides more than fifty exercises designed to accompany the Handbook section of the hardcover edition of The Guide.

The Elements of Teaching Writing (A Resource for Instructors in All Disciplines) (ISBN-10: 0-312-40683-5/ISBN-13: 978-0-312-40683-7). Written by Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj, The Elements of Teaching Writing provides time- saving strategies and practical guidance in a brief reference form. Drawing on their extensive experience training instructors in all disciplines to incorporate writing into their courses, Gottschalk and Hjortshoj offer reliable advice, accom- modating a wide range of teaching styles and class sizes, about how to design effective writing assignments and how to respond to and evaluate student writing in any course.

Teaching Central (bedfordstmartins.com/teachingcentral). Designed for the con- venience of instructors, this rich Web site lists and describes Bedford/St. Martin’s acclaimed print series of free professional sourcebooks, background readings, and bibliographies for teachers. In addition, Teaching Central offers a host of free online resources, including

Bits, a blog that collects creative ideas for teaching composition from a com- munity of teachers, scholars, authors, and editors. Instructors are free to take, use, adapt, and pass the ideas around, in addition to sharing new suggestions.

Just-in-Time Teaching and Adjunct Central — downloadable syllabi, hand- outs, exercises, activities, assignments, teaching tips, and more, organized by resource type and by topic

Take 20 — a 60-minute film for teachers, by teachers, in which 22 writing teachers answer 20 questions on current practices and emerging ideas in composition

 

 

xiv PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS

Acknowledgments We owe an enormous debt to all the rhetoricians and composition specialists whose theory, research, and pedagogy have informed The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing. We would be adding many pages to an already long book if we were to name everyone to whom we are indebted; suffice it to say that we have been eclectic in our bor- rowing.

We must also acknowledge immeasurable lessons learned from all the writers, professional and student alike, whose work we analyzed and whose writing we used in this and earlier editions.

So many instructors and students have contributed ideas and criticism over the years. The members of the advisory board for the ninth edition, a group of dedicated composition instructors from across the country, have provided us with extensive insights and suggestions on the eighth edition and have given us the benefit of their advice on new readings and other new features for the ninth. For their many contributions, we would like to thank Samantha Andrus-Henry, Grand Rapids Community College; Melissa Batai, Triton College; Mary Bishop, Holmes Junior College–Ridgeland; Jo Ann Buck, Guilford Technical Community College; Kevin Cantwell, Macon State College; Anne Dvorak, Longview Community College; Leona Fisher, Chaffey College; Diana Grahn, Longview Community College; Dawn Hubbell-Staeble, Bowling Green State University; Amy Morris-Jones, Baker College of Muskegon; Gray Scott, University of California, Riverside; and Susan Sebok, South Suburban College.

Many other instructors have also helped us improve the book. For responding to detailed questionnaires about the eighth edition, we thank Diana Agy, Jackson Community College; James Allen, College of DuPage; Eileen Baland, Texas Baptist University; Sydney Bartman, Mt. San Antonio College; Elisabeth Beccue, Erie Community College; Maria J. Cahill, Edison College; Lenny Cavallaro, Northern Essex Community College; Chandra Speight Cerutti, East Carolina University; Connie Chismar, Georgian Court University; Marilyn Clark, Xavier University; Lori Rios Doddy, Texas Woman’s University; Deborah Kay Ferrell, Finger Lakes Community College; April Gentry, Savannah State University; Diane Halm, Niagara University; Tammy Harosky, Virginia Highlands Community College; Anne Helms, Alamance Community College; Teresa Henning, Southwest Minnesota State University; Rick Jones, South Suburban College; Cristina Karmas, Graceland University; Glenda Lowery, Rappanannock Community College, Warsaw Campus; Rachel Jo Mack, Ball State University; Linda McHenry, Fort Hays State University; Jim McKeown, McLennan Community College; Michelle Metzner, Wright State University; Lisa Wiley Moslow, Erie Community College North Campus; Caroline Nobile, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania; Gordon Petry, Bradley University; Richard W. Porter, Cedarville University; Pamela J. Rader, Georgian Court University; Kim Salrin, Bradley University; Wanda Synstelien, Southwest Minnesota State University; Ruthe Thompson, Southwest Minnesota State University; Janice M. Vierk, Metropolitan Community College; Betsey Whited, Emporia State University; John M. Ziebell, College of Southern Nevada; and Susan Zolliker, Palomar College.

 

 

PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS xv

For this new edition of The Guide, we also gratefully acknowledge the spe- cial contributions of the following: Paul Tayyar, who drafted the new “Analyzing Visuals” chapter; Gray Scott, who drafted the new “Annotated Bibliographies and Literature Reviews” chapter; and Jill Markgraf, Judith Van Noate, Debbi Renfrow, Jaena Hollingsworth, and Beth Downs, who provided expert advice on the revised coverage of library and Internet research. We want especially to thank the many instructors at the University of California, Riverside, who offered advice and class tested new material, including Stephanie Kay, Leona Fisher, Gray Scott, Elizabeth Spies, Elissa Weeks, Rob d’Annibale, Kimberly Turner, Amanda Uvalle, Joshua Fenton, Benedict Jones, and Sandra Baringer. Finally, we are especially grateful to the student authors for allowing us to use their work in Sticks and Stones, Marriage 101, and The Guide.

We want to thank many people at Bedford/St. Martin’s, especially Senior Editor Alexis Walker, whose wisdom, skill, and tireless enthusiasm made this edition pos- sible, and our production team of Harold Chester, Shuli Traub, and Jenny Peterson. Denise Quirk made many valuable contributions to this revision with her careful copyediting, as did Diana Puglisi George with her meticulous proofreading. Cecilia Seiter managed and edited all of the most important ancillaries to the book: the Instructor’s Resource Manual, Sticks and Stones, Marriage 101, and the rest of the Guide Web site. Without the help of Dan Schwartz, the new media supplements to The Guide would not have been possible.

Thanks also to the immensely talented design team — book designer Jerilyn Bockorick as well as Bedford/St. Martin’s art directors Anna Palchik and Lucy Krikorian — for making the ninth edition so attractive and usable. Our gratitude also goes to Sandy Schechter and Warren Drabek for their hard work clearing permissions, and Martha Friedman and Naomi Kornhauser for imaginative photo research.

We wish finally to express our heartfelt appreciation to Nancy Perry for help- ing us to launch The Guide successfully so many years ago and continuing to stand by us. Over the years, Nancy has generously and wisely advised us on everything from planning new editions to copyediting manuscript, and now she is helping us develop the new customized publication of The Guide. We also want to thank Erica Appel, director of development, and Karen Henry, editor-in-chief, who offered valued advice at many critical stages in the process. Thanks as well to Joan Feinberg and Denise Wydra for their adroit leadership of Bedford/St. Martin’s, and to mar- keting director Karen Soeltz and marketing manager Molly Parke — along with the extraordinarily talented and hardworking sales staff — for their tireless efforts on behalf of The Guide.

 

 

xvi PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS

Features of The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing, Ninth Edition, Correlated to the WPA Outcomes Statement

Desired Student Outcomes Relevant Features of The St. Martin’s Guide

Rhetorical Knowledge

Focus on a purpose Each writing assignment chapter in Part One offers extensive discussion of the purpose(s) for the genre of writing covered in that chapter.

Respond to the needs of different audiences

Each chapter in Part One discusses the need to consider one’s audience for the particular genre covered in that chapter. In Chapters 6–10, which cover argument, there is also extensive discussion of the need to anticipate opposing positions and readers’ objections to the writer’s thesis.

Respond appropriately to different kinds of rhetorical situations

Each chapter in Part One gives detailed advice on responding to a particular rhetorical situation, from remembering an event (Chapter 2) to analyzing stories (Chapter 10).

Use conventions of format and structure appropriate to the rhetorical situation

Each chapter in Part One points out features of effectively structured writing, and the Guides to Writing help students systematically develop their own effective structures. Document design is covered in two sections in each of these chapters, as well as in a dedicated Chapter 21, “Designing Documents.”

Adopt appropriate voice, tone, and level of formality

Many of the Sentence Strategies sections in each chapter in Part One deal with these issues. Also, see purpose and audience coverage mentioned previously.

Understand how genres shape reading and writing

Each chapter in Part One offers student and professional readings accompanied by annotations, questions, and commentary that draw students’ attention to the key features of the genre and stimulate ideas for writing. Each chapter’s Guide to Writing offers detailed, step-by-step advice for writing in the genre and for offering constructive peer criticism. In addition, “In College Courses,” “In the Community,” and “In the Workplace” sections that open each Part One chapter, as well as “Beyond the Traditional Essay” sections later in the chapter, show how the various genres are used outside the composition course.

Write in several genres The Guides to Writing in each of the nine chapters in Part One offer specific advice on writing to remember an event; to profile a person, activity, or place; to explain a concept; to analyze opposing positions and find common ground; to argue a position; to propose a solution; to justify an evaluation; to speculate about causes; and to analyze literature. In addition, Chapters 22–25 cover research strategies that many students will use while writing in the genres covered in Part One.

 

 

PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS xvii

Desired Student Outcomes Relevant Features of The St. Martin’s Guide

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating

Each Writing Assignment chapter in Part One emphasizes the connection between reading and writing in a particular genre: Each chapter begins with a group of readings whose apparatus introduces students to thinking about the features of the genre; then a Guide to Writing leads them through the process of applying these features to an essay of their own. Chapter 11, “A Catalog of Invention Strategies,” and Chapter 12, “A Catalog of Reading Strategies” prompt students to engage actively in invention and reading. Other Part Two chapters include coverage of specific invention, reading, and writing strategies useful in a variety of genres.

Understand a writing assignment as a series of tasks, including finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing appropriate primary and secondary sources

The Guides to Writing in each chapter in Part One break writing assignments down into doable focused thinking and writing activities that engage students in the recursive process of invention and research to find, analyze, and synthesize information and ideas. “Working with Sources” sections teach specific strategies of evaluating and integrating source material. Chapter 12, “A Catalog of Reading Strategies,” covers various strategies useful in working with sources, including annotating, summarizing, and synthesizing. Chapter 24, “Using Sources,” offers detailed coverage of finding, evaluating, using, and acknowledging primary and secondary sources, while Chapter 25, “Annotated Bibliographies and Literature Reviews,” helps students master these essential research-based tasks.

Integrate their own ideas with those of others

Chapter 24, “Using Sources,” offers detailed advice on how to integrate and introduce quotations, how to cite paraphrases and summaries so as to distinguish them from the writer’s own ideas, and how to avoid plagiarism. “Sentence Strategy” and “Working with Sources” in several Part One chapters offer additional support.

Understand the relationships among language, knowledge, and power

“Making Connections,” a recurring section in the apparatus following the professional readings in Part One chapters, encourages students to put what they’ve read in the context of the world they live in. These preliminary reflections come into play in the Guides to Writing, where students are asked to draw on their experiences in college, community, and career in order to begin writing. “Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned” sections that conclude Part One chapters ask students to reconsider what they have learned, often in a social/political context.

Processes

Be aware that it usually takes multiple drafts to create and complete a successful text

The need for a critical reading of a draft and for revision is emphasized in Chapter 1 as well as in the Guides to Writing in each chapter of Part One. Case studies of particular students’ writing processes are offered in “Writer at Work” sections in each Part One chapter.

(continued)

 

 

xviii PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS

Desired Student Outcomes Relevant Features of The St. Martin’s Guide

Processes (continued)

Develop flexible strategies for generating ideas, revising, editing, and proofreading

The Guides to Writing in each Part One chapter offer genre-specific coverage of invention and research, getting a critical reading of a draft, revising, editing, and proofreading. Also in each Part One chapter, “Ways In” invention activities encourage students to start from their strengths, and “Starting Points” and “Troubleshooting Your Draft” charts offer specific, targeted advice for students with different challenges. A dedicated Chapter 11, “A Catalog of Invention Strategies,” offers numerous helpful suggestions for idea generation.

Understand writing as an open process that permits writers to use later invention and rethinking to revise their work

The Guides to Writing in each Part One chapter offer extensive, genre-specific advice on rethinking and revising at multiple stages. “Ways In” activities, “Starting Points” charts, and “Troubleshooting Your Draft” charts in Part One chapters encourage students to discover, review, and revise their own process(es) of writing.

Understand the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes

Each chapter in Part One includes several opportunities for and guides to collaboration: “Practice” activities at the beginning of the chapter, “Making Connections” activities after the readings, and, in the Guides to Writing, “Testing Your Choice” activities and the Critical Reading Guide.

Learn to critique their own and others’ works

The Critical Reading Guide and Revising sections in the Guides to Writing in each Part One chapter offer students specific advice on constructively criticizing — and praising — their own work and the work of their classmates. Peer review is also covered in depth in Chapter 29, “Working with Others.”

Learn to balance the advantages of relying on others with the responsibility of doing their part

This goal is implicit in several collaborative activities: “Practice” activities at the beginning of the chapter, “Making Connections” activities after the readings, and, in the Guides to Writing, “Testing Your Choice” activities and the Critical Reading Guide. Group work is also covered in depth in Chapter 29, “Working with Others.”

Use a variety of technologies to address a range of audiences

Each Guide to Writing in Part One chapters includes advice on using the Web for various stages of the writing process, as well as “sidebars” providing information and advice about grammar- and spell-checkers and software-based commenting tools. See also Chapter 23, “Library and Internet Research,” for extensive coverage of finding, evaluating, and using print and electronic resources and of responsibly using the Internet, e-mail, and online communities for research, and Chapter 21, “Designing Documents,” which offers advice on creating visuals on a computer or downloading them from the Web. Finally, The Guide’s electronic ancillaries include a robust companion Web site and an e-Book.

 

 

PREFACE FOR INSTRUCTORS xix

Desired Student Outcomes Relevant Features of The St. Martin’s Guide

Knowledge of Conventions

Learn common formats for different kinds of texts

Document design is covered in a dedicated Chapter 21 as well as in two sections in each of the Writing Assignment chapters in Part One. Examples of specific formats for a range of texts appear on pp. 787–94 (research paper); p. 704 (memo); p. 705 (business letter); p. 706 (e-mail); p. 708 (résumé); p. 710 (job application letter); pp. 712–13 (lab report); and pp. 696–702 (table, diagrams, graphs, charts, map, and other figures).

Develop knowledge of genre conventions ranging from structure and paragraphing to tone and mechanics

Each chapter in Part One presents several basic features of a specific genre, which are introduced up front and then consistently reinforced throughout the chapter. Genre-specific issues of structure, paragraphing, tone, and mechanics are also addressed in the “Sentence Strategies” and “Editing and Proofreading” sections of each Guide to Writing.

Practice appropriate means of documenting their work

Chapter 24, “Using Sources,” offers detailed advice on how to integrate and introduce quotations, how to cite paraphrases and summaries so as to distinguish them from the writer’s own ideas, and how to avoid plagiarism. This chapter also offers coverage of MLA and APA documentation in addition to an annotated sample student research paper. Chapter 20, “Analyzing Visuals,” also offers a complete student paper with MLA documentation. In addition, “Working with Sources” sections in each Guide to Writing in the Part One chapters help students with the details of using and appropriately documenting sources by providing genre-specific examples of what (and what not) to do.

Control such surface features as syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling

Genre-specific editing and proofreading advice is given in two sections in each Guide to Writing in the Part One chapters: “Sentence Strategies” and “Editing and Proofreading.” The hardcover version of The Guide also includes a concise yet remarkably comprehensive handbook with coverage of syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

 

 

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We have written this book with you, the student reading and using it, always in the forefront of our minds. Although it is a long book that covers many different topics, at its heart is a simple message: The best way to become a good writer is to study ex- amples of good writing, then to apply what you have learned from those examples to your own work. Accordingly, we have provided numerous carefully selected examples of the kinds of writing you are likely to do both in and out of college, and we have ac- companied them with detailed advice on writing your own essays. In this Preface, we explain how the various parts of the book work together to achieve this goal.

The Organization of the Book Following Chapter 1 — an introduction to writing that gives general advice about how to approach different parts of a writing assignment — The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing is divided into six major parts:

Part One: Writing Activities (Chapters 2–10)

Part Two: Critical Thinking Strategies (Chapters 11 and 12)

Part Three: Writing Strategies (Chapters 13–21)

Part Four: Research Strategies (Chapters 22–25)

Part Five: Writing for Assessment (Chapters 26 and 27)

Part Six: Writing and Speaking to Wider Audiences (Chapters 28–30)

This hardcover version of the book also includes a Handbook that you can refer to for help with grammar, punctuation, word choice, common ESL problems, and similar issues.

The Part One Chapters

For now, to understand how to use the book effectively to improve your writing, you first need to know that the most important part — the part that all of the rest depends on — is Part One, Chapters 2 through 10. Each of these chapters is orga- nized to teach you about one important specific genre, or type of writing:

autobiography

profile of a person, activity, or place

Preface for Students: How to Use The St. Martin’s Guide

xxi

 

 

xxii PREFACE FOR STUDENTS

explanation of a concept

analysis of opposing positions seeking common ground

argument supporting your position

proposal to solve a problem

evaluation

analysis of possible causes

analysis of a short story

Each Part One chapter follows essentially the same structure, beginning with three scenarios that provide examples of how that kind of writing could be used in a college course, in a workplace, and in a community setting such as a volunteer program or civic organization.

Next come a brief introduction to the genre, a collaborative activity to get you thinking about the genre, and an introduction to the genre’s basic features, each of which is assigned a specific color.

2 IN COLLEGE COURSES In a linguistics course, students are assigned a paper in which they are to discuss published research in the context of their own experience. The class had recently read Deborah Tannen’s Gender and Discourse, in which Tannen discusses differences in how men and women talk about problems: according to Tannen, women tend to spend a lot of time talking about the problem and their feelings about it, while men typi- cally cut short the analysis of the problem and focus on solutions.

One student decides to write about Tannen’s findings in light of a conversation she recently had

Remembering an Event

Short chapter-opening scenarios provide examples of how the kind of writing covered in the chapter is used in other college courses, in your job, and in your community.

 

 

PREFACE FOR STUDENTS xxiii

Next, you’ll find a series of readings, essays that will help you see how writers deploy the basic features of the genre for different purposes and audiences. The first reading in each chapter is always one written by a first-year college student who was using The St. Martin’s Guide. These readings include color coding that highlights the writer’s use of the basic features of the genre, as well as marginal questions that ask you to analyze the essay and also call your attention to particular writing strategies — such as quoting sources, using humor, providing definitions, and giving examples — that the writer used.

Reading Remembered Event Essays

Basic Features As you read remembered event essays in this chapter, you will see how different authors incorporate the basic features of the genre.

A Well-Told Story

Read first to enjoy the story. Remembered event essays are autobiographical stories that recount an important event in the writer’s life; the best ones are first and fore- most a pleasure to read. A well-told story

arouses curiosity and suspense by structuring the narrative around conflict, building to a climax, and leading to a change or discovery of some kind;

is set in a specific time and place, often using dialogue to heighten immediacy d d

Basic Features

The genre’s basic features are introduced toward the beginning of the chapter, so you know what to look for in the readings. Each basic feature is assigned a color, which is used whenever that basic feature is discussed later in the chapter.

1

2

Calling Home

Jean Brandt

As we all piled into the car, I knew it was going to be a fabulous day. My grand-

mother was visiting for the holidays; and she and I, along with my older brother and

sister, Louis and Susan, were setting off for a day of last-minute Christmas shopping.

On the way to the mall, we sang Christmas carols, chattered, and laughed. With

Christmas only two days away, we were caught up with holiday spirit. I felt light-headed

and full of joy. I loved shopping — especially at Christmas.

The shopping center was swarming with frantic last-minute shoppers like our-

selves. We went first to the General Store, my favorite. It carried mostly knickknacks

and other useless items which nobody needs but buys anyway. I was thirteen years

old at the time, and things like buttons and calendars and posters would catch my

fancy. This day was no different. The object of my desire was a 75-cent Snoopy button.

As you read, look for places where Brandt lets us know how she felt at the time the event occurred. Also consider the questions in the margin. Your instructor may ask you to post your answers or bring them to class.

Basic Features

Color-coded highlighting in the chapter’s first essay calls attention to the student writer’s use of the basic features of the genre; questions in the margin ask you to analyze and reflect on the writer’s use of various strategies.

 

 

xxiv PREFACE FOR STUDENTS

Usually, the remaining readings in the chapter are by professional writers. Each of these additional essays is accompanied by the following groups of questions and activities to help you learn how essays in that genre work:

Making Connections invites you to explore an issue raised by the reading that is related to your own experience and often to broader social or cultural issues.

Analyzing Writing Strategies helps you examine closely some specific strate- gies the writer used. The questions in this section are organized according to the basic features of the genre, to help you keep track of different aspects of the essay’s construction. Following essays that include visuals, an Analyzing Visuals section asks you to examine what graphics, photographs, and the like contrib- ute to the written text.

Considering Topics for Your Own Essay suggests subjects that you might write about in your own essay.

Following the readings, each assignment chapter also includes the following sections:

a “Beyond the Traditional Essay” section that provides examples of that chap- ter’s genre of writing drawn from unexpected contexts — advertising, blogs, museums, even public parks

a Guide to Writing that will help you write an effective essay in the genre for your particular audience and purpose. The Guides to Writing, the most impor- tant parts of the entire book, will be explained fully in the next section.

a Writer at Work narrative showing key elements of the writing process of one student whose essay appears in the chapter

a concluding section titled Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned, which invites you to reflect on the work you did for that chapter and to consider some of its wider social and cultural implications.

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Remembering an Event

Our culture commemorates events in many ways that are likely familiar to you. Physical memorials such as statues, plaques, monu- ments, and buildings are traditional means of ensuring that important events remain in our collective memory: Relatively recent examples include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the planned commem- orative complex at the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack in New York City. Though such memorials function primarily visually, rather than textually, they can also be seen to exhibit the basic features we’ve discussed in essays remembering an event. The Vietnam memorial is a dramatic, V-shaped black gran- ite wall partly embedded in the earth, which

reflects the images of visitors reading the names of the dead and missing inscribed there; the names are presented in chronological order, telling the story of the con-

“Beyond the Traditional Essay” sections provide examples of that chapter’s genre of writing drawn from unexpected contexts — advertising, blogs, museums, even public parks.

 

 

PREFACE FOR STUDENTS xxv

The Guides to Writing

Just as the Part One assignment chapters are the heart of the book, the heart of each assignment chapter is the Guide to Writing.

Writing an essay does not usually proceed in a smooth, predictable se- quence — often, for example, a writer working on a draft will go back to what is usually an earlier step, such as invention and research, or jump ahead to what is usually a later one, such as editing and proofreading. But to make our help with the process more understandable and manageable, we have divided each Guide to Writing into the same elements that appear in the same order:

the Writing Assignment;

Invention and Research;

Planning and Drafting;

a Critical Reading Guide;

Revising;

and Editing and Proofreading.

The Writing Assignment. Each Guide to Writing begins with an assignment that defines the general purpose and basic features of the genre you have been studying in the chapter.

Starting Points chart. Each Guide to Writing opens with an easy-reference Starting Points chart, which is designed to help you efficiently find the advice you need for getting past writer’s block and other early-stage difficulties.

Starting Points: Explaining a Concept Basic Features

A Focused Explanation

Choosing a Concept

Question Where to Look

Each Guide to Writing opens with an easy-reference Starting Points chart, with advice for getting started.

 

 

xxvi PREFACE FOR STUDENTS

Invention and Research. Every Guide to Writing includes invention activities designed to help you

find a topic

discover what you already know about the topic

consider your purpose and audience

research the topic further — in the library, on the Internet, through observa- tion and interviews, or some combination of these methods

explore and develop your ideas, and

compose a tentative thesis statement to guide your planning and drafting.

Because we know that different students start writing at different places, we’ve offered different “ways in” to many of the Invention activities: specifically, their new layout (as shown in the example below) is meant to suggest the different possible paths through the processes of generating and shaping material.

The colors used correspond to the basic features of the genre that were introduced in the chapter’s first few pages, which is meant to help you see how in composing in a particular genre, writers use the same basic features but may use them differently to achieve specific purposes for their readers.

“Ways In” activities suggest different ways of coming up with material for your essay.

Ways In: Constructing a Well-Told Story

Once you’ve made a preliminary choice of an event, the following activities will help you begin to construct a well-told story, with vivid descriptions of people and places. You can begin with whichever basic activity you want, but wherever you begin, be sure to return to the other activities to fill in the details.

Sketch the Story. Write a quick sketch telling roughly what happened. Don’t worry about what you’re leaving out; you can fill in the details later.

Explore a Revealing or Pivotal Moment. Write for a few minutes developing a moment of surprise, confrontation, crisis, change, or discovery that may become the climax of your story. To dramatize it, try using specific narrative actions and dialogue.

Reimagine the Place. Identify the place where the event occurred and describe it. What do you see, hear, or smell? Use details — shape, color, texture — to evoke the scene.

Research Visuals. Try to locate visuals you could include in your essay: Look through memorabilia such as family photographs, yearbooks, newspaper articles, concert programs, ticket stubs, or T-shirts — anything that might stimulate your memory and help you reflect on the place. If you submit your essay electronically or post it online, also consider adding

i h i i h h

Describe People. Write about people who played a role in the event. For each person, name and detail a few distinctive physical features, mannerisms, dress, and so on.

Create a Dialogue. Reconstruct one important conversation you had during the event. You will probably not remember exactly what was said, but try to re-create the spirit of the interaction. Consider adding speaker tags (see p. 36) to show people’s tone of voice, attitude, and gestures.

Research People Do someReflect on the Conflict and Its

Shaping the Story Describing the Place Recalling Key People

Basic Features

 

 

PREFACE FOR STUDENTS xxvii

Planning and Drafting. To get you started writing a draft of your essay, each Guide to Writing includes suggestions for planning your essay. The section is divided into three parts:

Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals involves reviewing what you have discovered about your subject, purpose, and audience and helps you think about your goals for the various parts of your essay.

Outlining Your Draft suggests some of the ways you might organize your essay.

Drafting launches you on the writing of your draft, providing both general advice and suggestions about one or two specific sentence strategies that you might find useful for the particular genre.

The Planning and Drafting section also includes a section called Working with Sources, which offers advice (using examples from one or more of the readings) on a particular issue related to incorporating materials from research sources into your essay.

Critical Reading Guide. Once you have finished a draft, you may want to make an effort to have someone else read the draft and comment on how to improve it. Each Guide to Writing includes a Critical Reading Guide, color-coded to correspond to that genre’s basic features, which will help you get good advice on improving your draft as well as help you make helpful suggestions to improve others’ drafts. (These Guides break out suggestions for both praise and critique — because we all sometimes need reminding that pointing out what works well can be as helpful as pointing out what needs improvement in a piece of writing.)

Critical Reading

Guide

For a printable version of this Critical Reading Guide, go to bedfordstmartins .com/theguide.

Your instructor may arrange a peer review session in class or online where you can exchange drafts with your classmates and give each other a thoughtful criti- cal reading, pointing out what works well and suggesting ways to improve the draft. This Critical Reading Guide can also be used productively by a tutor in the writing center or by a roommate or family member. A good critical reading does three things: it lets the writer know how well the reader understands the point of the story, praises what works best, and indicates where the draft could be improved.

1. Assess how well the story is told.

Praise: Give an example in the story where the storytelling is especially effective — for example, where the speaker tags help make a dialogue dra- matic or where specific narrative actions show people in action.

Critique: Tell the writer where the storytelling could be improved — for example, where the suspense slackens, the story lacks drama, or the chronol- ogy is confusing.

2. Consider how vividly people and places are described.

Basic Features

Critical Reading Guides suggest ways of giving constructive criticism, as well as praise, for your classmates’ drafts.

 

 

xxviii PREFACE FOR STUDENTS

Revising. Each Guide to Writing includes a Revising section to help you get an overview of your draft, consider readers’ comments, chart a plan for revision, and carry out the revisions.

A new easy-reference chart in the Revising section called “Troubleshooting Your Draft” offers specific advice for problems many students encounter at this critical stage of the writing process.

Following this chart, a section called “Thinking about Document Design” illustrates the ways in which one writer (author of one of the chapter’s opening scenarios) used visuals and other elements of document design to make the essay more effective.

Troubleshooting Your Draft charts offer specific advice for revising your essay.

Troubleshooting Your Draft Basic Features

Problem Suggestions for Revising the Draft

Vivid Description

of People and Places

Name objects in the scene. Add sensory detail. Try out a comparison to evoke a particular mood. Consider adding a visual — a photograph or other memorabilia.

Places are hard to visualize.

Describe a physical feature or mannerism that gives each person individuality. Add speaker tags to characterize people and show their feelings. Liven up the dialogue with faster repartee.

People do not come alive.

Omit extraneous details. Add a simile or metaphor to strengthen the dominant impression. Rethink the impression you want your writing to convey and the significance it suggests.

Some descriptions weaken the dominant impression.

Tell about your background or the particular context.

A Well-Told Story

Shorten the exposition. Move a bit of dialogue or specific narrative action up front. Start with something surprising. Consider beginning with a flashback or flashforward.

The story starts too slowly.

Add dramatized dialogue or specific narrative actions. Clarify your remembered feelings or thoughts. Reflect on the conflict from your present perspective.

The conflict is vague or seems unconnected to the significance.

Add remembered feelings and thoughts to heighten anticipation. Add dialogue and specific narrative action. Build rising action in stages with multiple high points. Move or cut background information and description.

The suspense slackens or the story lacks drama.

The chronology is confusing.

Add or change time transitions. Clarify verb tenses.

 

 

PREFACE FOR STUDENTS xxix

Editing and Proofreading. Each Guide to Writing ends with a section to help you recognize and fix specific kinds of problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure that are common in essays in that genre of writing.

The Other Parts of the Book

Parts Two through Five provide more help and practice with specific strategies for reading critically, analyzing visuals, designing documents, and many other key aspects of writing and research.

Also included are up-to-date guidelines for choosing, using, and documenting dif- ferent kinds of sources (library sources, the Internet, and your own field research); writing annotated bibliographies and literature reviews; taking essay exams; and assembling a portfolio of your writing.

Chapter 20, “Analyzing Visuals,” helps you approach visual texts critically and analytically.

674 CHAPTER 20: ANALYZING VISUALS

created it? Where was it published? What audience is it addressing? What is it trying to get this audience to think and feel about the subject? How does it attempt to achieve this aim?

Let’s look, for example, at the following visual text: a public service announcement (PSA) from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The central image in this PSA is a photo of an attractive, smiling young couple. Most of us will immediately recognize the dress, posture, and facial expressions of the young man and woman as those of a newly married couple; the photo-mounting corners make the image seem like a real wedding album photo, as opposed to an ad agency’s creation (which would be easier to ignore). After noting these things, however, we are immediately struck by what is wrong with the picture: a hurricane rages in the background, blowing hair, clothing, and the bride’s veil forcefully to one side, showering the bride’s pure white dress with spots (of rain? mud?), and threaten- ing to rip the bridal bouquet from her hand.

So what do we make of the disruption of the con- vention (the traditional wedding photo) on which the PSA image is based? In trying to decide, most of us will look next to the text below the image: “Ignoring global warming won’t make it go away.” The disjunc- tion between the couple’s blissful expression and the storm raging around them turns out to be the point of the PSA: like the young couple in the picture, the PSA implies, we are all blithely ignoring the impend-

ing disaster that global warming represents. The reputable, nonprofit WWF’s logo and

Figure 20.2 “Wedding,” from the WWF’s 2007 “Beautiful Day U.S.” Series

 

 

xxx PREFACE FOR STUDENTS

Cristina Dinh

Professor Cooper

English 100

15 May 2009

Educating Kids at Home

Every morning, Mary Jane, who is nine, doesn’t have to worry about

gulping down her cereal so she can be on time for school. School for

Mary Jane is literally right at her doorstep.

In this era of serious concern about the quality of public education,

increasing numbers of parents across the United States are choosing

to educate their children at home. These parents believe they can do a

better job teaching their children than their local schools can. Home

schooling, as this practice is known, has become a national trend over

the past thirty years, and, according to education specialist Brian D.

Ray, the home-schooled population is growing at a rate between 5%

and 12% per year. A 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s

Institute of Education Sciences estimated that, nationwide, the number

of home-schooled children rose from 850,000 in 1999 to approximately

1.5 million in 2007 (1.5 million 1). Some home-schooling advocates be-

lieve that even these numbers may be low because not all states require

formal notification when parents decide to teach their children at home.

What is home schooling, and who are the parents choosing to be

home schoolers? David Guterson, a pioneer in the home-schooling move-

ment, defines home schooling as “the attempt to gain an education

outside of institutions” (5). Home-schooled children spend the majority

of the conventional school day learning in or near their homes rather

than in traditional schools; parents or guardians are the prime educa-

tors. Former teacher and home schooler Rebecca Rupp notes that home-

schooling parents vary considerably in what they teach and how they

teach, ranging from those who follow a highly traditional curriculum

within a structure that parallels the typical classroom to those who

AN ANNOTATED RESEARCH PAPER 787

1 1/2

Dinh 1

1

1

Double-spaced

Double-spaced

Title centered; no underlining, quotes, or italics

Paragraphs indented one-half inch

Author named in text; no parenthetical page reference because source not paginated

Author named in text; parenthetical page reference falls at end of sentence

Abbreviated title used in parenthetical citation because works cited lists two sources by government author (named in text); no punctuation between title and page number

1

Key features of Chapter 24, “Using Sources,” are color coded for easy reference. The pages tinted beige contain a sample research paper using MLA format and documentation style.

 

 

PREFACE FOR STUDENTS xxxi

To make them easy to find, the pages explaining how to use MLA documentation have a teal stripe down the side. The pages covering APA documentation have a reddish-orange stripe down the side.

766 CHAPTER 24: USING SOURCES

The MLA System of Documentation

Citations in Text

A WORK WITH A SINGLE AUTHOR

The MLA author-page system generally requires that in-text citations include the author’s last name and the page number of the passage being cited. There is no punctuation between author and page. The parenthetical citation should follow the quoted, paraphrased, or summarized material as closely as possible without dis- rupting the flow of the sentence.

Dr. James is described as a “not-too-skeletal Ichabod Crane” (Simon 68).

One reviewer compares Dr. James to Ichabod Crane (Simon 68).

Note that the parenthetical citation comes before the final period. With block quo- tations, however, the citation comes after the final period, preceded by a space (see p. 760 for an example). If you mention the author’s name in your text, supply just the page reference in parentheses.

Simon describes Dr. James as a “not-too-skeletal Ichabod Crane” (68).

Simon compares Dr. James to Ichabod Crane (68).

A WORK WITH MORE THAN ONE AUTHOR

To cite a source by two or three authors, include all the authors’ last names; for works with more than three authors, use all the authors’ names or just the first author’s name followed by et al., meaning “and others,” in regular type (not italicized or underlined).

Dyal, Corning, and Willows identify several types of students, including the “Authority- Rebel” (4)

The APA System of Documentation

Citations in Text

AUTHOR INDICATED IN PARENTHESES

The APA author-year system calls for the last name of the author and the year of pub- lication of the original work in the citation. If the cited material is a quotation, you also need to include the page number(s) of the original. If the cited material is not a quotation, the page reference is optional. Use commas to separate author, year, and page in a parenthetical citation. The page number is preceded by p. for a single page or pp. for a range. Use an ampersand (&) to join the names of multiple authors.

The conditions in the stockyards were so dangerous that workers “fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibit- ing” (Sinclair, 2005, p. 134).

Racial bias does not necessarily diminish through exposure to individuals of other races (Jamison & Tyree, 2001).

 

 

xxxii PREFACE FOR STUDENTS

Part Six presents three brief chapters that will help you in making oral presen- tations, consulting and writing with others, and writing in the community.

Finding Your Way around the Book

In a book as large and complex as this one, it can sometimes be hard to tell where you are or to find the information you need on a particular topic in the book. To help you find your way around, look at the information provided at the tops of the pages: in addition to page numbers, you’ll find chapter titles on the left-hand pages, and the title of the specific section you’re in on the right-hand pages.

Also, take advantage of the following color cues used for different sections of the book:

Guides to Writing in every chapter have yellow-edged pages.

MLA documentation sections have teal-edged pages.

APA documentation sections have reddish-orange-edged pages.

Handbook pages are tinted beige.

To locate information or additional material on particular topics, besides using the table of contents in the front of the book and the index in the back, you can benefit from the cross-references that appear in the margins throughout the book. Some marginal notes refer you to the companion Web site, where related material or electronic versions of material in the book are available.

50 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTGUIDE TO WRITING

In writing assignment chapters, the left-hand page will tell you what major part of the chapter you’re in, what page you’re on, and the chapter title . . .

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 51 GUIDE TO WRITING

. . . and the right-hand page will tell you the title of the specific section you’ve opened to.

 

 

PREFACE FOR STUDENTS xxxiii

The Handbook

The Handbook offers a complete reference guide to grammar, word choice, punctu- ation, capitalization, use of numbers and abbreviations, spelling, ESL troublespots, sentence structure, and words that are frequently misused. We have designed the Handbook so that you can find the answers you need quickly, and we have provided examples from a nationwide study we did of college students’ writing. The examples appear in regular black type, with the corrections in blue in a different font. The grammatical and other specialized terms that are used in the Handbook are all highlighted in white boxes in the text and defined in white boxes in the margins, so that you never have to look elsewhere in the book to understand the explanation. In addition to a section on ESL problems, blue boxes throughout the rest of the Handbook offer specific support for ESL students.

Marginal annotations refer to other parts of the book and to helpful online resources.

Coach Kernow told me I ran faster than ever before.

ESL Note: It is important to remember that the past perfect is formed with had followed by a past participle. Past participles usually end in -ed, -d, -en, -n, or -t: worked, hoped, eaten, taken, bent.

Before Tania went to Moscow last year, she had not really speak Russian.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on The Past Perfect and/or A Common ESL Problem: Forming the Past Perfect.

In the Handbook, corrections appear in blue type (A); white boxes in the text highlight terms that are defined in the margins (B); blue boxes offer ESL support (C); and codes for different sections offer a convenient shorthand for you and your instructor (D).

vb

G5

progressive tense A tense that shows ongo- ing action, consisting of a form of be plus the -ing form of the main verb: I am waiting.

The past action identified by the verb had called occurred before the past action identified by the verb claimed.

G5-b Use the correct verb endings and verb forms.

The five basic forms of regular verbs (such as talk) follow the same pattern, add- ing -s, -ed, and -ing as shown here. The forms of irregular verbs (such as speak) do not consistently follow this pattern in forming the past and the past participle. (See R2-a.)

Infinitive or base: talk or speak

Every day I talk on the phone and speak to my friends.

Third person singular present ( s form): talks or speaks

VERBS H-21

For ESL Writers

Certain verbs — ones that indicate existence, states of mind, and the senses of sight, smell, touch, and so on — are rarely used in the progressive tense. Such verbs include appear, be, belong, contain, feel, forget, have, hear, know, mean, prefer, remember, see, smell, taste, think, understand, and want.

I am belonging to the campus group for foreign students.A

B

D

C

 

 

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Brief Contents

xxxv

1 Introduction: Thinking about Writing 1

PART 1 Writing Activities 2 Remembering an Event 14 3 Writing Profiles 64 4 Explaining a Concept 126 5 Finding Common Ground 184 6 Arguing a Position 264 7 Proposing a Solution 320 8 Justifying an Evaluation 384 9 Speculating about Causes 446

10 Analyzing Stories 504

PART 2 Critical Thinking Strategies 11 A Catalog of Invention Strategies 562 12 A Catalog of Reading Strategies 575

PART 3 Writing Strategies 13 Cueing the Reader 600 14 Narrating 615

 

 

xxxvi BRIEF CONTENTS

15 Describing 628 16 Defining 639 17 Classifying 647 18 Comparing and Contrasting 653 19 Arguing 659 20 Analyzing Visuals 673 21 Designing Documents 688

PART 4 Research Strategies 22 Field Research 716 23 Library and Internet Research 728 24 Using Sources 755 25 Annotated Bibliographies and Literature Reviews 795

PART 5 Writing for Assessment 26 Essay Examinations 814 27 Writing Portfolios 832

PART 6 Writing and Speaking to Wider Audiences

28 Oral Presentations 838 29 Working with Others 843 30 Writing in Your Community 848

HANDBOOK H-1

 

 

Preface for Instructors v

Preface for Students xxi

1 INTRODUCTION: THINKING ABOUT WRITING 1 Why Writing Is Important 1 Writing Influences the Way You Think Writing Helps You Learn Writing Fosters Personal Development Writing Connects You to Others Writing Promotes Success in College and at Work

How Writing Is Learned 4 Learning to Write by Reading Learning Writing Strategies Using the Guides to Writing Thinking Critically

PART 1 Writing Activities

2 REMEMBERING AN EVENT 14 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Remembering an Event 16

Reading Remembered Event Essays 17

Basic Features 17

Purpose and Audience 18

Contents

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Readings 18

Jean Brandt, “Calling Home” (annotated student essay) 18 Annie Dillard, “An American Childhood” 22 Trey Ellis, “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” 28 Saira Shah, “Longing to Belong” 34

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Remembering an Event 38

Guide to Writing 40

The Writing Assignment 40 Starting Points: Remembering an Event 41

Invention and Research 42 Choosing an Event to Write About 42

Ways In: Constructing a Well-Told Story 44

Creating a Dominant Impression Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice Exploring Memorabilia

Ways In: Reflecting on the Event’s Autobiographical Significance 46

Defining Your Purpose and Audience Considering Your Thesis

Planning and Drafting 47 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting Working with Sources: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing

Critical Reading Guide 52

Revising 53 Troubleshooting Your Draft 54

Thinking about Document Design: Integrating Visuals 55

Editing and Proofreading 56 Missing Commas after Introductory Elements Using the Past Perfect Fused Sentences

A Writer at Work 57

Jean Brandt’s Essay from Invention to Revision 57 Invention The First Draft Critical Reading and Revision

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Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 62

Reflecting on Your Writing 62

Considering the Social Dimensions: Autobiography and Self-Discovery 63

3 WRITING PROFILES 64 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Conducting an Interview 66

Reading Profiles 67

Basic Features 67

Purpose and Audience 68

Readings 69

Brian Cable, “The Last Stop” 69 John T. Edge, “I’m Not Leaving Until I Eat This Thing” 74 Susan Orlean, “Show Dog” 81 Amanda Coyne, “The Long Good-Bye: Mother’s Day in

Federal Prison” 90

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Writing Profiles 97

Guide to Writing 99

The Writing Assignment 99 Starting Points: Writing a Profile 100

Invention and Research 101 Choosing a Subject to Profile

Ways In: Finalizing Your Choice 103

Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice Setting Up a Tentative Schedule

Ways In: Collecting Information from Field Research 106

Ways In: Reflecting on Your Purpose and the Profile’s Perspective 108

Considering Your Thesis Designing Your Document

CONTENTS xxxix

 

 

Planning and Drafting 109 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting Working with Sources: Integrating Quotations from Your Interviews

Critical Reading Guide 114

Revising 115 Troubleshooting Your Draft 116

Thinking about Document Design: Creating Web-Based Essays 118

Editing and Proofreading 118 Checking the Punctuation of Quotations A Common ESL Problem: Adjective Order

A Writer at Work 120

Brian Cable’s Interview Notes and Write-Up 120 The Interview Notes The Interview Write-Up

Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 124

Reflecting on Your Writing 124

Considering the Social Dimensions: Entertaining Readers, or Showing the Whole Picture? 125

4 EXPLAINING A CONCEPT 126 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Explaining a Concept 129

Reading Concept Explanations 129

Basic Features 129

Purpose and Audience 131

Readings 131

Linh Kieu Ngo, “Cannibalism: It Still Exists” (annotated student essay) 131

Anastasia Toufexis, “Love: The Right Chemistry” 136 Richard A. Friedman, “Born to Be Happy, Through a Twist

of Human Hard Wire” 143 Jeffrey Kluger, “What Makes Us Moral” 148

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Explaining a Concept 159

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CONTENTS xli

Guide to Writing 160

The Writing Assignment 160 Starting Points: Explaining a Concept 161

Invention and Research 162 Choosing a Concept to Write About

Ways In: Gaining an Overview of a Concept 164

Ways In: Focusing the Concept 165

Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice Designing Your Document Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Planning and Drafting 168 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting Working with Sources: Using Descriptive Verbs to Introduce Information

Critical Reading Guide 173

Revising 174 Troubleshooting Your Draft 175

Thinking about Document Design: Designing Surveys and Presenting Results 178

Editing and Proofreading 180 Using Punctuation with Adjective Clauses Using Commas with Interrupting Phrases

A Writer at Work 181

Linh Kieu Ngo’s Use of Sources 181

Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 182

Reflecting on Your Writing 182

Considering the Social Dimensions: Concept Explanations and the Nature of Knowledge 183

5 FINDING COMMON GROUND 184 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Finding Common Ground 187

 

 

Reading Essays That Seek Common Ground 188

Basic Features 188

Purpose and Audience 190

Readings 191

Jeremy Bernard, “Lost Innocence” (annotated student essay) 191 Melissa Mae, “Laying Claim to a Higher Morality”

(student essay) 195 Athena Alexander, “No Child Left Behind: ‘Historic Initiative’

or ‘Just an Empty Promise’?” (student essay) 201

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Finding Common Ground 210

Guide to Writing 212

The Writing Assignment 212 Starting Points: Finding Common Ground 213

Invention and Research 214 Choosing a Set of Argument Essays to Write About Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice Thinking about Your Readers Researching the Issue Designing Your Document Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Planning and Drafting 221 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting Working with Sources: Weaving Quoted Materials into Your Own Sentences

Critical Reading Guide 227

Revising 228 Thinking about Document Design: Helping Readers Visualize a Solution 228

Troubleshooting Your Draft 230

Editing and Proofreading 231 Using Commas around Interrupting Phrases Correcting Vague Pronoun Reference

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A Writer at Work 232

Melissa Mae’s Analysis 232 Annotating and Charting Annotations 232 Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke, “A Case for Torture” 233 Kermit D. Johnson, “Inhuman Behavior: A Chaplain’s View

of Torture” 235

Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 241

Reflecting on Your Writing 242

Considering the Social Dimensions: Being Fair and Impartial 242

Appendix: Two Debates 243

Debate 1: Torture 244 Understanding the Torture Debate 244

Ross Douthat, “Thinking about Torture” 245 Glenn Greenwald, “Committing War Crimes for the ‘Right

Reasons’” 248 Maryann Cusimano Love, “An End to Torture” 251

Debate 2: Same-Sex Marriage 255 Understanding the Debate over Same-Sex Marriage 255

La Shawn Barber, “Interracial Marriage: Slippery Slope?” 256 Anna Quindlen, “The Loving Decision” 258 National Review Editorial, “The Future of Marriage” 260 Andrew Sullivan, “The Right’s Contempt for Gay Lives” 261

6 ARGUING A POSITION 264 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Arguing a Position 267

Reading Essays Arguing a Position 267

Basic Features 267

Purpose and Audience 269

Readings 270

Jessica Statsky, “Children Need to Play, Not Compete” (annotated student essay) 270

Richard Estrada, “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names” 274

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Amitai Etzioni, “Working at McDonald’s” 280 Amy Goldwasser, “What’s the Matter with Kids Today?” 286

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Arguing a Position 291

Guide to Writing 293

The Writing Assignment 293 Starting Points: Arguing a Position 294

Invention and Research 294 Choosing an Issue to Write About 295

Ways In: Bringing the Issue and Your Audience into Focus 297

Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

Ways In: Developing Your Argument and Counterargument 299

Researching Your Argument Designing Your Document Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Planning and Drafting 302 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting Working with Sources: Fairly and Accurately Quoting Opposing Positions

Critical Reading Guide 308

Revising 309 Troubleshooting Your Draft 310

Thinking about Document Design: Adding Visuals 311

Editing and Proofreading 312 Using Commas before Coordinating Conjunctions Using Punctuation with Conjunctive Adverbs A Common ESL Problem: Subtle Differences in Meaning

A Writer at Work 315

Jessica Statsky’s Response to Opposing Positions 315 Listing Reasons for the Opposing Position Accommodating a Plausible Reason Refuting an Implausible Reason

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Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 317

Reflecting on Your Writing 317

Considering the Social Dimensions: Suppressing Dissent 318

7 PROPOSING A SOLUTION 320 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Proposing a Solution to a Problem 323

Reading Essays Proposing a Solution 323

Basic Features 323

Purpose and Audience 325

Readings 326

Patrick O’Malley, “More Testing, More Learning” (annotated student essay) 326

Karen Kornbluh, “Win-Win Flexibility” 331 Matt Miller, “A New Deal for Teachers” 338 Robert Kuttner, “Good Jobs for Americans Who

Help Americans” 346

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Proposing a Solution 355

Guide to Writing 356

The Writing Assignment 356 Starting Points: Proposing a Solution 357

Invention and Research 358 Choosing a Problem to Write About 358

Ways In: Bringing the Problem and Your Audience into Focus 361

Ways In: Exploring Your Tentative Solution 362

Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

CONTENTS xlv

 

 

Ways In: Counterarguing Alternative Solutions 364

Researching Your Proposal Designing Your Document Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Planning and Drafting 366 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting A Sentence Strategy: Rhetorical Questions Working with Sources: Establishing the Problem’s Existence and Seriousness

Critical Reading Guide 373

Revising 374 Troubleshooting Your Draft 375

Thinking about Document Design: Following Formatting Conventions 376

Editing and Proofreading 377 Avoiding Ambiguous Use of This and That Revising Sentences That Lack an Agent

A Writer at Work 379

Patrick O’Malley’s Revision Process 379

Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 381

Reflecting on Your Writing 381

Considering the Social Dimensions: The Frustrations of Effecting Real Change 382

8 JUSTIFYING AN EVALUATION 384 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Evaluating a Subject 386

Reading Essays Justifying Evaluations 387

Basic Features 387

Purpose and Audience 388

Readings 389

Wendy Kim, “Grading Professors” (annotated student essay) 389 Ann Hulbert, “Juno and the Culture Wars” 395

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Christine Romano, “‘Children Need to Play, Not Compete,’ by Jessica Statsky: An Evaluation” (student essay) 402

Christine Rosen, “The Myth of Multitasking” 409

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Justifying an Evaluation 417

Guide to Writing 419

The Writing Assignment 419 Starting Points: Justifying an Evaluation 420

Invention and Research 421 Choosing a Subject to Write About

Ways In: Bringing the Subject and Your Audience into Focus 423

Making a Tentative Judgment Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

Ways In: Developing Your Argument and Counterargument 426

Researching Your Argument Designing Your Document Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Planning and Drafting 429 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting Working with Sources: Using Summary to Support Your Evaluative Argument

Critical Reading Guide 436

Revising 437 Troubleshooting Your Draft 438

Thinking about Document Design: Using Images to Support an Argument 439

Editing and Proofreading 441 Complete, Correct Comparisons Combining Sentences

A Writer at Work 443

Christine Romano’s Counterargument of Objections 443

Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 444

Reflecting on Your Writing 444

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Considering the Social Dimensions: Evaluators’ Hidden Assumptions 445

9 SPECULATING ABOUT CAUSES 446 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Speculating about Causes 449

Reading Essays That Speculate about Causes 449

Basic Features 449

Purpose and Audience 451

Readings 451

Sheila McClain, “Fitness Culture: A Growing Trend in America” (annotated student essay) 451

Stephen King, “Why We Crave Horror Movies” 456 Erica Goode, “The Gorge-Yourself Environment” 461 Jeremy Hsu, “The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a

Good Yarn” 471

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Speculating about Causes 477

Guide to Writing 479

The Writing Assignment 479 Starting Points: Speculating about Causes 480

Invention and Research 481 Considering Subjects and Their Possible Causes Exploring What You Know and Need to Find Out about Your Subject Analyzing Your Readers Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

Ways In: Developing Your Argument and Counterargument 485

Designing Your Document Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Planning and Drafting 487 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting Working with Sources: Citing a Variety of Sources to Support Your Causal Speculations

Critical Reading Guide 493

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Revising 494 Troubleshooting Your Draft 495

Thinking about Document Design: Adding Graphs and Photos 496

Editing and Proofreading 498 Checking Your Use of Numbers Checking for Reason Is Because Constructions

A Writer at Work 500

Sheila McClain’s Analysis of Possible Causes 500

Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 501

Reflecting on Your Writing 502

Considering the Social Dimensions: Causal Speculation and the Power of Authority and Ideology 502

10 ANALYZING STORIES 504 A Collaborative Activity: Practice Analyzing a Story 505

Reading Essays That Analyze Stories 506

Basic Features 506

Purpose and Audience 507

Readings 508

Sally Crane, “Gazing into the Darkness” (annotated student essay) 508

David Ratinov, “From Innocence to Insight: ‘Araby’ as an Initiation Story” (student essay) 511

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Analyzing Stories 516

Guide to Writing 517

The Writing Assignment 517 Starting Points: Analyzing Stories 518

Invention and Research 519 Finding a Story to Write About Analyzing the Story Annotating with the Suggestions for Analysis in Mind

CONTENTS xlix

 

 

Ways In: Developing Your Analysis 524

Testing Your Choice A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement Researching Your Story Designing Your Document

Planning and Drafting 528 Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals Outlining Your Draft Drafting Working with Sources: Quoting from the Story to Support Your Analysis

Critical Reading Guide 536

Revising 537 Troubleshooting Your Draft 538

Editing and Proofreading 539 Using Parallel Structure Using Ellipsis Marks Correctly

A Writer at Work 541

David Ratinov’s Invention Work 541 Annotating Examining Patterns in the Story Listing Ideas

Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned 545

Reflecting on Your Writing 545

Considering the Social Dimensions: Writing for a Specialized Audience 545

An Anthology of Short Stories 546

Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour” 547 James Joyce, “Araby” 549 William Carlos Williams, “The Use of Force” 554 Sherman Alexie, “A Good Story” 557

PART 2 Critical Thinking Strategies

11 A CATALOG OF INVENTION STRATEGIES 562 Mapping 562 Clustering Listing Outlining

Writing 568 Cubing Dialoguing Dramatizing Keeping a Journal Looping Questioning Quick Drafting

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12 A CATALOG OF READING STRATEGIES 575 Annotating 576 Martin Luther King Jr., An Annotated Sample from “Letter from

Birmingham Jail” 576

Taking Inventory 583

Outlining 583

Paraphrasing 586

Summarizing 587

Synthesizing 588

Contextualizing 589

Exploring the Significance of Figurative Language 590

Looking for Patterns of Opposition 592

Reflecting on Challenges to Your Beliefs and Values 593

Evaluating the Logic of an Argument 594 Testing for Appropriateness Testing for Believability Testing for Consistency and Completeness

Recognizing Emotional Manipulation 596

Judging the Writer’s Credibility 597 Testing for Knowledge Testing for Common Ground Testing for Fairness

PART 3 Writing Strategies

13 CUEING THE READER 600 Orienting Statements 600 Thesis Statements Forecasting Statements

Paragraphing 602 Paragraph Cues Topic Sentence Strategies

Cohesive Devices 606 Pronoun Reference Word Repetition Synonyms Sentence Structure Repetition Collocation

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Transitions 610 Logical Relationships Temporal Relationships Spatial Relationships

Headings and Subheadings 613 Heading Systems and Levels Headings and Genres Frequency and Placement of Headings

14 NARRATING 615 Narrating Strategies 615 Calendar and Clock Time Temporal Transitions Verb Tense Specific Narrative Action Dialogue

Narrating a Process 623 Explanatory Process Narratives Instructional Process Narratives

15 DESCRIBING 628 Naming 628

Detailing 629

Comparing 631

Using Sensory Description 632 The Sense of Sight The Sense of Hearing The Sense of Smell The Sense of Touch The Sense of Taste

Creating a Dominant Impression 637

16 DEFINING 639 Sentence Definitions 640

Extended Definitions 641

Historical Definitions 643

Stipulative Definitions 645

17 CLASSIFYING 647 Organizing Classification 647

Illustrating Classification 649

Maintaining Clarity and Coherence 652

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18 COMPARING AND CONTRASTING 653 Two Ways of Comparing and Contrasting 653

Analogy 657

19 ARGUING 659 Asserting a Thesis 659 Arguable Assertions Clear and Precise Wording Appropriate Qualification

Giving Reasons and Support 662 Examples Statistics Authorities Anecdotes Textual Evidence

Counterarguing 668 Acknowledging Readers’ Concerns Accommodating Readers’ Concerns Refuting Readers’ Objections

Logical Fallacies 671

20 ANALYZING VISUALS 673 Criteria for Analyzing Visuals 675

A Sample Analysis 677

21 DESIGNING DOCUMENTS 688 The Impact of Document Design 688

Considering Context, Audience, and Purpose 689

Elements of Document Design 690 Font Style and Size Headings and Body Text Numbered and Bulleted Lists Colors White Space

Visuals 695 Choose Appropriate Visuals and Design the Visuals with Their Final Use in Mind Number and Title Your Visuals Label the Parts of Your Visuals and Include Descriptive Captions Cite Your Visual Sources Integrate the Visual into the Text Use Common Sense When Creating Visuals on a Computer

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Sample Documents 703 Memos Letters E-mail Résumés Job-Application Letters Lab Reports Web Pages

PART 4 Research Strategies

22 FIELD RESEARCH 716 Observations 716 Planning the Visit Observing and Taking Notes Reflecting on Your Observations Writing Up Your Notes Preparing for Follow-Up Visits

Interviews 719 Planning and Setting Up the Interview Taking Notes during the Interview Reflecting on the Interview Writing Up Your Notes

Questionnaires 723 Focusing Your Study Writing Questions Designing the Questionnaire Testing the Questionnaire Administering the Questionnaire Writing Up the Results

23 LIBRARY AND INTERNET RESEARCH 728 Orienting Yourself to the Library 728 Taking a Tour Consulting Librarians

Getting Started 730 Knowing Your Research Task Finding Out What Your Library Offers Consulting Encyclopedias Consulting Bibliographies

Keeping Track of Your Research 733 Keeping a Working Bibliography Taking Notes

Finding Library Sources 735 General Search Strategies Finding Books: Using the Online Library Catalog Finding Articles Finding Government and Statistical Information Finding Other Library Sources

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Determining the Most Promising Sources 746

Using the Web for Research 747 Finding the Best Information Online Using E-mail and Online Communities for Research

Evaluating Sources 752 Selecting Relevant Sources Identifying Bias

24 USING SOURCES 755 Acknowledging Sources 755

Avoiding Plagiarism 756

Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing 756 Deciding Whether to Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize Quoting Integrating Quotations Introducing Quotations Punctuating within Quotations Avoiding Grammatical Tangles Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Documenting Sources 764 The MLA System of Documentation The APA System of Documentation

Some Sample Research Papers 785

An Annotated Research Paper 786

25 ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHIES AND LITERATURE REVIEWS 795

Annotated Bibliographies and Literature Reviews: An Overview 796 Purpose and Audience

Annotated Bibliographies 798 Different Types of Annotation Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Literature Reviews 805 Writing a Literature Review

CONTENTS lv

 

 

PART 5 Writing for Assessment

26 ESSAY EXAMINATIONS 814 Preparing for an Exam 814

Reading the Exam Carefully 815

Some Typical Essay Exam Questions 816 Define or Identify Recall Details of a Specific Source Explain the Importance or Significance Apply Concepts Comment on a Quotation Compare and Contrast Synthesize Information from Various Sources Analyze Causes Criticize or Evaluate

Planning Your Answer 824

Writing Your Answer 825

Model Answers to Some Typical Essay Exam Questions 826 Short Answers Paragraph-Length Answers Long Answers

27 WRITING PORTFOLIOS 832 The Purposes of a Writing Portfolio 832

Assembling a Portfolio for Your Composition Course 833 Selecting Work Reflecting on Your Work and Your Learning Organizing the Portfolio

PART 6 Writing and Speaking to Wider Audiences

28 ORAL PRESENTATIONS 838 Be Ready Understand the Kind of Oral Presentation You Have Been Asked to Give Assess Your Audience and Purpose

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Determine How Much Information You Can Present in the Allotted Time Use Cues to Orient Listeners Prepare Effective and Appropriate Visuals Verify That You Will Have the Correct Equipment and Supplies Rehearse Your Presentation Deliver the Oral Presentation Professionally End Your Presentation Graciously

29 WORKING WITH OTHERS 843 Working with Others on Your Individual Writing Projects 843

Working with Others on Joint Writing Projects 845

30 WRITING IN YOUR COMMUNITY 848 Using Your Service Experience as Source Material 848 Finding a Topic Gathering Sources Writing about Your Service Experience Writing for Your Service Organization

HANDBOOK How to Use This Handbook H-1

Keeping a Record of Your Own Errors H-3

S SENTENCE BOUNDARIES H-5 S1 Comma Splices S2 Fused Sentences S3 Sentence Fragments

G GRAMMATICAL SENTENCES H-11 G1 Pronoun Reference G2 Pronoun Agreement G3 Relative Pronouns G4 Pronoun Case G5 Verbs G6 Subject-Verb Agreement G7 Adjectives and Adverbs

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E EFFECTIVE SENTENCES H-30 E1 Missing Words E2 Shifts E3 Noun Agreement E4 Modifiers E5 Mixed Constructions E6 Integrated Quotations, Questions, and Thoughts E7 Parallelism E8 Coordination and Subordination

W WORD CHOICE H-47 W1 Concise Sentences W2 Exact Words W3 Appropriate Words

P PUNCTUATION H-57 P1 Commas P2 Unnecessary Commas P3 Semicolons P4 Colons P5 Dashes P6 Quotation Marks P7 Apostrophes P8 Parentheses P9 Brackets P10 Ellipsis Marks P11 Slashes P12 Periods P13 Question Marks P14 Exclamation Points

M MECHANICS H-85 M1 Hyphens M2 Capitalization M3 Spacing M4 Numbers M5 Underlining (Italics) M6 Abbreviations M7 Titles and Headings M8 Special Design Features M9 Spelling

L ESL TROUBLESPOTS H-104 L1 Articles L2 Verbs L3 Prepositions L4 Omitted or Repeated Words L5 Adjective Order L6 Participles

R REVIEW OF SENTENCE STRUCTURE H-115 R1 Basic Sentence Structure R2 Basic Sentence Elements

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GL GLOSSARY OF FREQUENTLY MISUSED WORDS H-132

Author and Title Index I-1

Subject Index I-4

Index for ESL Writers I-29

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1

1Introduction: Thinking about Writing

Philosopher Edmund Burke once said that “reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” We believe that what Burke said about reading applies to writing as well, and that reflecting on writing is one of the best ways to become a better and more versatile writer. That is why quotes from writers are sprinkled throughout this chapter. That is also why in this chapter and throughout this book, we ask you to write brief reflections, ultimately constructing a literacy narrative, a multifaceted story about yourself as a writer.

Reflection 1. A Literacy Story

Take five to ten minutes to write a story of your experience with writing. Consider the following suggestions, but do not be limited by them:

Recall an early experience of writing: What did you write? Did anyone read it? What kind of feedback did you get? How did you feel about yourself?

Think of a turning point when your attitude toward writing changed or crystallized. What happened? What changed?

Recall a person — a teacher, classmate, family member, published writer, or someone else — who influenced your writing, for good or ill. How was your writing affected?

Cast yourself as the main character of a story about writing. How would you de- scribe yourself — as a “natural” writer; as someone who struggles to write well; or somewhere in between? Consider your trajectory or “narrative arc”: Over the years, would you say you have showed steady improvement; ups and downs; more downs than ups; a decline?

Why Writing Is Important Writing helps you think and learn, enhances your chances of success, contrib- utes to your personal development, and strengthens your relationships with other people.

Writing Influences the Way You Think

The very act of writing encourages you to be creative as well as organized and logical in your thinking. When you write sentences, paragraphs, and whole essays,

 

 

2 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION: THINKING ABOUT WRITING

you generate ideas and connect these ideas in systematic ways. By combining words into phrases and sentences with conjunctions, you create complex new ideas: for example, and brings out similarities, but emphasizes differences, and because supports general ideas with specific reasons, facts, and examples.

By writing essays for different purposes as you work through The St. Martin’s Guide, you will develop your thinking in different ways. For example, writing about a remembered event will inspire you to reflect on what happened and why it is memorable; finding common ground will deepen your ability to analyze and syn- thesize different points of view; arguing for a position on a controversial issue will hone your reasoning skills; and making evaluations will help you examine under- lying assumptions about what you value and why.

The mere process of writing is one of the most powerful tools we have for clarifying our own thinking. I am never as clear about any matter as when I have just finished writing about it. — JAMES VAN ALLEN

Writing Helps You Learn

Writing contributes to learning by helping you remember what you are studying, by leading you to analyze and connect information and ideas from different sources, and by inspiring new insights and understanding. Writing as you read — taking notes, annotating the text, and responding in writing to the text’s assumptions and arguments — makes you a better reader. Reflecting in writing on what you are learning consolidates your understanding of and response to new material.

Different kinds of writing contribute to learning in different ways. Writing es- says of various kinds, or genres, as you work through The Guide will help you orga- nize and present what you have learned and, in the process, clarify and extend your own ideas. Arguing a position teaches you not only to support your reasons but also to refute objections to your argument. Researching a profile, you learn to make precise observations and ask pertinent questions. Explaining a concept requires you to inform yourself about your subject and organize the information in a way that makes it clear to readers.

Writing has been for a long time my major tool for self-instruction and self-development. — TONI CADE BAMBARA

Writing Fosters Personal Development

In addition to influencing the ways you think and learn, writing can help you grow as an individual. Writing leads you to reflect on your experience, for exam- ple, when you write to understand the significance of a particular life event. Writing about a controversial issue can make you examine some of your most

 

 

WHY WRITING IS IMPORTANT 3

basic beliefs. Writing an evaluation requires that you think about what you val- ue and how your values compare to those of others. Perhaps most important, becoming an author confers authority on you; it gives you confidence to assert your own ideas and feelings.

In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to under- stand himself, to satisfy himself. . . . — ALFRED KAZIN

Some of the things that happen to us in life seem to have no meaning, but when you write them down, you find the meanings for them. . . .

— MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

Writing Connects You to Others

Nearly all of us use writing in one form or another — whether via e-mail, text mes- saging, instant messaging, blogging, Twitter, or Facebook — to keep in touch with friends and family. Many of us also use writing to take part in academic discussions and participate in civic debate and decision making. By writing about our experi- ences, ideas, and observations, we reach out to readers, offering them our own points of view and inviting them to share theirs in return.

The writing you do for your composition class will likewise help you connect with others. In writing an argument, for example, as you clarify your perspective and reexamine your own reasoning, you may ultimately influence other people’s opinions on your topic. Their responses to your writing may, in turn, cause you to reevaluate your own ideas. Collaborative writing — as, for example, if you are as- signed to write a proposal with a group of classmates — enables you to work di- rectly with others to invent new ways of solving complex problems.

Writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. — JOAN DIDION

It’s the sense of being in contact with people who are part of a particular audience that really makes a difference to me in writing.

— SHERLEY ANNE WILLIAMS

Writing Promotes Success in College and at Work

As a student, you are probably aware of the many ways writing can contribute to your success in school. Students who learn to write for different readers and purposes do well in courses throughout the curriculum. Eventually, you will need to use writing to advance your career by writing persuasive application letters for jobs or graduate school admission. At work, you will be expected to write effective e-mail messages,

 

 

4 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION: THINKING ABOUT WRITING

memos, and reports that present clear explanations, well-reasoned arguments, con- vincing evaluations, and constructive proposals.

People think it’s sort of funny that I went to graduate school as a biologist and then became a writer. . . . What I learned [in science] is how to formu- late or identify a new question that hasn’t been asked before and then to set about solving it, to do original research to find the way to an answer. And that’s what I do when I write a book. — BARBARA KINGSOLVER

Reflection 2. Writing That Mattered

Write a page or two describing an occasion when writing helped you accomplish some- thing. Here are some possibilities to consider:

an occasion when you used writing to prepare for a test or otherwise help you remember critical material

an occasion when writing helped you better understand a difficult subject or reading

an occasion when you worked through a personal or an intellectual problem by writing

an occasion when you used writing to influence someone else

an occasion when writing enabled you to express your feelings or made you feel connected

an occasion when your writing helped you get a better grade or succeed in some way

an occasion when your writing made others take notice

How Writing Is Learned There are many myths about writing and writers. For example, some people assume that people who are good at writing do not have to spend a lot of time learning to write — that they just naturally know how. Others assume that “real” writers write perfectly the first time, every time, dashing off an essay with minimal effort. Writers’ testimonies, however, together with extensive research on how people write and learn to write, show that writing can — indeed, must — be learned. All writers work at their writing. Some writers may be more successful and influential than others. Some may find writing easier and more satisfying than others. But no one is born knowing how to write.

Learning to write well takes time and much effort, but it can be done. — MARGARET MEAD

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way. — ERNEST HEMINGWAY

 

 

HOW WRITING IS LEARNED 5

Reflection 3. How You Became Literate

Write a page or two describing how and why you became literate and what happened as a result. You may choose to write about your early memories of learning to read and write either at home or at school. Or you could think of literacy more broadly, focusing, for example, on one or more of the following:

computer literacy — learning how to program, how to “read” the Web efficiently, or how to communicate through text messaging, blogging, and so on

workplace literacy, perhaps including ways of talking to customers, colleagues, and managers

academic literacy, perhaps focusing on learning to think, talk, and write as a scientist, historian, literary critic, and so on

sports literacy, as a player, coach, or fan

music literacy, as a musician or as a fan of certain kinds of music

community literacy — learning to communicate with people of different ages or with people who speak different languages or dialects

In reflecting on the results of your learning to be literate, you might want to consider the following:

how your new literacy changed you or changed your relationships

ways in which you may have had more power in certain contexts — and perhaps less power in others

how you felt about being bilingual or multiliterate, and how you used your new literacy

The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing has helped many students become more thoughtful, effective, confident writers. From reading and analyzing an array of dif- ferent kinds of essays, you will learn how other writers make their texts work. From writing for different audiences, you will learn to compose texts that readers want to read. To help you take full advantage of what you are learning, The Guide will also help you reflect on your learning so that you will be able to remember, apply, and build on what you have learned.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. — STEPHEN KING

Learning to Write by Reading

Believe it: Reading will help you become a better writer. In fact, most professional writers are avid readers who read not only for enjoyment and information but also to refine their craft.

Reading to Understand How Texts Work

Readers will have specific expectations of a text as soon as they recognize it as a par- ticular genre or type of writing. For example, readers of a story about a past event

 

 

6 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION: THINKING ABOUT WRITING

in the writer’s life will likely recognize it as a form of autobiography, which leads them to expect a story that changes, challenges, or complicates the writer’s sense of self or connection with others. If the event seems trivial or the story lacks inter- est, then readers’ expectations will be disappointed, and the text will not succeed. Similarly, if the text takes a position on a controversial issue, readers will recognize it as an opinion piece and expect it to not only assert and support that position, but also to refute possible objections. If the argument lacks credible support or ignores thoughtful objections or alternative points of view, readers are likely to decide that the essay is not convincing.

Although individual texts within the same genre vary a great deal — no two pro- posals, even those arguing for the same solution, will be identical — they nonetheless follow a general pattern that provides a certain amount of predictability without which communication would be difficult, if not impossible. But these language patterns, also called conventions, should not be thought of as rigid formulas. Conventions are broad frameworks within which writers are free to be creative. Most writers, in fact, find that working within a framework allows them to be more creative, not less so.

You would learn very little in this world if you were not allowed to imitate. And to repeat your imitations until some solid grounding . . . was achieved and the slight but wonderful difference — that made you and no one else — could assert itself. — MARY OLIVER

Reading to Write Texts That Work

To learn the conventions of a particular genre, you need to read examples of that genre so that you begin to recognize its predictable patterns as well as the possibili- ties for innovation. At the same time, you should also practice writing in the genre.

Read, read, read. . . . Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! — WILLIAM FAULKNER

The Guide provides an array of sample essays in the genres you are learning to write and helps you analyze patterns in these essays. It also helps you practice using these patterns in your own writing to achieve your own purposes. Seeing, for example, how writers define key terms and integrate quotations from their sources in an essay explaining a concept introduces you to strategies you may use when you write in this genre.

I practiced writing in every possible way that I could. I wrote a pastiche of other people. Just as a pianist runs his scales for ten years before he gives his concert: because when he gives that concert, he can’t be thinking of his fingering or of his hands, he has to be thinking of his interpretation. He’s thinking of what he’s trying to communicate. — KATHERINE ANNE PORTER

I went back to the good nature books that I had read. And I analyzed them. I wrote outlines of whole books — outlines of chapters — so that

 

 

HOW WRITING IS LEARNED 7

I could see their structure. And I copied down their transitional sen- tences or their main sentences or their closing sentences or their lead sentences. — ANNIE DILLARD

Reading to Design Texts That Work

Writers have long recognized that no matter how well organized, well reasoned, or compelling a piece of writing may be, the way it looks on the page influences to some extent how well it works for readers. Today, writers have more options for designing their documents than ever before. Digital photography, scanning, and integrated word processing and graphics programs make it relatively easy for writers to heighten the visual impact of the page. For example, they can change type fonts and add colors, charts, diagrams, and photographs to written documents. In constructing Web pages or DVDs, writers can add sound, video, and active hyperlinks.

These multiple possibilities, however, do not guarantee a more effective docu- ment. In order to design effective texts, writers need to study documents that capture readers’ attention and enhance understanding. As someone who has likely grown up watching television and movies, playing computer games, and surfing the Internet, you are already a sophisticated visual consumer who has unconsciously learned many of the conventions of document design for different genres and writing situa- tions. This book will help you become aware of what you already know and help you make new discoveries about document design that you may be able to use in your own writing.

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. — STEVE JOBS

Reflection 4. Your Experience with Different Genres of Writing

Make two lists: one of the genres you have read — for example, Tweets from your friends; music reviews on iTunes — and another of genres you have written — for example, e-mails to your parents; job applications; or a paper for your American his- tory class. Try to come up with at least five entries for each list. Include reading and writing you have done in school, at work, at home, and at play.

Genres You Have Read Genres You Have Written

1. 1.

2. 2.

3. 3.

4. 4.

5. 5.

6. 6.

7. 7.

 

 

8 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION: THINKING ABOUT WRITING

Learning Writing Strategies

It might sound strange, but it’s true: One of the best ways to become a better writer is by writing. Practice will make your writing more thoughtful and productive. By offering guidance and support as you practice, The Guide will help you develop a richer and more flexible repertoire of writing strategies to meet the demands of dif- ferent writing situations.

Strategies for Getting Started

We all know what it’s like to stare at a blank computer screen or stark white page of paper waiting for inspiration. As a student, however, you’re in the position of all those who write under deadlines — you can’t simply sit back and wait for inspira- tion. Instead, you need an array of reliable thinking and writing strategies that you can use not only to write the paper by the due date, but also to help you write it analytically, critically, and creatively.

Invention is the word used since the time of Plato and Aristotle to describe the process of thinking as we compose. Invention includes deciding on your purpose in writing to a particular audience and figuring out how best to achieve your purpose; analyzing and questioning other people’s ideas as well as your own; assimilating information from different sources; and organizing it logically.

As writers we cannot choose whether to invent; we can only choose how to invent. The Guide offers many invention strategies from which to choose, strategies that will help you meet the demands of each kind of writing you attempt.

Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it. — MADELEINE L’ENGLE

Strategies for Discovering New Ideas

Few writers begin writing with a complete understanding of a subject. Most use writ- ing as a means of discovery — that is, as a way to learn about the subject, trying out ideas and information they have collected, exploring connections and implications, and reviewing what they have written in order to expand and develop their ideas.

When I start a project, the first thing I do is write down, in longhand, everything I know about the subject, every thought I’ve ever had on it. This may be twelve or fourteen pages. Then I read it through, for quite a few days . . . then I try to find out what are the salient points that I must make. And then it begins to take shape. — MAYA ANGELOU

Writing, then, is not something you do after thinking, but in order to help you think. Writers often reflect on this so-called generative aspect of writing, echoing E. M. Forster’s much repeated adage: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Here are some other versions of the same insight:

Every book that I have written has been an education, a process of discovery. — AMITAV GHOSH

 

 

HOW WRITING IS LEARNED 9

I don’t see writing as a communication of something already discovered, as “truths” already known. Rather, I see writing as a job of experiment. It’s like any discovery job; you don’t know what’s going to happen until you try it. — WILLIAM STAFFORD

Don’t tear up the page and start over again when you write a bad line — try to write your way out of it. Make mistakes and plunge on. . . . Writing is a means of discovery, always. — GARRISON KEILLOR

Writers obviously do not give birth to a text as a whole, but must work cumula- tively, focusing first on one thing, then on another. Writing therefore may seem to progress in a linear, step-by-step fashion. But in fact it almost always proceeds recursively, which means that writers return over and over again to ideas that they are trying to clarify or extend, or to gaps in their information or logic that they are trying to fill. Most writers plan and then revise their plans, draft and revise their drafts, write and read what they have written, and then write and revise some more. In this way, the experience of writing is less like marching in a straight line from first sentence to last and more like exploring an uphill trail with frequent switch- backs. It may appear that you are retracing old ground, but you are really rising to new levels as you learn the terrain.

It’s a matter of piling a little piece here and a little piece there, fitting them together, going on to the next part, then going back and gradually shaping the whole piece into something. — DAVE BARRY

Strategies for Organizing Your Ideas

Writers need strategies that make writing systematic but do not stifle inventiveness. For this reason, most writers begin drafting with some type of plan — a list, a scratch outline, or a detailed storyboard like that used by filmmakers. Outlines can be very helpful, but they must be tentative and flexible if writers are to benefit from writing’s natural recursiveness.

I began [Invisible Man] with a chart of the three-part division. It was a con- ceptual frame with most of the ideas and some of the incidents indicated.

— RALPH ELLISON

You are always going back and forth between the outline and the writing, bringing them closer together, or just throwing out the outline and making a new one. — ANNIE DILLARD

Strategies for Drafting and Revising

While composing a draft, writers benefit from frequent pauses to reread what they have written. Rereading often leads to further discovery — adding an example, choosing different words that unpack or separate ideas, filling in a gap in the logic

 

 

10 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION: THINKING ABOUT WRITING

of an argument. In addition, rereading frequently leads to substantial rethinking and revising: cutting, reorganizing, rewriting whole sections to make the writing more effective.

You have to work problems out for yourself on paper. Put the stuff down and read it — to see if it works. — JOYCE CARY

As a writer, I would find out most clearly what I thought, and what I only thought I thought, when I saw it written down. — ANNA QUINDLEN

Rereading your own writing in order to improve it can be difficult, though, because it is hard to see what the draft actually says, as opposed to what you were trying to say. For this reason, most writers also give their drafts to others to read. Students generally seek advice from their teachers and other students in the class because they understand the assignment. Published writers also share their work in progress with others. Poets, novelists, historians, scientists, newspaper reporters, magazine essayists, and even textbook writers actively seek constructive critical comments by joining writers’ workshops or getting help from editors.

I was lucky because I was always going to groups where the writers were at the same level or a little better than me. That really helped.

— MANIL SURI

[Ezra Pound] was a marvelous critic because he didn’t try to turn you into an imitation of himself. He tried to see what you were trying to do.

— T. S. ELIOT

Using the Guides to Writing

As you have seen, students learning to write need to be flexible and yet systematic. The Guides to Writing in Part One of this book are designed to meet this need. The first few times you write in a new genre, you can rely on these guides. They provide scaffolding to support your work until you become more familiar with the demands and possibilities of each genre. The Guides will help you develop a reper- toire of strategies for creatively solving problems in your writing, such as deciding how to interest readers, how to refute opposing arguments, what to quote from a source, and how to integrate quotations into your writing.

When people engage in any new and complex activity — driving, playing an instrument, skiing, or writing — they may divide it into a series of manageable tasks. In learning to play tennis, for example, you might concentrate separately on lobbing, volleying, or serving, before putting your skills together in a game. Similarly, in writing an argument on a controversial issue, you can focus at first on separate tasks such as defining the issue, developing your reasons, and anticipating readers’ objections. Dividing your writing in this way enables you to tackle a com- plex subject without either oversimplifying it or becoming overwhelmed.

 

 

HOW WRITING IS LEARNED 11

Here is a writer’s quotation that has been especially helpful for us as we have written and revised The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing :

You know when you think about writing a book, you think it is over- whelming. But, actually, you break it down into tiny little tasks any moron could do. — ANNIE DILLARD

Reflection 5. Your Last Writing Project

Write a couple of pages describing how you went about writing the last time you wrote an essay (or something else) that took time and effort. Use the following questions to help you recall what you did, but feel free to write about any other aspects of your writ- ing that you think are important.

What did you write, and when?

Who were you writing for, and why were you writing? What did you hope to accom- plish?

What technologies did you use (a computer? a pen?), and how do you think using these technologies affected the way you wrote?

What kinds of planning did you do, if any, before you began writing the first draft?

If you discussed your ideas and plans with someone, how did discussing them help you? If you had someone read your draft, how did getting a response help?

If you rewrote, moved, added, or cut anything in your first draft, describe what you changed.

Did you write pretty much the way you usually do or did you do something differ- ently? If you did it differently, why did you make the change?

Were you satisfied with your writing process and with the final draft that resulted? What would you have changed if you had more time or knew what you know now?

Thinking Critically

As we said at the beginning, reflecting on your literacy experiences helps you become a better, more versatile writer. Reflecting makes you aware of what you already know and what you still need to learn. Reflecting enhances metacognition, which is a scholarly word for awareness of your own thinking processes.

As young children, we learn to use language primarily from hearing others talk and from being talked to. Learning language seems magical because we are not con- scious of being taught. But we learn because others are modeling language use for us all the time, and sometimes they even correct our pronunciation, word choice, and grammar.

We learn the most common types of communicating such as storytelling in the same way. We listen to others tell stories and read to us; we watch stories por- trayed on television, in film, and in video games; and eventually we read stories for ourselves. Being immersed in storytelling, we learn conventional ways of beginning

 

 

12 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION: THINKING ABOUT WRITING

and ending, strategies for building suspense, techniques for making time sequences clear, methods for using dialogue to develop character, and so on. As we get older, we can reinforce and increase our repertoire of storytelling strategies by analyzing stories and by consciously trying the strategies in our own oral and written stories. This is true of all literacy learning. We learn from a combination of modeling, im- mersion, and thinking critically about what we are learning.

In addition to modeling good writing and guiding you in writing on your own, The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing helps you think critically about your writing. Each writing assignment chapter in Part One of the Guide includes many opportunities for you to think critically and reflect on your understanding of the rhetorical situation — the context, composed of genre, purpose, and audience — in which you are writing. In addition, a section titled Thinking Critically about What You Have Learned concludes each chapter, giving you an opportunity to look back and reflect on how you used your writing process creatively and how you expanded your understanding of the genre.

Reflection 6. Your Literacy Experience, through Metaphor and Simile

Write two or three similes (comparisons using like or as) or metaphors (implied com- parisons, not using like or as) that express some aspect of your literacy experience. Then write a page or so explaining and expanding on the ideas and feelings you expressed in one or more of them. Here are some examples from professional writers:

Writing is like exploring . . . as an explorer makes maps of the country he has explored, so a writer’s works are maps of the country he has explored.

— LAWRENCE OSGOOD

The writer must soak up the subject completely, as a plant soaks up water, until the ideas are ready to sprout.

— MARGUERITE YOURCENAR

Writing is manual labor of the mind: a job, like laying pipe. — JOHN GREGORY DUNNE

If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage.

— CYNTHIA OZICK

To get at the meanings in your metaphors and similes, it may help also to write ones that express opposite ideas. For example, if you begin with “writing is like building a house,” you could also try “writing is taking things apart, brick by brick” to get at both the constructive and analytical aspects of the process. Or you could try “writing is walk- ing into a new house” to move from the work involved in composing to the discovery of something new.

 

 

Writing Activities

PART1

 

 

2

14

IN COLLEGE COURSES In a linguistics course, students are assigned a paper in which they are to discuss published research in the context of their own experience. The class had recently read Deborah Tannen’s Gender and Discourse, in which Tannen discusses differences in how men and women talk about problems: according to Tannen, women tend to spend a lot of time talking about the problem and their feelings about it, while men typi- cally cut short the analysis of the problem and focus on solutions.

One student decides to write about Tannen’s findings in light of a conversation she recently had with her brother about their father’s drinking. Before writing, she rereads a diary entry she had written shortly after the conversation, which she found frustrating. She begins her essay by reconstructing the conversation, quoting some dialogue from her diary and paraphrasing other parts from memory. Then she analyzes the conversation, using Tannen’s categories. She discovers that what bothered her about the conversation was less its content than her brother’s way of communicating.

Remembering an Event

 

 

15

IN THE COMMUNITY As part of a local his- tory series in a newspaper serving a small western ranching community, an amateur historian volun- teers to help an elderly rancher write about the win- ter of 1938, when a six-foot snowstorm isolated the rancher’s family for nearly a month. The historian tapes the rancher talking about how he, his wife, and his infant son survived, including an account of how he snowshoed eight miles to a logging train track in order to get a message to relatives. On a second visit, the historian and the rancher listen to the tape recording and brainstorm on further details to make the event more complete and dramatic for readers.

The historian writes a rough outline, which he and the rancher discuss, and then a draft, which the rancher reads and elaborates on. The rancher also offers several photos for possible inclusion. The historian revises and edits the story and sub- mits it, along with two photos, to the project’s editor for publication. (For more information on the layout of the published version, turn to Thinking about Document Design, p. 55).

IN THE WORKPLACE A respected longtime regional manager for a state’s highway department has been asked to give the keynote speech at a meeting on workplace safety. The manager has long considered employee relations of paramount impor- tance in keeping the workplace safe, so he decides to open his speech by recounting his recent dra- matic confrontation with an unhappy employee who complained bitterly about the work schedule he had been given and threatened to harm the manager and his family if the manager did not give him a bet- ter schedule.

The manager reflects on his fear and on his frustration over not knowing how to handle the con- frontation: the department’s published procedures on workplace safety offered no specific advice on such a situation. Finally, the manager summarizes data he compiled on the nature and frequency of such work- place incidents nationwide and concludes by calling for new guidelines on how to handle them.

 

 

16 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

People write about their experiences in various contexts, for different purposes and audiences. For example, you may keep a private diary, a Facebook page for friends, or a public blog where you write about important events in your life. The scenarios opening this chapter show people from different walks of life reflecting on events that have significance not only for them personally, but for their readers as well. For local history buffs, stories like the rancher’s reveal some the challenges of living in an earlier era. The manager uses what was undoubtedly a disturbing experience to convince colleagues that workplace safety procedures need to be revamped. The student turns an assignment into an opportunity to make sense of a family conflict. If you wrote about your personal experience in your college application, you may have tried to impress admissions officers with remembered events that show you at your best.

Not only can writing about your experiences serve different purposes, but im- mersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and sensations of memory can be pleasurable in itself. Even when the memories arouse mixed feelings, reflecting on the events and people important in your life can be deeply satisfying. Writing can help you understand and come to terms with the influences in your family and community that have helped shape who you are and what’s important to you.

Similarly, reading about other people’s experiences can be entertaining as well as challenging. As readers, we often take pleasure in seeing reflections of our own experience in other people’s stories, but encountering unfamiliar experiences can also be fascinating and lead us to question some of the ways we have learned to think about ourselves and others. For example, one of the writers in this chapter remembers that when she was arrested for shoplifting she felt excited, as if she were acting in a movie. Another writer makes the eye-opening discovery that her father’s cultural traditions are not her own.

From readings like these, you will learn how to make your own story interest- ing, even exciting to read. The Guide to Writing will support you as you compose your remembered event essay, showing you ways to use the basic features of the genre to tell your story vividly and dramatically, entertaining readers but also giv- ing them insight into the event’s significance — its meaning and importance — in your life.

Part 1. Take turns telling a story about an important event in your life. Each story should

take just a few minutes to tell. Prepare by choosing an event you feel comfortable describing

in this situation, and quickly plan how you will describe it. Then get together with two or

three other students, and take turns telling your stories.

Part 2. Discuss what happened when you told about a remembered event:

To think about your purpose and audience, see whether the students in your group

understand why the event is important to you. What in your story, if anything,

helped them identify with you?

A Collaborative Activity: Practice Remembering an Event

 

 

BASIC FEATURES 17

Compare your thoughts with the others in your group on what was easiest and hard-

est about telling the story: for example, making the story dramatic; balancing your

account of what happened with your feelings and thoughts about it; deciding how

much to tell about the people involved.

Reading Remembered Event Essays

Basic Features As you read remembered event essays in this chapter, you will see how different authors incorporate the basic features of the genre.

A Well-Told Story

Read first to enjoy the story. Remembered event essays are autobiographical stories that recount an important event in the writer’s life; the best ones are first and fore- most a pleasure to read. A well-told story

arouses curiosity and suspense by structuring the narrative around conflict, building to a climax, and leading to a change or discovery of some kind;

is set in a specific time and place, often using dialogue to heighten immediacy and drama;

lets readers into the narrator’s point of view (written in the first person I ) and enables readers to empathize and possibly identify with the writer.

Vivid Description of People and Places

Read for the author’s description of people and places. In the essays in this chapter, notice

the specific details describing what people look like, how they dress, gesture, and talk;

the sensory images showing what the narrator saw, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted.

Autobiographical Significance

Read also to understand the story’s autobiographical significance. This is the point the writer is trying to make — the purpose for writing to a particular audience. Effective writers both tell and show

by remembering feelings and thoughts from the time the event took place;

by reflecting on the past from the present perspective;

by choosing details and words that create a dominant impression.

Basic Features

 

 

18 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

Purpose and Audience Whatever the writing situation, writers usually have various purposes in mind, including both self-discovery and self-presentation. Keep in mind, however, that the remembered event essay is a public genre meant to be read by others. Sometimes the audience is specific, as in a personal essay composed for a college or job application. Often, however, the audience is more general, as in an academic essay written in a college course to be read by the instructor and fellow students.

As you read remembered event essays, ask yourself what seems to be the writer’s purpose in writing about this particular experience. For example, does the writer seem to be writing

to understand what happened and why, perhaps to confront unconscious and possibly uncomplimentary motives;

to relive an intense experience, perhaps to work though complex and ambiva- lent feelings;

to win over readers, perhaps to justify or rationalize choices made, actions taken, words used?

You should be aware that as an insightful reader, you may be able to see larger themes or deeper implications — what we call significance — beyond those the writer consciously intends or even acknowledges.

As you read, also try to grasp the writer’s assumptions about the audience. For example, does the writer

expect readers to be impressed by the writer’s courage, honesty, ability, and so on;

assume readers will have had similar experiences and therefore appreciate what the writer went through and not judge the writer too harshly;

try to convince the reader that the writer was innocent, well intended, a victim, or something else;

hope readers will laugh with and not at the writer, seeing the writer’s failings as amusing foibles and not serious shortcomings?

READINGS

Readings

JEAN BRANDT wrote this essay as a first-year college student. In it, she tells about a memorable event that occurred when she was thirteen. Reflecting on how she felt at the time, Brandt writes, “I was afraid, embarrassed, worried, mad.” In disclosing her tumultu- ous and contradictory remembered feelings, Brandt makes her story dramatic and reso- nant. Even if readers have not had a similar experience, they are likely to empathize with Brandt and grasp the significance of this event in her life.

 

 

READINGSBRANDT / CALLING HOME 19

1

2

3

4

Calling Home

Jean Brandt

As we all piled into the car, I knew it was going to be a fabulous day. My grand-

mother was visiting for the holidays; and she and I, along with my older brother and

sister, Louis and Susan, were setting off for a day of last-minute Christmas shopping.

On the way to the mall, we sang Christmas carols, chattered, and laughed. With

Christmas only two days away, we were caught up with holiday spirit. I felt light-headed

and full of joy. I loved shopping — especially at Christmas.

The shopping center was swarming with frantic last-minute shoppers like our-

selves. We went first to the General Store, my favorite. It carried mostly knickknacks

and other useless items which nobody needs but buys anyway. I was thirteen years

old at the time, and things like buttons and calendars and posters would catch my

fancy. This day was no different. The object of my desire was a 75-cent Snoopy button.

Snoopy was the latest. If you owned anything with the Peanuts on it, you were “in.”

But since I was supposed to be shopping for gifts for other people and not myself, I

couldn’t decide what to do. I went in search of my sister for her opinion. I pushed my

way through throngs of people to the back of the store where I found Susan. I asked

her if she thought I should buy the button. She said it was cute and if I wanted it to

go ahead and buy it.

When I got back to the Snoopy section, I took one look at the lines at the cashiers

and knew I didn’t want to wait thirty minutes to buy an item worth less than one dollar.

I walked back to the basket where I found the button and was about to drop it when

suddenly, instead, I took a quick glance around, assured myself no one could see, and

slipped the button into the pocket of my sweatshirt.

I hesitated for a moment, but once the item was in my pocket, there was no

turning back. I had never before stolen anything; but what was done was done. A

few seconds later, my sister appeared and asked, “So, did you decide to buy the

button?” “No, I guess not.” I hoped my voice didn’t quaver. As we headed for the

As you read, look for places where Brandt lets us know how she felt at the time the event occurred. Also consider the questions in the margin. Your instructor may ask you to post your answers or bring them to class.

Basic Features

How does Brandt set the stage for her story? How does she try to get you to identify with her?

– tail would help you visualize the place and people?

– titude toward her younger self?

action verbs (highlighted) in pars. 3–5?

 

 

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entrance, my heart began to race. I just had to get out of that store. Only a few

more yards to go and I’d be safe. As we crossed the threshold, I heaved a sigh of

relief. I was home free. I thought about how sly I had been and I felt proud of my

accomplishment.

An unexpected tap on my shoulder startled me. I whirled around to find a middle-aged

man, dressed in street clothes, flashing some type of badge and politely asking me to empty

my pockets. Where did this man come from? How did he know? I was so sure that no one

had seen me! On the verge of panicking, I told myself that all I had to do was give this man

his button back, say I was sorry, and go on my way. After all, it was only a 75-cent item.

Next thing I knew, he was talking about calling the police and having me arrested

and thrown in jail, as if he had just nabbed a professional thief instead of a terrified

kid. I couldn’t believe what he was saying.

“Jean, what’s going on?”

The sound of my sister’s voice eased the pressure a bit. She always managed to get

me out of trouble. She would come through this time too.

“Excuse me. Are you a relative of this young girl?”

“Yes, I’m her sister. What’s the problem?”

“Well, I just caught her shoplifting and I’m afraid I’ll have to call the police.”

“What did she take?”

“This button.”

“A button? You are having a thirteen-year-old arrested for stealing a button?”

“I’m sorry, but she broke the law.”

The man led us through the store and into an office, where we waited for the

police officers to arrive. Susan had found my grandmother and brother, who, still

shocked, didn’t say a word. The thought of going to jail terrified me, not because of jail

itself, but because of the encounter with my parents afterward. Not more than ten min-

utes later, two officers arrived and placed me under arrest. They said that I was to

be taken to the station alone. Then, they handcuffed me and led me out of the store.

I felt alone and scared. I had counted on my sister being with me, but now I had to

muster up the courage to face this ordeal all by myself.

As the officers led me through the mall, I sensed a hundred pairs of eyes staring

at me. My face flushed and I broke out in a sweat. Now everyone knew I was a criminal.

In their eyes I was a juvenile delinquent, and thank God the cops were getting me off

the streets. The worst part was thinking my grandmother might be having the same

from her remembered thoughts in pars. 5–8?

How does your understanding of Brandt deepen or change through what she writes in pars. 16–18?

 

 

READINGSBRANDT / CALLING HOME 21

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How does the dialogue in pars. 21–24 add to the drama?

– ing storytelling and describing with remembering thoughts and feelings in par. 35?

thoughts. The humiliation at that moment was overwhelming. I felt like Hester Prynne

being put on public display for everyone to ridicule.

That short walk through the mall seemed to take hours. But once we reached the

squad car, time raced by. I was read my rights and questioned. We were at the police

station within minutes. Everything happened so fast I didn’t have a chance to feel

remorse for my crime. Instead, I viewed what was happening to me as if it were a movie.

Being searched, although embarrassing, somehow seemed to be exciting. All the movies

and television programs I had seen were actually coming to life. This is what it was

really like. But why were criminals always portrayed as frightened and regretful? I was

having fun. I thought I had nothing to fear — until I was allowed my one phone call.

I was trembling as I dialed home. I didn’t know what I was going to say to my parents,

especially my mother.

“Hi, Dad, this is Jean.”

“We’ve been waiting for you to call.”

“Did Susie tell you what happened?”

“Yeah, but we haven’t told your mother. I think you should tell her what you did

and where you are.”

“You mean she doesn’t even know where I am?”

“No, I want you to explain it to her.”

There was a pause as he called my mother to the phone. For the first time that

night, I was close to tears. I wished I had never stolen that stupid pin. I wanted to

give the phone to one of the officers because I was too ashamed to tell my mother the

truth, but I had no choice.

“Jean, where are you?”

“I’m, umm, in jail.”

“Why? What for?”

“Shoplifting.”

“Oh no, Jean. Why? Why did you do it?”

“I don’t know. No reason. I just did it.”

“I don’t understand. What did you take? Why did you do it? You had plenty of

money with you.”

“I know but I just did it. I can’t explain why. Mom, I’m sorry.”

“I’m afraid sorry isn’t enough. I’m horribly disappointed in you.”

Long after we got off the phone, while I sat in an empty jail cell, waiting for my

parents to pick me up, I could still distinctly hear the disappointment and hurt in my

 

 

22 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTREADINGS

To learn about Brandt’s process of writing this essay, turn to A Writer at Work on pp. 57–62. How did trying out dialogues help Brandt discover the central conflict and significance of her story?

ANNIE DILLARD, professor emerita at Wesleyan University, won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction writing in 1975 with her first book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974). Since then, she has written eleven other books in a variety of genres. They include Teaching a Stone to Talk (1988), The Writing Life (1990), The Living (1993), Mornings Like This (1996), and The Maytrees (2007). Dillard also wrote an autobiography of her early years, An American Childhood (1987), from which the fol-

lowing selection comes. This reading relates an event that occurred one winter morning when the seven-year-

old Dillard and a friend were chased by an adult stranger. Dillard admits that she was terrified at the time, and yet she asserts that she has “seldom been happier since.” As you read, think about how this paradox helps you grasp the autobiographical significance of this experience for Dillard.

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mother’s voice. I cried. The tears weren’t for me but for her and the pain I had put

her through. I felt like a terrible human being. I would rather have stayed in jail than

confront my mom right then. I dreaded each passing minute that brought our encounter

closer. When the officer came to release me, I hesitated, actually not wanting to leave.

We went to the front desk, where I had to sign a form to retrieve my belongings. I saw

my parents a few yards away and my heart raced. A large knot formed in my stomach. I

fought back the tears.

Not a word was spoken as we walked to the car. Slowly, I sank into the back seat

anticipating the scolding. Expecting harsh tones, I was relieved to hear almost the

opposite from my father.

“I’m not going to punish you and I’ll tell you why. Although I think what you did

was wrong, I think what the police did was more wrong. There’s no excuse for locking a

thirteen-year-old behind bars. That doesn’t mean I condone what you did, but I think

you’ve been punished enough already.”

As I looked from my father’s eyes to my mother’s, I knew this ordeal was over.

Although it would never be forgotten, the incident was not mentioned again.

account of her father’s reaction? Her mother’s?

How well does this ending work?

LEARN ABOUT BRANDT’S

WRITING PROCESS

 

 

READINGSDILLARD / AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD 23

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AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD Annie Dillard

Some boys taught me to play football. This was fine sport. You thought up a new strategy for every play and whispered it to the others. You went out for a pass, fooling everyone. Best, you got to throw yourself mightily at someone’s running legs. Either you brought him down or you hit the ground flat out on your chin, with your arms empty before you. It was all or nothing. If you hesitated in fear, you would miss and get hurt: you would take a hard fall while the kid got away, or you would get kicked in the face while the kid got away. But if you flung yourself wholeheartedly at the back of his knees — if you gathered and joined body and soul and pointed them diving fear- lessly — then you likely wouldn’t get hurt, and you’d stop the ball. Your fate, and your team’s score, depended on your concentration and courage. Nothing girls did could compare with it.

Boys welcomed me at baseball, too, for I had, through enthusiastic practice, what was weirdly known as a boy’s arm. In winter, in the snow, there was neither baseball nor football, so the boys and I threw snowballs at passing cars. I got in trouble throw- ing snowballs, and have seldom been happier since.

On one weekday morning after Christmas, six inches of new snow had just fallen. We were standing up to our boot tops in snow on a front yard on traf- ficked Reynolds Street, waiting for cars. The cars traveled Reynolds Street slowly and evenly; they were targets all but wrapped in red ribbons, cream puffs. We couldn’t miss.

I was seven; the boys were eight, nine, and ten. The oldest two Fahey boys were there — Mikey and Peter — polite blond boys who lived near me on Lloyd Street, and who already had four brothers and sisters. My parents approved Mikey and Peter Fahey. Chickie McBride was there, a tough kid, and Billy Paul and Mackie Kean too, from across Reynolds, where the boys grew up dark and furious, grew up skinny, knowing, and skilled. We had all drifted from our houses that morning looking for ac- tion, and had found it here on Reynolds Street.

It was cloudy but cold. The cars’ tires laid behind them on the snowy street a complex trail of beige chunks like crenellated castle walls. I had stepped on some earlier; they squeaked. We could not have wished for more traffic. When a car came, we all popped it one. In the intervals between cars we reverted to the natural solitude of children.

I started making an iceball — a perfect iceball, from perfectly white snow, per- fectly spherical, and squeezed perfectly translucent so no snow remained all the way through. (The Fahey boys and I considered it unfair actually to throw an iceball at somebody, but it had been known to happen.)

I had just embarked on the iceball project when we heard tire chains come clanking from afar. A black Buick was moving toward us down the street. We all

 

 

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spread out, banged together some regular snowballs, took aim, and, when the Buick drew nigh, fired.

A soft snowball hit the driver’s windshield right before the driver’s face. It made a smashed star with a hump in the middle.

Often, of course, we hit our target, but this time, the only time in all of life, the car pulled over and stopped. Its wide black door opened; a man got out of it, running. He didn’t even close the car door.

He ran after us, and we ran away from him, up the snowy Reynolds sidewalk. At the corner, I looked back; incredibly, he was still after us. He was in city clothes: a suit and tie, street shoes. Any normal adult would have quit, having sprung us into flight and made his point. This man was gaining on us. He was a thin man, all action. All of a sudden, we were running for our lives.

Wordless, we split up. We were on our turf; we could lose ourselves in the neigh- borhood backyards, everyone for himself. I paused and considered. Everyone had vanished except Mikey Fahey, who was just rounding the corner of a yellow brick house. Poor Mikey, I trailed him. The driver of the Buick sensibly picked the two of us to follow. The man apparently had all day.

He chased Mikey and me around the yellow house and up a backyard path we knew by heart: under a low tree, up a bank, through a hedge, down some snowy steps, and across the grocery store’s delivery driveway. We smashed through a gap in another hedge, entered a scruffy backyard and ran around its back porch and tight between houses to Edgerton Avenue; we ran across Edgerton to an alley and up our own sliding woodpile to the Halls’ front yard; he kept coming. We ran up Lloyd Street and wound through mazy backyards toward the steep hilltop at Willard and Lang.

He chased us silently, block after block. He chased us silently over picket fences, through thorny hedges, between houses, around garbage cans, and across streets. Every time I glanced back, choking for breath, I expected he would have quit. He must have been as breathless as we were. His jacket strained over his body. It was an im- mense discovery, pounding into my hot head with every sliding, joyous step, that this ordinary adult evidently knew what I thought only children who trained at football knew: that you have to fling yourself at what you’re doing, you have to point yourself, forget yourself, aim, dive.

Mikey and I had nowhere to go, in our own neighborhood or out of it, but away from this man who was chasing us. He impelled us forward; we compelled him to follow our route. The air was cold; every breath tore my throat. We kept running, block after block; we kept improvising, backyard after backyard, running a frantic course and choosing it simultaneously, failing always to find small places or hard places to slow him down, and discovering always, exhilarated, dismayed, that only bare speed could save us — for he would never give up, this man — and we were losing speed.

He chased us through the backyard labyrinths of ten blocks before he caught us by our jackets. He caught us and we all stopped.

We three stood staggering, half blinded, coughing, in an obscure hilltop back- yard: a man in his twenties, a boy, a girl. He had released our jackets, our pursuer,

 

 

READINGSDILLARD / AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD 25

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our captor, our hero: he knew we weren’t going anywhere. We all played by the rules. Mikey and I unzipped our jackets. I pulled off my sopping mittens. Our tracks multiplied in the backyard’s new snow. We had been breaking new snow all morning. We didn’t look at each other. I was cherishing my excitement. The man’s lower pants legs were wet; his cuffs were full of snow, and there was a prow of snow beneath them on his shoes and socks. Some trees bordered the little flat backyard, some messy winter trees. There was no one around: a clearing in a grove, and we the only players.

It was a long time before he could speak. I had some difficulty at first recalling why we were there. My lips felt swollen; I couldn’t see out of the sides of my eyes; I kept coughing.

“You stupid kids,” he began perfunctorily. We listened perfunctorily indeed, if we listened at all, for the chewing out was

redundant, a mere formality, and beside the point. The point was that he had chased us passionately without giving up, and so he had caught us. Now he came down to earth. I wanted the glory to last forever.

But how could the glory have lasted forever? We could have run through every backyard in North America until we got to Panama. But when he trapped us at the lip of the Panama Canal, what precisely could he have done to prolong the drama of the chase and cap its glory? I brooded about this for the next few years. He could only have fried Mikey Fahey and me in boiling oil, say, or dismembered us piecemeal, or staked us to anthills. None of which I really wanted, and none of which any adult was likely to do, even in the spirit of fun. He could only chew us out there in the Panamanian jungle, after months or years of exalting pursuit. He could only begin, “You stupid kids,” and continue in his ordinary Pittsburgh accent with his normal righteous anger and the usual common sense.

If in that snowy backyard the driver of the black Buick had cut off our heads, Mikey’s and mine, I would have died happy, for nothing has required so much of me since as being chased all over Pittsburgh in the middle of winter — running terrified, exhausted — by this sainted, skinny, furious redheaded man who wished to have a word with us. I don’t know how he found his way back to his car.

MAKING CONNECTIONS: ACTING FEARLESSLY

At the beginning of the essay, Dillard tells about being taught by the neighborhood boys the joy of playing football, particularly the “all or nothing” of flinging yourself “fearlessly” (par. 1).

With other students in your class, discuss an occasion when you had an op- portunity to fling yourself fearlessly into an activity that posed some challenge or risk or required special effort. For example, like Dillard, you may have been challenged by your team members at a football game or by a group of volunteers helping during a natural disaster. Or you may have felt pressured by friends to do something that went against your better judgment, was illegal, or was dangerous.

 

 

26 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

For more on specific narra- tive action, see Chapter 14.

Take turns briefly telling what happened. Then, together, consider the fol- lowing questions as you discuss what now seems significant about this particular experience:

What made you embrace the challenge or resist it? What do you think your choice tells about you at the time of the event?

Dillard uses the value term courage to describe the fearless behavior she learned playing football. What value term would you use to you describe your experience? For example, were you being selfless or self-serving; responsible or irresponsible; a follower, leader, or self-reliant individual ?

Your instructor may assign these activities in class or as homework, for you to do by yourself or with classmates.

A Well-Told Story

To construct an action sequence in writing, Dillard combines two narrating strate- gies: specific narrative actions and prepositional phrases. Specific narrative actions show people moving and gesturing through the use of

action verbs (for example, “He ran after us, and we ran away from him. . . . we were running for our lives” in paragraph 10), and

modifying phrases that use the -ing form of the verb as a modifier (for example, “Every time I glanced back, choking for breath” in paragraph 13).

Prepositional phrases tell us where the action is taking place. When combined with specific narrative actions, prepositional phrases enable Dillard to create continu- ing movement through space. To see how she does this, look at the first sentence in paragraph 12 with the prepositional phrases highlighted:

He chased Mikey and me around the yellow house and up a backyard path we knew by heart: under a low tree, up a bank, through a hedge, down some snowy steps, and across the grocery store’s delivery driveway.

To analyze how Dillard uses specific narrative actions with prepositional phrases, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 11–13, and find three other examples of specific narrative actions combined with prepositional phrases.

Write a sentence about how well you think these narrating strategies work in the essay. What effect do they have?

Vivid Description of People and Places

Describing — naming objects and detailing their colors, shape, size, textures, and other qualities — is an important writing strategy in remembered event essays. To see

READINGS

ANALYZING WRITING

STRATEGIES

Basic Features

 

 

DILLARD / AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD 27

how writers use naming and detailing to create vivid images, look closely at Dillard’s description of an iceball:

I started making an iceball — a [ perfect ] iceball, from [ perfectly white] snow, [ perfectly spherical], and [squeezed perfectly translucent] so no snow remained all the way through. (par. 6)

Notice that she names two things (underlined): iceball and snow. She adds to these names descriptive details (in brackets) — white (color), spherical (shape), and translucent (appearance) — that help readers imagine more precisely what an ice- ball looks like. She also repeats the words perfect and perfectly (highlighted) to emphasize the color, shape, and appearance of this particular iceball.

To analyze Dillard’s use of the describing strategies of naming and detailing to present places and people, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 10 and 12, where she describes the man and the neighbor- hood through which he chases her and Mikey.

Underline the names of people and objects (nouns).

Put brackets around the words and phrases that modify the nouns they name.

Write a couple of sentences explaining what you notice about the relative amount of naming and detailing Dillard uses in these paragraphs and the kinds of details she chooses to include.

Autobiographical Significance

Writers convey significance by a combination of showing and telling. Showing, through the careful choice of words and details, creates an overall or dominant impression. Telling includes the narrator’s remembered feelings and thoughts together with her present perspective on what happened and why it is significant.

To analyze Dillard’s use of showing to convey significance, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 7, 10, 13, 16, 18, 20–21, and highlight the details Dillard uses to describe the man, how he dresses, the car he drives, and especially the way he talks when he catches the kids.

Write a couple of sentences characterizing the dominant impression you get of the man from these details and what they suggest about why he chases the kids.

To analyze Dillard’s use of telling to convey significance, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 15–21 and highlight the key words Dillard uses to tell read- ers what she thinks of the man and the chase.

Write a couple of sentences explaining what these key words tell you about the significance of the experience for Dillard.

Write another sentence discussing how the opening anecdote about learning to play football fearlessly and courageously helps you understand the significance of the event for Dillard.

To learn more about the describing strategies of naming and detailing, see Chapter 15.

READINGS

 

 

28 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

Like Dillard, you could write about a time when an adult did something entirely unexpected during your childhood, an action that seemed dangerous or threatening to you, or something humorous, kind, or generous. List two or three of these occa- sions. Consider unpredictable actions of adults in your immediate or extended family, adults you had come to know outside your family, and strangers. As you consider these possible topics, think about your purpose and audience: What would you want your instructor and classmates to learn about you from reading about this particular event?

TREY ELLIS is a film professor at Columbia University and a prolific writer. He has written novels including Right Here, Right Now (1999), winner of the American Book Award; plays and screenplays, including The Tuskegee Airmen (1995); and essays published in notable news- papers and magazines such as the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Salon. He also does commentary for NPR’s All Things Considered and blogs for the Huffington Post and his own Web site, treyellis.com. His

most recent publication is Bedtime Stories: Adventures in the Land of Single-Fatherhood (2008), from which this essay was adapted for publication in the New York Times.

The reading tells what happened when Ellis was twenty-two years old and visited his father in France. Ellis includes a photograph of his father. As you read, think about what the photograph adds to your reading of the essay.

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR

OWN ESSAY

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READINGS

When the Walls Came Tumbling Down

TREY ELLIS

Ayear before his death, my dad was forced to come out to me. I thought he was in Paris for a vacation. Instead, he was there for treatment with AZT, which in 1986 was experimental and not yet approved in the United States for people infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

After my mother died when I was 16, my dad fulfilled his lifelong dream and moved us from Hamden, a suburb of New Haven, to Manhattan and there raised me alone. Moving from our modest three-bedroom in suburban Connecticut to a majestic prewar on the corner of West 81st Street and Riverside Drive made me feel like George Jefferson in the television comedy series “The Jeffersons.” During my first year there, I unconsciously found myself humming the show’s theme song, “Movin’ On Up,” every time I passed our uniformed doormen.

 

 

READINGSELLIS / WHEN THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN 29

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I might have had my suspi- cions about my father’s sexual- ity (finding an International Male catalog, with its all-male photo lay- outs, under his mattress probably should have tipped me off years earlier). But back then I couldn’t reconcile my love for him with my own juvenile homophobia.

That August, I was 22, a year out of college and visiting my fa- ther in Paris, where he had found a sublet off Place d’Italie on the Boulevard de Port Royal. He said

he was interviewing for a spot as a roving State Department psychiatrist based there. The job was a world away from his work at the time, as a child psychiatrist shepherd- ing hundreds of troubled kids at a center run by Harlem Hospital.

It wasn’t until my father opened the door that I realized something terrifyingly life-altering was about to be revealed. Always movie-star handsome, he looked older than I had remembered him, and his light green eyes had gone dull.

“Trey, I’m not here to work for the State Department,” he said. “I wanted to, but then I got sick.”

O.K. He’s sick. He’ll get better. I’ll help him get better. “Have you heard of ARC, AIDS-related complex?” Did he just say he’s got AIDS? “It’s not AIDS. They just don’t want it to ever turn into AIDS so I came here to

try this new drug called AZT.” “Rock Hudson came here, right? He took the same stuff and he died.” “Not everyone dies.” He told me he had been with some men, but that he thought he had always been

careful. I said I had to go for a walk. This is impossible, I was thinking. My mom killed herself when I was still a teen-

ager. After she died, I loved my dad so hard, for both of them. But remember it’s not AIDS, I told myself, just some sort of pre-AIDS. The best scientists in the world are working on only this problem. They’ll find some pill, I told myself. I’ll help them find some pill. We’ll get though this and say: “Phew! That was a close one!”

When I returned to his apartment, I was almost smiling. My bad luck would be cosmically counterbalanced by the miraculous good luck of having a father who would be the very first person in the world to recover from AIDS.

We never left each other’s sight that week. Without his huge secret between us, we could now talk about anything. He told me about his boyfriends and girlfriends and his heartaches, and as long as he didn’t give too much information I was happy to listen.

We became best friends. And when he returned home to New York, I was his live-in nurse for those last six months, supercharging his Cream of Wheat with heavy

The author’s father, Dr. William Ellis, in 1983, a few years before he became ill.

 

 

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cream to try to keep his weight up, emptying his dialysis bag several times a day after his kidneys failed, and sharing his king-size bed.

By Christmas he seemed better and my plan was for the cure to arrive some time in the middle of the following year. So in mid-January, when he was admitted into St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center with AIDS-related pneumonia, I refused to panic. The doctors said opportunistic infections were to be expected. Sitting up in his hospital bed, my dad displayed a calm nobility I still try to remember to emulate. He explained that if the pneumonia didn’t surrender to the antibiotics, he very likely would die.

He said that at his memorial service he wanted a childhood friend turned opera singer to sing an old spiritual, “There’s a Man Goin’ Round Taking Names.” I took notes just to humor him, but assured him that he was just being a drama queen. Five days later, my godfather, also a physician, called me at 3 a.m. and told me to hurry back to the hospital.

When I showed up, my father’s eyes were Caribbean clear, yet huge and eerily calm, though it was hard to see the rest of his face through all the white tape and the plastic tubing. My fingers found his, and we stared at each other as I cried.

I wished he could still speak, because I was in no shape to say anything more than that I loved him. I wanted to tell him that I’d be fine. That he’d raised me just perfectly right. I went home to the apartment. A few hours later he was dead, four days short of 50.

In those days, no one spoke about AIDS. No one outside a small circle knew for sure why my father died. Even now, 22 years later, what’s left of my family has pleaded with me not to tell the truth.

My dad never understood how he could have contracted AIDS. He swore that he was scrupulously hygienic. I subsequently learned from a family doctor, who had checked my dad’s records, that my father’s AIDS must have been passed along by a tainted blood transfusion.

The explanation was an odd blessing. If my dad had known what caused his AIDS, he probably never would have come out to me. He would have died with so many secrets still lodged in his heart. And I would have never known my father with the fullness every child craves. Embarrassment is always the price we pay for more intimacy. Perhaps there is no such thing as too much information.

MAKING CONNECTIONS:

INTIMACY

Ellis concludes his essay by pointing out the irony that if his father had known that he got AIDS from a blood transfusion, “he probably never would have come out to me. . . . Embarrassment is always the price we pay for more intimacy. Perhaps there is no such thing as too much information.” Ellis seems to be defining intimacy as the ability to be open with another person and share the most personal information. He describes how after his father came out to him, they became “best friends” because they could “talk about anything” (pars. 17–18).

With other students in your class, discuss your experience and understanding of intimacy by describing a relationship you have with a close friend or family member. Note that we’re not talking about sexual intimacy, but about strictly

 

 

ELLIS / WHEN THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN 31

emotional intimacy. You may choose to talk about a relationship that has not become intimate, perhaps because of embarrassment, lack of trust, fear of being rejected, or the need to control. Don’t feel constrained to share details; just de- scribe the kinds of things you feel comfortable sharing.

Discuss what you learned about intimacy from this relationship. To help keep your discussion focused, consider the following questions:

What do you look for in an intimate relationship?

Ellis generalizes that embarrassment is a barrier to intimacy. What else could have prevented the relationship between Ellis and his father from becoming intimate?

A Well-Told Story

To keep readers’ interest, even the most exciting stories, like Dillard’s story of being chased through city streets and backyards, need to be organized in a way that builds suspense and tension. A common way to represent the dramatic organization of a narrative is with a pyramid:

You can use this pyramid to analyze the structure of a story you’re reading or to outline a story you’re planning to write (see p. 48).

If you compare the dramatic structure of Dillard’s story to Brandt’s, you will see that the two writers give more space to different elements of the story. After several paragraphs of exposition, Dillard devotes most of the story to the rising action as the man chases Dillard and Mikey relentlessly through streets and backyards. The climax comes when he catches the kids, but the story ends without description of the falling action or resolution. Brandt has a more complicated rising action that includes the mini-climaxes of getting caught and getting arrested before the final confrontation with her parents, followed by falling action and a briefly stated resolution.

To analyze how Ellis organizes his story, do the following:

Skim the essay and note in the margin where you find the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Does Ellis’s story have one climax, or more than one?

ANALYZING WRITING STRATEGIES

Exposition: Background information is presented, the scene set, and characters introduced.

Rising Action: The basic conflict is set off by an inciting incident, arousing curiosity and suspense, and possibly leading to other conflicts and complications.

Climax: The emotional high point, often a turning point marking a change for good or ill,is reached.

Falling Action: Tension subsides and conflicts unravel, but may include a final surprise.

Resolution: Conflicts come to an end, but may not be fully resolved.

Exposition Resolution

Ri sin

g Ac

tio n Falling Action

Climax

READINGS

Basic Features

 

 

32 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

Write a few sentences indicating how useful it is for you to outline the story in this way. Describe another way of outlining the story if you think that it would be more useful.

Vivid Description of People

Writers of remembered event essays typically describe people sparingly, using just a few choice details. For example, Brandt names her relatives but never describes them; although she does mention looking into her parents’ eyes, she doesn’t describe their expressions. The only person she describes is the store detective: a “middle- aged man, dressed in street clothes, flashing some type of badge” (par. 5). Dillard, on the other hand, gives us brief descriptions of several neighborhood boys: “Mikey and Peter — polite blond boys,” as well as the other boys “from across Reynolds, where the boys grew up dark and furious, grew up skinny, knowing, and skilled” (par. 4). As you’ve discovered in analyzing how she describes the man who chased her and Mikey, Dillard’s description is brief but vivid.

To analyze how Ellis describes his father, do the following:

Reread the following two brief descriptions, underlining the objects being described and putting brackets around the words and phrases that describe them (detailing such things as the color, shape, size, and appearance of the objects):

It wasn’t until my father opened the door that I realized something terrifyingly life-altering was about to be revealed. Always movie-star handsome, he looked older than I had remembered him, and his light green eyes had gone dull. (par. 5)

When I showed up, my father’s eyes were Caribbean clear, yet huge and eerily calm, though it was hard to see the rest of his face through all the white tape and the plastic tubing. (par. 21)

Write a couple of sentences reflecting on the dominant impression created by these two descriptions, pointing out the naming and detailing that stands out for you.

Autobiographical Significance

Writers convey the significance of events by telling how they felt and what they thought at the time the event occurred and by telling what they think now as they look back on the event. Here’s an example from Brandt’s essay where she presents her remembered feelings and thoughts:

I felt like a terrible human being. I would rather have stayed in jail than confront my mom right then. I dreaded each passing minute that brought our encounter closer. (par. 35)

The following example from Dillard’s essay shows the writer’s reflections looking back on the event from her present perspective:

. . . what precisely could he have done to prolong the drama of the chase and cap its glory? I brooded about this for the next few years. (par. 20)

READINGS

 

 

ELLIS / WHEN THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN 33

Obviously, in writing about his father’s illness and death, Ellis has chosen a subject that is inherently significant — both important in his life and deeply meaningful.

To analyze how Ellis presents his remembered feelings and thoughts as well as his present perspective, follow these suggestions:

Reread paragraphs 6–10, where Ellis alternates dialogue with thoughts he had but didn’t express at the time, and highlight the remembered thoughts.

Reread paragraphs 22–24 and highlight in another color Ellis’s present reflec- tions from his perspective.

Write a few sentences explaining what you learn about Ellis from his remem- bered thoughts and from his present perspective.

PHOTOGRAPH OF TREY ELLIS’S FATHER

Write a paragraph or two analyzing the photograph Ellis includes in his remem- bered event essay and explaining what it contributes to the essay.

To analyze the visual, you can use the Criteria for Analyzing Visuals chart on pp. 675–77. The chart offers a series of questions you can ask yourself under two categories: Key Components and Rhetorical Context. You will see that there are a lot of questions, but don’t feel you have to answer all of them. Focus on the questions that seem most productive in helping you write a short analysis. Try beginning with these questions that specifically refer to Ellis’s photograph:

People

Why do you think Ellis chose a photograph of his father alone rather than one with both of them in it?

Scene

Why do you think Ellis chose a photograph of his father in his office rather than at home or elsewhere?

What impression do you get of Ellis’s dad from the way his office looks — for example, from the piles of files and books as well as the other objects on the desk?

Rhetorical Context

How does the photograph’s portrayal of Ellis’s dad add to Ellis’s description of him in paragraphs 5 and 21? Note that in the original New York Times article, the photo was black-and-white. What, if anything, is the effect of reproducing it in color, as we do here?

How does seeing Ellis’s father as a doctor help you understand the tone his dad adopts when he tells Ellis about his illness in paragraphs 6, 8, 10, and 12?

ANALYZING VISUALS

READINGS

 

 

34 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

In one sense, the event Ellis writes about was tragic: The news his father broke to him was of an illness that led to his death a few short months later. Ellis tells us, however, that the event had an unexpectedly positive side effect: It gave him an opportunity to help his dad and get to know him in a new way. For your own essay, you, too, might consider writing about an event that had an unexpectedly positive outcome. Ellis’s essay also suggests the possibility of writing about an event that challenged your pre- conceptions or prejudices. Ellis tells us that learning about his father’s sexual orienta- tion challenged his “own juvenile homophobia” (par. 3). As you consider these possible topics, think about your purpose and audience. What would you want your instructor and classmates to learn about you from reading about this particular event?

SAIRA SHAH, a British journalist and documentary filmmaker, won the Courage Under Fire and Television Journalist of the Year awards for her reporting on Afghan guerrillas fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, as well as the Persian Gulf War and the conflict in Kosovo. She is best known in the United States for her undercover documentary films about the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Beneath the Veil (2001) and Unholy War (2002), as well as for Death in Gaza (2004), about chil-

dren caught in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The following selection, adapted from Shah’s autobiography, The Storyteller’s

Daughter (2003), tells what happened when, at the age of seventeen, she visited her fa- ther’s Afghan relatives in Pakistan. In an interview, Shah explains: “When I was growing up, I had this secret doubt — which I couldn’t even admit to myself — that I was not at all an Afghan because I was born in Britain to a mixed family.” As you read, think about the way Shah conveys her anxiety about her identity.

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR

OWN ESSAY

LONGING TO BELONG Saira Shah

The day he disclosed his matrimonial ambitions for me, my uncle sat me at his right during lunch. This was a sign of special favor, as it allowed him to feed me choice tidbits from his own plate. It was by no means an unadulterated pleasure. He would often generously withdraw a half-chewed delicacy from his mouth and lovingly cram it into mine — an Afghan habit with which I have since tried to come to terms. It was his way of telling me that I was valued, part of the family.

My brother and sister, Tahir and Safia, and my elderly aunt Amina and I were all attending the wedding of my uncle’s son. Although my uncle’s home was closer than I’d ever been, I was not yet inside Afghanistan. This branch of my family lived in Peshawar, Pakistan. On seeing two unmarried daughters in the company of a female

1

2

READINGS

 

 

READINGSSHAH / LONGING TO BELONG 35

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

chaperone, my uncle obviously concluded that we had been sent to be married. I was taken aback by the visceral longing I felt to be part of this world. I had never realized that I had been starved of anything. Now, at 17, I discovered that like a princess in a fairy tale, I had been cut off from my origins. This was the point in the tale where, simply by walking through a magical door, I could recover my gardens and palaces. If I allowed my uncle to arrange a marriage for me, I would belong.

Over the next few days, the man my family wished me to marry was introduced into the inner sanctum. He was a distant cousin. His luxuriant black mustache was generally considered to compensate for his lack of height. I was told breathlessly that he was a fighter pilot in the Pakistani Air Force. As an outsider, he wouldn’t have been permitted to meet an unmarried girl. But as a relative, he had free run of the house. Whenever I appeared, a female cousin would fling a child into his arms. He’d pose with it, whiskers twitching, while the women cooed their admiration.

A huge cast of relatives had assembled to see my uncle’s son marry. The wedding lasted nearly 14 days and ended with a reception. The bride and groom sat on an elevated stage to receive greetings. While the groom was permitted to laugh and chat, the bride was required to sit perfectly still, her eyes demurely lowered. I didn’t see her move for four hours.

Watching this tableau vivant of a submissive Afghan bride, I knew that marriage would never be my easy route to the East. I could live in my father’s mythological homeland only through the eyes of the storyteller. In my desire to experience the fairy tale, I had overlooked the staggeringly obvious: the storyteller was a man. If I wanted freedom, I would have to cut my own path. I began to understand why my uncle’s wife had resorted to using religion to regain some control — at least in her own home. Her piety gave her license to impose her will on others.

My putative fiancé returned to Quetta, from where he sent a constant flow of lavish gifts. I was busy examining my hoard when my uncle’s wife announced that he was on the phone. My intended was a favorite of hers; she had taken it upon herself to promote the match. As she handed me the receiver, he delivered a line culled straight from a Hindi movie: “We shall have a love-match, ach-cha?’’ Enough was enough. I slammed down the phone and went to find Aunt Amina. When she had heard me out, she said: “I’m glad that finally you’ve stopped this silly wild goose chase for your roots. I’ll have to extricate you from this mess. Wait here while I put on something more impressive.’’ As a piece of Islamic one-upmanship, she returned wearing not one but three head scarves of different colors.

My uncle’s wife was sitting on her prayer platform in the drawing room. Amina stormed in, scattering servants before her like chaff. “Your relative . . . ,’’ was Amina’s open- ing salvo, “. . . has been making obscene remarks to my niece.’’ Her mouth opened, but before she could find her voice, Amina fired her heaviest guns: “Over the telephone!’’

“How dare you!’’ her rival began. It gave Amina exactly the opportunity she needed to move in for the kill. “What?

Do you support this lewd conduct? Are we living in an American movie? Since when have young people of mixed sexes been permitted to speak to each other on the tele- phone? Let alone to talk — as I regret to inform you your nephew did — of love! Since when has love had anything to do with marriage? What a dangerous and absurd concept!’’

 

 

36 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTREADINGS

10My Peshawari aunt was not only outclassed; she was out-Islamed too. “My niece is a rose that hasn’t been plucked,’’ Amina said. “It is my task as her chaperone to ensure that this happy state of affairs continues. A match under such circumstances is quite out of the question. The engagement is off.’’ My uncle’s wife lost her battle for moral supremacy and, it seemed, her battle for sanity as well. In a gruff, slack-jawed way that I found unap- pealing, she made a sharp, inhuman sound that sounded almost like a bark.

This essay is titled “Longing to Belong” because Shah is writing about a time in her life when she felt “cut off from [her] origins” and was searching for her identity (par. 2). Shah’s search took her to her father’s homeland, where she discovered that she did not want to fit in, after all. With other students in your class, discuss some- thing you have learned about your own search for identity.

Begin by telling one another about an occasion when you tried to discover or recover some part of your identity — perhaps, like Shah, by visiting or researching a place you or your parents used to live. Alternatively, you may have tried to reinvent yourself in some other interesting or unique way — such as taking on a new hobby, trying out for a play or team, doing volunteer work, or actively seeking out new acquaintances. Together, discuss what you learned from this experience of searching for identity:

How successful was your search?

What do you think leads people to this kind of search? What led you?

Clearly, Shah’s family, community, ethnic, or religious traditions affected her ideas about identity. What influences your ideas about identity?

A Well-Told Story

Dialogue is a narrating strategy that helps writers dramatize a story. Hearing what was said and how it was said can also help readers identify with or at least under- stand the writer’s point of view and also give us an impression of the speakers. There are two ways to present dialogue: dramatizing or summarizing it.

Dramatized dialogue reconstructs what was said. You can easily identify dra- matized dialogue because it uses quotation marks. Most writers (Brandt is an ex- ception) include speaker tags identifying the speakers and describing them in some way. Here is an example:

It was a long time before he could speak. I had some difficulty at first recalling why we were there. My lips felt swollen; I couldn’t see out of the sides of my eyes; I kept coughing.

“You stupid kids,” he began perfunctorily.

We listened perfunctorily indeed, if we listened at all, for the chewing out was redundant, a mere formality, and beside the point. . . . (Dillard, pars. 17–19)

MAKING CONNECTIONS:

SEARCH FOR IDENTITY

ANALYZING WRITING

STRATEGIES

Basic Features

 

 

SHAH / LONGING TO BELONG 37

Summarized dialogue reports the content of what was said but doesn’t report the words or use quotation marks:

Not more than ten minutes later, two officers arrived and placed me under arrest. They said that I was to be taken to the station alone. (Brandt, par. 16)

To analyze Shah’s use of dialogue, follow these suggestions:

Find two examples of dialogue — one that is dramatized and the other summarized.

Write a couple of sentences speculating about why Shah decided to dramatize one and summarize the other bit of dialogue.

Add a sentence or two assessing Shah’s choice. What would be the effect if the dramatized example was summarized and the summarized example was dra- matized?

A Vivid Description of People and Places

Interestingly, Shah chooses not to describe the city of Peshawar where her uncle’s family lives. Nor does she describe the dining room or any of the other rooms in the house. Although she does not use the strategies of naming and detailing to give read- ers a visual image of the place, she does use a third describing strategy: comparing.

Comparing involves the use of simile or metaphor. A simile compares two dif- ferent things explicitly by using the word like or as. Metaphor makes the compari- son implicitly by describing one thing as though it were another thing.

To analyze Shah’s use of simile or metaphor, do the following:

Reread paragraph 2 and highlight the simile and the metaphor Shah uses.

Write a few sentences explaining what these comparisons tell you about the place and Shah’s attitude toward it.

Autobiographical Significance

Writers often use description to create an overall or dominant impression. Notice, for example, how Shah builds on her “princess in a fairy tale” comparison when she describes the bride and groom sitting on “an elevated stage” with the bride “required to sit perfectly still, her eyes demurely lowered” (par. 4). She calls this image a “tableau vivant” (which literally means “living picture”) of a “submissive Afghan bride” (par. 5).

To analyze how Shah conveys the significance of the event, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 4 and 5 and consider their relation to the comparisons she uses in paragraph 2. (See the previous activity.)

Write a couple of sentences describing the dominant impression you get from these paragraphs.

Add another sentence or two explaining how the dominant impression helps you understand the significance of the event for Shah.

For more on compar- ing strategies, including similes and metaphors, see Chapter 15, pp. 631–32.

For more on creating a dominant impression, see Chapter 15, pp. 637–38.

READINGS

 

 

38 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

Like Shah, consider writing about an event that you were looking forward to but that turned out differently than you had expected — perhaps turning out to be a dreadful disappointment, a delightful surprise, or, more likely, a combination of disappointment and delight. Alternatively, you might write about a time when you had thought you wanted something but then realized your desires were more com- plicated; a time when you were trying to fit in and discovered something unexpected about yourself or about the group to which you wanted to belong; or a time when you decided not to try to conform to someone’s expectations, but to rebel and go your own way. If, like Shah’s, your experience involves a clash of cultures, you might write about that aspect of your experience, how it has affected you, and what you have learned from the experience.

As you consider these possible topics, think about your purpose and audience. What would you want your instructor and classmates to learn about you from read- ing about this particular event?

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Remembering an Event

Our culture commemorates events in many ways that are likely familiar to you. Physical memorials such as statues, plaques, monu- ments, and buildings are traditional means of ensuring that important events remain in our collective memory: Relatively recent examples include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the planned commem- orative complex at the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack in New York City. Though such memorials function primarily visually, rather than textually, they can also be seen to exhibit the basic features we’ve discussed in essays remembering an event. The Vietnam memorial is a dramatic, V-shaped black gran- ite wall partly embedded in the earth, which

reflects the images of visitors reading the names of the dead and missing inscribed there; the names are presented in chronological order, telling the story of the con- flict from start to finish in terms of the American lives that were lost. In a statement accompanying her design for the memorial, architect Maya Lin summarizes its significance: “These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of over- whelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole.”

Community gatherings, which often include speeches, music, and visual trib- utes, and community activities like the ongoing creation of the AIDs Memorial Quilt (http://www.aidsquilt.org), are also means of remembering events. Films, books,

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR

OWN ESSAY

READINGS

 

 

BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL ESSAY: REMEMBERING AN EVENT 39

plays, poems, music albums, art exhibits, Web sites, and other forms of expression are still other means by which people in our culture retell the stories of important events, encouraging those who read, view, or listen to them to reexperience them and reflect. Just one example among countless similar examples is offered by the Exploratorium (www.exploratorium.edu), an online “museum of science, art, and human perception,” which hosts a site called “Remembering Nagasaki,” constructed to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, near the end of World War II. The site features photos taken by Japanese army photog- rapher Yosuke Yamahata immediately after the bombing, in addition to “a public forum on issues related to the atomic age.”

As you work on your own project remembering an event, you might want to consult some of these alternative forms of commemoration for inspiration. If the format in which you are working allows for it — if, for example, you are creating a poster, Web site, or video — you should consider taking advantage of the strategies available to those working in multimedia: for example, by embedding artifacts that are relevant to the event you’re relating. (Always remember to properly document any material you might use that was created by someone else.)

READINGS

 

www.exploratorium.edu

 

Guide to Writing

40

The Writing Assignment Write an essay about an event in your life that will engage readers and that will, at the same time, help them understand the significance of the event. Tell your story dramatically and vividly.

This Guide to Writing will help you apply what you have learned about how writers invest their remembered event essays with drama, vividness, and significance. The Guide is divided into five sections with various activities in each section:

Invention and Research

Planning and Drafting

Critical Reading Guide

Revising

Editing and Proofreading

The Guide is designed to escort you through the writing process, from finding an event to editing your finished essay. Your instructor may require you to follow the Guide to Writing from beginning to end. Working through the Guide to Writing in this way will help you — as it has helped many other college students — write a thoughtful, fully developed, polished essay.

If, however, your instructor gives you latitude to choose and if you have had experience writing a remembered event essay, then you can decide on the order in which you’ll do the activities in the Guide to Writing. For example, the Invention and Research section includes activities to help you find an event, sketch the story, describe the people and places, and explore significance. Obviously, finding an event must precede the other activities, but you may come to the Guide with an event already in mind, and you may choose to explore its significance before sketching the story or begin by describing the place it happened because it is par- ticularly vivid in your memory. In fact, you may find your response to one of the invention activities expanding into a draft before you’ve had a chance to do any of the other activities. That’s a good thing — but you should later flesh out your draft by going back to the activities you skipped and layering the new material into your draft.

The following chart will help you find answers to many of the questions you might have about planning, drafting, and revising a remembered event essay. The page references in the Where to Look column refer to examples from the readings and activities in the Guide to Writing.

To learn about using the Guide e-book for invention and drafting, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

 

 

Starting Points: Remembering an Event Basic Features

What’s my purpose in writing? How can I interest my audience?

Considering Topics for Your Own Essay (pp. 28, 34, 38) How do I come up with

Question Where to Look

(p. 44)

How can I make my

Vivid Description of People and

Places

Choosing an Event

keep track of what happened?

How can I make the story

story?

A Well-Told Story

grasp the significance of my story?

How can I make a dominant impression?

Impression (p. 44)

Autobiographical Significance

 

 

42 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTGUIDE TO WRITING

Invention and Research

Choosing an Event to Write About

List several significant past events in your life and choose one to explore.

made in response to these suggestions.

Types of Events to Consider

you down)

Criteria for Choosing an Event:

A Checklist

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 43 GUIDE TO WRITING

an incident that changed you in a particular way or revealed an aspect of your personality you had not seen before (for example, dependence, insecurity, ambition, jealousy, or heroism)

an event in which an encounter with another person led you to consider seriously someone else’s point of view or changed you (for example, the way you view yourself, your ideas about how you fit into a particular group or community)

an incident in which you had a conflict with someone else or a serious mis- understanding that made you feel unjustly treated or in which you realize you mistreated someone else (for example, an incident of racial bias, sexual harass- ment, false accusation, or hurtful gossip)

an incident that made you reexamine a basic value or belief (for example, when you were expected to do something that went against your values or make a decision about which you were deeply conflicted)

an event that made you aware of your interest in or aptitude for a particular career or convinced you that you were not cut out for a particular career

an event that revealed to you other people’s surprising assumptions about you (as a student, friend, colleague, or worker)

Using the Web to Find and Explore an Event

Exploring Web sites where people write about their life experiences might inspire you by triggering memories of similar events in your own life. Moreover, the Internet provides a rich repository of cultural and historical information, including photographs and music, which you might be able to use to prime your memory and create a richly detailed, multimedia text for your readers.

Here are some suggestions:

Investigate Web sites such as Citystories.com, StoryPreservation.com, and MemoryArchive.org where people post brief stories about their lives.

Search sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Blogspot featuring people you are writing about, as well as sites of friends, family members, or others who have been important to you.

Look for sites related to places or activities — such as neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, sports events, or films — that you associate with the event you are writing about.

Take a look at narrative history sites such as Survivors’ Stories, Katrina Stories, and Sixties Personal Narrative Project to see what people who experienced these events are writing about.

Make notes of any ideas, memories, or insights suggested by your online research, and download any visuals you might include in your essay, being sure to get the information necessary to cite any online sources. (See pp. 774-76 for the MLA cita- tion format for electronic sources.)

 

 

44 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTGUIDE TO WRITING

Ways In: Constructing a Well-Told Story

Once you’ve made a preliminary choice of an event, the following activities will help you begin to construct a well-told story, with vivid descriptions of people and places. You can begin with whichever basic activity you want, but wherever you begin, be sure to return to the other activities to fill in the details.

Sketch the Story. Write a quick sketch telling roughly what happened. Don’t worry about what you’re leaving out; you can fill in the details later.

Explore a Revealing or Pivotal Moment. Write for a few minutes developing a moment of surprise, confrontation, crisis, change, or discovery that may become the climax of your story. To dramatize it, try using specific narrative actions and dialogue.

Reimagine the Place. Identify the place where the event occurred and describe it. What do you see, hear, or smell? Use details — shape, color, texture — to evoke the scene.

Research Visuals. Try to locate visuals you could include in your essay: Look through memorabilia such as family photographs, yearbooks, newspaper articles, concert programs, ticket stubs, or T-shirts — anything that might stimulate your memory and help you reflect on the place. If you submit your essay electronically or post it online, also consider adding music that you associate with the event. (You may need to cite where you found your sources, so keep a record.)

Describe People. Write about people who played a role in the event. For each person, name and detail a few distinctive physical features, mannerisms, dress, and so on.

Create a Dialogue. Reconstruct one important conversation you had during the event. You will probably not remember exactly what was said, but try to re-create the spirit of the interaction. Consider adding speaker tags (see p. 36) to show people’s tone of voice, attitude, and gestures.

Research People. Do some research and add to your invention notes any thoughts or feelings suggested by what you find. Look for photographs, e-mails, letters, or videos from the time of the event. Contact people involved in the event. Imagine having a conversation with someone who was there: What would you say about what happened? How might the person respond?

Reflect on the Conflict and Its Significance. Identify the conflict and do some exploratory writing about it. If it was an internal conflict, a struggle within yourself, how does the event reflect what you were going through? If it was an external confrontation between you and someone else, how can you dramatize what occurred? Do exploratory writing of both kinds if the conflict was both internal and external, as it was for Brandt.

Shaping the Story Describing the Place Recalling Key People

Basic Features

Creating a Dominant Impression

Reread what you have written for Shaping the Story, Describing the Place, and Recalling Key People, and consider the overall or dominant impression of your descriptions. Review your word choices and descriptive details, and add language to strengthen the impression you want to make. Imagine writing a song or making a film based

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 45 GUIDE TO WRITING

on this event. If you were making a film, what mood or atmosphere would you try to create? If you were writing a song, what kind would you write — blues, hip-hop, country, rock? What kind of refrain would it have? Try not to oversimplify or sugar- coat the meanings; instead, note where your description points to complexities and contradictions that could deepen your story.

Testing Your Choice

After you’ve made some attempts to construct the story, you should pause to decide whether you recall enough of the event and care enough about it to write about it. Test your choice using the following questions.

Will I be able to reconstruct enough of the story and describe the place and people with enough vivid detail to make my story dramatic and create a dominant impression?

Do I feel drawn toward understanding what this event meant to me then and means to me now? You need not yet understand the significance, but you should feel compelled to explore it — keeping in mind that you will decide what you want to disclose in your essay.

Do I feel comfortable writing about this event for my instructor and classmates? You are not writing a diary entry. Rather, you are writing a public document — a fact that may give you pause, but may also inspire you.

If you lose confidence in your choice, return to the list of possible events you made, and choose another event.

Get together with two or three other students to try out your story. Your classmates’ reac-

tions will help you determine whether you have chosen an event you can present in an

interesting way.

Storytellers: Take turns telling your story briefly, describing the place and key people.

Try to pique your listeners’ curiosity and build suspense.

Listeners: Briefly tell each storyteller what you found most intriguing about the story.

For example, consider these questions:

Were you eager to know how the story would turn out?

Was there a clear conflict that seemed important enough to write about?

Were you able to identify with the storyteller?

Could you understand why the event was significant for the storyteller?

Exploring Memorabilia

Memorabilia are visual images, video clips, recordings, and objects that can help you remember details and explore the personal and cultural significance of an event. Examples include photographs, Facebook pages, e-mails, old telephone book entries, newspaper clippings, music, and ticket stubs. Memorabilia are not required for suc- cess with this assignment, but they may prove helpful in stimulating your memory.

Look for memorabilia relevant to the event, and add to your invention notes details about the time period, places, and people that the memorabilia suggest. In addition to

A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

 

 

46 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTGUIDE TO WRITING

personal memorabilia, you could do research on the historical period or the cultural context in which the event you are writing about took place, collecting images or other records of relevant material. Consider including memorabilia in your essay by photocopying, scanning, or downloading images or other records into your electronic document. If your project will be submitted electronically, you should consider in- cluding sound, video, links, and other digital material that’s relevant to your event.

Ways In: Reflecting on the Event’s Autobiographical Significance

The following activities will help you to understand the meaning that the event holds in your life and to develop ways to convey this significance to your readers. It might help to move back and forth between your memory of the experience and how you see it now — examining changes in your attitude toward the event and your younger self. Also move between your past and present feelings and the domi- nant impression your description and narrative makes. Often, our word choices — what we focus on and how we describe it, especially the comparisons we draw — can tell us a lot about our feelings.

Recalling Your Remembered Feelings and Thoughts

Exploring Your Present Perspective

Write for a few minutes, exploring what you can say or show that will let readers know how you felt and what you thought at the time the event occurred.

vulnerable, proud or embarrassed, or a combination of contradictory feelings?

time?

thought the event was memorable, why? If not, what made you change your mind?

context in which the event took place? How do you think it affected you?

Write for a few minutes, exploring what you can say or show that will let readers know what you now think and feel about the event as you look back.

about the person you were then? How would you respond to the same event today?

internal and external, underlying the event? For example, did you struggle with contradictory desires? Were your needs in conflict with someone else’s?

at the time and how it may have affected your experience. What music, movies, sports, or books did you like? What concerns did you have at home, school, work, play? What do they suggest about who you were at the time?

asserting yourself, pleasing someone, or being pressured by someone else?

help explain it? How did your situation resemble what was happening to other people at the time? How did it relate to social norms and expectations?

Basic Features

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 47 GUIDE TO WRITING

Defining Your Purpose and Audience

Write for several minutes exploring what you want your readers to understand about the significance in your life of the event you have chosen to write about. Use these questions to help you clarify your thoughts:

Who are my readers, and what are they likely to think of me when they read about this event? What do I want them to think of me?

What about this event is likely to be familiar to my readers and what might surprise them, perhaps encouraging them to think in new ways or to question some of their assumptions and stereotypes?

What will writing about this event enable me to suggest about myself as an individual?

What will it let me suggest about the social and cultural forces that helped shape me — for example, how people exercise power over one another, how family or community values and attitudes affect individuals, or how economic and social conditions impact our lives?

Considering Your Thesis

Review what you wrote for Reflecting on the Event’s Autobiographical Significance and Defining Your Purpose and Audience, and add another two or three sentences extend- ing your insights. These sentences must necessarily be tentative because you may not yet fully understand the event’s significance.

Keep in mind that readers do not expect you to begin your remembered event essay with the kind of explicit thesis statement typical of argumentative or ex- planatory writing. You are not obliged to announce the significance, but you must convey it through the way you tell the story and through the dominant impression you create.

Planning and Drafting The following activities will help you refine your purpose, set goals for your draft, and outline it. In addition, this section will help you write a draft by writ- ing opening sentences, trying out a useful sentence strategy, and learning how to work with sources.

Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals

Here are some questions that may help you sharpen your purpose for your audi- ence and set goals before you start to draft. Your instructor may ask you to write out your answers to some of these questions or simply to think about them as you plan and draft your essay.

 

 

48 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTGUIDE TO WRITING

Clarifying Your Purpose and Audience

What do I want my readers to think of me as I was then and as I am now?

How can I avoid viewing the past with nostalgia, oversimplifying complicated feelings, or tacking on a moral?

How can I help readers understand the event’s meaning in my life — for example, how it tested or changed me, gave me insight, or made me question my assumptions?

How can I lead readers to think in new ways or to question some of their own assumptions or stereotypes?

Crafting Your Story

How can I present the conflict so that readers identify with me and can vicari- ously experience what I felt?

How can I make my story dramatic — arousing curiosity and building suspense?

How can I make the climax not only an emotional high point in the story but also explain it as a meaningful turning point in my life?

How can I describe people and places vividly so that readers can imagine what it was like and also create a dominant impression that shows the event’s signifi- cance?

How can I tell readers what I thought and felt at the time, and feel now looking back, without self-justification or moralizing?

Outlining Your Draft

With your purpose and goals in mind, reread what you wrote in response to the Shaping the Story activity (p. 44). Then make an outline to plan your story. You can make a simple scratch outline or create a chart like the one that follows, which shows the elements of the dramatic narrative pyramid (see p. 31) with examples from Jean Brandt’s essay.

Exposition I want to set the stage — the time, place, people, and mood — at the very beginning: Christmas, busy

mall, good mood of family. Have to mention fact that Snoopy anything was really big at the time.

Rising Action The “inciting incident” would be my stealing the button. The action will rise in 3 stages: (1) I’m caught

shoplifting; (2) I’m taken to the station; (3) I’m waiting to see my parents.

Climax I talk to my parents on the phone.

Falling Action I cry.

Resolution In the end, I realize it’s finally all over.

Example: “Calling Home” by Jean Brandt (pp. 18–22)

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 49 GUIDE TO WRITING

Once you have the basic storyline, you can add notes about where you might put some of your invention writing — description of people and places, dialogue, remembered feelings and thoughts, and reflections on the event from your present perspective. You also may see where you still need to fill in details. Use this outline to guide your drafting, but do not feel tied to it because you are likely to make dis- coveries as you draft your essay. Your outline may also be helpful when you revise your draft, so be sure to hang on to it.

Drafting

If you have not already begun to draft your essay, this section will help by suggest- ing how to craft your opening sentences; how to use temporal transitions and verb tenses to draft a narrative that readers will be able to follow; and how to decide when to quote, paraphrase, or summarize. Drafting isn’t always a smooth process, so don’t be afraid to skip the hard parts or to write notes to yourself about what you could do next. If you get stuck while drafting, go back over your invention writing. You may be able to copy and paste some of it into your evolving draft. Or you may need to do some additional invention to fill in details in your draft.

Writing the Opening Sentences

You could try out one or two different ways of beginning your story — possibly from the list that follows — but do not agonize over the first sentences because you are likely to discover the best way to begin only after you’ve written a rough draft. Review your invention writing to see if you have already written something that would work to launch your story. To engage your readers’ interest from the start, consider setting the stage with the following opening strategies:

a compelling graphic description of the place or a person

a startling specific narrative action you or someone else took that would sur- prise readers and arouse curiosity

a telling bit of dialogue

your present reflections on your past self or on the context of the event

your feelings at the time

A Sentence Strategy: Time Transitions and Verb Tenses

As you draft a remembered event essay, you will be trying to help readers follow the sequence of actions in time. To prevent readers from becoming confused about the chronology, writers use a combination of time transitions and verb tenses to help readers understand when the event occurred and when particular actions occurred in relation to other actions.

Cite calendar or clock time to establish when the event took place and to help readers follow the action over time. Writers often situate the event in terms of the date or time. Brandt, for example, establishes in the opening paragraph that the event occurred when she went to the mall for “a day of last-minute Christmas shopping.” Early in

 

 

50 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTGUIDE TO WRITING

her essay, Dillard identifies when the event took place: “On one weekday morning after Christmas . . .” (par. 3). Ellis also uses calendar time to establish the time the event began, but because his narrative spans months instead of hours, he gives read- ers a series of time cues throughout the essay so we can easily follow the progression: “A year before his death” (par. 1); “That August, I was 22” (par. 4); and so on.

Use temporal transitions combined with appropriate verb tenses to help readers follow a sequence of actions. Writers can employ temporal transitions such as after, before, in the meantime, and simultaneously to help readers keep track of the se- quence of actions:

When I got back to the Snoopy section, I took one look at the lines. . . . (Brandt, par. 3)

In this example, when signals that one action followed another in time: Brandt did not take a look at the lines until she got back to the Snoopy section. Here’s another example of a simple one-thing-and-then-another time progression:

We all spread out, banged together some regular snowballs, took aim, and, when the Buick drew nigh, fired. (Dillard, par. 7)

In this example, the word when together with a series of simple past-tense verbs indicates that a sequence of actions took place in a straightforward chronological order: they took their positions, made snowballs, aimed, the Buick came near, they threw their snowballs.

Transitions can also signal a more complicated relationship between the actions:

As we all piled into the car, I knew it was going to be a fabulous day. (Brandt, par. 1)

In this example, as indicates that the first action (piling into the car) occurred at the same time as the second action (I knew).

In many cases, the transition itself makes clear the order of the actions. But in some cases, readers have to pay attention to the verb tenses as well as the tran- sitional word:

When I returned to his apartment, I was almost smiling. (Ellis, par. 16)

In this example, Ellis uses when to indicate that both actions (returning and smiling) took place at the same time. Ellis’s first verb — returned — is in simple past tense, indicating that the action began and ended in the past, but his second verb — was . . . smiling — is in the past progressive tense, indicating that the action began and continued. In other words, he began smiling before he returned and continued to do so after he returned.

The primary source for remembered event essays is the writer’s memory of what was said at the time the event occurred. Although writers may not remember exactly what was said, they often reconstruct dialogue in order to make their stories dra- matic. Quoting tends to be more dramatic than either paraphrasing or summariz- ing, but you can use any of these strategies as you draft and revise your remembered event essay.

For more on temporal transitions, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide and click on Sentence Strategies; see also p. 611 in Chapter 13, Cueing the Reader.

Working with Sources: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 51 GUIDE TO WRITING

When you quote, you must enclose the words, phrases, or sentences within quotation marks. You may present a sequence of quotations, each in its own para- graph, as in this example of turn-taking:

“Excuse me. Are you a relative of this young girl?”

“Yes, I’m her sister. What’s the problem?”

“Well, I just caught her shoplifting and I’m afraid I’ll have to call the police.”

“What did she take?”

“This button.”

In this example from paragraphs 9–13, Brandt is careful to present the dialogue in a way that lets readers know who is speaking during each turn. Sometimes writers identify the speakers in the paragraphs that come before the turn-taking, as in this example:

There was a pause as he called my mother to the phone. For the first time that night, I was close to tears. I wished I had never stolen that stupid pin. I wanted to give the phone to one of the officers because I was too ashamed to tell my mother the truth, but I had no choice.

“Jean, where are you?”

“I’m, umm, in jail.” (Brandt, pars. 25–27)

You can also use speaker tags to identify the speaker, as Dillard does in the single quote she includes in her essay:

“You stupid kids,” he began perfunctorily. (par. 18)

You can learn more about speaker tags in the Working with Sources section in Chapter 3, pp. 112 –13.

Whereas Brandt lets her quotations stand by themselves, writers often encase quotes in description and narration, as in this example:

My uncle’s wife was sitting on her prayer platform in the drawing room. Amina stormed in, scattering servants before her like chaff. “Your relative . . . ,’’ was Amina’s opening salvo, “. . . has been making obscene remarks to my niece.’’ Her mouth opened, but before she could find her voice, Amina fired her heaviest guns: “Over the telephone!’’

“How dare you!’’ her rival began.

It gave Amina exactly the opportunity she needed to move in for the kill. “What? Do you support this lewd conduct? Are we living in an American movie? . . .’’ (Shah, pars. 7–9)

Paraphrasing and summarizing are alternatives to quoting that you should consider in cases where your readers need only a sense of what was said. Whereas quoting presents the words as if they had been spoken, paraphrase and summary use the

 

 

52 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTGUIDE TO WRITING

writer’s own words without quotation marks. Here are several examples of para- phrasing:

Next thing I knew, he was talking about calling the police and having me arrested and thrown in jail . . . (Brandt, par. 6)

I was told breathlessly that he was a fighter pilot in the Pakistani Air Force. (Shah, par. 3)

He explained that if the pneumonia didn’t surrender to the antibiotics, he very likely would die. (Ellis, par. 19)

He said that at his memorial service he wanted a childhood friend turned opera singer to sing an old spiritual, “There’s a Man Goin’ Round Taking Names.” (Ellis, par. 20)

Notice that these paraphrases essentially repeat the substance of what was said without representing it as the speaker’s words. Now look at two examples of sum- marizing:

He told me about his boyfriends and girlfriends and his heartaches. . . . (Ellis, par. 17)

The day he disclosed his matrimonial ambitions for me. . . . (Shah, par. 1)

Notice that these summaries identify the topics, giving the gist but none of the details of what was said.

To learn more about quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, see Chapter 24, pp. 756-64.

Critical Reading

Guide

For a printable version of this Critical Reading Guide, go to bedfordstmartins .com/theguide.

Your instructor may arrange a peer review session in class or online where you can exchange drafts with your classmates and give each other a thoughtful criti- cal reading, pointing out what works well and suggesting ways to improve the draft. This Critical Reading Guide can also be used productively by a tutor in the writing center or by a roommate or family member. A good critical reading does three things: it lets the writer know how well the reader understands the point of the story, praises what works best, and indicates where the draft could be improved.

1. Assess how well the story is told.

Praise: Give an example in the story where the storytelling is especially effective — for example, where the speaker tags help make a dialogue dra- matic or where specific narrative actions show people in action.

Critique: Tell the writer where the storytelling could be improved — for example, where the suspense slackens, the story lacks drama, or the chronol- ogy is confusing.

2. Consider how vividly people and places are described.

Praise: Give an example in the story where the description is particularly vivid — for example, where sensory description is particularly powerful or an apt comparison makes an image come alive.

Basic Features

 

 

REVISING 53 GUIDE TO WRITING

Revising Very likely you have already thought of ways to improve your draft, and you may even have begun to revise it. In this section is a Troubleshooting chart that may help. Before using the chart, however, it is a good idea to

review critical reading comments from your classmates, instructor, or writing center tutor, and

make an outline of your draft so that you can look at it analytically.

You may have made an outline before writing your draft, but after drafting you need to see what you actually wrote, not what you intended to write. You can outline the draft quickly by noting in the margin the elements of the dramatic narrative pyramid — exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution — and highlighting the basic features — storytelling, describing people and places, and indicating significance.

For an electronic version of the Troubleshooting Chart, go to bedfordstmartins .com/theguide.

Critique: Tell the writer where the description could be improved — for example, where objects in the scene are not named or described with specific sensory detail, where the description is sparse or seems to contradict rather than reinforce the significance.

3. Evaluate how well the autobiographical significance is conveyed.

Summarize: Tell the writer what you understand is the story’s basic conflict and significance.

Praise: Give an example where the significance comes across effectively — for example, where remembered feelings are poignant, the present perspec- tive seems insightful, or the description creates a strong dominant impres- sion that reinforces the significance.

Critique: Tell the writer where the significance could be strengthened — for example, if the conflict is too easily resolved, if a moral seems tacked on at the end, or if a more interesting meaning could be drawn out of the experience.

4. If the writer has expressed concern about anything in the draft that you have not discussed, respond to that concern.

Making Comments Electronically Most word processing software offers features that allow you to insert comments directly into the text of someone else’s document. Many readers prefer to make their comments this way because it tends to be faster than writing on hard copy and space is virtually

are not available, simply typing comments directly into a document in a contrasting color can provide the same advantages.

 

 

Troubleshooting Your Draft Basic Features

Problem Suggestions for Revising the Draft

Vivid Description

of People and Places

Name objects in the scene. Add sensory detail. Try out a comparison to evoke a particular mood. Consider adding a visual — a photograph or other memorabilia.

Places are hard to visualize.

Describe a physical feature or mannerism that gives each person individuality. Add speaker tags to characterize people and show their feelings. Liven up the dialogue with faster repartee.

People do not come alive.

Omit extraneous details. Add a simile or metaphor to strengthen the dominant impression. Rethink the impression you want your writing to convey and the significance it suggests.

Some descriptions weaken the dominant impression.

Auto- biographical Significance

Tell about your background or the particular context. Give readers a glimpse of the continuing significance of the event years later. Reveal the cultural influences acting on you or emphasize the historical period in which the event occurred.

Readers do not identify or empathize with the writer.

Try explaining the significance directly by explaining your present perspective.

Readers do not under- stand the significance.

Develop contradictions or show ambivalences. Stress the social or cultural dimensions of the event. Try to develop a more complex and interesting significance.

The significance seems too pat or simplistic.

A Well-Told Story

Shorten the exposition. Move a bit of dialogue or specific narrative action up front. Start with something surprising. Consider beginning with a flashback or flashforward.

The story starts too slowly.

Add dramatized dialogue or specific narrative actions. Clarify your remembered feelings or thoughts. Reflect on the conflict from your present perspective.

The conflict is vague or seems unconnected to the significance.

Add remembered feelings and thoughts to heighten anticipation. Add dialogue and specific narrative action. Build rising action in stages with multiple high points. Move or cut background information and description.

The suspense slackens or the story lacks drama.

The chronology is confusing.

Add or change time transitions. Clarify verb tenses.

 

 

REVISING 55 GUIDE TO WRITING

As the amateur historian and rancher were working on the newspaper article described in the scenario at the beginning of this chapter (see p. 15), they con- sidered visual and textual elements appropriate to writing about remembered events, including photographs of the area and quotations from the rancher’s tape-recorded story.

Selecting Visuals To begin, the historian and rancher discussed what visuals might accompany the final writ- ten piece. The historian found old snow-day photographs from the newspaper’s archives, and the rancher selected a compelling photo of his wife standing on the roof of the family home after the storm. The historian and the rancher also considered including a painting of an isolated homestead and an early snap- shot that the rancher had taken of his house in 1931, but decided that the painting was too abstract for a newspaper story, and the snap- shot did not capture the snowstorm, which was the focus of the newspaper’s special sup- plement. They narrowed their selection to two black-and-white photos — the photo of his wife standing on the house and a family photo taken in the spring — both of which empha- sized the key point they wanted readers to get from the story: the importance of family in the face of adversity.

Pulling Revealing Quotations After reviewing the draft of their article, the amateur historian and the rancher chose two potential “pull-quotes” (inset or otherwise highlighted quotations) from the story that they thought would capture readers’ attention and convey some of the story’s drama: “It was only a few days, but it seemed like a lifetime” and “I knew I had to make a decision — to continue on through the storm, or to head back to the house.” The idea was not to summarize the rancher’s story in these quotations, but to emphasize to readers the significance of the event as well as to leave readers with a good understanding of the event as they finished reading the piece. The newspaper selected the first quotation as the story lead.

Thinking About Document Design: Integrating Visuals

 

 

56 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENTGUIDE TO WRITING

Editing and Proofreading Several errors occur often in essays about remembered events: missing commas after introductory elements, fused sentences, and misused past-perfect verbs. The following guidelines will help you check your essay for these common errors.

Missing Commas after Introductory Elements

The Problem: Remembered-event essays often include sentences with introductory elements, especially temporal transitions to indicate calendar or clock time and to show when one action occurred in relation to other actions. A comma after such an element tells readers that the main part of the sentence is about to begin. If the introductory element is lengthy or complex, leaving the comma out can make your sentence confusing.

How to Correct It: Add a comma for clarity.

Through the nine-day run of the play the acting just kept getting better and better.

Knowing that the struggle was over I felt through my jacket to find tea bags and

cookies the robber had taken from the kitchen.

As I stepped out of the car I knew something was wrong.

Using the Past Perfect

The Problem: One common problem in writing about a remembered event is the failure to use the past perfect when it is needed, which can sometimes make your meaning unclear (what happened when, exactly?).

How to Correct It: Check passages where you recount events to be sure you are using the past perfect to indicate an action that was completed at the time of an- other past action (she had finished her work when we saw her).

I had three people in the car, something my father told me not to do on several

occasions.

Coach Kernow told me I ran faster than ever before.

ESL Note: It is important to remember that the past perfect is formed with had followed by a past participle. Past participles usually end in -ed, -d, -en, -n, or -t: worked, hoped, eaten, taken, bent.

Before Tania went to Moscow last year, she had not really speak Russian.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on Commas after Introductory Elements.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on The Past Perfect and/or A Common ESL Problem: Forming the Past Perfect.

A Note on Grammar and Spelling Checkers These tools can be help- ful, but don’t rely on them exclusively to catch errors in your text: Spelling check- ers cannot catch misspell- ings that are themselves words, such as to for too. Grammar checkers miss some problems, sometimes give faulty advice for fixing problems, and can flag correct items as wrong. Use these tools as a second line of defense after your own (and, ideally, another reader’s) proofreading/editing efforts.

 

 

JEAN BRANDT’S ESSAY FROM INVENTION TO REVISION 57

Fused Sentences

The Problem: When you write about a remembered event, you try to re-create a scene. This sometimes results in fused sentences, where two independent clauses are joined with no punctuation or connecting word between them.

How to Correct It:

Rewrite the sentence, subordinating one clause.

Make the clauses separate sentences.

Join the two clauses with a comma and and, but, or, nor, for, so, or yet.

Join the two clauses with a semicolon.

Sleet glazed the windshield. the wipers were frozen stuck.

Sleet glazed the windshield the wipers were frozen stuck.

Sleet glazed the windshield the wipers were frozen stuck.

Sleet glazed the windshield the wipers were frozen stuck.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on Fused Sentences.

A Writer at Work

Jean Brandt’s Essay from Invention to Revision In this section, we look at the writing process that Jean Brandt followed in com- posing her essay, “Calling Home.” You will see some of her invention writing and her complete first draft, which you can then compare to the final draft printed on pp. 19–22.

Invention

Brandt’s invention work produced about nine pages, but it took her only two hours, spread out over four days, to complete. She began by choosing an event and then reimagining the place with specific sensory details and recalling the other people involved.

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

58 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

Creating a Dialogue

She also wrote two dialogues, one with her sister Sue and the other with her father. Following is the dialogue between her and her sister:

SUE: Jean, why did you do it? ME: I don’t know. I guess I didn’t want to wait in that long line. Sue, what am I

going to tell Mom and Dad? SUE: Don’t worry about that yet, the detective might not really call the police. ME: I can’t believe I was stupid enough to take it. SUE: I know. I’ve been there before. Now when he comes back, try crying and acting

like you’re really upset. Tell him how sorry you are and that it was the first time you ever stole something, but make sure you cry. It got me off the hook once.

ME: I don’t think I can force myself to cry. I’m not really that upset. I don’t think the shock’s worn off. I’m more worried about Mom.

SUE: Who knows? Maybe she won’t have to find out. ME: God, I hope not. Hey, where’s Louie and Grandma? Grandma doesn’t know about

this, does she? SUE: No, I sort of told Lou what was going on so he’s just taking Grandma around

shopping. ME: Isn’t she wondering where we are? SUE: I told him to tell her we would meet them in an hour. ME: How am I ever going to face her? Mom and Dad might possibly understand or at

least get over it, but Grandma? This is gonna kill her. SUE: Don’t worry about that right now. Here comes the detective. Now try to look like

you’re sorry. Try to cry.

Brandt wrote this dialogue quickly, trying to capture the language of excited talk, keeping the exchanges brief. She included a version of this dialogue in her first draft (see pp. 60–61), but excluded it from the final essay. Even though she eventually decided to leave it out, this invention dialogue helped her work out her thoughts about the event and enabled her to evaluate how to dramatize it.

Recalling Remembered Feelings and Thoughts

In an attempt to bring the autobiographical significance of the event into focus, Brandt explored her remembered as well as her current feelings and thoughts about the experience:

Being arrested for shoplifting was significant because it changed some of my basic attitudes. Since that night I’ve never again considered stealing anything. This event would reveal how my attitude toward the law and other people has changed from disrespectful to very respectful.

Reading this statement might lead us to expect a moralistic story of how some- one learned something the hard way. As we look at the subsequent invention

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

JEAN BRANDT’S ESSAY FROM INVENTION TO REVISION 59

activities, however, we will see how her focus shifts to her relations with other people.

I was scared, humiliated, and confused. I was terrified when I realized what was happening. I can still see the manager and his badge and remember what I felt when I knew who he was. I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to run. I felt there wasn’t anything I could do–I was afraid, embarrassed, worried, mad that it happened. I didn’t show my feelings at all. I tried to look very calm on the outside, but inside I was extremely nervous. The nervousness might have come through in my voice a little. I wanted the people around me to think I was tough and that I could handle the situation. I was really disappointed with myself. Getting arrested made me realize how wrong my actions were. I felt very ashamed. Afterward I had to talk to my father about it. I didn’t say much of anything except that I was wrong and I was sorry. The immediate consequence was being taken to jail and then later having to call my par- ents and tell them what happened. I hated to call my parents. That was the hardest part. I remember how much I dreaded that. My mom was really hurt.

Naming specific feelings, Brandt focuses here on the difference between what she felt and how she acted. She remembers her humiliation at being arrested as well as the terrible moment when she had to tell her parents. As we will see, this concern with her parents’ reaction, more than her own humiliation, becomes the focus of her remembered feelings and thoughts.

Exploring Her Present Perspective

In exploring her first response to the event, Brandt wrote quickly, jotting down mem- ories as they came to mind. Next, she reread this first exploration and attempted to state briefly what the incident really revealed about her:

I think it reveals that I was not a hard-core criminal. I was trying to live up to Robin Files’s (supposedly my best girlfriend) expectations, even though I actually knew that what I was doing was wrong.

Stopping to focus her thoughts like this helped Brandt see the point of what she had just written and discover the autobiographical significance of the event. Next, she wrote about her present perspective on the event.

At first I was ashamed to tell anyone that I had been arrested. It was as if I couldn’t admit it myself. Now I’m glad it happened, because who knows where I’d be now if I hadn’t been caught. I still don’t tell many people about it. Never before have I written about it. I think my response was appropriate. If I’d broken down and cried, it wouldn’t have helped me any, so it’s better that I reacted calmly. My actions and responses show that I was trying to be tough. I thought that that was the way to gain respectability. If I were to get arrested now (of course it wouldn’t be for shoplifting), I think I’d react the same way because it doesn’t do any good to get emotional. My current feelings are ones of appreciation. I feel lucky because

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

60 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

I was set straight early. Now I can look back on it and laugh, but at the same time know how serious it was. I am emotionally distant now because I can view the event objectively rather than subjectively. My feelings are settled now. I don’t get upset thinking about it. I don’t feel angry at the manager or the police. I think I was more upset about my parents than about what was happening to me. After the first part of it was over I mainly worried about what my parents would think.

In writing about her present perspective, Brandt reassures herself that she feels comfortable enough to write for class about this event: she no longer feels humili- ated, embarrassed, or angry. She is obviously pleased to recall that she did not lose control and show her true feelings. Staying calm, not getting emotional, looking tough — these are the personal qualities Brandt wants others to see in her. Exploring her present perspective seems to have led to a new, respectable self-image she can proudly display to her readers:

My present perspective shows that I’m a reasonable person. I can admit when I’m wrong and accept the punishment that was due me. I find that I can be con- cerned about others even when I’m in trouble.

Clarifying Her Purpose and Audience

Next, Brandt reflected on what she had written and restated the event’s significance, with particular emphasis on her readers’ likely reactions:

The event was important because it entirely changed one aspect of my charac- ter. I will be disclosing that I was once a thief, and I think many of my readers will be able to identify with my story, even though they won’t admit it.

This writing reveals that Brandt is now confident that she has chosen an event with personal significance. She knows what she will be disclosing about herself and feels comfortable doing it. In her brief focusing statements, she begins by moralizing (“my attitude . . . changed”) and blaming others (“Robin Files”) but concludes by acknowl- edging what she did. She is now prepared to disclose it to readers (“I was once a thief”). Also, she thinks readers will like her story because she suspects many of them will recall doing something illegal and feeling guilty about it, even if they never got caught.

The First Draft

The day after completing the invention writing, Brandt reviewed her invention and composed her first draft on a word processor. It took her about an hour to write the draft, and she wrote steadily without doing a lot of rearranging or correcting of obvious typos and grammatical errors. She knew this would not be her only draft.

It was two days before Christmas and my older sister and brother, my grand- mother, and I were rushing around doing last-minute shopping. After going to a few stores we decided to go to Lakewood Center shopping mall. It was packed with other frantic shoppers like ourselves from one end to the other. The first store we went to (the first and last for me) was the General Store. The General Store is your typical gift shop. They mainly have the cutesy knick-knacks, posters, frames and that sort.

A WRITER AT WORK

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JEAN BRANDT’S ESSAY FROM INVENTION TO REVISION 61

The store is decorated to resemble an old-time western general store but the appear- ance doesn’t quite come off.

We were all browsing around and I saw a basket of buttons so I went to see what the different ones were. One of the first ones I noticed was a Snoopy button. I’m not sure what it said on it, something funny I’m sure and besides I was in love with anything Snoopy when I was 13. I took it out of the basket and showed it to my sister and she said “Why don’t you buy it?” I thought about it but the lines at the cashiers were outrageous and I didn’t think it was worth it for a 75 cent item. Instead I figured just take it and I did. I thought I was so sly about it. I casually slipped it into my pocket and assumed I was home free since no one pounced on me.

Everyone was ready to leave this shop so we made our way through the crowds to the entrance. My grandmother and sister were ahead of my brother and I. They were almost to the entrance of May Co. and we were about 5 to 10 yards behind when I felt this tap on my shoulder. I turned around already terror struck, and this man was flash- ing some kind of badge in my face. It happened so fast I didn’t know what was going on. Louie finally noticed I wasn’t with him and came back for me. Jack explained I was being arrested for shoplifting and if my parents were here then Louie should go find them. Louie ran to get Susie and told her about it but kept it from Grandma.

By the time Sue got back to the General Store I was in the back office and Jack was calling the police. I was a little scared but not really. It was sort of exciting. My sister was telling me to try and cry but I couldn’t. About 20 minutes later two cops came and handcuffed me, led me through the mall outside to the police car. I was kind of embarrassed when they took me through the mall in front of all those people. When they got me in the car they began questioning me, while driving me to the police sta- tion. Questions just to fill out the report — age, sex, address, color of eyes, etc.

Then when they were finished they began talking about Jack and what a nui- sance he was. I gathered that Jack had every single person who shoplifted, no mat- ter what their age, arrested. The police were getting really fed up with it because it was a nuisance for them to have to come way out to the mall for something as petty as that. To hear the police talk about my “crime” that way felt good because it was like what I did wasn’t really so bad. It made me feel a bit relieved. When we walked into the station I remember the desk sergeant joking with the arresting officers about “well we got another one of Jack’s hardened criminals.” Again, I felt my crime lacked any seriousness at all.

Next they handcuffed me to a table and questioned me further and then I had to phone my mom. That was the worst. I never was so humiliated in my life. Hearing the disappointment in her voice was worse punishment than the cops could ever give me.

Brandt’s first draft establishes the main sequence of actions. About a third of it is devoted to the store manager, an emphasis that disappears by the final draft. What ends up having prominence in the final draft — Brandt’s feelings about telling her parents and her conversations with them — appears here only in a few lines at the very end. But mentioning the interaction suggests its eventual importance.

A WRITER AT WORK

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62 CHAPTER 2: REMEMBERING AN EVENT

Critical Reading and Revision

Brandt revised this first draft for another student to read critically. In this revised draft, she includes dialogues with her sister and with the police officers. She also provides more information about her actions as she considered buying the Snoopy button and then decided to steal it instead. She includes visual details of the man- ager’s office. This draft is not much different in emphasis from the first draft, how- ever, and still ends with a long section about the police officers and the station. The parents are mentioned briefly only at the very end.

The reader told Brandt how much he liked her story and admired her frank- ness. However, he did not encourage her to develop the dramatic possibilities in calling her parents and meeting them afterward. In fact, he encouraged her to keep the dialogue with the police officers about the manager and to include what the manager said to the police.

In her final version, “Calling Home,” Brandt’s final revision shows that she did not take her reader’s advice. She reduces the role of the police officers, eliminating any dialogue with them. She greatly expands the role of her parents: The last third of the essay is now focused on her remembered feelings about calling them and seeing them afterward. In terms of dramatic importance, the phone call home now equals the arrest. When we recall Brandt’s earliest invention writings, we can see that she was headed toward this conclusion all along, but she needed invention, two drafts, a critical reading, a final revision, and about two weeks to get there.

THINKING CRITICALLY

In this chapter, you have learned a great deal about this genre from reading several autobiographical stories and writing one of your own. To consolidate your learning, it is helpful to think metacognitively; that is, to reflect not only on what you learned but on how you learned it. Following are two brief activities your instructor may ask you to do.

Reflecting on Your Writing Your instructor may ask you to turn in with your essay and process materials a brief metacognitive essay or letter reflecting on what you have learned about writing your essay remembering an event. Choose among the following invention activities those that seem most productive for you.

Explain how your purpose and audience — what you wanted your readers to learn about you from reading your story — influenced one of your decisions as a writer, such as what you put in the exposition section of your story, how you

Thinking Critically About What You Have Learned

 

 

CONSIDERING THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS 63

used dialogue to intensify the drama of the climax, or how you integrated your remembered thoughts and feelings into your storytelling.

Discuss what you learned about yourself as a writer in the process of writing this particular essay. For example, what part of the process did you find most challenging, or did you try something new like getting a critical reading of your draft or outlining your draft in order to revise it?

If you were to give advice to a friend who was about to write a remembered event essay, what would you say?

Which of the readings in this chapter influenced your essay? Explain the influ- ence, citing specific examples from your essay and the reading.

If you got good advice from a critical reader, explain exactly how the person helped you — perhaps by questioning the conflict in a way that enabled you to refocus your story’s significance or pointing out passages that needed clearer time markers to better orient readers.

Considering the Social Dimensions: Autobiography and Self-Discovery If writing a remembered event essay leads to self-discovery, what do we mean by the “self ”? Should we think of the self as our “true” essence or as the different roles we play in different situations? If we accept the idea of an essential self, writ- ing about significant events in our lives can help us in the search to discover who we truly are. Given this idea of the self, we might see Jean Brandt, for example, as searching to understand whether she is the kind of person who breaks the law and only cares when she is caught and has to face her parents’ disapproval. If, on the other hand, we accept the idea that the various roles we play are what create the self, then writing about a remembered event allows us to reveal the many sides of our personalities. This view of the self assumes that we present different self- images to different people in different situations. Given this idea, we might see Brandt as presenting her sassy teenage side to the police but keeping her vulner- ability hidden from them.

1. Consider how your remembered event essay might be an exercise in self- discovery. Planning and writing your essay, did you see yourself as discovering your true self or examining how you reacted in a particular situation? Do you think your essay reveals your single, essential, true self, or does it show only an aspect of the person you understand yourself to be?

2. Write a page or so explaining your ideas about self-discovery and truth in remembered event essays. Connect your ideas to your own essay and to the readings in this chapter.

THINKING CRITICALLY

 

 

64

3 IN COLLEGE COURSES To fulfill a requirement for an upper-division education course, a student who plans to teach sixth grade decides to study col- laborative learning in action. The student arranges to visit an elementary school class that is beginning a project on immigration. On three separate visits, she observes a group of three students working to- gether on the project and interviews them individu- ally and as a group. She also interviews the teacher about her goals for the project and her views of the advantages and challenges of collaborative learning.

After reviewing the notes from her observation and the tapes of her interviews, the student roughs out outlines for both narrative and topical organiza- tions of her profile. After considering both, she de- cides that a narrative plan would be likely to engage her readers more effectively. She then writes a draft based on her outline. To keep the focus on students and their progress, she reports as a spectator, weaving her insights about collaborative learning into a detailed narrative of a typical half-hour meet- ing. From her profile emerges the central idea that sixth graders’ collaborative work is unlikely to suc- ceed unless the students, along with their teacher, frequently reflect on what they are learning and on how they can work together more productively.

After completing her project, she decides to publish it online so that classmates and others in- terested in collaborative learning can read her work. (See Thinking about Document Design on p. 118.)

Writing Profiles

 

 

65

IN THE COMMUNITY A newspaper reporter is assigned to write a profile of a large-scale mural project recently commissioned by the city for a wall sheltering a section of the city’s central park.

Having scheduled an appointment, the reporter visits the studio of the local artist in charge of the project. They discuss the artist’s career, the specif- ics of the mural project, and the artist’s views of other notable civic art projects. The artist invites the reporter to spend the following day at the mural site. Before he leaves, the reporter takes several digital photos of the artist and the studio.

The next day when the reporter arrives at the mural site, the artist puts him to work alongside two volunteers. This firsthand experience, informal in- terviews with volunteers, and photos of the process help the reporter describe the mural painting from a participant-observer’s point of view.

Later, writing for the Sunday local affairs sec- tion of the paper, the reporter organizes the profile around different topics: the artist’s background and goals for the project; the experience of volunteers working on it; and the mural’s function as civic art. As the reporter presents each topic, he uses photos and vivid description of the artist, his helpers, and the mural itself, seeking to capture the civic spirit that pervades the entire project.

IN THE WORKPLACE For a company news- letter, a public-relations officer profiles the corpora- tion’s new chief executive officer (CEO). He follows the CEO from meeting to meeting, taking photo- graphs and observing her interactions. Between meetings, he interviews her about her management philosophy and her five-year plan for the corpora- tion. With her permission, he records these brief in- terviews. Immediately after the interviews he listens to the recordings, making notes and writing down questions to ask in a follow-up interview.

A day later, the CEO invites the writer to visit her at home. He stays for dinner and then watches the CEO help her daughter with homework. He converses with her husband. He also takes more photographs.

The writer reviews his notes, the recordings of their interviews, and the photos he took. He decides to illustrate the profile with two images, one showing the CEO at a meeting and the other showing her with her daughter. As he reports on some of the im- mediate challenges she anticipates for the corpora- tion, he tries to convey the ease and confidence she shows both at work and at home.

 

 

66 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILES

The writers in the scenarios that open this chapter profile a group of young students involved in a complex learning activity, an artist and neighborhood volunteers cre- ating a public mural, and a high-ranking business executive going about her daily activities. Whatever their subject, profile writers strive most of all to enable readers to imagine the person, place, or activity that is the focus of the profile. Writers suc- ceed only through specific and vivid details: how the person dresses, gestures, and talks; what the place looks, sounds, and smells like; what the activity requires of those who participate in it. Not only must the details be vivid, but they also must help to convey a writer’s perspective, offering some insight, idea, or interpretation of the subject’s cultural significance.

Because profiles share many features — including description, narration, and dialogue — with essays about remembered events, you may use many of the strate- gies learned in Chapter 2: Remembering Events when you write your profile. The differences are also important, however. To write about a remembered event, you look inside for memories in order to write about yourself and your experiences with other people. To write a profile, you look outside for fresh observations of an unfamiliar subject in order to understand it better. Still, both remembered event and profile require you to strive for understanding, to recognize significance, and to gain a new perspective.

The scope of your profile may be large or small, depending on your subject. You could attend a single event such as a parade, dress rehearsal for a play, or city council meeting and write your observations of the place, people, and activities. Or you might conduct an interview with a person who has an unusual occupation and write a profile based on your interview notes. If you have the time to do more extensive research, you might write a more complete profile based on several visits to a place and interviews with various people there.

Reading profiles and writing your own profile will make you a more insightful reader of the cultural practices of everyday life. Doing the various kinds of research needed to write a profile will also give you confidence in your observational skills and your ability to ask probing questions. You will learn how to break through the façade and better understand the inner workings of your subject. At the same time, you will learn how to write engagingly, to interest readers and keep them reading.

A Collaborative Activity: Practice Conducting an Interview

Part 1. Get together in a small group and ask someone to volunteer to be the interviewee

while the rest of the group acts as interviewers. The interviewers should spend a couple of

minutes preparing questions and then, after choosing an interviewer to begin, take turns

asking questions. When you act as interviewer, be sure to listen to what the interviewee

says and ask follow-up questions. All interviewers should take notes quoting and summariz-

ing what the interviewee says as well as describing the interviewee’s tone of voice, facial

expressions, and gestures.

Part 2. Discuss these questions as a group:

What was the hardest part of interviewing: thinking of questions, following up, tak-

ing notes, or something else?

 

 

BASIC FEATURES 67

If you were to write a brief profile based on this interview to present to the rest of

the class, what information would you emphasize? What would you quote? How

would you describe the interviewee? What would guide these choices?

Reading Profiles

Basic Features As you read the profiles in this chapter, you will see how different authors incorpo- rate the basic features of the genre.

Detailed Information about the Subject

Read first to identify the subject of the profile. Profiles are about the following subjects:

a place where something interesting happens (such as a hospital emergency room)

an activity (such as the mural project in the second scenario)

a person (such as the CEO profiled in the third scenario)

a group of people (such as the students profiled in the first scenario)

Much of the pleasure of reading a profile comes from the way the writer presents detailed information about the subject. To make the information entertaining as well as readable and interesting, profile writers interweave bits of information into a tapestry that includes vivid descriptions, lively anecdotes, and arresting quotations.

Because profile writers get their information primarily from observing and interviewing, and because they try to give readers a vivid picture of the subject, de- scribing is perhaps the most important writing strategy for presenting information. Describing includes the following activities:

detailing what people look like, how they dress, gesture, and talk

showing what the observer saw, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted

quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing the people interviewed

Look also for these other ways of presenting information about the subject: classifying, defining new terms, comparing and contrasting, identifying causes or effects, and giving examples.

A Clear Organizational Plan

Profiles can be organized according to two different plans:

a narrative plan that interweaves the information with elements of a story

a topical plan that groups the information into topics and moves from one topic to another

Basic Features

 

 

68 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILES

Whereas a narrative plan may be more engaging, a topical plan may deliver infor- mation more efficiently. As you read the profiles in this chapter, consider why the writer might have chosen one plan or the other. What was gained? Was anything lost?

A Role for the Writer

Look also at the role that the writer assumes in relation to his or her subject:

As a spectator or detached observer, the writer’s position is like that of the reader, an outsider looking in on the people and their activities (such as the college student in the first scenario).

As a participant observer, the writer participates in the activity being profiled and acquires insider knowledge (such as the reporter in the second scenario profiling the mural project).

A Perspective on the Subject

All of the basic features listed above — detailed information; the plan of the profile; and the writer’s role — support the writer’s perspective on the subject, the main idea or cultural significance that the writer wants readers to take away from reading the profile. Profiles, like remembered event essays, seldom state the thesis directly. Instead, they convey it by creating a dominant impression from the descriptive details and other kinds of information together with the writer’s thoughts and comments.

Purpose and Audience Profiles are a popular way to learn about interesting people, activities, and places. You can find profiles in many different venues — blogs, television, and radio, as well as in traditional magazines, newspapers, and books. Academic disciplines such as cultural studies, anthropology, and literacy studies often use a type of profile called an ethnography. Ethnographies use the same field research methods and employ the same writing strategies as more traditional journalistic profiles. They differ in that ethnographers do their research over an extended period of time and usually study groups of people who identify themselves as members of a particular community (for example, a group of Twitter users, Facebook friends, or students who share a dorm room or belong to the same club). Depending on their academic interest, eth- nographers may focus on the group’s patterns of communication, how newcomers are initiated into the group, how conflicts are handled, how relationships form and dissolve, and so on. Though you will not have the time or resources to study your subject in as much depth as an ethnographer normally does, any of these topics could become the focus of the profile you write for this course.

As you read profiles, ask yourself what seems to be the writer’s purpose in writing about this particular subject. For example, does the writer seem to be writing

to inform readers about some aspect of everyday life — the places and ac- tivities that surround us but that we may not notice, let alone get to know intimately;

 

 

CABLE / THE LAST STOP 69

to give readers an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at an intriguing or unusual activity — for example, a fascinating hobby or challenging career;

to surprise readers by presenting unusual subjects or familiar ones in new ways;

to give readers a new way to look at and think about the cultural significance of the subject;

to present vivid descriptions and engaging stories showing how people communicate and work together, construct their identities, and define their values?

As you read, also try to grasp the writer’s assumptions about the audience. For ex- ample, does the writer

assume readers will know nothing or very little about the subject;

expect readers to be interested and possibly amused by a particular aspect of the subject;

hope readers will be intrigued by the perspective the writer takes or fascinated by certain quotes or descriptive details?

Readings

BRIAN CABLE wrote this profile of a neigh- borhood mortuary when he was a first-year college student. “Death,” as he explains in the opening sentence, “is a subject largely ignored by the living,” so it is not surprising that he notices people averting their eyes as they walk past the mortuary on a busy commercial street. Cable, however, walks in and takes readers on a guided tour of the premises. As he presents information he learned from observing how the mortu- ary works — from the reception room up front to the embalming room in back — and from interviewing the people who work there, Cable lets us know his feelings and his thoughts on cultural attitudes about death.

As you read, notice how Cable uses humor to defuse the inherent seriousness of the place. Also consider the questions in the margin. Your instructor may ask you to post your answers or bring them to class.

Basic Features

A recent photo of Goodbody Mortuary, the subject of Cable’s profile. Does this photo match Cable’s description? Would the addition of such a photo, or other photos of the mortu- ary, have strengthened Cable’s profile?

READINGS

 

 

70 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILES

The Last Stop

Brian Cable

Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will

be sorry.

— Mark Twain

Death is a subject largely ignored by the living. We don’t discuss it much, not as

children (when Grandpa dies, he is said to be “going away”), not as adults, not even

as senior citizens. Throughout our lives, death remains intensely private. The death of

a loved one can be very painful, partly because of the sense of loss, but also because

someone else’s mortality reminds us all too vividly of our own.

More than a few people avert their eyes as they walk past the dusty-pink building

that houses the Goodbody Mortuaries. It looks a bit like a church — tall, with gothic

arches and stained glass — and somewhat like an apartment complex — low, with many

windows stamped out of red brick.

It wasn’t at all what I had expected. I thought it would be more like Forest Lawn,

serene with lush green lawns and meticulously groomed gardens, a place set apart from

the hustle of day-to-day life. Here instead was an odd pink structure set in the middle

of a business district. On top of the Goodbody Mortuaries sign was a large electric clock.

What the hell, I thought. Mortuaries are concerned with time, too.

I was apprehensive as I climbed the stone steps to the entrance. I feared rejec-

tion or, worse, an invitation to come and stay. The door was massive, yet it swung open

easily on well-oiled hinges. “Come in,” said the sign. “We’re always open.” Inside was

a cool and quiet reception room. Curtains were drawn against the outside glare, cutting

the light down to a soft glow.

I found the funeral director in the main lobby, adjacent to the reception room. Like

most people, I had preconceptions about what an undertaker looked like. Mr. Deaver

fulfilled my expectations entirely. Tall and thin, he even had beady eyes and a bony

face. A low, slanted forehead gave way to a beaked nose. His skin, scrubbed of all color,

contrasted sharply with his jet black hair. He was wearing a starched white shirt, gray

pants, and black shoes. Indeed, he looked like death on two legs.

He proved an amiable sort, however, and was easy to talk to. As funeral direc-

tor, Mr. Deaver (“Call me Howard”) was responsible for a wide range of services.

Goodbody Mortuaries, upon notification of someone’s death, will remove the remains

from the hospital or home. They then prepare the body for viewing, whereupon

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2

3

4

5

6

Cable begins by sharing his thoughts and observations. What impression does this opening create?

What organizational plan for the profile emerges in pars. 4 and 5?

What role has Cable adopted in writing the profile? When does it become clear?

What does the detailed descrip- tion of Deaver in pars. 5 and 6 contribute to Cable’s profile of the mortuary?

What expectations do the title and epigraph (opening quote) raise for you?

READINGS

 

 

CABLE / THE LAST STOP 71

features distorted by illness or accident are restored to their natural condition.

The body is embalmed and then placed in a casket selected by the family of the

deceased. Services are held in one of three chapels at the mortuary, and afterward

the casket is placed in a “visitation room,” where family and friends can pay their

last respects. Goodbody also makes arrangements for the purchase of a burial site

and transports the body there for burial.

All this information Howard related in a well-practiced, professional manner. It

was obvious he was used to explaining the specifics of his profession. We sat alone in

the lobby. His desk was bone clean, no pencils or paper, nothing — just a telephone.

He did all his paperwork at home; as it turned out, he and his wife lived right upstairs.

The phone rang. As he listened, he bit his lips and squeezed his Adam’s apple somewhat

nervously.

“I think we’ll be able to get him in by Friday. No, no, the family wants him

cremated.”

His tone was that of a broker conferring on the Dow Jones. Directly behind him

was a sign announcing “Visa and Master Charge Welcome Here.” It was tacked to the

wall, right next to a crucifix.

“Some people have the idea that we are bereavement specialists, that we can

handle emotional problems which follow a death: Only a trained therapist can do that.

We provide services for the dead, not counseling for the living.”

Physical comfort was the one thing they did provide for the living. The lobby was

modestly but comfortably furnished. There were several couches, in colors ranging from

earth brown to pastel blue, and a coffee table in front of each one. On one table lay

some magazines and a vase of flowers. Another supported an aquarium. Paintings of

pastoral scenes hung on every wall. The lobby looked more or less like that of an old

hotel. Nothing seemed to match, but it had a homey, lived-in look.

“The last time the Goodbodies decorated was in ‘59, I believe. It still makes people

feel welcome.”

And so “Goodbody” was not a name made up to attract customers but the owner’s

family name. The Goodbody family started the business way back in 1915. Today, they

do over five hundred services a year.

“We’re in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, along with another funeral home whose owners’

names are Baggit and Sackit,” Howard told me, without cracking a smile.

I followed him through an arched doorway into a chapel that smelled musty and

old. The only illumination came from sunlight filtered through a stained glass ceiling.

Ahead of us lay a casket. I could see that it contained a man dressed in a black suit.

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

What does this observation re- veal about Cable’s perspective?

Why do you think he quotes Howard in par. 10, instead of paraphrasing or summarizing?

What does this observation contribute to the dominant im- pression?

How does Cable make the tran- sition from topic to topic in pars. 15-18?

READINGS

Why do you think Cable sum- marizes the information in par. 6 instead of quoting Howard?

 

 

72 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILES

Wooden benches ran on either side of an aisle that led to the body. I got no closer.

From the red roses across the dead man’s chest, it was apparent that services had

already been held.

“It was a large service,” remarked Howard. “Look at that casket — a beautiful work

of craftsmanship.”

I guess it was. Death may be the great leveler, but one’s coffin quickly reestab-

lishes one’s status.

We passed into a bright, fluorescent-lit “display room.” Inside were thirty coffins,

lids open, patiently awaiting inspection. Like new cars on the showroom floor, they

gleamed with high-gloss finishes.

“We have models for every price range.”

Indeed, there was a wide variety. They came in all colors and various materi-

als. Some were little more than cloth-covered cardboard boxes, others were made of

wood, and a few were made of steel, copper, or bronze. Prices started at $400 and

averaged about $1,800. Howard motioned toward the center of the room: “The top

of the line.”

This was a solid bronze casket, its seams electronically welded to resist cor-

rosion. Moisture-proof and air-tight, it could be hermetically sealed off from all

outside elements. Its handles were plated with 14-karat gold. The price: a cool

$5,000.

A proper funeral remains a measure of respect for the deceased. But it is expensive.

In the United States the amount spent annually on funerals is about $2 billion. Among

ceremonial expenditures, funerals are second only to weddings. As a result, practices are

changing. Howard has been in this business for forty years. He remembers a time when

everyone was buried. Nowadays, with burials costing $2,000 a shot, people often opt

instead for cremation — as Howard put it, “a cheap, quick, and easy means of disposal.”

In some areas of the country, the cremation rate is now over 60 percent. Observing this

trend, one might wonder whether burials are becoming obsolete. Do burials serve an

important role in society?

For Tim, Goodbody’s licensed mortician, the answer is very definitely yes. Burials

will remain in common practice, according to the slender embalmer with the disarming

smile, because they allow family and friends to view the deceased. Painful as it may

be, such an experience brings home the finality of death. “Something deep within us

demands a confrontation with death,” Tim explained. “A last look assures us that the

person we loved is, indeed, gone forever.”

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

How does the comparison to a new car showroom in pars. 18–21 reveal Cable’s perspective?

What is the function of this rhe- torical question?

Where does the information in pars. 22–23 come from?

READINGS

 

 

CABLE / THE LAST STOP 73

Apparently, we also need to be assured that the body will be laid to rest in com-

fort and peace. The average casket, with its inner-spring mattress and pleated satin

lining, is surprisingly roomy and luxurious. Perhaps such an air of comfort makes it

easier for the family to give up their loved one. In addition, the burial site fixes the

deceased in the survivors’ memory, like a new address. Cremation provides none of

these comforts.

Tim started out as a clerk in a funeral home but then studied to become a morti-

cian. “It was a profession I could live with,” he told me with a sly grin. Mortuary sci-

ence might be described as a cross between pre-med and cosmetology, with courses in

anatomy and embalming as well as in restorative art.

Tim let me see the preparation, or embalming, room, a white-walled chamber

about the size of an operating room. Against the wall was a large sink with elbow taps

and a draining board. In the center of the room stood a table with equipment for pre-

paring the arterial embalming fluid, which consists primarily of formaldehyde, a preser-

vative, and phenol, a disinfectant. This mixture sanitizes and also gives better color to

the skin. Facial features can then be “set” to achieve a restful expression. Missing eyes,

ears, and even noses can be replaced.

I asked Tim if his job ever depressed him. He bridled at the question: “No, it

doesn’t depress me at all. I do what I can for people and take satisfaction in enabling

relatives to see their loved ones as they were in life.” He said that he felt people were

becoming more aware of the public service his profession provides. Grade-school classes

now visit funeral homes as often as they do police stations and museums. The mortician

is no longer regarded as a minister of death.

Before leaving, I wanted to see a body up close. I thought I could be indiffer-

ent after all I had seen and heard, but I wasn’t sure. Cautiously, I reached out and

touched the skin. It felt cold and firm, not unlike clay. As I walked out, I felt glad to

have satisfied my curiosity about dead bodies, but all too happy to let someone else

handle them.

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Is Tim’s definition of mortuary science helpful? Why or why not?

Which of the information in par. 26 comes from observation and which comes from interviewing Tim? How do you know?

How effective is this ending?

Whose perspective does this statement reflect? How do you know?

To learn about how Cable conducted his interview with the funeral director and wrote up his notes, turn to A Writer at Work on pp. 120–24. Compare the write-up to paragraphs 5–23 of the essay where Cable reports on what he learned from this interview. How did writing up his notes help him draft part of the essay?

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JOHN T. EDGE directs the Southern Foodways Symposium, which is part of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, and edits the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. He has written A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections from the American South (1999); Southern Belly (2000), a portrait of southern food told through profiles of people and place; and a series of books on specific foods, including Fried Chicken and Apple Pie (2004) and Hamburgers

and Fries (2005). Edge also contributes to a number of magazines, newspapers, and radio and televi-

sion programs, including NPR’s All Things Considered, Gourmet magazine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Oxford American, in which this profile originally appeared. In it, Edge profiles Farm Fresh Food Supplier, a small business located in Mississippi, and introduces readers to its pickled meat products. As you read, enjoy Edge’s struggle to eat a pickled pig lip, but notice also how much you are learning about this bar snack as Edge details his discomfort in trying to eat it.

I’m Not Leaving Until I Eat This Thing John T. Edge

I -try juke 17 miles south of the Mississippi line and three miles west of Amite, Louisiana. The air conditioner hacks and spits forth torrents of Arctic air, but the heat of summer can’t be kept at bay. It seeps around the splintered doorjambs and settles in, transforming the squat particleboard-plastered roadhouse into a sauna. Slowly, the dank barroom fills with grease-smeared mechanics from the truck stop up the road and farmers straight from the fields, the soles of their brogans thick with dirt clods. A few weary souls make their way over from the nearby sawmill. I sit alone at the bar, one empty bottle of Bud in front of me, a second in my hand. I drain the beer, order a third, and stare down at the pink juice spreading outward from a crumpled foil pouch and onto the bar.

I’m not leaving until I eat this thing, I tell myself. Half a mile down the road, behind a fence coiled with razor wire, Lionel

Dufour, proprietor of Farm Fresh Food Supplier, is loading up the last truck of the day, wheeling case after case of pickled pork offal out of his cinder-block process- ing plant and into a semitrailer bound for Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

His crew packed lips today. Yesterday, it was pickled sausage; the day before that, pig feet. Tomorrow, it’s pickled pig lips again. Lionel has been on the job since 2:45 in the morning, when he came in to light the boilers. Damon

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Landry, chief cook and main- tenance man, came in at 4:30. By 7:30, the production line was at full tilt: six women in white smocks and blue bouf- fant caps, slicing ragged white fat from the lips, tossing the good parts in glass jars, the bad parts in barrels bound for the rendering plant. Across the aisle, filled jars clatter by on a conveyor belt as a worker tops them off with a Kool-Aid-

red slurry of hot sauce, vinegar, salt, and food coloring. Around the corner, the jars are capped, affixed with a label, and stored in pasteboard boxes to await shipping.

Unlike most offal — euphemistically called “variety meats” — lips belie their provenance. Brains, milky white and globular, look like brains. Feet, the ghosts of their cloven hoofs protruding, look like feet. Testicles look like, well, testicles. But

lips are different. Loosed from the snout, trimmed of their fat, and dyed a preter- natural pink, they look more like candy than like carrion.

At Farm Fresh, no swine root in an adjacent feedlot. No viscera-strewn kill- ing floor lurks just out of sight, down a darkened hallway. These pigs died long ago at some Midwestern abattoir. By the

of offal and ice. “Lips are all meat,” Lionel told me earlier in the day. “No gristle, no bone, no nothing.

They’re bar food, hot and vinegary, great with a beer. Used to be the lips ended up in sausages, headcheese, those sorts of things. A lot of them still do.”

Lionel, a 50-year-old father of three with quick, intelligent eyes set deep in a face the color of cordovan, is a veteran of nearly 40 years in the pickled pig lips business. “I started out with my daddy when I wasn’t much more than 10,” Lionel told me, his shy smile framed by a coarse black mustache flecked with whispers of gray. “The meatpacking business he owned had gone broke back when I was 6, and he was peddling out of the back of his car, selling dried shrimp, napkins, straws, tubes of plastic cups, pig feet, pig lips, whatever the bar owners needed. He sold to black bars, white bars, sweet shops, snowball stands, you name it. We made the rounds together after I got out of school, sometimes staying out till two or three in the morn- ing. I remember bringing my toy cars to this one joint and racing them around the floor with the bar owner’s son while my daddy and his father did business.”

“Lips are all meat,” Lionel told me earlier in the day. “No gristle, no bone, no nothing.

They’re bar food, hot and vinegary, great with a beer.”

 

 

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For years after the demise of that first meatpacking company, the Dufour family sold someone else’s product. “We used to buy lips from Dennis Di Salvo’s company down in Belle Chasse,” recalled Lionel. “As far as I can tell, his mother was the one who came up with the idea to pickle and pack lips back in the ’50s, back when she was working for a company called Three

we had to almost beg Di Salvo’s for product. That’s when we started cooking up our own,” he told me, gesturing toward the cast-iron kettle that hangs from the rafters by the front door of the plant. “My daddy started cooking lips in that very pot.”

Lionel now cooks lips in 11 retrofitted milk tanks, dull stainless-steel caul- drons shaped like oversized cradles. But little else has changed. Though Lionel’s father has passed away, Farm Fresh remains a family-focused company. His wife, Kathy, keeps the books. His daughter, Dana, a button-cute college student who has won numerous beauty titles, takes to the road in the summer, selling lips to convenience stores and wholesalers. Soon, after he graduates from busi- ness school, Lionel’s younger son, Matt, will take over operations at the plant. And his older son, a veterinarian, lent his name to one of Farm Fresh’s top sell-

“We do our best to corner the market on lips,” Lionel told me, his voice tinged with bravado. “Sometimes they’re hard to get from the packing houses. You gotta kill a lot of pigs to get enough lips to keep us going. I’ve got new customers calling every day; it’s all I can do to keep up with demand, but I bust my ass to keep up. I do what I can for my family — and for my customers.

“When my customers tell me something,” he continued, “just like when my daddy told me something, I listen. If my customers wanted me to dye the lips green, I’d ask, ‘What shade?’ As it is, every few years we’ll do some red and some blue for the Fourth of July. This year we did jars full of Mardi Gras lips — half purple, half gold,” Lionel recalled with a chuckle. “I guess we’d had a few beers when we came up with that one.”

Now, I tell myself, my courage bolstered by booze, I’m ready to eat a lip.

They may have looked like candy in the plant, but in the barroom they’re car- rion once again. I poke and prod the six-inch arc of pink flesh, peering up from my reverie just in time to catch the barkeep’s wife, Audrey, staring straight at me. She fixes me with a look just this side of pity and asks, “You gonna eat that thing or make love to it?”

Her nephew, Jerry, sidles up to a bar stool on my left. “A lot of people like ’em with chips,” he says with a nod toward the pink juice pooling on the bar in front of me. I offer to buy him a lip, and Audrey fishes one from a jar behind the counter, wraps it in tinfoil, and places the whole affair on a paper towel in front of him.

I take stock of my own cowardice, and, following Jerry’s lead, reach for a bag of potato chips, tear open the top with my teeth, and toss the quivering hunk of

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hog flesh into the shiny interior of the bag, slick with grease and dusted with salt. Vinegar vapors tickle my nostrils. I stifle a gag that rolls from the back of my throat, swallow hard, and pray that the urge to vomit passes.

With a smash of my hand, the potato chips are reduced to a pulp, and I feel the cold lump of the lip beneath my fist. I clasp the bag shut and shake it hard in an effort to ensure chip coverage in all the nooks and crannies of the lip. The technique that Jerry uses — and I mimic — is not unlike that employed by home cooks mixing up a mess of Shake ’n Bake chicken.

I pull from the bag a coral crescent of meat now crusted with blond bits of potato chips. When I chomp down, the soft flesh dissolves between my teeth. It tastes like a flaccid cracklin’, unmistakably porcine, and not altogether bad. The chips help, providing texture where there was none. Slowly, my brow unfurrows, my stomach ceases its fluttering.

Sensing my relief, Jerry leans over and peers into my bag. “Kind of look like Frosted Flakes, don’t they?” he says, by way of describing the chips rapidly turning to mush in the pickling juice. I offer the bag to Jerry, order yet another beer, and turn to eye the pig feet floating in a murky jar by the cash register, their blunt tips bobbing up through a pasty white film.

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Edge uses the words courage (par. 13) and cowardice (par. 16) to describe his squea- mishness about eating pickled pig lip. And when he finally eats a bite of pig lip, he feels queasy. Although his nausea is undoubtedly real, it may be caused more by anxiety than by anything sickening in the food itself.

With other students, discuss the kinds of food you feel uncomfortable eating — foods you have anxiety eating, foods that gross you out, or foods you stay away from for some other reason such as a religious dietary restriction or a moral conviction. Begin by briefly telling each other about the kinds of foods you avoid. Then, to- gether consider the following questions as you discuss the reasons for your strong feelings about certain kinds of food:

What role do factors such as family, ethnic, or religious traditions play in your food choices? If your food aversions are unusual in your family or community, consider how other family or community members regard your choice — for example, as a quirk or as a rejection of something they value. If you find it hard to try foods from different cultures, why do you think that is?

Early in the essay, Edge makes clear that he is squeamish about eating a pickled pig lip even though he is a Southerner and it is a popular southern delicacy. How does his difficulty eating the pig lip set him apart from the other people in the bar? What else separates him from them?

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Detailed Information about the Subject

Profiles present information primarily from the writer’s direct observation of the subject, plus what was learned from interviews and from background Internet and library research. Because profile writers get much of their information from obser- vation and because they try to give readers a vivid picture of the subject, describing is their most important writing strategy.

Edge probably assumes that most of his readers have never seen a pickled pig lip, much less eaten one. Therefore, he describes this product carefully. To describe an object like a pickled pig lip, writers use naming, detailing, and comparing to cre- ate vivid images. Consider, for example, Edge’s description of the brine in which the pig lips swim as “Kool-Aid-red slurry” (par. 4). Slurry, which Edge uses to name the mixture of ingredients in the brine, is also descriptive, because the term slurry derives from mining and other industrial uses, where it denotes a slimy liquid or thin mud. The detail “Kool-Aid-red,” with its implied comparison with the popular, artificially colored children’s drink, creates a vivid visual image for anyone familiar with Kool- Aid. Descriptive details such as these provide sensory information — color, shape, smell, taste, or texture — and may also identify qualities and make evaluations (for example, the “good” and “bad” parts of the pig lip in par. 4).

Writers use the following familiar figures of speech when they make comparisons:

Simile, in which two things are explicitly compared using the words like or as.

Metaphor, in which two things are implicitly compared by calling one thing something else.

For example, Edge uses simile when he writes that pig lips “look more like candy than like carrion” (par. 5), and he employs metaphor when he describes the tem- perature of the air conditioning at Jesse’s Place as “Arctic” (par. 1).

To analyze Edge’s use of the describing strategies of naming, detailing, and comparing, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 5–7, 14, and 16–18. Underline two things Edge names, put brackets around four descriptive details, and circle any similes and metaphors that he uses to help readers imagine eating a pig lip.

Write a few sentences about the overall or dominant impression Edge’s description of pickled pig lips makes. If you have never seen a pickled pig lip, what more do you need to know to imagine what it looks, smells, feels, tastes, and sounds like when you chomp down on it? Which details make a lip seem appealing to you? Which ones make it seem unappealing?

A Clear Organizational Plan

A profile may be presented narratively, as a sequence of events observed by the writer during an encounter with the place, person, or activity; or it may be presented

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EDGE / I ’M NOT LEAVING UNTIL I EAT THIS THING 79

topically, as a series of topics of information gathered by the writer about the per- son, place, or activity. Sometimes profile writers, like Edge, use both narrative and topical organization. Edge frames (begins and ends) his profile with a story about his attempt to eat a pig lip.

To analyze how Edge uses both a narrative and topical organization, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 16–18 and highlight places where the sequence of actions involved in eating a pig lip are narrated.

Skim paragraphs 3–12 and note in the margin where Edge presents the fol- lowing topics: the production process, the various products produced by Farm Fresh, the source of the products, and the history of the Farm Fresh business.

Write a few sentences explaining what, if anything, you learn from Edge’s narrative that you can’t find out from the topics he presents in para- graphs 3–12.

A Role for the Writer

Profile writers can choose to adopt the role of a spectator or the role of a participant. For example, in the preceding essay, Cable takes the role of spectator when he talks to Howard and Tim and takes a tour of the Goodbody mortuary. To take on a par- ticipant role, Cable would have had to help the funeral director or embalmer in his daily activities.

To analyze how Edge uses both roles in this essay, do the following:

Skim the essay and note in the margin where Edge uses the spectator role and where he uses the participant role.

Write a few sentences giving an example of each role and explaining how the examples show which role he is using. How does he keep the two roles separate?

A Perspective on the Subject

Profile writers do not merely present information about the subject; they also offer their insights. They may convey a perspective on their subject by stating it explicitly or by implying it through the descriptive details and information they choose to include in the essay. Brian Cable, for example, by comparing the display of caskets to shiny new cars in a showroom, shares his realization about Americans’ denial of death and our inclination to profit from it.

To analyze Edge’s perspective in this essay, do the following:

Reread paragraph 1 and highlight the descriptions of the patrons of Jesse’s Place, noting particularly information suggesting the kinds of work they do and their socioeconomic class.

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PHOTOGRAPH OF A PIG

Write a paragraph or two analyzing the photograph Edge includes in his essay and explain what it contributes to the profile.

To analyze the visual, you can use the Criteria for Analyzing Visuals chart in Chapter 20 on pp. 675–77. The chart offers a series of questions you can ask yourself under two categories: Key Components and Rhetorical Context. You will see that there are a lot of questions, but don’t feel you have to answer all of them. Focus on the questions that seem most productive in helping you write a short analysis. Try beginning with these questions:

Composition

Edge could have used a full-body photograph of a pig, a photo of pigs at play, or some other composition. Why do you think he chose a close-up of a pig’s face taken from one particular angle?

Rhetorical Context

Given his purpose and audience, why do you think Edge chose a photograph of a pig instead of a photograph of pig lips in a jar or of lips being eaten in a site like Jesse’s Place? Why did he not choose a photograph of the Farm Fresh company or the Dufour family? What does the choice of visual suggest about the subject and the writer’s perspective?

ANALYZING VISUALS

Consider writing about a place that serves, produces, or sells something unusual, perhaps something that, like Edge, you could try yourself for the purpose of further informing and engaging your readers. There are many possibilities: producer or packager of a special ethnic or regional food or a local café that serves it, licensed acupuncture clinic, caterer, novelty and toy balloon store, microbrewery, chain saw dealer, boat builder, talent agency, manufacturer of ornamental iron, bead store, nail salon, pet fish and aquarium supplier, detail- ing shop, tattoo parlor, scrap metal recycler, fly-fishing shop, handwriting ana- lyst, dog or cat sitting service. If none of these appeal to you, try browsing the Yellow Pages in print or online at yellow.com. Remember that relating your experience with the service or product is a good idea but not a requirement for a successful profile.

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Skim paragraph 15, where Jerry shows Edge how people like to eat pickled pig lips.

Write a few sentences explaining Edge’s perspective on this popular Southern bar snack and how it may reflect his own class position.

 

 

ORLEAN / SHOW DOG 81

SUSAN ORLEAN is a staff writer for the New Yorker and widely recognized as a master of the profile genre. The 2002 Academy Award-nominated film Adaptation was based on Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief, which began as “Orchid Fever,” a New Yorker profile originally published in 1995. Some of Orlean’s other profiles have been reprinted in The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People (2001) and My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere (2004).

A dog lover, Orlean claims to have co-written Throw Me a Bone: 50 Healthy, Canine Taste- Tested Recipes for Snacks, Meals, and Treats (2003) with her Welsh Springer Spaniel, Cooper. Presumably without Cooper’s help, she is currently writing a biography of the movie and television star Rin Tin Tin.

“Show Dog,” as you will see, begins with an attention-grabbing, playful opening sentence. As you read, consider how Orlean’s tone changes throughout the essay and how effective these changes in tone are in keeping your interest.

Show Dog Susan Orlean

If I were a bitch, I’d be in love with Biff Truesdale. Biff is perfect. He’s friendly, good-looking, rich, famous, and in excellent physical condition. He almost never drools. He’s not afraid of commitment. He wants children — actually, he already has children and wants a lot more. He works hard and is a consummate professional, but he also knows how to have fun.

What Biff likes most is food and sex. This makes him sound boorish, which he is not — he’s just elemental. Food he likes even better than sex. His favorite things to eat are cookies, mints, and hotel soap, but he will eat just about any-

– ments, said not long ago, “When we’re driving on I-95, we’ll usually pull over at McDonald’s. Even if Biff is napping, he always wakes up when we’re getting close. I get him a few plain hamburgers with buns — no ketchup, no mustard, and no pickles. He loves hamburgers. I don’t get him his own French fries, but if I get my- self fries I always flip a few for him into the back.”

If you’re ever around Biff while you’re eating something he wants to taste — cold roast beef, a Wheatables cracker, chocolate, pasta, aspirin, whatever — he will stare at you across the pleated bridge of his nose and let his eyes sag and his lips tremble and allow a little bead of drool to percolate at the edge of his mouth until you feel so crummy that you give him some. This routine puts the people who know him in a quandary, because Biff has to watch his weight. Usually, he is as skinny as

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Kate Moss, but he can put on three pounds in an instant. The holidays can be tough. He takes time off at Christmas and spends it at home, in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where there’s a lot of food around and no pressure and no schedule and it’s easy to eat all day. The extra weight goes to his neck. Luckily, Biff likes working out. He runs for fifteen or twenty minutes twice a day, either outside or on his Jog-Master. When he’s feeling heavy, he runs longer, and skips snacks, until he’s back down to his ideal weight of seventy-five pounds.

Biff is a boxer. He is a show dog — he performs under the name Champion Hi- Tech’s Arbitrage — and so looking good is not mere vanity; it’s business. A show dog’s career is short, and judges are unforgiving. Each breed is judged by an explicit standard for appearance and temperament, and then there’s the incal- culable element of charisma in the ring. When a show dog is fat or lazy or sullen, he doesn’t win; when he doesn’t win, he doesn’t enjoy the ancillary benefits of being a winner, like appearing as the celebrity spokesmodel on packages of

– ing the best-looking bitches and charging them six hundred dollars or so for his sexual favors, which Biff does three or four times a month. Another ancillary benefit of being a winner is that almost every single weekend of the year, as he travels to shows around the country, he gets to hear people applaud for him and yell his name and tell him what a good boy he is, which is something he seems to enjoy at least as much as eating a bar of soap.

at the Westminster Kennel Club’s show, this week, he will retire from active show life and work full time as a stud. It’s a good moment for him to retire. Last year, he won more shows than any other boxer, and also more than any other dog in the purebred category known as Working Dogs, which also includes Akitas, Alaskan malamutes, Bernese mountain dogs, bullmastiffs, Doberman pinschers, giant

Siberian huskies, and standard schnauzers. Boxers were named for their habit of standing on their hind legs and punching with their front paws when they fight. They were originally bred to be chaperones — to look forbidding while being pleasant to spend time with. Except for show dogs like Biff, most boxers lead a life of relative leisure. Last year at Westminster, Biff was named Best Boxer and Best Working Dog, and he was a serious contender for Best in Show, the highest honor any show dog can hope for. He is a contender to win his breed and group again this year, and is a serious contender once again for Best in

If you’re ever around Biff while you’re eating something he wants to

taste . . . he will stare at you across the pleated bridge of his nose and

let his eyes sag and his lips tremble . . .

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Show, although the odds are against him, because this year’s judge is known as a poodle person.

Biff is four years old. He’s in his prime. He could stay on the circuit for a few more years, but by stepping aside now he is making room for his sons Trent and

He’ll also spend less time in airplanes, which is the one part of show life he doesn’t like, and more time with his owners, William and Tina Truesdale, who might be persuaded to waive his snacking rules.

Biff has a short, tight coat of fox-colored fur, white feet and ankles, and a patch of white on his chest roughly the shape of Maine. His muscles are plainly sketched under his skin, but he isn’t bulgy. His face is turned up and pushed in, and has a dark mask, spongy lips, a wishbone-shaped white blaze, and the earnest and slightly careworn expression of a small-town mayor. Someone once told me that

There are plenty of people who like boxers with bigger bones and a stockier body and taller shoulders — boxers who look less like marathon runners and more like weight-lifters — but almost everyone agrees that Biff has a nearly perfect head.

“Biff’s head is his father’s,” William Truesdale, a veterinarian, explained to me one day. We were in the Truesdales’ living room in Attleboro, which overlooks acres of hilly fenced-in fields. Their house is a big, sunny ranch with a stylish pas- tel kitchen and boxerabilia on every wall. The Truesdales don’t have children, but at any given moment they share their quarters with at least a half-dozen dogs. If you watch a lot of dog-food commercials, you may have seen William — he’s the

Mealtime while his boxers gallop around. “Biff has a masculine but elegant head,” William went on. “It’s not too wet

around the muzzle. It’s just about ideal. Of course, his forte is right here.” He pointed to Biff ’s withers, and explained that Biff ’s shoulder-humerus articula- tion was optimally angled, and bracketed his superb brisket and forelegs, or something like that. While William was talking, Biff climbed onto the couch and sat on top of Brian, his companion, who was hiding under a pillow. Brian

and has the composure of a hummingbird. As a young competitor, he once bit a judge — a mistake Tina Truesdale says he made because at the time he had been going through a little mind problem about being touched. Brian, whose show name is Champion Cragmor’s Hi-Tech Man, will soon go back on the circuit, but now he mostly serves as Biff ’s regular escort. When Biff sat on him, he started to quiver. Biff batted at him with his front leg. Brian gave him an adoring look.

“Biff’s body is from his mother,” Tina was saying. “She had a lot of sub- stance.”

“She was even a little extreme for a bitch,” William said. “She was rather buxom. I would call her zaftig.”

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“Biff’s father needed that, though,” Tina said. “His name was Tailo, and he was fabulous. Tailo had a very beautiful head, but he was a bit fine, I think. A bit slender.”

“Even a little feminine,” William said, with feeling. “Actually, he would have been a really awesome bitch.”

The first time I met Biff, he sniffed my pants, stood up on his hind legs and stared into my face, and then trotted off to the kitchen, where someone was cook- ing macaroni. We were in Westbury, Long Island, where Biff lives with Kimberly

year, Kim and Biff went to at least one show every weekend. If they drove, they took Kim’s van. If they flew, she went coach and he went cargo. They always shared a hotel room.

While Kim was telling me all this, I could hear Biff rummaging around in the kitchen. “Biffers!” Kim called out. Biff jogged back into the room with a phony look of surprise on his face. His tail was ticking back and forth. It is cropped so that it is about the size and shape of a half-smoked stogie. Kim said that there

of Kim’s other clients, and that Biff could smell her and was a little out of sorts. “Let’s go,” she said to him. “Biff, let’s go jog.” We went into the garage, where a treadmill was set up with Biff’s collar suspended from a metal arm. Biff hopped on and held his head out so that Kim could buckle his collar. As soon as she leaned toward the power switch, he started to jog. His nails clicked a light tattoo on the rubber belt.

Except for a son of his named Biffle, Biff gets along with everybody. Matt Stander, one of the founders of Dog News, said recently, “Biff is just very, very personable. He has a je ne sais quoi that’s really special. He gives of himself all the time.” One afternoon, the Truesdales were telling me about the psychology that went into making Biff who he is. “Boxers are real communi- cators,” William was saying. “We had to really take that into consideration in his upbringing. He seems tough, but there’s a fragile ego inside there. The profound reaction and hurt when you would raise your voice at him was really something.”

“I made him,” Tina said. “I made Biff who he is. He had an overbearing personality when he was small, but I consider that a prerequisite for a great performer. He had such an attitude! He was like this miniature man!” She shim- mied her shoulders back and forth and thrust out her chin. She is a dainty, chic woman with wide-set eyes and the neck of a ballerina. She grew up on a farm

always loved boxers, and Tina decided to dabble with them in shows. Now she makes a monogrammed Christmas stocking for each animal in their house, and she watches the tape of Biff winning at Westminster approximately once a week.

world,” Tina said.

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“He doesn’t take after me very much,” William said. “I’m more of a golden retriever.”

“Oh, he has my nature,” Tina said. “I’m very strong-willed. I’m brassy. And Biff is an egotistical, self-centered, selfish person. He thinks he’s very important and special, and he doesn’t like to share.”

Biff is priceless. If you beg the Truesdales to name a figure, they might say that Biff is worth around a hundred thousand dollars, but they will also point out that a Japanese dog fancier recently handed Tina a blank check for Biff. (She immediately threw it away.) That check notwithstanding, campaign- ing a show dog is a money-losing proposition for the owner. A good handler gets three or four hundred dollars a day, plus travel expenses, to show a dog, and any dog aiming for the top will have to be on the road at least a hundred days a year. A dog photographer charges hundreds of dollars for a portrait, and a portrait is something that every serious owner commissions, and then runs as a full-page ad in several dog-show magazines. Advertising a show dog is standard procedure if you want your dog or your presence on the show circuit to get well known. There are also such ongoing show-dog expenses as entry fees, hair-care products, food, health care, and toys. Biff ’s stud fee is six hundred dollars. Now that he will not be at shows, he can be bred several times a month. Breeding him would have been a good way for him to make money in the past, except that whenever the Truesdales were enthusiastic about a mating they bartered Biff ’s service for the pick of the litter. As a result, they now have more Biff puppies than Biff earnings. “We’re doing this for posterity,” Tina says. “We’re doing it for the good of all boxers. You simply can’t think about the cost.”

On a recent Sunday, I went to watch Biff work at one of the last shows he would attend before his retirement. The show was sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Kennel Club and was held in a big, windy field house on the campus of Lehigh

pasted with life-size decals of dogs. On my way to the field house, I passed some- one walking an Afghan hound wearing a snood, and someone else wiping down a Saluki with a Flintstones beach towel. Biff was napping in his crate — a fancy- looking brass box with bright silver hardware and with luggage tags from Delta, USAir, and Continental hanging on the door. Dogs in crates can look woeful, but Biff actually likes spending time in his. When he was growing up, the Truesdales decided they would never reprimand him, because of his delicate ego. Whenever he got rambunctious, Tina wouldn’t scold him — she would just invite him to sit in his crate and have a time-out.

On this particular day, Biff was in the crate with a bowl of water and a gour- met Oinkeroll. The boxer judging was already over. There had been thirty-three in competition, and Biff had won Best in Breed. Now he had to wait for several hours . . . for Best in Show. . . .

While he was napping, I pawed through his suitcase. In it was some dog food; towels; an electric nail grinder; a whisker trimmer; a wool jacket in a lively

 

 

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pattern that looked sort of Southwestern; an apron; some antibiotics; baby oil; coconut-oil coat polish; boxer chalk powder; a copy of Dog News; an issue of Showsight magazine, featuring an article subtitled “Frozen Semen — Boon or Bane?” and a two-page ad for Biff, with a full-page, full-color photograph of him and Kim posed in front of a human-size toy soldier; a spray bottle of fur cleanser; another Oinkeroll; a rope ball; and something called a Booda Bone. The apron was for Kim. The baby oil was to make Biff’s nose and feet glossy when he went into the ring. Boxer chalk powder — as distinct from, say, West Highland- white-terrier chalk powder — is formulated to cling to short, sleek boxer hair and whiten boxers’ white markings. . . .

Typically, dog contestants first circle the ring together; then each contestant poses individually for the judge, trying to look perfect as the judge lifts its lips for a dental exam, rocks its hindquarters, and strokes its back and thighs. The judge at Lehigh was a chesty, mustached man with watery eyes and a grave expression. He directed the group with hand signals that made him appear to

I started to worry. Biff had a distracted look on his face, as if he’d forgotten some- thing back at the house. Finally, it was his turn. He pranced to the center of the ring. The judge stroked him and then waved his hand in a circle and stepped out of the way. Several people near me began clapping. A flashbulb flared. Biff held his position for a moment, and then he and Kim bounded across the ring, his feet moving so fast that they blurred into an oily sparkle, even though he really didn’t have very far to go. He got a cookie when he finished the performance, and another a few minutes later, when the judge wagged his finger at him, indicating that Biff had won again.

You can’t help wondering whether Biff will experience the depressing letdown that retired competitors face. At least, he has a lot of stud work to look forward to, although William Truesdale complained to me once that the Truesdales’ standards for a mate are so high — they require a clean bill of health and a substantial pedigree — that “there just aren’t that many right bitches out there.” Nonetheless, he and Tina are optimistic that Biff will find enough suitable mates to become one of the most influential boxer sires of all time. “We’d like to be remembered as the boxer people of the nineties,” Tina said. “Anyway, we can’t wait to have him home.” . . .

Just then, Biff, who had been on the couch, jumped down and began pacing. “Going somewhere, honey?” Tina asked.

He wanted to go out, so Tina opened the back door, and Biff ran into the back yard. After a few minutes, he noticed a ball on the lawn. The ball was slippery and a little too big to fit in his mouth, but he kept scrambling and trying to grab it. In the meantime, the Truesdales and I sat, stayed for a moment, fetched ourselves turkey sandwiches, and then curled up on the couch. Half an hour passed, and Biff was still happily pursuing the ball. He probably has a very short memory, but he acted as if it were the most fun he’d ever had.

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Detailed Information about the Subject

Most of the information in profile writing comes from direct observation and interview, although some may also come from background library or Internet research. Brian Cable, for example, describes what he sees as he tours the Goodbody Mortuary, but much of the information about the mortuary business and the embalming process he gathers from interviews with the funeral director and mor- tician. He presents the interview information by quoting and paraphrasing what they told him.

To analyze Orlean’s use of observation, interview, and background research, do the following:

Skim the essay and find at least one example of information from each of the following categories: (1) observation, (2) interview, and (3) background library or Internet research. Be sure that at least one of your examples is a quotation,

William and Tina Truesdale talk about Biff as if they were his natural, rather than his adoptive parents:

“He doesn’t take after me very much,” William said. “I’m more of a golden retriever.”

“Oh, he has my nature,” Tina said. “I’m very strong-willed. I’m brassy. And Biff is an egotistical, self-centered, selfish person. He thinks he’s very important and special, and he doesn’t like to share.” (pars. 18–19)

Referring to an animal as if it were a human being is called anthropomorphism. Tina does this when she describes Biff ’s personality as being like her own, as if he inherited certain characteristics from her. William goes even further by describing himself as a dog. Tina and William identify with Biff so thoroughly that the differ- ences between the species seem to evaporate for them.

With other students in your class, discuss your own attitudes toward animals with whom you have lived or the attitudes of other people you have observed. In what ways do people identify with and anthropomorphize their pets? Begin by briefly telling each other what you have experienced or observed. Then, together consider the following questions as you discuss your ideas about people’s attitudes toward animals:

Although we may feel attached to our pets, many of us eat other animals. How do you think people reconcile anthropomorphizing pets while they treat other species (in)differently?

In addition to being a member of the family, Biff is big business for the Truesdales. How does his being a show dog affect the Truesdales’ attitudes toward Biff? Is there any evidence in the essay that they treat him differently because he’s a moneymaker as well as a pet?

MAKING CONNECTIONS: ATTITUDES TOWARD ANIMALS

ANALYZING WRITING STRATEGIES

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and at least one is a summary or paraphrase. (A summary very briefly gives the gist of what was said, while a paraphrase provides more detail. Both summary and paraphrase are written essentially in the writer’s own words, although a word or phrase may be quoted.)

Write a couple of sentences explaining what in your examples enables you to identify whether the information comes from observation, interview, or back- ground research.

Analyze Orlean’s use of quotation by circling the quotation marks, underlin- ing the punctuation, and putting brackets around the speaker tags — words and phrases that identify the speaker and characterize how the words were spoken. (To learn more about speaker tags, turn to Working with Sources on pp. 112–13.) Write a sentence or two speculating about why Orlean chose to quote, when she uses quotation, rather than summarize or paraphrase the information.

A Clear Organizational Plan

Orlean’s plan for her profile is primarily topical. Her essay moves from topic to topic until paragraph 21, where she signals to readers that she is switching to nar- rative with the opening phrase: “On a recent Sunday. . . .” In paragraphs 21–24, she recounts what happened to Biff on that particular day.

To analyze the topical organization, follow these suggestions:

Reread paragraphs 2–5, 7–13, 16–19, and 20, and note the topic of each of these groups of paragraphs. (Some of these paragraphs are about more than one thing, so choose the topic that seems most important.)

Write a couple of sentences reflecting on how well these topics answer your questions about Biff ’s life as a show dog.

Add another sentence or two explaining what the narrative in paragraphs 21–24 contributes to the profile.

A Role for the Writer

Even when profile writers refer to themselves and express their preconcep- tions, surprise, or other reaction to the subject, they may still be playing a detached observer role. Such is the case in Brian Cable’s profile of the Goodbody Mortuary. He uses the personal pronoun I throughout his essay and places him- self in various scenes: for example, “I found the funeral director in the main lobby. . . . I followed him through an arched doorway” (pars. 5, 15). Cable also explicitly tells us what he thought and felt: “It wasn’t at all what I had expected. I thought it would be more like Forest Lawn . . .” (par. 3). To have played a par- ticipant observer role, however, Cable would have had to work alongside the funeral director or mortician — in other words, he would have had to acquire

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insider knowledge. Instead, by playing the spectator role, Cable makes it easy for readers to identify with his point of view.

To analyze the role Susan Orlean plays in her essay, follow these suggestions:

Reread the following scenes, noting where Orlean uses I, locates herself in the scene, or indicates what she was thinking and feeling: the first time she met Biff at Kim’s house on Long Island (pars. 14–15); the scene at the Lehigh Valley Kennel Club show in Pennsylvania (pars. 21–24); or the scene at the Truesdales’ home (pars. 25–27).

Write a few sentences giving examples from your analysis of these scenes and reflecting on the effectiveness of the spectator role in enabling you to look over Orlean’s shoulder as she learns about Biff ’s life as a show dog.

A Perspective on the Subject

Profile writers convey their perspective through the choices they make about the kinds of information they include in the essay. But they may also frame the essay at the beginning with comments that give readers a sense of what they think about their subject. Cable, for example, begins by noting that pedestrians “avert their eyes when they walk past” the mortuary. He, on the other hand, walks in and faces his fears. In fact, Cable concludes the essay by describing what it feels like to touch a dead body.

To analyze how Orlean conveys her perspective, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 1–2, noting how Orlean introduces Biff.

Reread paragraphs 25–27, noting that Orlean asks and seems to answer her own question about how Biff will handle his retirement. What do you think her point is here?

Write a few sentences analyzing Orlean’s perspective in the opening and con- cluding paragraphs of the essay. Consider how the kind of anthropomorphiz- ing discussed in the Making Connections activity for this reading plays out in these two passages.

Some profiles are about a particular individual who has an unusual job or hobby, or has accomplished something special. In profiling Biff, Orlean is writing this kind of profile. Even though she can’t interview Biff, she spends time with him in several different locations and interviews people who live and work with him. You might consider writing about somebody you find intriguing, perhaps someone who does the kind of work you are interested in learning more about — for example, a police officer, attorney, or judge; a high school or college coach; an independent contractor or a small business owner; a newspaper editor, blogger, or poet; or a performance artist, graffiti artist, or musician.

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AMANDA COYNE, an award-winning staff writer for the Anchorage Press, earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. Coauthor of Alaska Then and Now (2008), a profile of Alaska across the decades, Coyne has written for the New York Times Magazine and Newsweek, among other national publications. Coyne also blogs on the Huffington Post and contributes to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and PRI’s This American Life. “The Long Good-Bye,” her

first piece of published writing, originally appeared in Harper’s Magazine. Coyne’s “Long Good-Bye” takes a more ethnographic turn than the other profiles in

this chapter, in that she uses direct observation and interview over an extended period of time to study the behavior of a particular community. In this profile, Coyne examines women who have been incarcerated and separated from their children to see how the mothers and children negotiate their difficult relationships. As you read, think about what you learn about the stresses on these parent-child relationships. Which of these stresses seem particular to the situation Coyne describes? Are any of the factors present recogniz- able in the relationships of parents and children where prison is not a factor?

The Long Good-Bye: Mother’s Day in Federal Prison Amanda Coyne

You can spot the convict-moms here in the visiting room by the way they hold and touch their children and by the single flower that is perched in front of them — a rose, a tulip, a daffodil. Many of these mothers have untied the bow that attaches the flower to its silver-and-red cellophane wrap- per and are using one of the many empty soda cans at hand as a vase. They sit proudly before their flower-in-a-Coke-can, amid Hershey bar wrappers, half-eaten Ding Dongs, and empty paper coffee cups. Occasionally, a mother will pick up her present and bring it to her nose when one of the bearers of the single flower — her child — asks if she likes it. And the mother will respond the way that mothers always have and always will respond when presented with a gift on this day. “Oh, I just love it. It’s perfect. I’ll put it in the middle of my Bible.” Or, “I’ll put it on my desk, right next to your school picture.” And always: “It’s the best one here.”

But most of what is being smelled today is the children themselves. While the other adults are plunking coins into the vending machines, the mothers take deep whiffs from the backs of their children’s necks, or kiss and smell the backs of their knees, or take off their shoes and tickle their feet and then pull them close to their noses. They hold them tight and take in their own second

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scent — the scent assuring them that these are still their children and that they still belong to them.

The visitors are allowed to bring in pockets full of coins, and today that Mother’s Day flower, and I know from previous visits to my older sister here

an aberrant urge to gather immediately around the vending machines. The sand- wiches are stale, the coffee weak, the candy bars the ones we always pass up in a convenience store. But after we hand the children over to their mothers, we gravitate toward those machines. Like

conversation ensues around the microwave while the popcorn is popping and the processed-chicken sandwiches are being heated. We ask one another where we are from, how long a drive we had. An occasional whistle through the teeth, a shake of the head. “My, my, long way from home, huh?” “Staying at the Super 8 right up the road. Not a bad place.” “Stayed at the Econo Lodge last time. Wasn’t a good place at all.” Never asking the questions we really want to ask: “What’s she in for?” “How much time’s she got left?” You never ask in the waiting room of a doctor’s office either. Eventually, all of us — fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, a few boyfriends, and very few husbands — return to the queen of the day, sitting at a fold-out table loaded with snacks, prepared for five or so hours of attempted normal conversation.

Most of the inmates are elaborately dressed, many in prison-crafted dresses and sweaters in bright blues and pinks. They wear meticulously applied makeup in corresponding hues, and their hair is replete with loops and curls — hair that only women with the time have the time for. Some of the better seamstresses have crocheted vests and purses to match their outfits. Although the world outside would never accuse these women of making haute-couture fashion statements, the fathers and the sons and the boyfriends and the very few husbands think they look beautiful, and they tell them so repeatedly. And I can imagine the hours spent preparing for this visit — hours of needles and hooks clicking over brightly colored yards of yarn. The hours of discussing, dissecting, and bragging about these visitors — especially the men. Hours spent in the other world behind the door where we’re not allowed, sharing lipsticks and mascaras, and unraveling the occa- sional hair-tangled hot roller, and the brushing out and lifting and teasing . . . and the giggles that abruptly change into tears without warning — things that define any female-only world. Even, or especially, if that world is a female federal prison camp.

While the other adults are plunking coins into the vending machines, the mothers take deep

whiffs from the backs of their children’s necks, or kiss and smell the backs of their knees, or take off

their shoes and tickle their feet and then pull them

close to their noses.

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While my sister Jennifer is with her son in the playroom, an inmate’s mother comes over to introduce herself to my younger sister, Charity, my brother, John, and me. She tells us about visiting her daughter in a higher-security prison before she was transferred here. The woman looks old and tired, and her shoulders sag under the weight of her recently acquired bitterness.

Never seen anything like it. Like something out of an old movie about prisons.” Her voice is getting louder and she looks at each of us with pleading eyes. “My daughter was there. Don’t even get me started on that place. Women die there.”

John and Charity and I silently exchange glances. “My daughter would come to the visiting room with a black eye and I’d think,

‘All she did was sit in the car while her boyfriend ran into the house.’ She didn’t even touch the stuff. Never even handled it.”

She continues to stare at us, each in turn. “Ten years. That boyfriend talked and he got three years. She didn’t know anything. Had nothing to tell them. They gave her ten years. They called it conspiracy. Conspiracy? Aren’t there real crimi- nals out there?” She asks this with hands outstretched, waiting for an answer that none of us can give her.

The woman’s daughter, the conspirator, is chasing her son through the maze of chairs and tables and through the other children. She’s a twenty-four-year-old blonde, whom I’ll call Stephanie, with Dorothy Hamill hair and matching dimples. She looks like any girl you might see in any shopping mall in middle America. She catches her chocolate-brown son and tickles him, and they laugh and trip and fall together onto the floor and laugh harder.

Had it not been for that wait in the car, this scene would be taking place at home, in a duplex Stephanie would rent while trying to finish her two-year degree in dental hygiene or respiratory therapy at the local community college. The duplex would be spotless, with a blown-up picture of her and her son over the couch and ceramic unicorns and horses occupying the shelves of the en- tertainment center. She would make sure that her son went to school every day with stylishly floppy pants, scrubbed teeth, and a good breakfast in his belly. Because of their difference in skin color, there would be occasional tension — caused by the strange looks from strangers, teachers, other mothers, and the bullies on the playground, who would chant after they knocked him down, “Your Momma’s white, your Momma’s white.” But if she were home, their weekends and evenings would be spent together transcending those looks and healing those bruises. Now, however, their time is spent eating visiting-room junk food and his school days are spent fighting the boys in the playground who chant, “Your Momma’s in prison, your Momma’s in prison.”

He will be ten when his mother is released, the same age my nephew will be when his mother is let out. But Jennifer, my sister, was able to spend the first five years of Toby’s life with him. Stephanie had Ellie after she was incarcerated. They let her hold him for eighteen hours, then sent her back to prison. She has done the “tour,” and her son is a well-traveled six-year-old. He has spent weekends visiting his mother in prisons in Kentucky, Texas,

 

 

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Ellie looks older than his age. But his shoulders do not droop like his grandmother’s. On the contrary, his bitterness lifts them and his chin higher than a child’s should be, and the childlike, wide-eyed curiosity has been re- placed by defiance. You can see his emerging hostility as he and his mother play together. She tells him to pick up the toy that he threw, say, or to put the deck of cards away. His face turns sullen, but she persists. She takes him by the shoulders and looks him in the eye, and he uses one of his hands to swat at her. She grabs the hand and he swats with the other. Eventually, she pulls him toward her and smells the top of his head, and she picks up the cards or the toy herself. After all, it is Mother’s Day and she sees him so rarely. But her acquiescence makes him angrier, and he stalks out of the playroom with his shoulders thrown back.

Toby, my brother and sister and I assure one another, will not have these resentments. He is better taken care of than most. He is living with relatives in Wisconsin. Good, solid, middle-class, churchgoing relatives. And when he visits us, his aunts and his uncle, we take him out for adventures where we walk down the alley of a city and pretend that we are being chased by the “bad guys.” We buy him fast food, and his uncle, John, keeps him up well past his bedtime enthralling him with stories of the monkeys he met in India. A perfect mix, we try to convince one another. Until we take him to see his mother and on the drive back he asks the question that most confuses him, and no doubt all the other children who spend much of their lives in prison visiting rooms: “Is my Mommy a bad guy?” It is the question that most seri- ously disorders his five-year-old need to clearly separate right from wrong. And because our own need is perhaps just as great, it is the question that haunts us as well.

Now, however, the answer is relatively simple. In a few years, it won’t be. In a few years we will have to explain mandatory minimums, and the war on drugs, and the murky conspiracy laws, and the enormous amount of money and time that federal agents pump into imprisoning low-level drug dealers and those who happen to be their friends and their lovers. In a few years he might have the reasoning skills to ask why so many armed robbers and rapists and child-molesters and, indeed, murderers are punished less severely than his mother. When he is older, we will somehow have to explain to him the differ- ence between federal crimes, which don’t allow for parole, and state crimes, which do. We will have to explain that his mother was taken from him for five years not because she was a drug dealer but because she made four phone calls for someone she loved.

But we also know it is vitally important that we explain all this without be- traying our bitterness. We understand the danger of abstract anger, of being disillusioned with your country, and, most of all, we do not want him to inherit that legacy. We would still like him to be raised as we were, with the idea that we live in the best country in the world with the best legal system in the world — a

 

 

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legal system carefully designed to be immune to political mood swings and public hysteria; a system that promises to fit the punishment to the crime. We want him to be a good citizen. We want him to have absolute faith that he lives in a fair country, a country that watches over and protects its most vulnerable citizens: its women and children.

So for now we simply say, “Toby, your mother isn’t bad, she just did a bad thing. Like when you put rocks in the lawn mower’s gas tank. You weren’t bad then, you just did a bad thing.”

Once, after being given this weak explanation, he said, “I wish I could have done something really bad, like my Mommy. So I could go to prison too and be with her.”

It’s now 3:00. Visiting ends at 3:30. The kids are getting cranky, and the adults are both exhausted and wired from too many hours of conversation, too much coffee and candy. The fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and the few boyfriends, and the very few husbands are beginning to show signs of gathering the trash. The mothers of the infants are giving their heads one last whiff before tucking them and their paraphernalia into their respective carrying cases. The visitors meander toward the door, leaving the older children with their mothers for one last word. But the mothers never say what they want to say to their children. They say things like, “Do well in school,” “Be nice to your sister,” “Be good for Aunt Berry, or Grandma.” They don’t say, “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. I love you more than anything else in the world and I think about you every minute and I worry about you with a pain that shoots straight to my heart, a pain so great I think I will just burst when I think of you alone, without me. I’m sorry.”

We are standing in front of the double glass doors that lead to the outside world. My older sister holds her son, rocking him gently. They are both crying. We give her a look and she puts him down. Charity and I grasp each of his small hands, and the four of us walk through the doors. As we’re walking out, my brother sings one of his banana songs to Toby.

“Take me out to the — ” and Toby yells out, “Banana store!” “Buy me some — ” “Bananas!!” “I don’t care if I ever come back. For it’s root, root, root for the — ” “Monkey team!” I turn back and see a line of women standing behind the glass wall. Some of

them are crying, but many simply stare with dazed eyes. Stephanie is holding both of her son’s hands in hers and speaking urgently to him. He is struggling, and his head is twisting violently back and forth. He frees one of his hands from her grasp, balls up his fist, and punches her in the face. Then he walks with purpose through the glass doors and out the exit. I look back at her. She is still in a crouched posi- tion. She stares, unblinking, through those doors. Her hands have left her face and are hanging on either side of her. I look away, but before I do, I see drops of blood drip from her nose, down her chin, and onto the shiny marble floor.

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Coyne reflects near the end of the essay that she wishes her nephew Toby would “have absolute faith that he lives in a fair country” (par. 16). Yet, she expects that, like Stephanie’s son Ellie, Toby will become bitter and angry when he understands that “his mother was taken from him for five years not because she was a drug dealer but because she made four phone calls for someone she loved” (par. 15).

With other students in your class, discuss an occasion when you broke a rule or neglected to fulfill an obligation and believe your punishment did not fit the crime. Perhaps you broke a school regulation, violated a rule at work or on a team, or failed to meet a reasonable expectation of your parents or a friend. Perhaps you failed someone who trusted you and whose trust you valued. Although you will- ingly admit having done it, you may still feel the punishment was unjustified. Begin by briefly telling each other what you did and why you think the punishment was unfair. Then, together consider the following questions as you discuss your ideas about what is fair and unfair:

Why do you think the punishment was unfair? Were the rules or expectations that you broke clear and reasonable? Were they applied to everyone or only ap- plied selectively or at the whim of those in power?

Coyne uses the value term fair to describe what’s wrong with the punishment her sister and some of the other women received. Why do you think Coyne believes her sister’s punishment is unfair? Why does Stephanie’s mother think her punishment was unfair? Do you agree or disagree?

MAKING CONNECTIONS: UNFAIR PUNISHMENT

Detailed Information about the Subject

Coyne conveys a lot of information about her sister and the other inmates. She focuses, however, on the effects of separation on mothers and children. The most powerful effects are revealed in Coyne’s anecdotes portraying what happened between Stephanie and her son Ellie during this particular visit. Anecdotes are brief narratives about one-time events.

To analyze how Coyne uses anecdotes to present information about the effects of separation, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 13 and 26, underlining the words that Coyne uses to present Ellie’s hostile actions and putting brackets around the words Coyne uses to present his mother’s reactions.

Write a few sentences explaining what you learn from these anecdotes about the effects on Stephanie and Ellie of enforced separation.

A Clear Organizational Plan

Coyne’s plan for her profile is narrative, spanning visiting hours at the Federal Prison Camp on one particular day, Mother’s Day. The essay begins early in the visit and stops a few hours later, when the visiting period ends. But it does not follow a

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strict chronological order. Some events occur at the same time as other events. For example, paragraphs 1 to 3 present actions that occur at the same time: while moth- ers are getting reacquainted with their children (pars. 1 and 2), the family members are using the vending machines and chatting with one another.

To analyze Coyne’s organizational plan, follow these suggestions:

Reread the rest of the essay, noting in the margin when the events are happen- ing in relation to the events in earlier paragraphs and highlighting any words, phrases, or sentences that let you know the time of the events.

Write a few sentences analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness of this plan. Coyne could have chosen to organize her essay topically, by presenting a series of insights and impressions from the many visits she made instead of focus- ing on this particular Mother’s Day. How does the focus Coyne chose help you understand the situation of the women and their families?

A Role for the Writer

Profile writers usually adopt either the role of a participant or the role of a specta- tor. Sometimes, they manage to use both roles, as Edge does. Because Coyne made her observations during a family visit to her sister, she has the opportunity to use both the spectator and participant role in her essay.

To analyze the way Coyne uses the two roles, do the following:

Skim the essay, looking for passages where Coyne shifts from the spectator to the participant role and back again to the spectator role. Note in the margin the role she is using and highlight the words that let you know what her role is.

Write a sentence or two describing how she uses the two roles and how she avoids confusing readers when she shifts from one role to another.

A Perspective on the Subject

Coyne seems concerned both about the difficult relationship between incarcer- ated mothers and their children and about the plight of women in the legal system. Coyne makes a judgment about the fairness of the laws that sent women like her sister Jennifer and Stephanie to prison, but she does not state it explicitly. Instead, she conveys her perspective indirectly through the dialogue, stories, and descriptive details she includes in the profile. Rather than telling readers what to think about this issue, she shows them what she used to reach her own conclusions, and hopes her readers will agree with her.

To analyze Coyne’s perspective, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 5–10 to see how Stephanie’s mother explains her daughter’s dilemma, paragraph 11 where Coyne presents a scene she imagines, and para- graph 15 to see what Coyne speculates about.

Write a few sentences explaining how these three episodes convey Coyne’s per- spective. Give specific examples from the essay to help your readers understand why you think these episodes convey this particular perspective.

READINGS

 

 

BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL ESSAY: WRITING PROFILES 97

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Writing Profiles One meaning of the word profile is the outline or shape of a per- son’s face when viewed from the side; it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that our first example of nontraditional pro- files is a visual portrait.

Many formal portraits tell the viewer a great deal about the subject beyond what they look(ed) like. Clothing, attitude and posture, setting, other people and objects in the frame, and even the identity of the portraitist (as evidenced by the signature and/ or characteristic style) all provide explicit markers of the signifi- cance of the individual portrayed.

For example, take a look at this portrait of Captain Charles Stewart, painted between 1811 and 1812 by American artist Thomas Sully. According the Web site of the National Gallery of Art (www.nga.gov), where the painting is displayed, “During the half-century from the War of 1812 to the Civil War, American connoisseurs judged portraits by the romantic, even theatrical, standards set by Thomas Sully. . . . Having recently won victories over French privateers, the handsome naval officer [Stewart] com- missioned the work as a gift for his mother. . . . Sully lit the thirty- three-year-old captain with a fiery orange glow and depicted his feet braced apart as though planted on a rolling deck. Stewart’s

In researching her profile, Coyne spends the day in the visitor’s room of a prison where she can observe and talk to prisoners and visitors, both adults and children. She has the advantage of having made many previous visits to this same prison’s visitor’s room, yet nearly all of the information presented in her profile comes from this one visit. You can replicate Coyne’s method by profiling an activity occurring over a short period of time, in a relatively small space, and involving only a few people. You should visit the place several times beforehand, observing and talking to people on every visit, making notes in the process, and perhaps capturing a few digital images. Here are some manageable possibilities:

the waiting room of the student health service’s clinic on your campus, a day- care center, a hospital emergency room

the practice sessions of a college sport or rehearsals of a small music ensemble

the research lab where a small group of students is collaborating on the same project, or the campus learning or writing center where students come for help with their studies

the broadcast room of a campus radio station or a production studio where film students are assembling a film

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR OWN ESSAY

READINGS

 

www.nga.gov

 

98 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILES

thumb aggressively presses down on a nautical chart, while a world globe, under- neath the tablecloth, alludes to navigation.”

Traditional portraiture, then, can exhibit most of the basic features of the writ- ten profile: Sully’s painting offers a physical description of Stewart, provides infor- mation about his profession and station in life, and presents the artist’s (and, likely, the subject’s) perspective on the officer’s achievements and prospects as those of a dashing, ambitious, successful adventurer. Even a role for the author of the portrait is in evidence — Sully’s literal signature and his artistic style make his participation visible, while at the same time they indicate the social prominence of the subject who could afford to commission him.

By their nature, still portraits do not allow for a profile’s development — either topical or narrative — over time. However, there are many other forms of pro- file common in our culture — films, books, plays, operas, and Web sites, among other forms of expression — that do. Michael Moore’s documentaries (Bowling for Columbine, Roger and Me, Sicko) are examples of works that exhibit the basic fea- tures of a traditional profile, including a primarily narrative plan of development.

Many of us are probably most familiar with profiles as the self-descriptions we create on Internet sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn. As is the case on most such sites, the various sections of the Facebook profile — (basic) Information; Friends; Photos; the “Wall,” with its various components; etc. — are customizable,

to an extent, but they provide a basic template of identity that many of us find recognizable and useful, both for presenting ourselves and for un- derstanding others.

As you work on your own profile, you might want to consult some of these alternative forms of profiles for inspiration. If the format in which you are working allows for it — if, for example, you are creating a poster, Web site, or video — you should consider taking advantage of the strategies available to those working in multimedia — for example, by embedding artifacts that are relevant to the profile you’re creating. (Always remember to properly doc- ument any material you might use that was created by someone else.)

READINGS

 

 

99

To learn about using the Guide e-book for invention and drafting, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

Guide to Writing

The Writing Assignment Write an essay about an intriguing person, group of people, place, or activity in your community. Observe your subject closely, and then present what you have learned in a way that both informs and engages readers.

This Guide to Writing will help you apply what you have learned about how writers make their profile essays informative and entertaining. The Guide is divided into five sections with various activities in each section:

Invention and Research

Planning and Drafting

Critical Reading Guide

Editing and Proofreading

Revising

The Guide is designed to escort you through the writing process, from finding an event to editing your finished essay. Your instructor may require you to follow the Guide to Writing from beginning to end. Working through the Guide to Writing in this way will help you — as it has helped many other college students — write a thoughtful, fully developed, polished essay.

If, however, your instructor gives you latitude to choose and if you have had experience writing a profile essay, then you can decide on the order in which you’ll do the activities in the Guide to Writing. For example, the Invention and Research section includes activities to help you find a subject, choose a role, explore your preconceptions, research the subject, and develop a perspective you want your pro- file essay to take on the subject. Obviously, finding a subject must precede the other activities, but you may come to the Guide with a subject and a role already in mind, and you may do some preliminary research before you explore your preconceptions or choose to explore your preconceptions and develop a perspective as you are re- searching the subject. In fact, you may find your response to one of the invention activities expanding into a draft before you’ve had a chance to do any of the other activities. Writers sometimes find that, in writing up their observation and inter- view notes, they are in effect drafting parts of their essay. That’s a good thing — but you should later flesh out your draft by going back to the activities you skipped and layering the new material into your draft.

The following chart will help you find answers to many of the questions you might have about planning, drafting, and revising a profile. The page references in the Where to Look column refer to examples from the readings, activities in the Guide to Writing, and chapters later in the book.

 

 

Starting Points: Writing a Profile Basic Features

What’s my purpose in writing? How can I convince my audience that the subject is worth profiling?

How do I come up with an appropriate subject to profile?

Question Where to Look

How can I make my subject come to life?

How can I gather information on my subject?

Detailed Information about the Subject

profile?

A Clear Organizational

Plan

What role should I adopt in researching and presenting my subject?

A Role for the Writer

How do I develop and

on the subject?

A Perspective on the Subject

Choosing a Subject

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 101 GUIDE TO WRITING

Invention and Research Some of the following invention activities will take only a few minutes each to complete, but the field research — making detailed observations and conducting interviews — will take more time to plan and carry out. There is much to learn about observing, interviewing, and writing about what you have discovered, and these activities will support your learning. Remember to keep a written record of your invention work: You will need it when you draft the essay and later when you revise it.

Choosing a Subject to Profile

List several possible subjects and choose one to explore. You may already have a sub- ject in mind, perhaps one suggested by the Considering Topics for Your Own Essay activities following the readings. Reread any notes you might have made in response to those suggestions. Below are criteria you should keep in mind as you make your choice. Also consider the kinds of subjects listed below and the advice on using the Web to find a subject.

Kinds of Subjects to Consider

Community-Related Subjects

an activity that takes a “broken windows” approach to community improve- ment (for example, helping people in a neighborhood fix broken windows, paint their homes, plant trees, or remove graffiti)

a facility that provides a needed service at your college or in the community (for example, a legal advice bureau, child-care center, medical clinic, or home- less shelter)

a place where people come together because they are of the same age, gender, or ethnic group (for example, a foreign language–speaking dorm or Lesbian

Criteria for Choosing a

Profile Subject:

A Checklist

Your subject — whether it’s a person, a group of people, a place, or an activity — should be

a subject that you can gain access to in the time allowed for researching the essay, allowing you to make detailed observations;

a subject about which (or with whom) you can conduct in-depth interviews;

a subject about which/whom you can find background information (if required by your instructor);

a subject about which/whom you have special insight, or at least strong ideas or curiosity;

a subject your readers would find interesting and informative.

 

 

102 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILESGUIDE TO WRITING

Gay Bisexual Transgender club) or a place where people of different ages, genders, or ethnic groups have formed a community (for example, a Sunday morning pickup basketball game in the park, political action headquarters, or barber shop)

a person who is a community leader, a volunteer, or an elected official with the ability to bring people together or solve local problems

Career- and Work-Related Subjects

activities performed by researchers on your campus (for example, nanotech- nology, forensics, entomology, indigenous languages, or religious studies)

a place where people are trained for a certain kind of work (for example, a police academy, cosmetology program, or truck driving school) or a person preparing for a particular kind of work (for example, a boxer preparing for a fight, an attorney preparing for a trial, or an actor rehearsing a role)

activities performed on your campus by a department, program, club, or center (for example, a center for crime and justice studies, medical and health career program, or center for sustainable development)

a place where you could learn more about the kind of career you would like to pursue (for example, a law office, dental office, or television station) or where people do a kind of work you would like to know more about (for example, a clothing factory, dairy farm, or racetrack)

a person working in the career you are thinking of pursuing or a college senior or graduate student in a major you are considering who could help you learn about the kind of preparation needed

people working together for a particular purpose (for example, students and their teacher working together to prepare for the academic decathlon competi- tion, employees working together to produce something, or scientists collabo- rating on a research project)

Using the Web to Find and Explore a Profile Subject

You could search the following Internet sites for possible subjects:

your campus Web site for potentially intriguing places, activities, people, or programs (for example, campus freshman tours, disability services, student clubs, or the academic senate)

a city or state Web site for interesting places or people (for example, the city council, EMS department, public records department, or a jury room)

Google or YellowPages.com for unusual local restaurants or small businesses (like these near Riverside, California: Al Kauser Halal Meat, Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, La Sierra Fire Equipment, or Scuba Bee Supplies)

Once you have found a subject, exploring the Web could help you find background information that could help you develop questions to ask in your interview:

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 103 GUIDE TO WRITING

Google the subject to find possible sources of information. (For example, if you are planning on interviewing a local beekeeper, Googling “beekeeping” will give you a lot of information about the process and history as well as possible causes and effects of the die-off of honey bees.)

If you are writing about a person, try searching Facebook or some other social- networking site for background on him or her.

Make notes of any information or insights suggested by your online research, and download any visuals you might include in your essay, being sure to get the infor- mation necessary to cite any online sources. (See p. 774–76 for the MLA citation format for electronic sources.)

Ways In: Finalizing Your Choice

To be certain that the subject you have chosen will work, you need to check that you can get access to the subject and also see whether the role you want to adopt will be possible. You may do these in either order or even at the same time.

Basic Features

Checking That You Can Do the Field Research Getting Permission for Your Role

or activity you want to observe and/or the people you want to interview. Observing some places and activities may not require special planning, but interviews will nearly always require advance scheduling.

need to get permission from, or you may be able to phone or e-mail your request. Either way, build in time for a response to your request.

why you are interested. Most people tend to be surprisingly generous with their time and eager to help students, but be prepared for occasional refusals, and always make an effort to be polite, dress properly, come on time, and conduct yourself professionally.

(See Chapter 22 for more advice on planning your observations and interviews.)

You may need to get permission to do your research from someone in authority and also from your instructor.

Participant Observer

part in a small way for a limited time (for example, by making a hamburger at a fast-food restaurant).

whether you should assume your regular role; he or she may require you to find a new angle instead so that you learn something new. (For example, if you’re on the football team, you might focus not on the players but the cheerleaders or the people who maintain the field.)

Spectator Role. To use this role effectively, you need to get close enough to look over the shoulder of people who are centrally involved. Ask permission from those in charge to interview participants and observe them in action.

 

 

104 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILESGUIDE TO WRITING

Exploring Your Preconceptions

Write a paragraph or two describing what you already know and think about your subject and what you would like to learn about it. The following questions will get you started:

What I Already Know about This Subject

How can I define or describe it?

What are its chief qualities or parts?

Whom do I associate with it?

What is its purpose or function?

How does it compare with other subjects with which I am more familiar?

My Expectations about This Subject

Why do I assume it will be interesting to me and to my readers?

What do I hope to learn about it?

How does this subject reflect cultural or community values and concerns?

Testing Your Choice

Decide whether you should proceed with this particular subject. Giving up on a profile subject is bound to be frustrating, but if, after doing some work on it, the subject does not seem a strong possibility for you to research and write about, starting over may be the wisest course of action. The questions that follow may help you decide whether to go on with this subject or begin looking for an alternative.

After reviewing my possible subjects, do I still feel that I have made the best choice, or does another subject seem more promising?

Do I still feel curious about the subject?

Am I confident I will be able to make the subject interesting for my readers?

Do I believe that I can research this subject sufficiently in the time I have?

A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

Get together with two or three other students, and describe the subject you have chosen

to profile.

Presenters: Take turns identifying your subjects. Explain your interest in the subject,

and speculate about why you think it will interest readers.

Listeners: Briefly tell each presenter what you already know about his or her subject, if

anything, and what might make it interesting to readers.

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 105 GUIDE TO WRITING

Setting Up a Tentative Schedule

Create a tentative schedule for your observations, interviews, and background research. You might use a chart like the one that follows, which you can update as you go along. Think about the order in which each activity should be com- pleted. Sometimes it’s best to start with observations; other times it’s best to begin with an interview, a trip to the library, or an Internet search for back- ground information. Notice that immediately after the observations and inter- views, you need to give yourself five minutes or so to clarify and add to your notes. It’s also a good idea to do write-ups for each observation and interview; your instructor may ask you to bring your write-ups to class, and you can use them when you draft your essay. (See the sections that follow for more informa- tion on making observations and conducting interviews, and refer to Chapter 22: Field Research for more detail.)

10/22 30 minutes Background Internet

research

Print map, bookmark

potentially useful sites

10/23 30 minutes 1st observation: Find out

whom to interview, pick up

any materials

Bring map, directions, paper

& pen

10/23 30 minutes Write up 1st observation

(for class) & schedule

interview

Review observation notes

10/24 45 minutes 1st interview. While there

schedule 2nd interview

Prepare questions

10/24 20 minutes Write up 1st interview (for

class)

Review interview notes

10/25 1 hour 2nd observation and

interview

Bring notes on needed details

& prepare 2nd interview

questions

Date Time Needed Purpose Preparation

 

 

106 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILESGUIDE TO WRITING

Making Observations Conducting Interviews

Come Prepared. Bring a notepad, pen, and any necessary devices (such as a phone with a camera and audio recorder) to each observational visit.

Come Prepared. Bring preliminary questions, a notepad, pen, and any necessary recording devices to each interview.

Take Notes. Use all of your senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch:

noting furnishings, décor, etc.

actions, but be careful not to invade people’s privacy.

seem to feel.

relation to your preconceptions and the perspective you might take in your essay.

Take Notes. Write down potentially important information and anything quotable. Describe the interviewee’s tone, gestures, mannerisms — anything that would provide vivid description and add to the overall impression.

anecdotes, ask how the interviewee got involved in the first place; if there was a high or a low point, a breakthrough, or a key event worth noting; what most concerns the interviewee; what has been the biggest influence for good or ill.

process narratives, ask how it works; what happens if it breaks down; whether it was always done the same way; how it has changed; how it could be improved.

classify, compare, or contrast, ask what kind of thing it is; how it’s like and unlike others of its kind; how it compares to what it was like in the past.

perspective, ask why the interviewee thinks it is important, needed, helpful, etc., and who would agree and disagree; what the purpose of it is or how it contributes to the community; what its shortcomings are or how it could be improved.

(continued)

Ways In: Collecting Information from Field Research

The following activities will help you make observations and conduct inter- views. Many writers begin with observation to get the lay of the land and decide whom to interview, but you can start with either one. You may also be able to make observations and conduct interviews during the same visit.

Basic Features

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 107 GUIDE TO WRITING

Collect Visuals. Look for artifacts and consider taking photographs you could include in your profile.

might be able to use either to prepare for interviews or to include in your essay.

sure to ask permission of the people you are photographing).

scanning the scene from side to side, or a tracking shot indicating what you see as you enter or walk through the place.

Reflect on the Interview. Take five minutes right after your interview to review your notes. Later, you can listen to or watch any recordings you made at the scene and add to your notes. Focus now on your first impressions. Mark the promising material — for example:

your own or your readers’ likely preconceptions;

of the place, people, and activity;

capture the tone or mood of the subject;

perspective on the subject.

Making Observations Conducting Interviews

(continued)

Reflect on Your Observations. Take five minutes right after your visit to think about what you observed, and write a few sentences about your impressions of the subject:

preconceptions?

Write Up Your Observations. Compose a few paragraphs reporting on your visit. Your instructor may ask you to bring these paragraphs to class, and writing up your observations may produce language you can use in your draft. It will certainly help you think about how to describe your subject, what impression you want to create, and the perspective your profile should take.

Write Up Your Interview. Write a few paragraphs, deciding what to quote, summarize, paraphrase, or leave out. Be sure to describe the person’s tone of voice, gestures, and appearance as well as any details you noticed about the place. You may decide not to include all of this material in your essay but it will help you figure out what’s important and interesting.

Do a Follow-up Interview. If your interviewee said you could e-mail or phone to check your facts, follow up with questions or requests for clarification. You might also arrange to talk to another person who has different kinds of information to share.

Do a Follow-up Observation. Consider returning for a follow-up visit, which you could combine with a scheduled interview. Examine other aspects of the place or activity and try to answer questions you still have. Consider whether the impression you had on the first visit holds and what else you could note that would make your description vivid.

 

 

108 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILESGUIDE TO WRITING

Ways In: Reflecting on Your Purpose and the Profile’s Perspective

The following activities, which can be done in any order, will help you deepen your analysis and think of ways to help your readers gain a better understanding of your subject’s cultural significance.

Basic Features

Considering Your Thesis

Review what you wrote under Developing a Perspective and Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers, and add a couple of sentences summarizing the main idea you want readers to take away from your essay.

Remember that readers do not expect a profile to have the kind of explicit thesis statement typical of argumentative essays, but they do need the descriptive details and other information to work together to create a dominant impression.

Designing Your Document

Think about whether visual or audio elements — photographs, postcards, menus, or snip- pets from films, television programs, or songs — would strengthen your profile. These are not a requirement for an effective profile, but they can be helpful. Consider also whether your readers might benefit from design features such as headings, bulleted or numbered lists, or other typographic elements that can make an essay easier to follow.

Think of the profiles you have seen in a magazine or on a Web page or television show. What visual or audio elements, if any, were used to create a strong sense of the subject being profiled? Photographs? Postcards? Menus? Signs? Song lyrics?

Write for five minutes exploring your perspective on the subject — what it is about the subject that seems important and meaningful.

place, ask yourself what is interesting to you about its culture: What rituals are practiced there? Who visits it? What is its function in the community?

activity, consider how it has changed over time, for good or for ill; how outsiders are initiated into the activity; who benefits from the activity; and what its value is for the community.

person or group, ask yourself what sense of identity they have; what customs and ways of communicating they follow; what their values and attitudes are; what they think about social hierarchies or gender difference; and how they see their role in the community.

Write for five minutes exploring what you want your readers to learn about the subject. Use these questions to help you clarify your thinking:

to know and think about your subject?

interesting to your readers?

preconceptions or stereotypes about the subject?

social and cultural significance — that is, what it implies about our shared or different values and concerns?

Developing a Perspective Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 109 GUIDE TO WRITING

As you review the questions on the next few pages, especially those under “Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals,” think about the ways in which you might show as well as tell readers about your object of study. (Remember that you must cite the source of any visual or audio element you do not create yourself, and you should also request permission from the source if your essay is going to be posted on a Web site that is not password-protected.)

Planning and Drafting The following activities will help you refine your purpose, set goals for your draft, and outline it. In addition, this section will help you write a draft by writ- ing opening sentences, trying out a useful sentence strategy, and learning how to work with sources.

Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals

Before starting to draft, here are some questions that may help you sharpen your purpose for your audience and set goals for your draft. Your instructor may ask you to write out your answers to some of these questions or simply to think about them as you plan and draft your essay.

Clarifying the Dominant Impression

Although you are trying to create a dominant impression with the description and information you include in your essay, you should be careful not to oversimplify or whitewash it. Readers appreciate profiles that reveal the richness and complexity of the subject. For example, even as Brian Cable shows that the Goodbody Mortuary is guided by crass commercialism, he also gets readers to think about cultural atti- tudes about death, perhaps exemplified in his own complex feelings.

Review your observation and interview notes and write-ups, highlighting in one color the descriptive language that supports the dominant impression you want your essay to create.

Highlight in a second color any descriptions that seem to create a different impression.

Write for a few minutes exploring how these different impressions relate to one another. Consider whether they reveal complexity in the subject or ambiva- lence in your perspective that could be developed further in your essay.

Presenting the Information

Review your invention writing, noting in the margin which bits of information you should include in your draft and how you might present them. Consider the following:

What special terms will I need to define for my readers?

What comparisons or contrasts might make the information clearer and more memorable?

 

 

110 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILESGUIDE TO WRITING

Which information could be listed or categorized?

How can I present causes or effects in a vivid way?

From my interview(s) and background research, what lively language should I quote (instead of summarizing or paraphrasing)?

Using Your Role

Whether you chose to adopt a participant-observer or spectator role, you need to think about how you can use your role to engage readers and present the informa- tion you’ve chosen to include. Either role can be used to help readers identify with you. For example, if you are entering a place most of us avoid (as Cable does when he enters the mortuary) you can take us with you as you learn about the place and look over other people’s shoulders to see what they’re doing. Or if you act as a par- ticipant trying to learn how to do what others routinely do (as Edge does when he tries to eat a pickled pig lip), readers can imagine themselves in your shoes.

Regardless of your role, also consider how to refer to yourself in your draft. Here are some possibilities:

Use the first-person pronoun. (For example, “While Kim was telling me all this, I could hear Biff rummaging around in the kitchen” [Orlean, par. 15].)

Place yourself at the scene. (For example, “I followed him through an arched doorway into a chapel that smelled musty and old” [Cable, par. 15].)

Refer to your own actions. (For example, “John and Charity and I silently exchange glances” [Coyne, par. 7].)

Share your thoughts and feelings. (For example, “Death may be a great leveler, but one’s coffin quickly reestablishes one’s status” [Cable, par. 17].)

Outlining Your Draft

It may already be clear to you whether you should organize your information topi- cally or narratively — or try to combine the two as Edge does when he uses his story about eating a pig lip as a frame for the topical presentation of the information he learned from observing and interviewing at the Farm Fresh Food Supplier plant.

If you plan to arrange your material narratively, plot the key events on a timeline. The following suggests one possible way to organize a narrative profile of a place:

I. Begin by describing the place from the outside.

II. Present background information.

III. Describe what you see as you enter.

IV. Introduce the people and activities.

V. Tour the place, describing what you see as you move from one part to the next.

VI. Fill in information wherever you can, and comment about the place or the people.

VII. Conclude with reflections on what you have learned about the place.

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 111 GUIDE TO WRITING

If you plan to arrange your material topically, use clustering or outlining to help you divide and group related information. Here is a suggested outline for a topical profile about a person:

I. Begin with a vivid image of the person in action.

II. Present the first topic. (A topic could be a characteristic of the person or one aspect of his or her work.) Use dialogue, description, narration, process de- scription, evaluation, or interpretation to illustrate this topic.

III. Present the second topic. Use dialogue, description, narration, process descrip- tion, evaluation, or interpretation to illustrate this topic.

IV. Present the third topic (and continue as above until you have presented all topics).

V. Conclude with a bit of action or dialogue.

The tentative plan you choose should reflect the possibilities in your material as well as your purpose and readers. As you begin drafting, you will almost certainly discover new ways of organizing parts of your material.

Drafting

If you have not already begun to draft your essay, this section will help by suggesting how to write your opening sentences; how to use temporal transitions and verb tense to draft a narrative that readers will be able to follow; and how to integrate quotations from your interviews. Drafting isn’t always a smooth process, so don’t be afraid to leave spaces where you don’t know what to put in or to write notes to yourself about what you still need to do. If you get stuck while drafting, go back over your invention writing: You may be able to copy and paste some of it into your evolving draft, or you may need to do some additional invention to fill in details in your draft.

Writing the Opening Sentences

You could try out one or two different ways of beginning your essay — possibly from the list that follows — but do not agonize over the first sentences because you are likely to discover the best way to begin only as you draft your essay. Review your invention writing to see if you have already written something that would work to launch your essay. To engage your readers’ interest from the start, consider the fol- lowing opening strategies:

a surprising statement (like Orlean)

a remarkable thought or occasion that triggers your observational visit (like Cable)

a vivid description (like Coyne)

a compelling description of the time and place (like Edge)

an arresting quotation

a fascinating bit of information

an amusing anecdote

For more on clustering and outlining, see Chapter 11, pp. 563–68.

 

 

112 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILESGUIDE TO WRITING

A Sentence Strategy: Absolute Phrases

As you draft your profile, you will need to help your readers imagine your subject. A grammatical structure called an absolute phrase is useful for this purpose. Here is an example, with the absolute phrase in italics:

I offer the bag to Jerry, order yet another beer, and turn to eye the pig feet floating in a murky jar by the cash register, their blunt tips bobbing up through a pasty white film. (Edge, par. 19)

Edge could have presented his observation of the pickled pig feet in a separate sentence, but the sentence he wrote brings together his turning and looking and what he actually saw, emphasizing the at-a-glance instant of another possible stomach flutter.

Absolute phrases modify a whole sentence or a clause, rather than a single word. They are nearly always attached to the end of a main clause, adding various kinds of details to it to create a more complex, informative sentence. They are usually introduced by a noun (like tips) or a possessive pronoun (like his, its, or their), fol- lowed by participial phrases (like bobbing up . . .). Here are three further examples of absolute phrases from this chapter’s readings:

This was a solid bronze casket, its seams electronically welded to resist corrosion. (Cable, par. 21)

Slowly, the dank barroom fills with grease-smeared mechanics from the truck stop up the road and farmers straight from the fields, the soles of their brogans thick with dirt clods. (Edge, par. 1)

Biff held his position for a moment, and then he and Kim bounded across the ring, his feet moving so fast that they blurred into an oily sparkle, even though he really didn’t have very far to go. (Orlean, par. 24)

Absolute phrases are certainly not required for a successful profile — experienced writers use them only occasionally — yet they do offer writers an effective sentence option. Try them out in your own writing.

For more on using absolute phrases, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide and click on Sentence Strategies.

One of the ways profiles present information from interviews is by quoting. These quotations can be especially revealing because they let readers hear different people speaking for themselves. Nevertheless, it is the writer who decides which quotations to use and how. Therefore, one major task you face in drafting and revising your essay is to choose quotations from your notes, present them in a timely way to reveal the style and character of people you interviewed, and integrate these quotations smoothly into your sentences.

Working with Sources: Integrating Quotations from Your Interviews

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 113 GUIDE TO WRITING

When you directly quote (rather than paraphrase or summarize) what some- one has said, you will usually need to identify the speaker. The principal way to do so is to create what is called a speaker tag. You may rely on a general or all-purpose speaker tag, using said:

“She was even a little extreme for a bitch,” William said. “She was rather buxom. I would call her zaftig.” (Orlean, par. 11)

Other speaker tags are more specific:

“It was a large service,” remarked Howard. (Cable, par. 16)

“Something deep within us demands a confrontation with death,” Tim explained. (Cable, par. 23)

“Take me out to the” — and Toby yells out, “Banana store!” (Coyne, par. 21)

As you draft your profile, consider using specific speaker tags. They give readers more help with imagining speakers’ attitudes and personal styles. You may also add a word or phrase to any speaker tag to identify or describe the speaker or to reveal more about how, where, when, or why the speaker speaks:

“We’re in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, along with another funeral home whose owners’ names are Baggit and Sackit,” Howard told me, without cracking a smile. (Cable, par. 14)

“Kind of look like Frosted Flakes, don’t they?” he says, by way of describing the chips rapidly turning to mush in the pickling juice. (Edge, par. 19)

Matt Sander, one of the founders of Dog News, said recently, “Biff is just very, very personable.” (Orlean, par. 16)

Once, after being given this weak explanation, he said, “I wish I could have done something really bad, like my Mommy. So I could go to prison too and be with her.” (Coyne, par. 18).

In addition to being carefully introduced, quotations must be precisely punctuated, and fortunately there are only two general rules:

1. Enclose all quotations in quotation marks. These always come in pairs, one at the beginning, one at the end of the quotation. Be especially careful not to forget to include the one at the end.

2. Separate the quotation from its speaker tag with appropriate punctuation, usually a comma. But if you have more than one sentence (as in the first and last examples above), be careful to punctuate the separate sentences properly.

For more on integrating quotations, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide and click on

see also Chapter 24, pp. 759–60.

 

 

114 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILESGUIDE TO WRITING

Critical Reading

Guide

For a printable version of this Critical

bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

Your instructor may arrange a peer review session in class or online where you can exchange drafts with your classmates and give each other a thoughtful critical reading, pointing out what works well and suggesting ways to improve the draft. This Critical Reading Guide can also be used productively by a tutor in the writ- ing center or by a roommate or family member. A good critical reading does three things: it lets the writer know how the reader understands the point of the profile, praises what works best, and indicates where the draft could be improved.

1. Assess the quality and presentation of information about the subject.

Summarize: Tell the writer one thing you learned about the subject from reading the essay.

Praise: Point out one passage where the description seems especially vivid, a quotation stands out, or another writing strategy — defining, comparing or contrasting, classifying, explaining causes or effects, narrating anecdotes or processes, giving examples or lists — works particularly well to present information.

Critique: Point out one passage where description could be added or where the description could be made more vivid, where a quotation falls flat and should be paraphrased or summarized, or where another writing strategy — defining, comparing or contrasting, classifying, explaining causes or effects, narrating anecdotes or processes, giving examples or lists — could be added or improved.

2. Analyze the organizational plan.

Summarize: Identify the kind of plan — narrative, topical, or both — the draft uses.

Praise: Comment on the plan’s effectiveness. For example, point to a place where one topic leads logically to the next or where temporal transitions help you follow the narrative organization. Also, indicate what in the open- ing paragraphs grabs your attention or why you think the ending works well.

Critique: Point to information that seems out of place or where the chro- nology is confusing. If you think the opening or ending could be improved, suggest an alternative passage in the essay that could work as an opening or an ending.

3. Evaluate the writer’s role.

Summarize: Identify the role — spectator or participant-observer — the writer adopts.

Praise: Point to a passage where the spectator or participant-observer role enables you to identify with the writer, enhancing the essay’s immediacy or interest.

Basic Features

 

 

REVISING 115 GUIDE TO WRITING

Critique: Point out any problems with the role — for example, if the partici- pant-observer role becomes tiresome or distracting, or if the spectator role seems too mechanical and distant.

4. Evaluate how well the author’s perspective on the subject and the dominant impression are conveyed.

Summarize: State briefly what you believe to be the writer’s perspective on the subject and the dominant impression you get from the essay.

Praise: Give an example where you have a strong sense of the writer’s per- spective through a comment, description, quotation, or bit of information.

Critique: Tell the writer if the essay does not have a clear perspective or convey a dominant impression. To help him or her find one, explain what interests you about the subject and what you think is important. If you see contradictions in the draft that could be developed to make the profile more complex and illuminating, briefly explain.

5. If the writer has expressed concern about anything in the draft that you have not discussed, respond to that concern.

Making Comments Electronically Most word processing software offers features that allow you to insert comments directly into the text of someone else’s document. Many readers prefer to make their comments this way because it tends to be faster than writing on hard copy and space is virtually unlimited; it also eliminates the process of deciphering handwritten comments. Where such features are not available, simply typing comments directly into a document in a contrasting color can provide the same advantages.

Revising Very likely you have already thought of ways to improve your draft, and you may even have begun to revise it. In this section is a Troubleshooting chart that may help. Before using the chart, however, it is a good idea to

review critical reading comments from your classmates, instructor, or writing center tutor, and

make an outline of your draft so that you can look at it analytically.

Making an outline of the draft, even if you made an outline before drafting, can help you see what you actually wrote as opposed to what you intended to write. Your aim should not be to make your draft conform to your original draft, but to make your draft as good as it can be.

For an electronic version of the Troubleshooting chart, go to bedfordstmartins .com/theguide.

 

 

Troubleshooting Your Draft Basic Features

Problem Suggestions for Revising the Draft

Detailed Information about the Subject

Describe a physical feature or mannerism that gives each person individuality. Add speaker tags to characterize how people talk. Liven up the dialogue with faster repartee. Add details to help readers see the person. Consider adding a comparison. Use anecdotes or specific narrative action to show the person in action.

People do not come alive.

Use a photo, map, drawing, cartoon, or other visual that might make the place and people easier to imagine or the information more understandable. Consider adding textual references to any images in your essay or positioning images more effectively.

Visuals could be added or improved.

Cut extraneous information or make clearer why the information is important. Break up long blocks of informational text with description of scenes or people, narration of events, or examples. Vary the writing strategies used to present the information: for example, add a comparison or discuss known causes or effects. Consider which parts of the information would be more engaging if presented through dialogue or summarized more succinctly.

There is too much information — it is not clear what is important.

The place is hard to visualize.

Name objects in the scene. Add sensory detail — sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Say what the place is like or unlike. Consider adding a visual — a photograph or sketch, for example.

A Clear Organizational

Plan

Try adding drama through dialogue or specific narrative action. Summarize or paraphrase instead if dialogue seems pointless or uninteresting. Give the narrative shape — for example, by building suspense or tension. Make sure the narrative unfolds or develops and has a direction that is clear.

The narrative plan drags or rambles.

Try rearranging topics to see whether another order makes more sense. Add clearer, more explicit transitions or topic sentences. Move or condense information to restore balance.

Topically arranged essay is disorganized or out of balance.

(continued)

 

 

REVISING 117 GUIDE TO WRITING

Problem (continued) Suggestions for Revising the Draft

A Role for the Writer

Consider placing yourself in the scene as you describe it. Add your thoughts and reactions to one of the interviews.

The spectator role is too distant.

Bring other people forward by adding material about them. Reduce the material about yourself.

Participation is distracting.

A Perspective on the Subject

Try stating it more directly by adding your thoughts or someone else’s. Be sure that the descriptive and narrative details reinforce the dominant impression you want your essay to convey. If your perspective is complex, you may need to discuss more directly the contradictions or complications you see in the subject.

The perspective or dominant impression is unclear.

Consider how you can appeal to readers’ interests. Reconsider what you think is important about the subject in light of readers’ ideas, and consider expanding your ideas. Elaborate on your perspective, helping readers understand why you think it is culturally significant.

Readers don’t find my perspective interesting.

A Clear Organizational

Plan

Consider alternatives. Think of questions, an engaging image, or dialogue you could open with. Go back to your notes for other ideas. Recall how the writers in this chapter open their profiles: Cable stands on the street in front of the mortuary, Edge sits at a bar staring at a pig lip.

The opening fails to engage readers’ attention.

Use an image, as Edge does. Consider adding textual references to any images in your essay or positioning images more effectively. Think of other possible design features — drawings, lists, tables, graphs, cartoons, headings — that might make the place and people easier to imagine or the information more understandable.

Visual features are not effective.

Consider ending earlier or moving a striking insight to the end. Review your invention and research notes to see if you overlooked something that would make for a strong ending. Recall how the writers in this chapter end their profiles: Cable touches the cold flesh of a cadaver, Edge stares at pig feet.

The ending seems weak.

Transitions are missing or are confusing.

Add appropriate transitional words or phrases. Revise sentences to make transitions clearer or smoother.

 

 

118 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILESGUIDE TO WRITING

The education student writing on collaborative learning (see p. 64) published her essay online so that classmates and other interested people could read her work. Web-based publishing allowed her not only to include photographs and materials from her research, but also to show her final product to the sixth graders and the teacher she had profiled.

Web documents can be more visually complex and interactive than essays writ- ten for print. In her Web-based essay, the education student incorporated photographs, links, and color highlights to make the material both more interesting and helpful to her readers. As the screen shot on this page shows, she embedded links on the left side of the page so readers could easily move through her essay and used a graphic (the dark blue

circle) to mark the current page. Since Web readers tend to skim, surf, and bounce around, the student provided several different points of entry into her post: a table of contents (“Contents”); an introduction with information about the assignment and some context for the site (“Introduction”); a page summarizing the work she researched, read, and reviewed for the project (“Background Reading”); a sec- tion reporting on her research (“Findings”); and a page including photos taken during the project (“Gallery”). She also included a “Bibliography” page listing the scholarly essays she used for back- ground reading, with links to material available online. In addition, the student writer included links to the sixth-grade class’s Web site, which contained the final projects that resulted from the Internet

research she had watched the children engage in. She encouraged readers to view these projects as evidence of the advantages of collaborative learning.

Because her topic was collaboration, she wanted a photograph showing children working together. However, since the children were minors, she would have needed parent and teacher permission to take and include their photographs. Instead, she used graphic software to alter a picture of four children so that the children’s faces were not identifiable. At key points in her essay, the student writer also included quotes from the sixth graders. She used these quotes as subtitles for individual sections of her essay, and to draw more attention to the quotes, she used a font larger than that of the body of the essay — a technique borrowed from print publishing.

Thinking About Document Design: Creating Web-Based Essays

Editing and Proofreading Now is the time to check your revised draft for errors in grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. Our research has identified several errors that occur often in profiles, including problems with the punctuation of quotations and the order of adjectives. The following guidelines will help you check your essay for these common errors.

Checking the Punctuation of Quotations Because most profiles are based in part on interviews, you probably have quoted one or more people in your essay. When you quote someone’s exact words, you must enclose these words in quotation marks and observe strict conventions for punctuating them.

 

 

EDITING AND PROOFREADING 119 GUIDE TO WRITING

What to Check For:

All quotations should have quotation marks at the beginning and the end.

“What exactly is civil litigation? I asked.

Commas and periods go inside quotation marks.

“I’m here to see Anna Post ” , I replied nervously.

Tony explained, “Fraternity boys just wouldn’t feel comfortable at the Chez

Moi Café .

inside closing quotation marks if they are a part of the quotation, outside if they are not.

After a pause, the patient asked, “Where do I sign ”?

Willie insisted, “You can too learn to play Super Mario ”!

When was the last time someone you just ticketed said to you, “Thank you,

Officer, for doing a great job ? ”

Use commas with speaker tags (he said, she asked, etc.) that accompany direct quotations.

“This sound system costs only four thousand dollars ” Jorge said.

I asked “So where were these clothes from originally?”

A Common ESL Problem: Adjective Order

The Problem: In trying to present the subject of your profile vividly and in detail, you probably have included many descriptive adjectives. When you include more than one adjective in front of a noun, you may have difficulty sequencing them. For example, do you write a large old ceramic pot or an old large ceramic pot?

How to Correct It: The following list shows the order in which adjectives are ordi- narily arranged in front of a noun:

1. Amount (a/an, the, six)

2. Evaluation (good, beautiful, ugly, serious)

3. Size (large, small, tremendous)

4. Shape, length (round, long, short)

5. Age (young, new, old)

A Note on Grammar and Spelling Checkers These tools can be help- ful, but don’t rely on them exclusively to catch errors in your text: Spelling checkers cannot catch misspellings that are themselves words, such as to for too. Grammar checkers miss some prob- lems, sometimes give faulty advice for fixing problems, and can flag correct items as wrong. Use these tools as a second line of defense after your own (and, ideally, another reader’s) proofread- ing/editing efforts.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral

of Quotations.

 

 

120 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILES

6. Color (red, black, green)

7. Origin (Asian, Brazilian, German)

8. Material (wood, cotton, gold)

9. Noun used as an adjective (computer [as in computer program], cake [as in cake pan])

Seventeen small green buds appeared on my birch sapling.

He tossed his daughter a nice new yellow tennis ball.

The slender German-made gold watch cost a great deal of money.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on A Common

Order.

A Writer at Work

Brian Cable’s Interview Notes and Write-Up Most profile writers take notes when interviewing people. Later, they may summa- rize their notes in a short write-up. In this section, you will see some of the inter- view notes and a write-up that Brian Cable prepared for his mortuary profile, “The Last Stop,” printed on pp. 69–73.

Cable arranged to tour the mortuary and conduct interviews with the funeral director and mortician. Before each interview, he wrote out a few questions at the top of a sheet of paper and then divided it into two columns; he used the left-hand col- umn for descriptive details and personal impressions and the right-hand column for the information he got directly from the person he interviewed. Following are Cable’s notes and write-up for his interview with the funeral director, Howard Deaver.

Cable used three questions to guide his interview with Howard and then took brief notes during the interview. He did not concern himself too much with notetaking because he planned to spend a half-hour directly afterward to complete his notes. He focused his attention on Howard, trying to keep the interview comfortable and conversational and jotting down just enough to jog his memory and catch especially meaningful quotations. A typescript of Cable’s interview notes follows.

The Interview Notes

QUESTIONS

1. How do families of the deceased view the mortuary business?

2. How is the concept of death approached?

3. How did you get into this business?

GUIDE TO WRITING

 

 

BRIAN CABLE’S INTERVIEW NOTES AND WRITE-UP 121

Descriptive Details & Personal Impressions Information

weird-looking tall long fingers big ears low, sloping forehead Like stereotype — skin colorless

plays with lips blinks plays with Adam’s apple desk empty — phone, no paper or pen

angry disdainful of the Neptune Society

musty, old stained glass sunlight filtered

Howard Deaver, funeral director, Goodbody Mortuaries “Call me Howard” How things work: Notification, pick up body at home or hospital, prepare for viewing, restore distorted features — accident or illness, embalm, casket — family selects, chapel services (3 in bldg.), visitation room — pay respects, family & friends.

Can’t answer questions about death — “Not bereavement specialists. Don’t handle emotional problems. Only a trained therapist can do that.” “We provide services for dead, not counseling for the living.” (great quote) Concept of death has changed in last 40 yrs (how long he’s been in the business) Funeral cost: $500–$600, now $2,000

Phone call (interruption) “I think we’ll be able to get him in on Friday. No, no, the family wants him cremated.” Ask about Neptune Society — cremation Cremation “Cheap, quick, easy means of disposal.”

Recent phenomenon. Neptune Society — erroneous claim to be only one.

“We’ve offered them since the beginning. It’s only now it’s come into vogue.” Trend now back toward burial. Cremation still popular in sophisticated areas 60% in Marin Co. and Florida Ask about paperwork — does it upstairs, lives there with wife, Nancy.

Tour around (happy to show me around) Chapel — large service just done, Italian.

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

122 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILES

man in black suit roses wooden benches

contrast brightness fluorescent lights Plexiglas stands

Cable’s interview notes include many descriptive details of Howard as well as of various rooms in the mortuary. Though most entries are short and sketchy, much of the language found its way into the final essay. In describing Howard, for example, Cable noted that he fits the stereotype of the cadaverous undertaker, a fact that Cable emphasized in his essay.

He put quotation marks around Howard’s actual words, some of them written in complete sentences, others in fragments. We will see how Cable filled these quotes in when he wrote up the interview. In only a few instances did he take down more than he could use. Even though profile writers want good quotes, they should not use quotes to present information that can be more effectively expressed in their own words. In profiles, writers use direct quotation both to provide information and to capture the mood or character of the person speaking.

As you can see, Howard was not able to answer Cable’s questions about the families of the deceased and their attitudes toward death or mortuaries. The gap between these questions and Howard’s responses led Cable to recognize one of his own misperceptions about mortuaries — that they serve the living by helping people adjust to the death of loved ones. This misperception would become an important theme of his essay.

Immediately after the interview, Cable filled in his notes with details while they were still fresh in his mind. Next, he took some time to reflect on what he had learned from his interview with Howard. Here are some of his thoughts:

I was surprised by how much Howard looked like the undertakers in scary movies. Even though he couldn’t answer some of my questions, he was friendly enough. It’s obviously a business for him (he loves to talk about caskets and to point out all their features, like a car dealer kicking a tire). Best quote: “We offer services to the dead, not counsel- ing to the living.” I have to bring up these issues in my interview with the mortician.

The Interview Write-Up

Writing up an account of the interview a short time afterward helped Cable fill in more details and reflect further on what he had learned. His write-up shows him already beginning to organize the information he had gained from his interview with the funeral director.

“Not a religious institution — a business.” casket — ”beautiful craftsmanship” — admires, expensive

Display room — caskets, about 30 of them Loves to talk about caskets “models in every price range” glossy (like cars in a showroom) cardboard box, steel, copper, bronze $400 up to $1,800. Top of line: bronze, electronically welded, no corrosion — $5,000

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

BRIAN CABLE’S INTERVIEW NOTES AND WRITE-UP 123

I. His physical appearance. Tall, skinny, with beady blue eyes embedded in his bony face. I was shocked to see that

he looks just like the undertakers in scary movies. His skin is white and colorless, from lack of sunshine. He has a long nose and a low, sloping forehead. He was wearing a clean white shirt. A most unusual man — have you ever seen those Ames Home Loan commercials? But he was friendly, and happy to talk with me. “Would I answer some questions? Sure.”

II. What people want from a mortuary. A. Well first of all, he couldn’t answer my second question, about how families cope

with the loss of a loved one. “You’d have to talk to a psychologist about that,” he said. He did tell me how the concept of death has changed over the last ten or so years.

B. He has been in the business for forty years(!). One look at him and you’d be convinced he’d been there at least that long. He told me that in the old times, everyone was buried. Embalmed, put in a casket, and paid final homage before being shipped underground forever. Nowadays, many people choose to be cremated instead. Hence comes the success of the Neptune Society and others specializing in crema- tion. You can have your ashes dumped anywhere. “Not that we don’t offer cremation services. We’ve offered them since the beginning,” he added with a look of disdain. It’s just that they’ve become so popular recently because they offer a “quick, easy, and efficient means of disposal.” Cheap too — I think it is a reflection of a “no nonsense” society. The Neptune Society has become so successful because it claims to be the only one to offer cremations as an alternative to expensive burial. “We’ve offered it all along. It’s just only now come into vogue.”

Sophisticated areas (I felt “progressive” would be more accurate) like Marin County have a cremation rate of over 60 percent. The phone rang. “Excuse me,” he said. As he talked on the phone, I noticed how he played with his lips, pursing and squeezing them. He was blinking a lot, too. I meant to ask him how he got into this business, but I forgot. I did find out his name and title: Mr. Howard Deaver, funeral director of Goodbody Mortuaries (no kidding, that’s the real name). He lives on the premises, upstairs with his wife. I doubt if he ever leaves the place.

III. It’s a business! Some people have the idea that mortuaries offer counseling and peace of mind — a

place where everyone is sympathetic and ready to offer advice. “In some mortuaries, this is true. But by and large, this is a business. We offer services to the dead, not counseling to the living.” I too had expected to feel an awestruck respect for the dead upon enter- ing the building. I had also expected green lawns, ponds with ducks, fountains, flowers, peacefulness — you know, a “Forest Lawn” type deal. But it was only a tall, Catholic- looking building. “Mortuaries do not sell plots for burial,” he was saying. “Cemeteries do that, after we embalm the body and select a casket. We’re not a religious institution.” He seemed hung up on caskets — though maybe he was just trying to impress upon me the differences between caskets. “Oh, they’re very important. A good casket is a sign of respect. Sometimes if the family doesn’t have enough money, we rent them a nice one.

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

124 CHAPTER 3: WRITING PROFILES

People pay for what they get just like any other business.” I wondered when you had to return the casket you rented.

I wanted to take a look around. He was happy to give me a tour. We visited several chapels and visiting rooms — places where the deceased “lie in state” to be “visited” by family and friends. I saw an old lady in a “fairly decent casket,” as Mr. Deaver called it. Again I was impressed by the simple businesslike nature of it all. Oh yes, the rooms were elaborately decorated, with lots of shrines and stained glass, but these things were for the customers’ benefit. “Sometimes we have up to eight or nine corpses here at one time, sometimes none. We have to have enough rooms to accommodate.” Simple enough, yet I never realized how much trouble people were after they died. So much money, time, and effort go into their funerals.

As I prepared to leave, he gave me his card. He’d be happy to see me again, or maybe I could talk to someone else. I said I was going to interview the mortician on another day. I shook his hand. His fingers were long and his skin was warm.

Writing up the interview helped Cable probe his subject more deeply. It also helped him express a humorous attitude toward his subject. Cable’s interview notes and write-up were quite informal; later, he integrated this material more formally into his full profile of the mortuary.

In this chapter, you have learned a great deal about this genre from reading several profiles and writing one of your own. To consolidate your learning, it is helpful to think metacognitively — that is, to reflect not only on what you learned but on how you learned it. Following are two brief activities your instructor may ask you to do.

Reflecting on Your Writing Your instructor may ask you to turn in with your essay and process materials a brief metacognitive essay or letter reflecting on what you have learned about writing your profile. Choose among the following invention activities those that seem most productive for you:

Explain how your purpose and audience — what you wanted your readers to learn about your subject from reading your profile — influenced one of your decisions as a writer, such as what kinds of descriptive detail you included, what method of organization you used, or the role you adopted in writing about your subject.

Discuss what you learned about yourself as a writer in the process of writing this profile. For example, what part of the process did you find most challenging?

Thinking Critically About What You Have Learned

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

CONSIDERING THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS 125

Did you try anything new, like getting a critical reading of your draft or outlin- ing your draft in order to revise it? If so, how well did it work?

If you were to give advice to a friend who was about to write a profile, what would you say?

Which of the readings in this chapter influenced your essay? Explain the influ- ence, citing specific examples from your profile and the reading.

If you got good advice from a critical reader, explain exactly how the person helped you — perhaps by questioning your perspective in a way that enabled you to refocus your profile’s dominant impression or pointing out passages that needed more information or clearer chronology to better orient readers.

Considering the Social Dimensions: Entertaining Readers, or Showing the Whole Picture? Profiles broaden our view of the world by entertaining and informing us with portraits of people, places, or things. It is important to recognize, however, that profiles — even effective ones — sometimes offer a limited view of their subjects. For example, the impulse to entertain readers may lead a profile writer to focus exclusively on the dramatic, colorful, or humorous aspects of a person, a place, or an activity, ignoring the equally important humdrum, routine, or otherwise less appealing aspects. Imagine a profile that focuses on the dramatic moments in an emergency-room doctor’s shift but ignores the routine cases and the slow periods when nothing much is happening. Such a profile would provide a limited and dis- torted picture of an emergency-room doctor’s work.

In addition, by focusing on the dramatic or glamorous aspects of a subject, pro- file writers tend to ignore economic or social consequences and to slight supporting players. Profiling the highly praised chef in a trendy new restaurant, a writer might not ask whether the chef participates in the city’s leftover-food-collection program for the homeless or find out who the kitchen workers and wait staff are, how the chef treats them, or how much they are paid. Profiling the campus bookstore, a writer might become so caught up in the details of ordering books for hundreds of courses and selling them efficiently to hordes of students during the first week of a semester that he or she could forget to ask about textbook costs, pricing policies, profit margins, and payback on used textbooks.

1. Consider whether any of the profiles you have read glamorize or sensationalize their subjects. Do they ignore less colorful but centrally important everyday activities? Is this a problem with your own profile?

2. Write a page or so explaining what the omissions signify. What do they suggest about the readers’ desires to be entertained and the profile writer’s reluctance to present the subject in a more complete way?

THINKING CRITICALLY

 

 

126

Explaining a Concept

4 IN COLLEGE COURSES For a linguistics course, a student is assigned a paper explaining the development in children’s control of sentences, or syntax. To get started, she reviews the relevant sec- tions in her linguistics textbook and then goes to the library and finds a few sources recommended by the textbook. She then goes to her professor’s office hours and asks for advice on other articles or books she should consult.

From these sources, she learns about stages that children go through as they gain control of syntax, beginning with the one-word or holophrastic stage (mommy) and progressing through the two- word or duose stage (baby sleep or want toy), and multiword or telegraphic stages (no sit there). After presenting this initial research to her peer group in class, she takes their advice and decides to orga- nize her essay around these stages. Even though she is writing for her professor, who is an expert in child language development, she carefully defines key terms to show that she understands what she is writing about.

 

 

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IN THE COMMUNITY A manager at a market- ing research firm has been tutoring fifth-grade stu- dents in math for a few hours each month. Aware of the manager’s market research expertise, the teacher asks her to do a presentation to the class on surveying, an important research method in the social sciences.

The manager begins the first part of her pre- sentation by having students fill out a brief survey on their television-watching habits. When they are done, she asks them to speculate on what they ex- pect their answers to show, and how this data might be used by advertisers and television programmers. Then, with the students’ help, she begins to analyze the data by selecting the variables that seem signifi- cant: the respondents’ gender and place in the fam- ily structure, the number of hours spent watching television, and the types of shows watched.

At home, using PowerPoint, the manager pre- pares charts and graphs from the data. At the next class meeting, she distributes the data and asks the students to see whether it matches their initial as- sumptions about what the data might show.

She concludes by giving examples of questions from other surveys and explaining who does them, what they hope to learn, and how they report and use the results. Finally, she passes out a quiz so that she and each student can find out how much has been learned about surveys.

IN THE WORKPLACE At a seminar on the national security implications of satellite photogra- phy, the CEO of a space-imaging company takes part in the debate about symmetrical transpar- ency, which involves using satellite photography to make everything on the planet visible at one-meter resolution — enough detail to reveal individual cars in parking lots and individual shrubs and trees planted in parks.

Aware of the financial implications for his company, on his return the executive drafts a pre- sentation that will succinctly explain the relevant issues to his employees. He begins by providing an overview of the impact of changing technolo- gies and the politics of global terrorism; he then gives a brief overview of key issues in the debate on symmetrical transparency. He accompanies his remarks with PowerPoint slides that highlight sta- tistics and lend emphasis to the key points of his presentation.

 

 

128 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT

Concepts are the special terms, the jargon, that insiders use and that anyone who wants to become part of the conversation needs to learn. That’s why explaining concepts plays such an important role in education, as the scenarios about the lin- guistics student, the classroom volunteer, and even the CEO demonstrate. The stu- dent needs to use concepts she is learning, such as syntax, to show she understands them. The CEO teaches his employees about the concept of symmetrical transpar- ency in order to prepare for impending business challenges. Finally, the tutor needs to explain concepts such as surveying to teach students about marketing research.

We encounter explanatory writing all the time — in blogs, books, brochures, magazines, and many other contexts. Explaining concepts is especially important when you are trying to learn or teach a new subject. You probably know a fair amount about some concepts that are not general knowledge and that would in- terest your instructor and classmates. For example, if you know a lot about music, you might be able to explain concepts such as breaking, krumping, counterpoint, or harmonics. If you are an avid video game player, you could explain game mechan- ics or a particular genre such as real-time strategy (RTS) games. If you are a sports enthusiast, you could clarify a concept such as the curve ball in baseball or the Wing-T offense in football. Concepts like these would make excellent topics for an explanatory essay.

Alternatively, your instructor may ask you to write about an academic concept you are just now learning in one of your courses. Every field of study has concepts that students must learn and be able to explain and apply — textbooks are full of them. For example, philosophy has existentialism, metaphysics, and logical positiv- ism; physics has string theory, entropy, and quantum mechanics; economics has Keynesian theory, macroeconomics, and monetary policy; social psychology has altru- ism, aggression, prejudice, and so on.

In this chapter, you will read essays explaining the concepts of cannibalism (an anthropological concept), romantic love (a cultural concept), hyperthymia (a psy- chological concept), and morality (a philosophical concept). One of these essays — the explanation of hyperthymia — was written by an expert on the subject, research psychologist Richard A. Friedman. The other essays were written by student Linh Kieu Ngo, science reporter Anastasia Toufexis, and journalist Jeffrey Kluger, all of whom explain concepts they have learned about from doing research.

These readings illustrate the basic features and strategies writers typically use when composing concept explanations. The activities following the readings will help you consider what is particular to one writer’s approach and what strategies you might want to try out in writing your own concept explanation. The Guide to Writing will support you as you compose your own concept explanation, showing you ways to use the basic features of the genre to focus your concept, to explain it both readably and effectively, and to smoothly integrate sources supporting your explanation.

Learning to explain a concept is especially important for you as a college stu- dent. It will prepare you to write a common type of exam and paper assignment; it will help you read critically; and it will acquaint you with the basic strategies

 

 

BASIC FEATURES 129

common to all types of expository writing — defining, classifying, comparing and contrasting, and describing and narrating processes. Moreover, it will sharpen your skill in researching and using sources, abilities essential for success in college, what- ever your major.

Reading Concept Explanations

Basic Features As you read the essays in this chapter, you will see how different authors incorpo- rate the basic features of concept explanations.

A Focused Explanation

Read first to identify the concept. A concept may be any of the following:

a principle, an ideal, or a value (such as the American dream or equal justice)

a theory (such as theory of mind, relativity, or evolution)

an idea (such as utilitarianism, panopticism, or realism)

a condition (such as the state of flow, paranoia, or neurosis)

a specialized or technical term (such as markedness in linguistics, path depen- dence in economics, or high intensity interval training (HIIT) in sports medicine)

Concepts are typically general notions that mean different things to different people (such as friendship, happiness, or family). Effective writers narrow the general

A Collaborative Activity: Practice Explaining a Concept

Part 1. Choose one concept to explain to two or three other students. When you have chosen

a concept, think about what others in the group are likely to know about it. Consider how

you will define the concept and what other strategies you might use — description, compari-

son, and so on — to explain it in an interesting, memorable way.

Get together with two or three other students, and explain your concepts to one another.

Part 2. Discuss what happened when you explained your concept:

To think about your purpose and audience, take turns asking the students in your

group whether they were interested in and understood your explanation. In par-

ticular, find out whether your explanation would have been clearer with examples,

definitions, comparisons with more familiar concepts, or something else.

Compare your thoughts with the others in your group on what was easiest and hard-

est about explaining a concept: for example, focusing the concept; appealing to your

listeners’ interests; or organizing the explanation.

Basic Features

 

 

130 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT

concept, providing an explanation that is focused on an aspect of the concept likely to be of interest to readers. Some concepts, for example, benefit from being examined in terms of their cultural context (such as the Asian concept of face) or their historical context (such as the changing customs of calling, dating, and hooking up).

A Readable Plan

Effective concept explanations have to be readable. As you read the essays in this chapter, notice how each writer develops a plan that does the following:

divides the information into clearly distinguishable topics

forecasts the topics

presents the topics in a logical order

gives readers cues or road signs to guide them, such as topic sentences, transi- tions, and summaries

Appropriate Explanatory Strategies

Writers of essays explaining a concept typically present information using a num- ber of different strategies, such as the following:

defining key terms

classifying or grouping together related material

comparing and contrasting

narrating anecdotes or processes

illustrating with examples, visuals, or lists of facts and details

reporting established causes and effects

As you read the essays in this chapter, notice how they make use of these strategies. Note that essays explaining concepts depend especially on clear definitions; any key terms that are likely to be unfamiliar or misunderstood must be explicitly defined. Illustrations usually also play a key role because examples, visuals, and other details can help make abstract concepts understandable.

Smooth Integration of Sources

Finally, as you read, think about how the writer establishes authority by smoothly integrating sources into the explanation. Although writers often draw on their own experiences and observations, they almost always do additional research into what others have to say about their subject.

How writers treat sources depends on the writing situation. Certain formal situations, such as college assignments or scholarly publications, have rules for citing and documenting sources. Students and scholars are expected to cite their sources formally because readers judge their work in part by what the writers have

 

 

PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE 131

read and how they have used their reading. For more informal writing — magazine articles, for example — readers do not expect or want page references or publica- tion information, but they do expect sources to be identified and their expertise established in some way.

Purpose and Audience As you read concept explanations, ask yourself what seems to be the writer’s purpose in explaining this concept. For example, does the writer seem to be writing

to teach readers about an unfamiliar concept;

to engage readers’ interest in the concept;

to better understand the concept by explaining it to others;

to demonstrate knowledge of the concept and the ability to apply it?

As you read, also try to determine what the writer assumes about the audience. For example, does the writer

expect the readers to be generally well informed but not knowledgeable about this particular concept;

assume the readers may not be especially interested in the concept;

know that the only or primary reader is an instructor who knows more about the concept than the writer does and who is evaluating the writer’s knowledge;

anticipate that readers will be unfamiliar with the concept, so that the essay will serve as an introduction;

anticipate that readers will know something about the concept, so that the essay may add to their prior knowledge or provide a new perspective?

Readings

LINH KIEU NGO wrote this essay as a first-year college student. In it, he explains the concept of cannibalism, the eating of human flesh by other humans. Most Americans know about survival cannibalism — eating human flesh to avoid starvation — but Ngo also explains the historical importance of dietary and ritual cannibalism.

As you read, notice how he uses examples to illustrate the three types of cannibalism. Also consider the questions in the margin. Your instructor may ask you to post your answers or bring them to class.

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Basic Features

 

 

132 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT

How effectively does this anec- dote about a one-time event in- troduce the concept to readers?

Ngo shifts from narrating to pre- senting research in this para- graph. How does he introduce his sources?

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Cannibalism: It Still Exists

Linh Kieu Ngo

Fifty-five Vietnamese refugees fled to Malaysia on a small fishing boat to escape

communist rule in their country following the Vietnam War. During their escape attempt,

the captain was shot by the coast guard. The boat and its passengers managed to outrun

the coast guard to the open sea, but they had lost the only person who knew the way to

Malaysia, the captain.

The men onboard tried to navigate the boat, but after a week fuel ran out, and

they drifted farther out to sea. Their supply of food and water was gone; people

were starving, and some of the elderly were near death. The men managed to pro-

duce a small amount of drinking water by boiling salt water, using dispensable wood

from the boat to create a small fire near the stern. They also tried to fish but had

little success.

A month went by, and the old and weak died. At first, the crew threw the dead

overboard, but later, out of desperation, they turned to human flesh as a source of food.

Some people vomited as they attempted to eat it, while others refused to resort to can-

nibalism and see the bodies of their loved ones sacrificed for food. Those who did not

eat died of starvation, and their bodies in turn became food for others. Human flesh

was cut out, washed in salt water, and hung to dry for preservation. The liquids inside

the cranium were drunk to quench thirst. The livers, kidneys, hearts, stomachs, and

intestines were boiled and eaten.

Five months passed before a whaling vessel discovered the drifting boat, looking

like a graveyard of bones. There was only one survivor.

Cannibalism, the act of human beings eating human flesh (Sagan 2), has a long

history and continues to hold interest and create controversy. Many books and research

reports offer examples of cannibalism, but a few scholars have questioned whether it

actually was ever practiced anywhere, except in cases of ensuring survival in times of

famine or isolation (Askenasy 43–54). Recently, some scholars have tried to under-

stand why people in the West have been so eager to attribute cannibalism to non-

Westerners (Barker, Hulme, and Iversen). Cannibalism has long been a part of American

popular culture. For example, Mark Twain’s “Cannibalism in the Cars” tells a humorous

story about cannibalism by well-to-do travelers on a train stranded in a snowstorm,

and cannibalism is still a popular subject for jokes (“Cannibal Jokes”).

 

 

NG0 / CANNIBALISM: IT STILL EXISTS 133

How effectively does Ngo in- troduce the thesis and forecast the topics of the essay?

How do Ngo’s anecdotes and examples here and later in the essay help you understand the concept?

How do Ngo’s topic sentences fulfill the promise of the forecast in par. 6 and help you follow the explanation?

What writing strategy is Ngo using in pars. 9–10?

How does Ngo’s use of the terms endo- and exocannibalism here help orient the reader?

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If we assume there is some reality to the reports about cannibalism, how can we

best understand this concept? Cannibalism can be broken down into two main categories:

exocannibalism, the eating of outsiders or foreigners, and endocannibalism, the eating

of members of one’s own social group (Shipman 70). Within these categories are several

functional types of cannibalism, three of the most common being survival cannibalism,

dietary cannibalism, and religious and ritual cannibalism.

Survival cannibalism occurs when people trapped without food have to decide

“whether to starve or to eat fellow humans” (Shipman 70). In the case of the

Vietnamese refugees, the crew and passengers on the boat ate human flesh to stay

alive. They did not kill people to get human flesh for nourishment but instead waited

until the people had died. Even after human carcasses were sacrificed as food, the boat

people ate only enough to survive. Another case of survival cannibalism occurred in

1945, when General Douglas MacArthur’s forces cut supply lines to Japanese troops

stationed in the Pacific Islands. In one incident, Japanese troops were reported to have

sacrificed the Arapesh people of northeastern New Guinea for food in order to avoid

death by starvation (Tuzin 63). The most famous example of survival cannibalism in

American history comes from the diaries, letters, and interviews of survivors of the

California-bound Donner Party, who in the winter of 1846 were snowbound in the Sierra

Nevada Mountains for five months. Thirty-five of eighty-seven adults and children died,

and some of them were eaten (Hart 116–117; Johnson).

Unlike survival cannibalism, in which human flesh is eaten as a last resort after a

person has died, in dietary cannibalism humans are purchased or trapped for food and

then eaten as a part of a culture’s traditions. In addition, survival cannibalism often

involves people eating other people of the same origins, whereas dietary cannibalism

usually involves people eating foreigners.

In the Miyanmin society of the west Sepik interior of Papua, New Guinea, villagers do

not value human life over that of pigs or marsupials because human flesh is part of their

normal diet (Poole 7). The Miyanmin people observe no differences in “gender, kinship,

ritual status, and bodily substance”; they eat anyone, even their own dead. In this

respect, then, they practice both endocannibalism and exocannibalism; and to ensure

a constant supply of human flesh for food, they raid neighboring tribes and drag their

victims back to their village to be eaten (Poole 11). Perhaps, in the history of this soci-

ety, there was at one time a shortage of wild game to be hunted for food, and because

people were more plentiful than fish, deer, rabbits, pigs, or cows, survival cannibalism

 

 

134 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT

How does this topic sentence help you understand how the in- formation in pars. 11–13 fits into Ngo’s plan? What other words or phrases help you follow his comparisons and contrasts?

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was adopted as a last resort. Then, as their culture developed, the Miyanmin may have

retained the practice of dietary cannibalism, which has endured as a part of their culture.

Similar to the Miyanmin, the people of the Leopard and Alligator societies in South

America eat human flesh as part of their cultural tradition. Practicing dietary exocan-

nibalism, the Leopard people hunt in groups, with one member wearing the skin of a

leopard to conceal the face. They ambush their victims in the forest and carry their

victims back to their village to be eaten. The Alligator people also hunt in groups, but

they hide themselves under a canoelike submarine that resembles an alligator, then

swim close to a fisherman’s or trader’s canoe to overturn it and catch their victims

(MacCormack 54).

Religious or ritual cannibalism is different from survival and dietary cannibalism

in that it has a ceremonial purpose rather than one of nourishment. Sometimes only

a single victim is sacrificed in a ritual, while at other times many are sacrificed. For

example, the Bangala tribe of the Congo River in central Africa honors a deceased chief or

leader by purchasing, sacrificing, and feasting on slaves (Sagan 53). The number of slaves

sacrificed is determined by how highly the tribe members revered the deceased leader.

Ritual cannibalism among South American Indians often serves as revenge for the

dead. Like the Bangalas, some South American tribes kill their victims to be served as part

of funeral rituals, with human sacrifices denoting that the deceased was held in high honor.

Also like the Bangalas, these tribes use outsiders as victims. Unlike the Bangalas, how-

ever, the Indians sacrifice only one victim instead of many in a single ritual. For example,

when a warrior of a tribe is killed in battle, the family of the warrior forces a victim to

take the identity of the warrior. The family adorns the victim with the deceased warrior’s

belongings and may even force him to marry the deceased warrior’s wives. But once the

family believes the victim has assumed the spiritual identity of the deceased warrior, the

family kills him. The children in the tribe soak their hands in the victim’s blood to sym-

bolize their revenge of the warrior’s death. Elderly women from the tribe drink the victim’s

blood and then cut up his body for roasting and eating (Sagan 53–54). The people of the

tribe believe that by sacrificing a victim, they have avenged the death of the warrior and

the soul of the deceased can rest in peace.

In the villages of certain African tribes, only a small part of a dead body is used

in ritual cannibalism. In these tribes, where the childbearing capacity of women is

highly valued, women are obligated to eat small, raw fragments of genital parts during

fertility rites. Elders of the tribe supervise this ritual to ensure that the women will be

fertile. In the Bimin-Kuskusmin tribe, for instance, a widow eats a small, raw fragment

 

 

NG0 / CANNIBALISM: IT STILL EXISTS 135

What does Ngo hope to achieve in this conclusion? How well does it work for you?

What makes Ngo’s sources seem authoritative (or not)?

What can you learn about creat- ing a Works-Cited list from this example?

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of flesh from the penis of her deceased husband in order to enhance her future fertility

and reproductive capacity. Similarly, a widower may eat a raw fragment of flesh from his

deceased wife’s vagina along with a piece of her bone marrow; by eating her flesh, he

hopes to strengthen the fertility of his daughters borne by his dead wife, and by eating

her bone marrow, he honors her reproductive capacity. Also, when an elder woman of

the village who has shown great reproductive capacity dies, her uterus and the interior

parts of her vagina are eaten by other women who hope to benefit from her reproduc-

tive power (Poole 16–17).

Members of developed societies in general practice none of these forms of cannibal-

ism, with the occasional exception of survival cannibalism when the only alternative is

starvation. It is possible, however, that our distant-past ancestors were cannibals who

through the eons turned away from the practice. We are, after all, descended from the same

ancestors as the Miyanmin, the Alligator, and the Leopard people, and survival cannibalism

shows that people are capable of eating human flesh when they have no other choice.

Works Cited Askenasy, Hans. Cannibalism: From Sacrifice to Survival. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1994.

Print.

Barker, Francis, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iversen, eds. Cannibalism and the New World. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.

Brown, Paula, and Donald Tuzin, eds. The Ethnography of Cannibalism. Washington: Society of Psychological Anthropology, 1983. Print.

“Cannibal Jokes.” Bored.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2008.

Hart, James D. A Companion to California. Berkeley: U of California P, 1987. Print.

Johnson, Kristin. New Light on the Donner Party. Kristin Johnson, 5 Nov. 2006. Web. 28 Sept. 2008.

MacCormack, Carol. “Human Leopard and Crocodile.” Brown and Tuzin 54–55.

Poole, Fitz John Porter. “Cannibals, Tricksters, and Witches.” Brown and Tuzin 16–17.

Sagan, Eli. Cannibalism. New York: Harper, 1976. Print.

Shipman, Pat. “The Myths and Perturbing Realities of Cannibalism.” Discover Mar. 1987: 70+. Print.

Tuzin, Donald. “Cannibalism and Arapesh Cosmology.” Brown and Tuzin 61–63.

Twain, Mark. “Cannibalism in the Cars.” The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain. Ed. Charles Neider. New York: Doubleday, 1957. 9–16. Print.

 

 

136 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT

To learn about Linh Kieu Ngo’s process of writing this essay, turn to A Writer at Work on pp. 181–82. How did Ngo combine quotation with paraphrase to integrate source material into his essay and avoid simply stringing quotes together?

LEARN ABOUT LINH KIEU NGO’S

WRITING PROCESS

ANASTASIA TOUFEXIS has been an associate editor of Time, senior editor of Discover, and editor in chief of Psychology Today. She has written on subjects as diverse as medicine, health and fitness, law, envi- ronment, education, science, and national and world news. Toufexis has won a number of awards for her writing, including a Knight- Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and an Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She

has also lectured on science writing at Columbia University, the University of North Carolina, and the School of Visual Arts in New York.

The following essay was originally published in 1993 in Time magazine. As you read, notice how Toufexis brings together a variety of sources of information to present a neurochemical perspective on love.

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Love: The Right Chemistry Anastasia Toufexis

Love is a romantic designation for a most ordinary biological — or, shall we say, chemical? — process. A lot of nonsense is talked and written about it.

— Greta Garbo to Melvyn Douglas in Ninotchka

O.K., let’s cut out all this nonsense about romantic love. Let’s bring some scientific precision to the party. Let’s put love under a microscope.When rigorous people with Ph.D.s after their names do that, what they see is not some silly, senseless thing. No, their probe reveals that love rests firmly on the foundations of evolution, biology and chemistry. What seems on the surface to be irrational, intoxicated behavior is in fact part of nature’s master strategy — a vital force that has helped humans survive, thrive and multiply through thousands of years. Says Michael Mills, a psychology professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles: “Love is our ancestors whispering in our ears.”

It was on the plains of Africa about 4 million years ago, in the early days of the human species, that the notion of romantic love probably first began to blossom or at least that the first cascades of neurochemicals began flowing from the brain to the bloodstream to produce goofy grins and sweaty palms as men and women gazed deeply into each other’s eyes. When mankind graduated from scuttling

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TOUFEXIS / LOVE: THE RIGHT CHEMISTRY 137

around on all fours to walking on two legs, this change made the whole person visible to fellow human beings for the first time. Sexual organs were in full display, as were other characteristics, from the color of eyes to the span of shoulders. As never before, each individual had a unique allure.

When the sparks flew, new ways of making love enabled sex to become a ro- mantic encounter, not just a reproductive act. Although mounting mates from the rear was, and still is, the method favored among most animals, humans began to enjoy face-to-face couplings; both looks and personal attraction became a much greater part of the equation.

– pose of pulling males and females into

long-term partnership, which was essential to child rearing. On open grasslands, one parent would have a hard — and dangerous — time handling a child while

in one arm and a pile of sticks in the other, it was ecologically critical to pair up with a mate to rear the young,” explains anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Anatomy of Love.

While Western culture holds fast to the idea that true love flames forever (the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula has the Count carrying the torch beyond the grave), nature apparently meant passions to sputter out in something like four years. Primitive pairs stayed together just “long enough to rear one child through infancy,” says Fisher. Then each would find a new partner and start all over again.

What Fisher calls the “four-year itch” shows up unmistakably in today’s divorce

a couple have another child three years after the first, as often occurs, then their union can be expected to last about four more years. That makes them ripe for the more familiar phenomenon portrayed in the Marilyn Monroe classic The Seven-Year Itch.

than 5% of mammals form rigorously faithful pairs. From the earliest days, con- tends Fisher, the human pattern has been “monogamy with clandestine adultery.” Occasional flings upped the chances that new combinations of genes would be passed on to the next generation. Men who sought new partners had more chil- dren. Contrary to common assumptions, women were just as likely to stray. “As long as prehistoric females were secretive about their extramarital affairs,” argues Fisher, “they could garner extra resources, life insurance, better genes and more varied DNA for their biological futures. . . .”

Lovers often claim that they feel as if they are being swept away. They’re not mistaken; they are literally flooded by chemicals, research suggests. A meeting of eyes, a touch of hands or a whiff of scent sets off a flood that starts in the brain and races along the nerves and through the blood. The results are familiar: flushed

While Western culture holds fast to the idea that true love

flames forever . . . nature apparently meant passions to sputter out in something

like four years.

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reason is simple: the chemical pathways are identical. Above all, there is the sheer euphoria of falling in love — a not-so-surprising

reaction, considering that many of the substances swamping the newly smitten are chemical cousins of amphetamines. They include dopamine, norepinephrine and especially phenylethylamine (PEA). Cole Porter knew what he was talking about

Walsh, author of The Science of Love: Understanding Love and Its Effects on Mind and Body. “PEA gives you that silly smile that you flash at strangers. When we meet someone who is attractive to us, the whistle blows at the PEA factory.”

But phenylethylamine highs don’t last forever, a fact that lends support to arguments that passionate romantic love is short-lived. As with any amphet- amine, the body builds up a tolerance to PEA; thus it takes more and more of the substance to produce love’s special kick. After two to three years, the body simply can’t crank up the needed amount of PEA. And chewing on chocolate doesn’t help, despite popular belief. The candy is high in PEA, but it fails to boost the body’s supply.

Fizzling chemicals spell the end of delirious passion; for many people

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junkies.” They crave the intoxication of falling in love so much that they move franti- cally from affair to affair just as soon as the first rush of infatuation fades.

Still, many romances clearly endure beyond the first years. What accounts for that? Another set of chemicals, of course. The continued presence of a partner gradually steps up production in the brain of endorphins. Unlike the fizzy amphet- amines, these are soothing substances. Natural pain-killers, they give lovers a sense of security, peace and calm. “That is one reason why it feels so horrible when we’re abandoned or a lover dies,” notes Fisher. “We don’t have our daily hit of narcotics.”

along with other amphetamine-like chemicals, and the more intimate attachment fostered and prolonged by endorphins. “Early love is when you love the way the other person makes you feel,” explains psychiatrist Mark Goulston of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Mature love is when you love the person as he or she is.”

Oxytocin is another chemical that has recently been implicated in love.

women it helps uterine contractions during childbirth as well as production of breast milk, and seems to inspire mothers to nuzzle their infants. Scientists speculate that oxytocin might encourage similar cuddling between adult women and men. The

– creased to three to five times its normal level during climax, and it may soar even higher in women.

Chemicals may help explain (at least to scientists) the feelings of passion and compassion, but why do people tend to fall in love with one partner rather than a myriad of others? Once again, it’s partly a function of evolution and biology. “Men are looking for maximal fertility in a mate,” says Loyola Marymount’s Mills. “That is in large part why females in the prime childbearing ages of 17 to 28 are so desir- able.” Men can size up youth and vitality in a glance, and studies indeed show that men fall in love quite rapidly. Women tumble more slowly, to a large degree be- cause their requirements are more complex; they need more time to check the guy out. “Age is not vital,” notes Mills, “but the ability to provide security, father children, share resources and hold a high status in society are all key factors.”

Still, that does not explain why the way Mary walks and laughs makes Bill dizzy with desire while Marcia’s gait and giggle leave him cold. “Nature has wired us for one special person,” suggests Walsh, romantically. He rejects the idea that a woman or a man can be in love with two people at the same time. Each person car- ries in his or her mind a unique subliminal guide to the ideal partner, a “love map,”

Drawn from the people and experiences of childhood, the map is a record of whatever we found enticing and exciting — or disturbing and disgusting. Small feet, curly hair. The way our mothers patted our head or how our fathers told a joke. A fireman’s uniform, a doctor’s stethoscope. All the information gathered while growing up is imprinted in the brain’s circuitry by adolescence. Partners never

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meet each and every requirement, but a sufficient number of matches can light

lovers may have different combinations of the characteristics favored by the map. O.K., that’s the scientific point of view. Satisfied? Probably not. To most

people — with or without Ph.D.s — love will always be more than the sum of its

will never fully yield up its secrets, that it will always elude our grasp.

The chemistry of love is easily summarized: Amphetamines fuel romance; endorphins and oxytocin sustain lasting heterosexual relationships. As Toufexis makes clear, how- ever, these chemical reactions do not explain why specific people are initially attracted to each other. Toufexis observes that an initial attraction occurs because each of us carries a “unique subliminal guide” or “love map” (par. 17) that leads us unerringly to a partner.

With two or three other students, discuss these explanations for attraction between the sexes. Begin by briefly taking turns describing the qualities you are attracted to in a partner. Then, consider together the following questions as you discuss your love map:

What role do factors such as family, friends, community, the media, and adver- tising play in constructing your love map?

Do you think an individual’s love map can change over time? If so, what might contribute to such changes?

According to Toufexis, men typically look for “maximal fertility,” whereas women look for security, resources, status, and a willingness to father children (par. 18). Does this explanation seem convincing to you? Why or why not?

MAKING CONNECTIONS:

LOVE MAPS

ANALYZING WRITING

STRATEGIES

A Focused Explanation of the Concept

Obviously, essays explaining concepts cannot communicate everything that is known about a concept. Writers must limit the scope of their explanation. They choose a focus in part by considering the rhetorical situation — the purpose and audience — in which they are writing. Linh Kieu Ngo, for example, is writing for a college composi- tion course, where he can expect his readers not to know very much about anthropol- ogy or research on cannibalism. For this reason, Ngo chose to give readers a rather simple overview of the research by explaining the three “most common” types of can- nibalism (par. 6). To set up his explanation, Ngo uses an anecdote about survival can- nibalism, the type his readers are most likely to have heard about. Beginning his essay by describing a familiar type of cannibalism confirms for readers what they already know and at the same time arouses curiosity and makes them want to learn more.

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To analyze how Toufexis focuses her explanation and engages her readers, do the following:

Write a sentence or two describing how she focuses her explanation.

Add another couple of sentences explaining how she tries to capture her readers’ interest and assessing how effective her strategy is for you as a reader.

A Readable Plan

Experienced writers know that readers often have a hard time making their way through new and difficult material and sometimes give up in frustration. To avoid this problem, effective writers construct a reader-friendly plan by dividing the information into clearly distinguishable topics. They also give readers cues or road signs to guide them through the explanation.

Early in the essay, the thesis statement announces the concept. It also may forecast the topics, giving readers a preview so that they know where they are headed. For example, in paragraphs 5–6 of his essay, Ngo announces that he is writing about the much written-about concept of cannibalism and forecasts the topics he uses to organize his essay, the three types of cannibalism: survival, dietary, and ritual cannibalism.

To analyze how Toufexis constructs a readable plan, try the following:

Skim the essay and note in the margin where she announces her concept and forecasts the topics she uses to organize her essay. Highlight the point at which she begins discussing each topic.

Write a sentence or two assessing how well her forecast works to make her essay readable.

Add another sentence explaining how Toufexis connects the topic of “love maps” (pars. 16–18) to the topics she discussed earlier in the essay.

Appropriate Explanatory Strategies

When writers organize and present information, they rely on writing strategies that are the building blocks of explanatory essays: defining, classifying or dividing, com- paring and contrasting, narrating anecdotes or processes, illustrating with examples or lists of facts and details, and reporting known causes and effects. Toufexis uses classification along with comparison and contrast when she explains the roles played by two types of chemicals: amphetamine-like chemicals, especially phenylethylamine (PEA), and endorphins, such as oxytocin. But her primary writing strategy is report- ing causes and effects.

To analyze how Toufexis reports causes and effects, do the following:

Reread paragraph 5 where she explains the causes and effects of the rush of amphetamine-like chemicals, and highlight the causes in one color and

For more on constructing a readable plan, see Chapter 13.

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the effects in another color (or underline one and put brackets around the other).

Reread paragraphs 13 and 15 and highlight the effects of endorphins.

Write a sentence or two assessing how well Toufexis explains causes and effects.

Smooth Integration of Sources

Writers of explanatory essays have to convince readers that the information they’ve used to explain the concept is trustworthy. They do this by acknowledging their expert sources. Academic writers provide detailed information about their sources so that scholars can consult the original sources. For example, the essay by Linh Kieu Ngo written for a college composition course demonstrates the MLA style of citing sources. Writing for college courses, you will be expected to cite your sources in a conventional academic way — with parenthetical citations in the body of your essay keyed to a works-cited list at the end.

Writing for a nonacademic publication, Toufexis does not need to cite sources using the MLA or another academic style sheet. But she does need to reassure read- ers that her sources are authoritative.

To analyze how Toufexis cites sources, follow these steps:

Skim the essay and underline the name of each source she mentions.

Write a few sentences describing the kinds of information she gives readers about her sources and assessing how well she establishes their authority.

For more on integrating sources, see pp. 759–65. For more on MLA documen- tation, see pp. 766–78.

USING A FLOWCHART

Analyze the visual Toufexis includes in her essay, and write a few sentences explaining how you read the visual and assessing how well it helps you under- stand her explanation of the concept.

Toufexis’s visual is a flowchart, a diagram that shows the steps in a process. To determine how effective this visual is, consider the following questions:

When you initially read the essay, did you stop to study the visual, just glance at it in passing, go back to it after finishing the essay, or not look at it at all?

How does the flowchart clarify the role played by each element of the dia- gram? Are there any seemingly extraneous elements?

Is the flowchart easy to read or too complicated; attractive or dull; eye-candy or actually useful? Explain your answer.

If the flowchart repeats information already presented in the text of the essay, what does it contribute to the explanation?

If the flowchart adds new information not presented in the text of the essay, how effective is it?

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For more on these ex- planatory strategies, see Chapters 14–18.

 

 

FRIEDMAN / BORN TO BE HAPPY 143

Like Toufexis, you could write an essay about love or romance, but you could choose a different focus: its history (how and when did romantic love develop as an idea in the West?), its cultural characteristics (how is love regarded currently among different American ethnic groups or world cultures?), its excesses or extremes, or the phases of falling in and out of love. Also consider writing about other concepts involving personal relationships, such as jealousy, codependency, idealization, stereotyping, or homophobia.

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR OWN ESSAY

RICHARD A. FRIEDMAN is a professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center. Specializing in clinical depression, anxiety, and mood disorders, he has published his research in distinguished academic journals such as the American Journal of Psychiatry, the Journal of Affective Disorders, and the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. He also writes a regular column on health

issues in the New York Times, which is where this article originally appeared. As you read, notice how Friedman makes the concept of hyperthymia accessible to readers who may not be knowledgeable about science.

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Born to Be Happy, Through a Twist of Human Hard Wire

RICHARD A. FRIEDMAN

In the course of the last year, the woman lost her husband to cancer and then her job. But she did not come to my office as a patient; she sought advice about her teenage son who was having trouble dealing with his father’s death. Despite crushing loss and stress, she was not at all depressed — sad, yes, but still upbeat. I found myself stunned by her resilience. What accounted for her ability to weather such sorrow with buoyant optimism? So I asked her directly. “All my life,” she recalled recently, “I’ve been happy for no good reason. It’s just my nature, I guess.” But it was more than that. She was a happy extrovert, full of energy and enthusiasm who was indefatigably sociable. And she could get by with five or six hours of sleep each night.

Like this woman, a journalist I know realized when she was a teenager that she was different from others. “It’s actually kind of embarrassing to be so cheerful and happy all

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the time,” she said. “When I was in high school I read the Robert Browning poem ‘My Last Duchess.’ In it, the narrator said he killed his wife, the duchess, because ‘she had a heart — how shall I say — too soon made glad?’ And I thought, uh-oh, that’s me.”

These two women were lucky to be born with a joyous temperament, which in its most extreme form is called hyperthymia. Cheerful despite life’s misfortunes, ener- getic and productive, they are often the envy of all who know them because they don’t even have to work at it. In a sense, they are the psychiatric mirror image of people who suffer from a chronic, often lifelong, mild depression called dysthymia, which affects about 3 percent of American adults. Always down, dysthymics experience little plea- sure and battle through life with a dreary pessimism. Despite whatever fortune comes their way, they remain glum. But hyperthymia certainly doesn’t look like an illness; there appears to be no disadvantage to being a euphoric extrovert, except, perhaps, for inspiring an occasional homicidal impulse from jealous friends or peers. But little is actually known about people with hyperthymia for the simple reason that they don’t see psychiatrists complaining that they are happy.

If dysthymia is hyperthymia’s dark twin, then hyperthymia may not always be so rosy. That is because about 90 percent of dysthymic people experience episodes of more severe depression in their lifetimes. Are hyperthymics at risk of some mood disorders, too?

If hyperthymics bear a kinship with any psychiatric illness, it may be bipolar dis- order. Bipolar patients live on a roller coaster of depressive troughs and manic peaks. But unlike hyperthymia, mania is an inherently unstable state of euphoria, irritability and often psychosis that causes profound morbidity and impaired functioning. Some researchers believe hyperthymics may be at increased risk of depression or hypoma- nia, a mild variant of mania. And they may have high rates of affective disorders in their closest relatives. Hyperthymic and bipolar people may also share a tendency to be highly creative, given the strong association between bipolar disorder and creativ- ity. For example, a 1987 study of creative writers at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop by Dr. Nancy Andreasen showed that writers had bipolar illness at a rate four times as high as control group members who were not writers.

Of course, the notion of a hyperthymic temperament is hardly new. Some 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates proposed that a mixture of four basic humors — blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile — determined human temperament; depending on which humor predominates, one’s nature is happy, phlegmatic, irritable or sad. Modern science has renamed the humors neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dop- amine, and tried to link them to abnormal mental states. For example, depression was thought to result from a functional deficit of serotonin or norepinephrine in the brain. But one problem with this theory is that antidepressants increase the levels of these neurotransmitters within days, yet their clinical effects take several weeks. If the theory were correct, then depression should clear up within days of taking an antidepressant, not weeks. Still, many dysthymic people respond to antidepressants and watch their unhappiness melt away in a matter of weeks. If a lifelong depressive state like dysthy- mia can be erased in some cases with medication, is it possible then to make a person better than well, let’s say hyperthymic?

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Of course, humans have experimented with various recreational drugs for this purpose since recorded history without much success. Cocaine, to name one, produces an instant and intense euphoria by flooding the brain with dopamine. But the pleasure of cocaine is fleeting because the neurons that are activated by dopamine become rap- idly desensitized to it, leading to a state of apathy and depression. Ecstasy can induce tranquil euphoria, largely by enhancing brain serotonin activity, but it is short-lived. And it can permanently damage serotonin-containing neurons in animals, hardly good news for humans. In fact, the pleasure brought on by all recreational drugs will fade sooner or later because of the brain’s own homeostatic mechanisms.

What about psychotropic medications? A study by Dr. Brian Knutson at the University of California at San Francisco looked at the effects of the serotonin- enhancing antidepressant Paxil among normal volunteers, randomly assigned to either Paxil or a placebo. Neither the volunteers nor the researchers knew who was taking Paxil and who was taking the placebo. Compared with the placebo, Paxil reduced hostile feelings and slightly increased social affiliation. But Paxil did not make the normal people any happier.

In short, no drug — recreational or prescribed — comes close to creating the stable euphoria of hyperthymic people. Of course, antidepressants, unlike recreational drugs, are nonaddicting and retain their benefits over time. So if some people are just born happy and stay happy for no good reason, does this mean that happiness is nothing more than a lucky combination of neurotransmitters? For most people, no. Circumstance and experience count for a lot, and being happy takes work. But hyper- thymic people have it easy: they have won the temperamental sweepstakes and may be hard-wired for happiness.

Everyone has good and bad moods and everyone suffers setbacks that have emo- tional consequences, but Friedman explains that some people also tend to be either dysthymic or hyperthymic. That is, they are temperamentally inclined either to be mildly depressed or to be relatively happy and resilient regardless of the circum- stances.

With two or three other students, discuss Friedman’s categories. Begin by briefly taking turns describing someone you know who seems to display a hyper- thymic or dysthymic temperament. Then, together consider the following questions as you discuss temperament:

Friedman’s title asserts that temperament is hard-wired, or genetic. Who in your family do you take after in terms of temperament? Could you have con- sciously or unconsciously imitated this behavior and outlook, or do you think you were born like him or her?

At the end of the essay, Friedman tells us that for most of us “being happy takes work” (par. 9). What do you think he means? What kind of work do you do to make yourself happy?

MAKING CONNECTIONS: TEMPERAMENT

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A Focused Explanation of the Concept

In choosing to explain hyperthymia, Friedman could have focused his explanation in any number of ways. For example, he could have written about the history of the concept, showing how it began in the early nineteenth century as a type of person- ality disorder and has become regarded in the twenty-first century as simply a type of temperament or personality.

To analyze how Friedman focuses his explanation of hyperthymia, do the following:

Skim the essay and note in the margin where he first identifies the concept.

Write a couple of sentences explaining how the anecdotes in the two opening paragraphs prepare readers for his explanation.

Add another sentence or two speculating about how writing the essay for the New York Times might have influenced Friedman’s choice on how to focus the explanation.

A Readable Plan

Writers sometimes use rhetorical questions both to engage readers and signal a change to a new topic. Rhetorical questions are questions the writer poses but does not expect readers to answer. Instead, the writer goes on to answer the question in the next sentence or paragraph. Here are a few examples of rhetorical questions from the other concept explanation essays in this chapter:

If we assume there is some reality to the reports about cannibalism, how can we best understand this concept? (Ngo, par. 6)

Chemicals may help explain (at least to scientists) the feelings of passion and compassion, but why do people tend to fall in love with one partner rather than a myriad of others? (Toufexis, par. 16)

Where do those intuitions come from? And why are we so inconsistent about following where they lead us? (Kluger, par. 7)

To analyze how Friedman uses rhetorical questions, follow these steps:

Skim the essay and note where Friedman uses rhetorical questions.

Write a sentence or two explaining how each rhetorical question works as a topic sentence to let readers know what the following paragraph or set of paragraphs will be about.

Add another sentence speculating about how the rhetorical questions may work to engage readers and how effective they are.

Appropriate Explanatory Strategies

Defining is probably the most important writing strategy for explaining a concept. In fact, the concept explanation essay can be seen as an extended definition. Unfamiliar terms are often best defined by giving synonyms, words that have similar meanings

ANALYZING WRITING

STRATEGIES

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FRIEDMAN / BORN TO BE HAPPY 147

but are likely to be more familiar to readers than the term being defined. We can see how synonyms work in the following example where the term being defined is under- lined and the synonyms are highlighted: “These two women were lucky to be born with a joyous temperament, which in its most extreme form is called hyperthymia. Cheerful despite life’s misfortunes, energetic and productive…” (par. 3). In addition to synonyms, antonyms — words that are opposite in meaning — may also be used to clarify a definition. Here is an example of Friedman’s use of antonyms (underlined) to define hyperthymia: “Some researchers believe hyperthymics may be at increased risk of depression or hypomania, a mild variant of mania” (par. 5). Friedman, as you will see, gives readers an array of synonyms and antonyms with which they can create a multifaceted understanding of what the concept hyperthymia means.

To analyze how Friedman uses synonyms and antonyms to define his concept, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 1–3. Highlight the synonyms, and underline the antonyms.

Write a few sentences identifying a few of the synonyms and antonyms that help you understand the meaning of hyperthymia.

Smooth Integration of Sources

Writers of concept explanation essays may quote sources directly or choose to summarize or paraphrase sources. Linh Kieu Ngo primarily uses summary and paraphrase, as does Friedman. In paragraphs 1 and 2, however, he quotes two sources with whom he spoke. He does not identify these sources by name, but he does identify the two researchers whose studies he summarizes. Whether they are writing for an academic audience (as Ngo was in writing for a college class) or for a more general audience (as Friedman was in writing an essay for the New York Times), writers typically identify researchers from whom they got important infor- mation because they know that readers may need to find the research reports. By including the author, title, publication, and date, academic styles of documenta- tion make it especially easy for readers to find reports.

To analyze how Friedman uses sources, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 5 and 8 where he refers to two different research studies: put brackets around the information he gives to identify the study, highlight his description of what was done, and underline his summary of the results.

Write a couple of sentences describing how Friedman presents these two studies.

Add another sentence or two speculating about why he does not include any information about the sources he quotes in paragraphs 1 and 2 or the statistics he cites in paragraphs 3 and 4.

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR OWN ESSAY

Friedman mentions several concepts you might think about exploring further for your own essay, such as pessimism, extroversion (or introversion), apathy, addic- tion, psychosis, and the placebo effect. Other psychological concepts you might consider writing about include agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, seasonal

For more on defining, see Chapter 16.

For more on summary, para- phrase, and quotation, see Chapter 24, pp. 756–65.

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affective disorder, malingering, kleptomania, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorder (ADD). Alternatively, you could focus on the history of psychology and write about Freudian concepts such as psychoanalysis, ego, id, superego, repression, or libido; Jungian concepts such as anima, archetype, or collective unconscious; behavioral psychology concepts such as conditioning, or positive and negative reinforcement; or social psychology concepts such as socialization, conformity, “the looking-glass self,” altruism, narcissism, empathy, or codependency.

Jeffrey Kluger has written several books, including Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio and Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, upon which the 1995 film Apollo 13 was based. He has written for Discover, Science Digest, and the New York Times’ Business World Magazine. A staff writer for Time magazine, Kluger wrote this essay in November 2007.

As you read, notice how the visuals contribute to the essay.

What Makes Us Moral Jeffrey Kluger

f the entire human species were a single individual, that person would long ago have been declared mad. The insanity would not lie in the anger and darkness of the human mind — though it can be a black and raging place indeed. And

it certainly wouldn’t lie in the transcendent goodness of that mind — one so sub- lime, we fold it into a larger “soul.” The madness would lie instead in the fact that both of those qualities, the savage and the splendid, can exist in one creature, one person, often in one instant.

We’re a species that is capable of almost dumbfounding kindness. We nurse one another, romance one another, weep for one another. Ever since science taught us how, we willingly tear the very organs from our bodies and give them

to one another. And at the same time, we slaughter one another. The past 15 years of human history are the temporal equivalent of those subatomic particles that are created in accelerators and vanish in a trillionth of a second, but in that fleeting instant, we’ve visited untold horrors on ourselves — in

Beslan, Baghdad, Pakistan, London, Madrid,

The deeper that science drills into the substrata of behavior, the harder it becomes to preserve the vanity that we are unique among Earth’s creatures.

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in Pennsylvania — all of the crimes committed by the highest, wisest, most prin- cipled species the planet has produced. That we’re also the lowest, cruelest, most blood-drenched species is our shame — and our paradox.

The deeper that science drills into the substrata of behavior, the harder it be- comes to preserve the vanity that we are unique among Earth’s creatures. We’re the only species with language, we told ourselves — until gorillas and chimps mastered sign language. We’re the only one that uses tools — but that’s if you don’t count otters smashing mollusks with rocks or apes stripping leaves from twigs and using them to fish for termites.

What does, or ought to, separate us then is our highly developed sense of moral- ity, a primal understanding of good and bad, of right and wrong, of what it means to suffer not only our own pain — something anything with a rudimentary nervous sys- tem can do — but also the pain of others. That quality is the distilled essence of what it means to be human. Why it’s an essence that so often spoils, no one can say.

Morality may be a hard concept to grasp, but we acquire it fast. A preschooler will learn that it’s not all right to eat in the classroom, because the teacher says it’s

the same teacher says it’s also O.K. to push another student off a chair, the child hesitates. “He’ll respond, ‘No, the teacher shouldn’t say that,’” says psychologist Michael Schulman, coauthor of Bringing Up a Moral Child – body taught the child a rule, but the rule against pushing has a stickiness about it, one that resists coming unstuck even if someone in authority countenances it. That’s the difference between a matter of morality and one of mere social conven- tion, and Schulman and others believe kids feel it innately.

Of course, the fact is, that child will sometimes hit and won’t feel particularly bad about it either — unless he’s caught. The same is true for people who steal or despots who slaughter. “Moral judgment is pretty consistent from person to person,” says Marc Hauser, professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of Moral Minds. “Moral behavior, however, is scattered all over the chart.” The rules we know, even the ones we intuitively feel, are by no means the rules we always follow.

Where do those intuitions come from? And why are we so inconsistent about following where they lead us? Scientists can’t yet answer those questions, but that hasn’t stopped them from looking. Brain scans are providing clues. Animal studies

of this research may make us behave better, not right away at least. But all of it can help us understand ourselves — a small step up from savagery perhaps, but an important one.

The Moral Ape

The deepest foundation on which morality is built is the phenomenon of empathy, the understanding that what hurts me would feel the same way to you. And human ego notwithstanding, it’s a quality other species share.

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trait that’s as generous of spirit as empathy, particularly if you decide there’s no spirit involved in it at all. Behaviorists often reduce what we call empathy to a mer- cantile business known as reciprocal altruism. A favor done today — food offered,

that give-and-take well, the group thrives. But even in animals, there’s something richer going on. One of the first and

– matologist Nadia Kohts, who studied nonhuman cognition in the first half of the 20th century and raised a young chimpanzee in her home. When the chimp would make his way to the roof of the house, ordinary strategies for bringing him down — calling, scolding, offers of food — would rarely work. But if Kohts sat down and pretended to cry, the chimp would go to her immediately. “He runs around me as if looking for the offender,” she wrote. “He tenderly takes my chin in his palm…as if trying to understand what is happening.”

You hardly have to go back to the early part of the past century to find such

rescued a 3-year-old boy who had tumbled into her zoo enclosure, rocking him gently in her arms and carrying him to a door where trainers could enter and collect him. “The capacity of empathy is multilayered,” says primatologist Frans de Waal of Emory University, author of Our Inner Ape. “We share a core with lots of animals.”

While it’s impossible to directly measure empathy in animals, in humans it’s another matter. Hauser cites a study in which spouses or unmarried couples

to mild pain. They were warned before each time the painful stimulus was admin- istered, and their brains lit up in a characteristic way signaling mild dread. They were then told that they were not going to feel the discomfort but that their partner was. Even when they couldn’t see their partner, the brains of the subjects lit up

The Sinking Lifeboat You are adrift in a life raft after your cruise ship has sunk. There are too many survivors for the life rafts, and yours is dangerously overloaded. The raft is certain to sink, and even with life vests on, all the passengers are sure to die because of the frigid temperature of the water. One person on the boat is awake and alert but gravely ill and will not survive the journey no matter what. Throwing that person overboard would prevent the raft from sinking. Could you be the one who tosses the person out?

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precisely as if they were about to experience the pain themselves. “This is very

The brain works harder when the threat gets more complicated. A favorite scenario that morality researchers study is the trolley dilemma. You’re standing near a track as an out-of-control train hurtles toward five unsuspecting people. There’s a switch nearby that would let you divert the train onto a siding. Would you do it? Of course. You save five lives at no cost. Suppose a single unsuspecting man was on the siding? Now the mortality score is 5 to 1. Could you kill him to save the others? What if the innocent man was on a bridge over the trolley and you had to push him onto the track to stop the train?

get messy. Using a switch to divert the train toward one person instead of five increases activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — the place where cool, utili- tarian choices are made. Complicate things with the idea of pushing the innocent victim, and the medial frontal cortex — an area associated with emotion — lights

survey, 85% of subjects who were asked about the trolley scenarios said they would not push the innocent man onto the tracks — even though they knew they had just sent five people to their hypothetical death. “What’s going on in our heads?” asks

do we say it’s O.K. to trade one life for five in one case and not others?”

How We Stay Good

Merely being equipped with moral programming does not mean we practice moral behavior. Something still has to boot up that software and configure it properly, and that something is the community. Hauser believes that all of us carry what he calls a sense of moral grammar — the ethical equivalent of the basic grasp of speech that most linguists believe is with us from birth. But just as syntax is nothing until words are built upon it, so too is a sense of right and wrong useless until someone teaches you how to apply it.

however, humans aren’t the ones who dreamed up such a mentoring system. At the Arnhem Zoo in the Netherlands, de Waal was struck by how vigorously apes enforced group norms one evening when the zookeepers were calling their chim- panzees in for dinner. The keepers’ rule at Arnhem was that no chimps would eat until the entire community was present, but two adolescents grew willful, staying outside the building. The hours it took to coax them inside caused the mood in the hungry colony to turn surly. That night the keepers put the delinquents to bed in a separate area — a sort of protective custody to shield them from reprisals. But the next day the adolescents were on their own, and the troop made its feelings plain, administering a sound beating. The chastened chimps were the first to come in that evening. Animals have what de Waal calls “oughts” — rules that the group must follow — and the community enforces them.

Human communities impose their own oughts, but they can vary radically from culture to culture. Take the phenomenon of Good Samaritan laws that

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require passersby to assist someone in peril. Our species has a very conflicted sense of when we ought to help someone else and when we ought not, and the general rule is, Help those close to home and ignore those far away. That’s in part because the plight of a person you can see will always feel more real than the problems of someone whose suffering is merely described to you. But part of it is also rooted in you from a time when the welfare of your tribe was essential for your survival but the welfare of an opposing tribe was not — and might even be a threat.

which is what impels us to step in and help a mugging victim — or, in the aston- ishing case of Wesley Autrey, New York City’s so-called Subway Samaritan, jump onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train to rescue a sick stranger — but al- lows us to decline to send a small contribution to help the people of Darfur. “The idea that you can save the life of a stranger on the other side of the world by making a modest material sacrifice is not the kind of situation our social brains are prepared for,” says Greene.

Throughout most of the world, you’re still not required to aid a stranger, but in France and elsewhere, laws now make it a crime for passersby not to provide

we make a distinction between an action and an omission to act. Says Hauser:

But you don’t need a state to create a moral code. The group does it too. One of the most powerful tools for enforcing group morals is the practice of shunning.

their own forms of shunning — though the banishments may go by names like excommunication or disfellowshipping. Clubs, social groups and fraternities expel undesirable members, and the U.S. military retains the threat of discharge as a

The Runaway Trolley A runaway trolley is heading down the tracks toward five workmen who can’t be warned in time. You are standing near a switch that would divert the trolley onto a siding, but there is a single unsuspecting workman there. Would you throw the switch, killing one to save five? Suppose the workman was on a bridge with you and you could save the men only by pushing him onto the tracks? (He’s large enough to stop the train; you’re not.) Suppose you could throw a switch dropping him through a trapdoor — thus not physically pushing him?

Yes Yes Yes

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disciplinary tool, even grading the punishment as “other than honorable” or “dis- honorable,” darkening the mark a former service person must carry for life.

Sometimes shunning emerges spontaneously when a society of millions recoils

but it did make the morality tale surrounding him much richer, as the culture as a whole turned its back on him, denying him work, expelling him from his country

was fired in the wake of her and Simpson’s disastrous attempt to publish a book about the killings, sued her ex-employer, alleging that she had been “shunned” and “humiliated.” That, her former bosses might well respond, was precisely the point.

“Human beings were small, defenseless and vulnerable to predators,” says

author of Evolving God. “Avoiding banishment would be important to us.”

Why We Turn Bad

With so many redundant moral systems to keep us in line, why do we so often fall out of ranks? Sometimes we can’t help it, as when we’re suffering from clinical insanity and behavior slips the grip of reason. Criminal courts are stingy about finding such exculpatory madness, requiring a disability so severe, the defendant didn’t even know the crime was wrong. That’s a very high bar that prevents all but a few from proving the necessary moral numbness.

Things are different in the case of the cool and deliberate serial killer, who knows the criminality of his deeds yet continues to commit them. For neuroscien-

railway worker who in 1848 was injured when an explosion caused a tamping

exhibited stark behavioral changes — becoming detached and irreverent, though never criminal. Ever since, scientists have looked for the roots of serial murder in the brain’s physical state.

A study published last year in the journal NeuroImage may have helped pro-

Health scanned the brains of 20 healthy volunteers, watching their reactions as they were presented with various legal and illegal scenarios. The brain activity that most closely tracked the hypothetical crimes — rising and falling with the severity of the scenarios — occurred in the amygdala, a deep structure that helps us make the connection between bad acts and punishments. As in the trolley studies, there was also activity in the frontal cortex. The fact that the subjects themselves had no sociopathic tendencies limits the value of the findings. But knowing how the brain functions when things work well is one good way of knowing where to look when things break down.

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of us never run off the moral rails in remotely as awful a way as serial killers do, but we do come untracked in smaller ways. We face our biggest challenges not when we’re called on to behave our- selves within our family, community or workplace but when we have to apply the same moral care to people outside our tribe.

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The notion of the “other” is a tough one for Homo sapiens. Sociobiology has been criticized as one of the most reductive of sciences, ascribing the behavior of all living things — humans included — as nothing more than an effort to get as many genes as possible into the next generation. The idea makes sense, and all creatures can be forgiven for favoring their troop over others. But such bias turns dark fast.

Schulman, the psychologist and author, works with delinquent adolescents at a residential treatment center in Yonkers, New York, and was struck one day by the outrage that swept through the place when the residents learned that three of

be my grandmother,” one said. Schulman asked whom it would be O.K. to mug. The boy answered, “A Chinese delivery guy.” Explains Schulman: “The old lady is someone they could empathize with. The Chinese delivery guy is alien, literally and figuratively, to them.”

This kind of brutal line between insiders and outsiders is evident everywhere — mobsters, say, who kill promiscuously yet go on rhapsodically about “family.” But

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READINGS

The Crying Baby It’s wartime, and you’re hiding in a basement with your baby and a group of other people. Enemy soldiers are outside and will be drawn to any sound. If you’re found, you will all be killed immediately. Your baby starts to cry loudly and cannot be stopped. Smothering him to death is the only way to silence him and save the lives of everyone in the room. Could you do so? Assume the baby is not yours, the parents are unknown and there will be no penalty for killing him. Could you be the one who smothers this baby if no one else would?

Yes Yes

No No

SOMEONE ELSE’S BABY

 

 

KLUGER / WHAT MAKES US MORAL 155

it has its most terrible expression in wars, in which the dehumanization of the

about what goes on in the collective mind of a place like Nazi Germany or the col- lapsing Yugoslavia. While killers like Adolf Hitler or Slobodan Milosevic can never be put on the couch, it’s possible to understand the xenophobic strings they play in their people.

“Yugoslavia is the great modern example of manipulating tribal sentiments to

cases of genocide, you have a moral entrepreneur who exploits tribalism for evil purposes.”

That, of course, does not take the stain of responsibility off the people who follow those leaders — a case that war-crimes prosecutors famously argued at the Nuremberg trials and a point courageous people have made throughout history as

even if a militia leader tells them to. For grossly imperfect creatures like us, morality may be the steepest of all

developmental mountains. Our opposable thumbs and big brains gave us the tools to dominate the planet, but wisdom comes more slowly than physical hardware. We surely have a lot of killing and savagery ahead of us before we fully civilize ourselves. The hope — a realistic one, perhaps — is that the struggles still to come are fewer than those left behind.

Kluger explains that the community plays a central role in disciplining us so that we practice moral behavior. Most of us, however, belong to more than one community, which may each have different and possibly contradictory standards and expecta- tions — for example, parents versus friends, or college friends versus neighborhood or high school friends.

With two or three other students, discuss how community enforces morality. Begin by briefly taking turns telling each other about a conflict you encountered in the moral codes of different groups or a case where someone was disciplined by other members of a particular community. Then, consider together the following questions:

If you have experienced a conflict between different community expectations, how did you deal with it?

If someone was disciplined by a community, what kind of discipline was it and how effective was it?

To explain the power of shunning, Kluger quotes Barbara J. King, who makes the point that avoiding banishment from the group was especially important when we were “small, defenseless and vulnerable to predators” (par. 22). Do you fear shunning? If so, what makes shunning powerful for you and your friends today?

MAKING CONNECTIONS: COMMUNITY MORALITY

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156 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT

A Focused Explanation of the Concept

To focus his essay and interest readers, Kluger introduces his explanation by establish- ing what he calls at the end of paragraph 2 “our paradox.” A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself. For example, the statement “I always lie” is a paradox because if the statement is true, it also must be false. Paradoxes work by setting up an apparent opposition (such as telling the truth and lying) that upon closer examination may not be contradictory after all.

To analyze how Kluger introduces the concept and focuses his explanation, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 1–7 and note in the margin the oppositions Kluger uses to set up his explanation.

Write a few sentences identifying the oppositions and summarizing the para- dox Kluger presents in this introductory section of the essay.

Add another sentence or two explaining how he focuses his explanation and how well this focus helps you understand what Kluger acknowledges is “a hard concept to grasp” (par. 5).

A Readable Plan

Writers of essays explaining concepts seek to make the information easy for read- ers to follow. To do so, they employ various cues, such as a thesis statement, topic sentences, headings, and various transitional words and phrases. Writers also use an array of cohesive devices including word repetition and synonyms.

To analyze how Kluger uses some of these cues, do the following activities:

Topic Sentences and Headings

Reread the second section (pars. 8–14). Highlight the sentence or sentences that announce the topic of these paragraphs.

Write a few sentences explaining why you think the text you highlighted serves as this section’s topic sentence(s).

Add a sentence speculating about why Kluger uses the heading “The Moral Ape” for this section.

Word Repetition and Synonyms

Skim paragraphs 15 and 16 to see how Kluger uses word repetition and syn- onyms as cohesive devices to help readers follow the movement from topic to topic. For example, the last sentence in paragraph 15 uses the word teaches and the first two sentences of paragraph 16 use repetition (teaching) and a synonym (mentoring system).

ANALYZING WRITING

STRATEGIES

READINGS

Basic Features

To learn more about cueing strategies, see Chapter 13:

 

 

KLUGER / WHAT MAKES US MORAL 157

Reread paragraphs 20–22 and underline the word repetitions and synonyms Kluger uses.

Write a sentence or two describing the word repetitions and synonyms Kluger uses in paragraphs 20–22.

Appropriate Explanatory Strategies

Kluger uses many of the explanatory strategies we’ve seen in the other essays explaining a concept, but he relies primarily on examples from research stud- ies. To present these examples, he has to summarize the study succinctly so that readers can see how the example illustrates the topic he’s discussing. For example, in paragraph 10, Kluger relates the anecdote that summarizes Nadia Kohts’s research finding about the ability of chimpanzees to experience and act on empathy. (Interestingly, Kluger ends his brief summary with a quotation that could raise questions about the subjectivity of Kohts’s interpretation of the chimp’s behavior.)

To analyze Kluger’s use of examples, do the following:

Reread the examples in paragraphs 11–14.

Write a sentence or two explaining how each example relates to Kluger’s expla- nation.

Smooth Integration of Sources

When writers integrate source material into their concept explanations, they have choices to make about what to quote and what to summarize or paraphrase. Because he is reporting several research reports, Kluger quotes and summarizes a lot. Let’s look at an example:

While it’s impossible to directly measure empathy in animals, in humans it’s another matter. Hauser cites a study in which spouses or unmarried couples underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as they were subjected to mild pain. They were warned before each time the painful stimulus was administered, and their brains lit up in a characteristic way signaling mild dread. They were then told that they were not going to feel the discomfort but that their partner was. Even when they couldn’t see their partner, the brains of the subjects lit up precisely as if they were about to experience the pain themselves. “This is very much an ‘I feel your pain’ experience,” says Hauser. (par. 12)

The first sentence (highlighted) is the topic sentence announcing what the paragraph is about. The next four sentences summarize Hauser’s research study, beginning with a brief process narrative explaining how the study was conducted and concluding with a sentence (underlined) summarizing the results of the experiment. The final sentence of the paragraph, a quotation from the researcher, comments on the results using down- to-earth language to discuss what the experiment reveals about empathy, the topic of the paragraph. This is a clear, efficient, and interesting way to present information.

READINGS

 

 

158 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT

To analyze how Kluger integrates sources into his essay, do the following:

Choose one of the following paragraphs to read, and analyze it using the method presented in the sample analysis above: paragraph 5, 10, 14, or 16.

Write a few sentences describing the results of your analysis.

For more on summary, para- phrase, and quotation, see Chapter 24, pp. 756-65.

“MORAL DILEMMAS”

The visuals included in this essay accompany brief scenarios called “Moral Dilemmas.” Examine each “Moral Dilemma” carefully, and then write a few sentences describing them and explaining what they contribute to Kluger’s explanation of the concept. In performing your analysis, consider the following questions:

When you initially read the essay, did you stop to study any of the scenarios, just glance at them in passing, go back to them after finishing the essay, or not look at them at all?

What purpose do the scenarios serve?

The scenarios use words as well as illustrations. What do the illustrations contribute to the scenarios?

Do the scenarios repeat information already presented in the text of the essay, or do they add new information?

Each “Moral Dilemma” invites readers to answer questions. Online, this was an interactive feature of the essay, and the original print publication directed readers to the online activity. How effective is this type of visual in a print publication compared to an online one?

ANALYZING VISUALS

Kluger mentions several concepts you might think about exploring further for your own essay: empathy, reciprocal altruism, nonhuman cognition, tribalism, shun- ning, clinical insanity, sociobiology, and xenophobia. Alternatively, you could focus on one of the many research studies Kluger refers to, explaining in depth one of the key concepts the study investigates, or you could focus on relevant research Kluger does not mention, such as the famous experiment on obedience to authority con- ducted by psychologist Stanley Milgram in the early 1960s, or the recent re-staging of this experiment done by Jerry Burger at Santa Clara University. You could also consider writing about a different concept from Western philosophy such as meta- physics, truth, epistemology, idealism, pragmatism, logical positivism, or existen- tialism, or you could examine a concept related to an Eastern philosophy such as Confucianism, Taoism, karma, nirvana, or Zoroastrianism.

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR

OWN ESSAY

READINGS

 

 

BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL ESSAY: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT 159

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Explaining a Concept Perhaps more than for any other kind of writing, visuals — especially graphs, charts, diagrams, and tables — are common components of concept explanations. So-called “infographics” like the “Mapping Memory” interactive feature reproduced here from the National Geographic online are used more and more frequently in print, televised, and online news media to help explain complex concepts.

You should definitely use illustrations, ei- ther self-created or borrowed (and, as always, appropriately documented), to help your reader understand something you’re trying to explain, even if you’re submitting your essay in print form.

You’re likely familiar with many other kinds of concept explanations that fall outside the bounds of traditional essays. Most of us have made use of Web tutorials that use video, audio, illustrations, and text to explain concepts — for example, tutorials that help us use tools like Microsoft Word, or the one shown here from the National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov/) on evaluating Internet health information. Such tutorials typically share all or many of the basic features of essays that explain concepts, includ- ing presenting a focused concept (often breaking complex systems down into concrete, highly specific steps), a readable plan and clear defini- tions, and use of internal and external links for further information.

As you work on your own project, you might want to consult some of these alternative forms of explaining a concept for inspiration. If the format in which you are working allows for it — if, for example, you are creating a poster, Web site, or video — you should consider tak- ing advantage of the strategies available to those working in multimedia — for example, by embedding artifacts that are relevant to the concept you’re explain- ing. (Always remember to properly document any material you might use that was created by someone else.)

READINGS

 

www.nlm.nih.gov/

 

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Guide to Writing

The Writing Assignment Write an essay about a concept that interests you and that you want to study further. When you have a good understanding of the concept, explain it to your readers, considering carefully what they already know about it and how your essay might add to what they know.

This Guide to Writing will help you apply what you have learned about how writers create concept explanations that are focused, readable, well explained, and supported by credible sources. The Guide is divided into five sections with various activities in each section:

Invention and Research

Planning and Drafting

Critical Reading Guide

Editing and Proofreading

Revising

The guide is designed to escort you through the writing process, from finding a concept to editing your finished essay. Your instructor may require you to follow the Guide to Writing from beginning to end. Working through the Guide to Writing in this way will help you — as it has helped many other college students — write a thoughtful, fully developed, polished essay.

If, however, your instructor gives you latitude to choose and if you have had experience writing a concept explanation, then you can decide on the order in which you’ll do the activities in the Guide to Writing. For example, the Invention and Research section includes activities to help you find a concept, get an overview of it, focus it, research your focus, and consider explanatory strategies. Obviously, finding a concept must precede the other activities, but you may come to the Guide with a concept already in mind, and you may choose to do research on it before you focus your explanation. In fact, you may find your response to one of the invention activities expanding into a draft before you’ve had a chance to do any of the other activities. That’s a good thing — but you should later flesh out your draft by going back to the activities you skipped and layering the new material into your draft.

The following chart will help you find answers to many of the questions you might have about planning, drafting, and revising a concept explanation. The page references in the Where to Look column refer to examples from the readings, activi- ties in the Guide to Writing, and chapters later in the book.

To learn about using the Guide e-book for inven- tion and drafting, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

 

 

Starting Points: Explaining a Concept Basic Features

How can I decide on a focus for my concept?

A Focused Explanation

How do I write clear definitions?

How should I arrange my explanation so that it’s logical and easy to read? What kinds of cues should I provide?

Information and the Ending (pp. 168–69)

A Readable Plan

Choosing a Concept

What’s my purpose in writing? How can I interest my audience?

(p. 131)

Purpose and Audience (p. 168)

How do I come up with a concept to write about?

Question Where to Look

Smooth Integration of Sources

Introduce Information (p. 172)

Appropriate Explanatory Strategies

What’s the best way to explain my concept? What kinds of writing strategies should I use?

(p. 166)

Presenting Results (pp. 178–79)

How should I integrate sources so that they support my argument?

 

 

162 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

The concept should be:

a concept that you feel eager to learn more about;

a concept that will interest your readers;

a concept that you can research sufficiently in the allotted time;

a concept that you can explain fully and clearly in the length prescribed by your instructor.

Criteria for Choosing

a Concept:

A Checklist

If you’re like most people, you’ll need some help in coming up with a number of good options. To get your juices flowing, you might first try quickly rereading the Considering Topics for Your Own Essay activities following the readings, and thinking about any concepts those suggestions brought to mind. Reread any notes you might have made in response to the suggestions. Consider also any concepts related to your hobbies or special interests.

For further ideas, consult the suggestions in the following sections.

Possible Concepts to Consider

Your work in this or your other courses can provide concepts you might be inter- ested in exploring. Try skimming through your class notes and your textbooks. Here are a few possibilities, by discipline:

Literature: irony, semiotics, hero, dystopia, picaresque, the absurd, canon, modernism, identity politics, queering

Invention and Research The following invention activities are easy to complete and take only a few minutes. Spreading out the activities over several days will stimulate your creativity, enabling you to find a concept and an approach to explaining it that works for both you and your readers. Remember to keep a written record of your invention work: you’ll need it when you draft the essay and later when you revise it.

Choosing a Concept to Write About

List several concepts that you might like to explore. Include concepts you already know something about as well as some you know only slightly and would like to research further — the longer your list, the more likely you are to find the right concept, and should your first choice not work out, you will have a ready list of alternatives. Bear in mind that you’re looking for a concept that meets the following criteria.

 

 

GUIDE TO WRITINGINVENTION AND RESEARCH 163

Philosophy: nihilism, logical positivism, determinism, metaphysics, ethics, natural law, Zeno’s paradox, epistemology, ideology

Business management: quality circle, cybernetic control system, management by objectives, zero-based budgeting, liquidity gap

Psychology: assimilation/accommodation, social cognition, moratorium, intel- ligence, operant conditioning, the Stroop effect

Government: majority rule, minority rights, federalism, popular consent, exclusionary rule, hegemony

Biology: photosynthesis, mitosis, karyotype analysis, morphogenesis, electron transport, plasmolysis, phagocytosis, homozygosity, diffusion

Art: cubism, Dadaism, surrealism, expressionism, perspective, collage

Math: polynomials, boundedness, null space, permutations and combinations, factoring, Rolle’s theorem, continuity, derivative, indefinite integral

Physical sciences: matter, mass, weight, energy, gravity, atomic theory, law of definite proportions, osmotic pressure, first law of thermodynamics, entropy

Public health: addiction, seasonal affective disorder, contraception, prenatal care, toxicology, glycemic index

Environmental studies: acid rain, recycling, ozone depletion, toxic waste, endangered species, sustainability

Sports: squeeze play (baseball), power play (hockey), wishbone offense (foot- ball), serve and volley (tennis), inside game (basketball)

Personal finance: reverse mortgage, budget, insurance, deduction, revolving credit, interest rates, dividend, bankruptcy, socially conscious investing

Law: tort, contract, garnishment, double indemnity, reasonable doubt, class action suits, product liability, lemon law

Sociology: norm, deviance, role conflict, ethnocentrism, class, social stratification, acculturation, Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, machismo

Also consider exploring concepts that relate to issues of identity and community, such as self-esteem, character, autonomy, narcissism, multiculturalism, ethnicity, race, racism, social contract, community policing, social Darwinism, identity poli- tics, special-interest groups, colonialism, public space, the other, or agency.

Finally, consider exploring concepts that relate to your work experiences and career aspirations, such as free enterprise, minimum wage, affirmative action, stock option, glass ceiling, downsizing, collective bargaining, service sector, entrepreneur, bourgeoisie, underclass, working class, middle class, monopoly, automation, robotics, management style, deregulation, or multinational corporation.

 

 

164 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

Discovering What You Already Know

Doing Research Doing a General Internet

Search

Take a few minutes to write about what you already know about the concept. Consider, too, why you have chosen the concept and why you find it interesting. Write quickly, without planning or organizing. Note questions you have about the concept. Also, check any materials you have at hand that explain your concept. (If you are considering a concept from one of your other courses, for example, check your textbook or your lecture notes first.)

To find comprehensive, up-to- date information on your concept, locate relevant articles, books, and encyclopedias through your library. Chapter 23, Library and Internet Research, has general information that will help you do research productively. When you find potentially useful information, take accurate notes, make a photocopy, or save the information electronically, always being sure to record exact source information for your Works Cited list. Depending on your topic, you might also consider consulting experts on campus or in the community, and visiting other potential sources of information such as museums or research centers.

Do an Internet search to help you find a focus for your essay. Try entering the word “overview” or “definition” together with the name of your concept, in order to confine your results to introductions and overviews. Bookmark Web sites you find that invite more than a quick glance, and copy or save any potentially useful information — making sure to include the URL, the title of the site, the date the information was posted (if available), and the date you accessed the site. As always, if your first searches don’t turn up much of use, be sure to try variations on the search terms you use.

Ways In: Gaining an Overview of a Concept

Your research efforts for a concept essay can be divided into three stages. First, you must gain an overview of the concept; next, you will identify an aspect of it to focus on; finally, you will do in-depth research in order to gather information. The activities below will help you gain an overview of your concept. You can begin with whichever activity you want, but wherever you begin, be sure to return to the other activities to gather sufficient information.

Basic Features

 

 

GUIDE TO WRITINGINVENTION AND RESEARCH 165

After doing the activities above, choose an aspect of your concept on which to focus, and write a sentence justifying its appropriateness.

Testing Your Choice

After you’ve chosen a concept and attempted to focus it, you should pause to decide whether you should write about it. As painful as it may be to consider, starting over with a new concept is better than continuing with an unworkable one. Test your choice using the questions that follow.

Can I learn what I need to know in the time I have available to write a concept explanation with this focus?

Am I likely to understand the concept well enough to make it clear to my readers?

Do I feel a personal interest in the concept and the particular focus I have chosen? If so, what is the basis for this interest? Is the concept so interesting to me that I am willing to spend the next two or three weeks on an essay explaining it?

Exploring Your Own Interests Analyzing Your Readers

Make a list of two or three aspects of the concept that could become a focus for your essay, and evaluate what you know about each aspect. Under each possible focus in your list, make notes about why it interests you, what you know about it already, and what questions you want to answer about it.

Take a few minutes to write about your readers. Ask yourself the following:

about related concepts?

related concepts? If not, how could you interest them?

concept — perhaps something that could relate to their life or work?

Even if you are writing only for your instructor, you should give some thought to what he or she knows and thinks about the concept.

Ways In: Focusing the Concept

The following activities will help you determine a focus for your concept. Concepts can be approached from many perspectives (for example, history, definition, known causes or effects), and you cannot realistically explain every aspect of any concept, so you must limit your explanation to reflect both your special interest in the con- cept and your readers’ likely knowledge and interest.

Basic Features

 

 

166 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

Do I think I can make the concept and the focus I have chosen interesting to readers? Can I relate the concept to something readers already know? Can I think of any anecdotes or examples that will make the concept more meaningful to them?

If you lose confidence in your choice, return to the list of possible concepts you made and choose another one.

A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

Get together with two or three other students to find out what your readers are likely to

know about your subject and what might interest them about it.

Presenters: Take turns briefly explaining your concept, describing your intended read-

ers, and identifying the aspect of the concept that you will focus on.

Listeners: Briefly tell the presenter whether the focus sounds appropriate and interest-

ing for the intended readers. Share what you think readers are likely to know about the

concept and what information might be especially interesting to them.

Doing In-Depth Research on Your Focused Concept

Having chosen a concept and a focus for your explanation of it, begin your in-depth search of the library, Internet, and other relevant sources for information on your concept. You will want to keep careful records of all sources you believe will contribute in any way to your essay. If possible, scan or make photocopies of print sources, and save other sources electronically. If you must rely on notes, be sure to copy any quotations exactly and enclose them in quotation marks. Since you do not know which sources you will ultimately use, keep careful records of the author, title, publication informa- tion, page numbers, and other required information for each source you gather so that you can acknowledge your sources. Check with your instructor about whether you should follow the documentation style of the Modern Language Association (MLA), the American Psychological Association (APA), or a different style.

Considering Explanatory Strategies

Before you move on to plan and draft your essay, consider some possible ways of presenting the concept. Try to answer each of the following questions in a sentence or two. Questions that you can answer readily may identify the best strategies for presenting your focused concept.

What term is typically used to name the concept, and what does it mean? (definition)

How is this concept like or unlike related concepts with which your readers may be more familiar? (comparison and contrast)

How can an explanation of this concept be divided into parts to make it easier for readers to understand? (classification)

How does this concept happen, or how does one go about doing it? (process narration)

 

 

GUIDE TO WRITINGINVENTION AND RESEARCH 167

What are this concept’s known causes or effects? (cause and effect)

What examples or anecdotes can make the concept less abstract and more memorable? (example or anecdote)

Designing Your Document

Think about whether visual elements — tables, graphs, drawings, photographs — would make your explanation clearer. These are not a requirement, but they could be helpful. Consider also whether your readers might benefit from design features such as headings, bulleted or numbered lists, or other elements that would present information efficiently or make your explanation easier to follow. You could construct your own graphic elements (using word processing software to create bar graphs or pie charts, for example), download materials from the Internet,

Remember that you must cite the source of any visual you do not create yourself, and you should also request permission from the source of the visual if your paper is going to be posted on a Web site that is not password-protected.

Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers

Write a few sentences that define your purpose in writing about this particular concept for your readers. Remember that you have already identified and analyzed your readers and that you have begun to research and develop your explanation with these readers in mind. Try now to define your purpose in explaining the concept to them. Use these questions to focus your thoughts:

Are my readers familiar with the concept? If not, how can I relate it to what they already know? If so, will my focus allow my readers to see the familiar concept in a new light?

If I suspect that my readers have misconceptions about the concept, how can I cor- rect the misconceptions without offending my readers?

Will I need to arouse readers’ interest in information that may seem at first to be less than engaging?

Do I want readers to see that the information I have to report is relevant to their lives, families, communities, work, or studies?

Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Write one or more sentences, stating your focused concept, that could serve as a thesis state- ment. You might also want to forecast the topics you will use to explain the concept.

Anastasia Toufexis begins her essay with this thesis statement:

O.K., let’s cut out all this nonsense about romantic love. Let’s bring some scientific precision to the party. Let’s put love under a microscope.

When rigorous people with Ph.D.s after their names do that, what they see is not some silly, senseless thing. No, their probe reveals that love rests firmly on the foundations of evolution, biology and chemistry.

 

 

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Toufexis’s concept is love, and her focus is the scientific explanation of love — spe- cifically the evolution, biology, and chemistry of love. In announcing her focus, she forecasts the order in which she will present information from the three most relevant academic disciplines — anthropology (which includes the study of human evolution), biology, and chemistry. These discipline names become her topics.

In his essay on cannibalism, Linh Kieu Ngo offers his thesis statement in paragraph 6:

Cannibalism can be broken down into two main categories: exocannibalism, the eating of outsiders or foreigners, and endocannibalism, the eating of members of one’s own social group (Shipman 70). Within these categories are several func- tional types of cannibalism, three of the most common being survival cannibal- ism, dietary cannibalism, and religious and ritual cannibalism.

Ngo’s concept is cannibalism, and his focus is on three common types of can- nibalism. He carefully forecasts how he will divide the information to create topics and the order in which he will explain each of the topics.

As you draft your own tentative thesis statement, take care to make the language clear. Although you may want to revise your thesis statement as you draft your essay, trying to state it now will give your planning and drafting more focus and direction. Keep in mind that the thesis in an explanatory essay merely announces the subject; it never asserts a position that requires an argument to defend it.

Planning and Drafting The following guidelines will help you get the most out of your invention notes, determine specific goals for your essay, and write a first draft. In addition, this sec- tion will help you write a draft by writing opening sentences, trying out a useful sentence strategy, and learning how to work with sources.

Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals

Successful writers are always looking beyond the next sentence to larger goals. Indeed, the next sentence is easier to write if you keep larger goals in mind. The following questions can help you set these goals. Consider each one now, and then return to them as necessary while you write.

Clarifying Your Purpose and Audience

How can I build on my readers’ knowledge?

What new information can I present to them?

How can I organize my essay so that my readers can follow it easily?

What tone would be most appropriate? Would an informal tone like Toufexis’s or a formal one like Ngo’s be more appropriate to my purpose?

Presenting the Information

Should I name and define my concept early in the essay, as Ngo, Toufexis, and Friedman do? Or should I lead up to it gradually by providing illustrations, as Kluger does?

 

 

GUIDE TO WRITINGPLANNING AND DRAFTING 169

Could I develop my explanation by dividing my concept into different cat- egories, as Ngo does? By comparing my concept to related concepts, like Friedman?

How can I establish the authority of my sources? Should I simply give their names and credentials, as Friedman does, or also refer to specific publications or research, as Ngo, Toufexis, and Kluger do? Will my instructor require me to use APA style, MLA style — as Ngo’s instructor did — or some other documenta- tion style?

How can I make it easy for readers to follow my explanation? Should I simply use clear and explicit transitions when I move from one topic to another, as Ngo does, or also include rhetorical questions, like Toufexis, Friedman, and Kluger?

Should I use visuals, like Toufexis and Kluger?

The Ending

Should I end with speculation, as Ngo does, or by suggesting what is special about the concept, as Friedman does?

Should I frame the essay by relating the ending to the beginning, as Toufexis and Kluger do?

Outlining Your Draft

The goals that you have set should help you draft your essay, but first you might want to make a quick scratch outline. In your outline, list the main topics into which you have divided the information about your concept. Use this outline to guide your drafting, but do not feel tied to it. As you draft, you may find a better way to sequence the action and integrate these features.

An essay explaining a concept is made up of four basic parts:

an attempt to engage readers’ interest

the thesis statement, announcing the concept, its focus, and its topics

an orientation to the concept, which may include a description or definition of the concept

information about the concept

Here is a possible outline for an essay explaining a concept:

I. Introduction (attempt to gain readers’ interest in the concept)

II. Thesis statement

III. Definition of the concept

(Topic 3, etc.)

 

 

170 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

An attempt to gain readers’ interest could take as little as two or three sentences or as many as four or five paragraphs. The thesis statement and definition are usually quite brief — sometimes only a few sentences. A topic illustration may occupy one or several paragraphs, and there can be few or many topics, depending on how the information has been divided up. A conclusion might summarize the information presented, give advice about how to use or apply the information, or speculate about the future of the concept.

Drafting

If you have not already begun to draft your essay, this section will help by suggest- ing how to choose an opening sentence strategy; how to use appositive phrases; and how to use descriptive verbs to introduce information from sources. Drafting isn’t always a smooth process, so don’t be afraid to leave spaces where you don’t know what to put in or write notes to yourself about what you could do next. If you get stuck while drafting, go back over your invention writing: You may be able to copy and paste some of it into your evolving draft, or you may need to do some addi- tional invention to fill in details in your draft.

Writing the Opening Sentences

You could try out one or two different ways of beginning your essay — possibly from the list that follows — but do not agonize over the first sentences because you are likely to discover the best way to begin only after you’ve written a rough draft. Review your invention writing to see if you have already written something that would work to launch your essay. To engage your readers’ interest from the start, consider the following opening strategies:

a surprising or provocative quotation (like Toufexis)

an anecdote illustrating the concept (like Ngo and Friedman)

a paradox or surprising aspect of the concept (like Kluger)

a fascinating bit of information

a comparison or contrast

a concrete example

an announcement of the concept

a forecast of the topics

A Sentence Strategy: Appositives

As you draft an essay explaining a concept, you have a lot of information to present, such as definitions of terms and credentials of experts. Appositives provide an efficient, clear way to integrate these kinds of information into your sentences. An appositive is a noun or pronoun that, along with modifiers, gives more information about another noun or pronoun. Here is an example

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 171 GUIDE TO WRITING

from Ngo’s concept essay (the appositive is in italics and the noun it refers to is underlined):

Cannibalism, the act of human beings eating human flesh (Sagan 2), has a long his- tory and continues to hold interest and create controversy. (par. 5)

By placing the definition in an appositive phrase right after the word it defines, this sentence locates the definition exactly where readers need it.

Writers explaining concepts rely on appositives because they serve many dif- ferent purposes needed in concept essays, as the following examples demonstrate. (Again, the appositive is in italics and the noun it refers to is underlined.)

Defining a New Term

Some researchers believe hyperthymics may be at increased risk of depression or hypomania, a mild variant of mania (Friedman, par. 5)

The deepest foundation on which morality is built is the phenomenon of empathy, the understanding that what hurts me would feel the same way to you. (Kluger, par. 8)

Introducing a New Term

Each person carries in his or her mind a unique subliminal guide to the ideal part- ner, a “love map.” (Toufexis, par. 17)

Behaviorists often reduce what we call empathy to a mercantile business known as reciprocal altruism. (Kluger, par. 9)

Giving Credentials of Experts

“Love is a natural high,” observes Anthony Walsh, author of The Science of Love: Understanding Love and Its Effects on Mind and Body. (Toufexis, par. 10)

“He’ll respond, ‘No, the teacher shouldn’t say that,’” says psychologist Michael Schulman, coauthor of Bringing Up a Moral Child. (Kluger, par. 5)

Identifying People and Things

“When I was in high school I read the Robert Browning poem ‘My Last Duchess.’ In it, the narrator said he killed his wife, the duchess. . . .” (Friedman, par. 2)

Even cynics went soft at the story of Binta Jua, the gorilla who in 1996 rescued a 3-year-old boy who had tumbled into her zoo enclosure. . . . (Kluger, par. 11)

Giving Examples or Specifics

Some 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates proposed that a mixture of four basic humors — blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile — determined human temperament . . . (Friedman, par. 6)

Notice that this last example uses dashes instead of commas to set off the appositive from the rest of the sentence. Although commas are more common, either punctua- tion will do the job. Dashes are often used if the writer wants to give the appositive more emphasis or if the appositive itself contains commas, as in this example.

For more on appositives, go to bedfordstmartins .com/theguide and click on Appositives.

 

 

172 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

When explaining concepts, writers usually need to present information from differ- ent sources. There are many verbs writers can choose to introduce the information they quote or summarize. Here are a few examples from the concept essays in this chapter (the verbs are in italics):

“That is one reason why it feels so horrible when we’re abandoned or a lover dies,” notes Fisher. (Toufexis, par. 13)

In one incident, Japanese troops were reported to have sacrificed the Arapesh people of northeastern New Guinea for food in order to avoid death by starvation (Tuzin 63). (Ngo, par. 7)

“This is very much an ‘I feel your pain’ experience,” says Hauser. (Kluger, par. 12)

Toufexis’s verb notes, Ngo’s were reported, and Kluger’s says indicate that they are not characterizing or judging their sources, but simply reporting them. Often, however, writers are more descriptive — even evaluative — when they introduce information from sources, as these examples demonstrate:

“As long as prehistoric females were secretive about their extramarital affairs,” argues Fisher, “they could garner extra resources, life insurance, better genes and more varied DNA for their biological futures. . . .” (Toufexis, par. 8)

Some researchers believe hyperthymics may be at increased risk of depression or hypomania, a mild variant of mania. And they may have high rates of affective disorders in their closest relatives. (Friedman, par. 5)

The verbs in these examples — argues and believe — describe the particular role played by the source in explaining the concept. Verbs like argues emphasize that what is being reported is an interpretation that others may disagree with. Friedman chooses believe to designate a conclusion or speculation made by researchers.

As you refer to sources in your concept explanation, you will want to choose care- fully among a wide variety of precise verbs. You may find this list of verbs helpful in selecting the right verbs to introduce your sources when you are explaining a concept: suggests, reveals, questions, brings into focus, finds, notices, observes, emphasizes.

Notice that Ngo tends not to introduce his sources in the body of his essay; instead, he simply integrates the information from them into his sentences, and read- ers can see from the parenthetical citation and the works-cited list where the infor- mation came from. Here is an example from paragraph 9 in which Ngo includes a quotation together with information he paraphrases from his source:

The Miyanmin people observe no differences in “gender, kinship, ritual status, and bodily substance”; they eat anyone, even their own dead. In this respect, then, they practice both endocannibalism and exocannibalism; and to ensure a constant sup- ply of human flesh for food, they raid neighboring tribes and drag their victims back to their village to be eaten (Poole 11).

This strategy of integrating source material allows Ngo to emphasize the informa- tion and downplay the source. (To learn more about Ngo’s use of quoting and paraphrasing, see A Writer at Work on pp. 181–82.)

Working with Sources: Using Descriptive Verbs to Introduce Information

You can find more infor- mation about integrating sources into your sentences and constructing signal phrases in Chapter 24: Using Sources.

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 173 GUIDE TO WRITING

Critical Reading Guide

Basic Features

For a printable version of this Critical

bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

Your instructor may arrange a peer review session in class or online where you can exchange drafts with your classmates and give each other a thoughtful critical read- ing, pointing out what works well and suggesting ways to improve the draft. This Critical Reading Guide can also be used productively by a tutor in the writing cen- ter or by a roommate or family member. A good critical reading does three things: It lets the writer know how well the reader understands the concept explanation, praises what works best, and indicates where the draft could be improved.

1. Evaluate how effectively the concept is focused.

Summarize: Tell the writer, in one sentence, what you understand the con- cept to mean.

Praise: Give an example of something in the draft that you think will espe- cially interest the intended readers.

Critique: Tell the writer about any confusion or uncertainty you have about the concept’s meaning. Does the focus seem too broad or too narrow for the intended readers? Can you think of a more interesting way to focus the explanation?

2. Assess how readable the explanation is. Look at the way the essay is organized by making a scratch outline.

Does the information seem to be logically divided? Does the beginning pull readers into the essay and make them want to continue? Does it adequately forecast the direction of the essay? Do transitions helpfully guide the reader from part to part? Is the ending effective?

Praise: Give an example of where the essay succeeds in being readable — for instance, in its overall organization, its use of transitions, its begin- ning, or its ending.

Critique: Tell the writer where the readability could be improved. Can you suggest a better way of sequencing the information, for example? Can the use of transitions be improved, or transitions added where they are lacking? Can you suggest a better beginning or more effective ending?

3. Consider how effectively explanatory strategies are used.

Praise: Give an example of the effective use of writing strategies such as defining, classifying or dividing, comparing and contrasting, narrating anec- dotes or processes, illustrating with examples or lists of facts and details, and reporting causes and effects. Point out places where definitions succeed in conveying information clearly, and places where visuals (if visuals are pres- ent) aid in helping readers understand important concepts.

Critique: Tell the writer where a different writing strategy might help in con- veying information effectively. Point out places where definitions might be

 

 

174 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

Revising

even have begun to revise it. In this section is a Troubleshooting chart that may help. Before using the chart, however, it is a good idea to

review critical reading comments from your classmates, instructor, or writing center tutor, and

make an outline of your draft so that you can look at it analytically.

You may have made an outline before writing your draft, but after drafting you need to see what you actually wrote, not what you intended to write. You can out- line the draft quickly by highlighting the basic features — focus, readability, use of explanatory strategies, and integration of sources.

For an electronic version of this Troubleshooting chart, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

needed or existing definitions need clarification or expansion. Suggest places where additional information is needed. Note places in the essay where the addition of visuals such as charts, graphics, or tables could help in making the concept clearer.

4. Evaluate how smoothly sources are integrated.

Praise: Give an example of the effective use of sources — a particularly well- integrated quotation, paraphrase, or summary that supports the writer’s claims. Note any especially descriptive verbs used to introduce information.

Critique: Tell the writer where a quote, paraphrase, or summary could be more smoothly integrated. Suggest places where it would be better to summarize or paraphrase than to quote, or vice versa. If the list of sources used is less balanced than it should be, suggest types of sources that would strengthen it, or suggest sources that would be better left out.

5. If the writer has expressed concern about anything in the draft that you have not discussed, respond to that concern.

Making Comments Electronically Most word processing software offers features that allow you to insert comments directly into the text of someone else’s document. Many readers prefer to make their comments this way because it tends to be faster than writing on hard copy and space is virtually unlimited; it also eliminates the process of deciphering handwritten comments. Where such features are not available, simply typing comments directly into a document in a contrasting color can provide the same advantages.

 

 

Troubleshooting Your Draft Basic Features

Problem Suggestions for Revising the Draft

A Focused Explanation

Narrow your concept to a specific cultural or historical context — for example, instead of “dating,” try “U.S. dating conventions in the mid-20th century.” Ask yourself what about the concept drew you to it. Refocus based on your initial interest. Consider what aspects of your concept would be of particular interest to your audience. Refocus accordingly. Look up your concept in your library catalog or online and browse for subtopics related to it, or sites that treat a narrowed aspect of it. If your concept comes from another course you’re taking, check your textbook or lecture notes for a way to focus it.

I have too much to cover. (The focus is too broad.)

Try providing more information likely to be of value and interest to your readers or consider using humor, anecdotes, or visuals to engage their interest. Ask yourself whether the focus is interesting to you. If it isn’t, choose a different focus. If it is, ask yourself how you can communicate your enthusiasm to your readers — perhaps with anecdotes, examples, or illustrations?

My focus is not interesting to readers.

I don’t have enough to write about. (The focus is too narrow.)

Broaden your concept by adding cultural or historical comparisons and contrasts. Look up your concept in your library catalog or online and browse for larger concepts that include it. If your concept comes from another course you’re taking, check your textbook or lecture notes for broader, related topics.

(continued)

Outline your material to be sure that it’s divided into clear topics that are parallel conceptually and presented in a logical order. Reread your thesis statement to be sure that it clearly announces the concept and forecasts the topics in the order they appear in the essay. Look for topic sentences in each paragraph. (If you find them difficult to locate, your reader will, too.) Clarify where necessary.

The organization is not logical.

A Readable Plan

Review your opening paragraphs to be sure that you clearly introduce your concept and your focus. Try starting with an anecdote, interesting quotation, surprising aspect of the concept, concrete example, or a similar lead-in. Consider stating explicitly what makes the concept worth thinking about and how it relates to your readers’ interests.

The beginning does not draw readers in.

 

 

176 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

Consider whether you have used the best writing strategies — defining, classifying, comparing and contrasting, narrating, illustrating, describing, and explaining cause and effect — for your topic. Recheck your definitions for clarity. Be sure that you have explicitly defined any key terms your readers might not know. Consider adding explicit forecasting, transitional cues (repetition, rhetorical questions, etc.) and/or organizational markers (headings, bulleted lists, and so on).

The information isn’t getting through to readers as clearly as it should.

Reread existing definitions and illustrations, and expand or clarify where necessary. Do additional research on your topic and cite it in your essay.

Readers want more information about certain aspects of the concept.

Consider providing synonyms or antonyms for terms you are defining. Consider supplementing definitions with illustrations or examples. Consider using appositives to define terms efficiently and clearly.

Definitions need work.

Check whether your sources use visuals (tables, graphs, drawings, photographs, and the like) that might be appropriate for your explanation. Consider drafting your own charts, tables, or graphs or adding your own photographs or illustrations.

Readers want visuals to help them understand certain concepts.

Outline your essay, dividing it into major parts — introduction, main topics, and conclusion. Reread the end of each major part and the beginning of the next, looking for transitions (for example, repeated words or phrases; synonyms; or rhetorical questions). If there are none, add them. Consider adding headings to make the connections among parts clearer.

The essay doesn’t flow smoothly from one part to the next.

Consider ending by speculating on what the future will bring — how the concept might be redefined, for example. Consider relating the ending to the beginning — for example, by recalling an example or a comparison.

The ending falls flat.

A Readable Plan

(continued)

Appropriate Explanatory Strategies

(continued)

 

 

REVISING 177 GUIDE TO WRITING

(continued)

If a summary is too long-winded, try providing only the necessary source information and the single key idea that illuminates your topic. If a paraphrase is too long or too close to the original, try to restate it more succinctly. If you feel you’re losing essential information by paraphrasing, consider using a quotation instead. If a quotation is too long, locate the essential information in it and consider excerpting that information only, using ellipses to make it flow naturally with your prose. If a quotation is uninteresting, paraphrase or summarize the information instead.

Summaries lack oomph; paraphrases are too long or too close to original source; quotations are too long or uninteresting.

Reread all passages where you quote outside sources. Ask yourself whether the sentences would read smoothly if the material were entirely original, rather than quoted. If not, rewrite, using appropriate introductory or interrupting phrases. Check to be sure that you have appropriately commented on all cited material, making its relation to your own ideas absolutely clear. Consider using descriptive verbs to give your readers more information about what your source is saying and why you are referring to it.

Quotes, summary, and/or paraphrase don’t flow smoothly with the rest of the essay.

Categorize your sources by author, medium (print; electronic database; open Web; other); and type (book; journal article; magazine or newspaper article; Web site; other). Do additional research to balance your list, taking particular care that you have an adequate number of scholarly sources. If you have difficulty finding appropriate material, ask your instructor or a reference librarian for help.

My list of sources is too limited.

Clearly identify all sources, and fully state the credentials of all cited authorities. Provide expanded or clarified accounts of research that your readers find unconvincing on grounds apart from the credibility of the source. Eliminate sources that are clearly identified and well integrated but that are not considered credible or otherwise appropriate by your instructor or other readers.

Some sources are inappropriate or not credible.

Smooth Integration of

Sources

 

 

178 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

Effective document design is an important factor for the marketing manager who volunteers to teach fifth graders about surveys (see p. 127). Because the marketer is teaching students about surveys by having them take one, she knows that the design of the survey will be crucial to the students’ understanding.

She recognizes that students need to be interested in the questionnaire and able to fill it out quickly; she also knows that it is important that they not feel in- timidated by its appearance. After first drafting the questionnaire, she realizes that although the questions all fit on one page (cutting down on paper and photocopy- ing costs), the page is very cluttered and difficult to read.

1. What is your gender? ————————————————————————————— 2. Where do you fall in terms of birth order in your family — youngest, oldest, in the middle,

or only child? ————————————————————————————————– 3. How frequently are you able to watch the television programming you want to watch — all

of the time, most of the time, some of the time, hardly ever, or never? ————————–

First Draft of Survey (excerpt)

Before getting started on the redesign, she considers her audience — ten- and eleven-year-olds — and refers to workbooks and other print material designed for this age group. In this case, the convenience to her audience (their ability to easily read and answer the questions) outweighs the time and expense of photocopying multiple pages. She thinks that the students will be able to fill out the survey more easily if each question has more space around it.

male female

the youngest child the oldest child

a middle child the only child

all of the time hardly ever

most of the time never

some of the time

Final Draft of Survey (excerpt)

Thinking About Document Design: Designing Surveys and Presenting Results

 

 

REVISING 179 GUIDE TO WRITING

The appearance of the survey is only her initial design consideration, how- ever. After the students complete the survey, she guides the class in tabulating the survey results. Explaining that the information from the questionnaire is best presented graphically so that the viewers will understand the results, she discusses with the class which information best fits in a pie chart (in this case, aggregate data broken into percentages) and which in a bar graph (data with multiple vari- ables). She creates the data displays using a PowerPoint program. Two of the slides are shown here.

Respondent Gender y.

.

20

30

10

0 All of the Time Most of the

Time Some of the

Time Hardly Ever Never

Oldest

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

P e r c e n t

How often do you get to watch what you want to watch on TV?

Middle

Youngest

Only Child

 

 

180 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPTGUIDE TO WRITING

Editing and Proofreading Two kinds of errors occur often in concept explanations: punctuation around adjec- tive clauses, and commas around interrupting phrases. The following guidelines will help you check your essay for these common errors.

Using Punctuation with Adjective Clauses

What Is an Adjective Clause? Adjective clauses include both a subject and a verb. They give information about a noun or a pronoun. They often begin with who, which, or that. Here is an example from a student essay explaining the concept of schizophrenia, a type of mental illness:

It is common for schizophrenics to have delusions that they are being persecuted.

Because adjective clauses add information about the nouns they follow — defining, illustrating, or explaining — they can be useful in writing that explains a concept.

The Problem: Adjective clauses may or may not need to be set off with a comma or commas. To decide, first you have to determine whether the clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Clauses that are essential to the meaning of a sentence should not be set off with a comma; clauses that are not essential to the meaning must be set off with a comma.

How to Correct It: Mentally delete the clause. If taking out the clause does not change the basic meaning of the sentence or make it unclear, add a comma or commas.

Postpartum neurosis which can last for two weeks or longer can adversely

affect a mother’s ability to care for her infant.

The early stage starts with memory loss which usually causes the patient to

forget recent life events.

If the clause follows a proper noun, add a comma/commas.

Nanotechnologists defer to K. Eric Drexler who speculates imaginatively about

the use of nonmachines.

If taking out the clause changes the basic meaning of the sentence or makes it unclear, do not add a comma or commas.

Seasonal affective disorders are mood disturbances, that occur with a change

of season.

The coaches, who do the recruiting should be disciplined.

A Note on Grammar and Spelling Checkers These tools can be helpful, but don’t rely on them exclu- sively to catch errors in your text: Spelling checkers cannot catch misspellings that are themselves words, such as to for too. Grammar check- ers miss some problems, sometimes give faulty advice for fixing problems, and can flag correct items as wrong. Use these tools as a second line of defense after your own (and, ideally, another reader’s) proofreading/editing efforts.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on Adjective Clauses.

 

 

LINH KIEU NGO’S USE OF SOURCES 181 A WRITER AT WORK

Using Commas with Interrupting Phrases

What Is an Interrupting Phrase? When writers are explaining a concept, they need to supply a great deal of information. They add much of this information in phrases that interrupt the flow of a sentence, as in the following example:

People on the West Coast, especially in Los Angeles, have always been receptive to new ideas.

Interrupting phrases are typically set off with commas.

The Problem: Forgetting to set off an interrupting phrase with commas can make sentences difficult to read or unclear.

How to Correct It: Add a comma on either side of an interrupting phrase.

People on the West Cost especially in Los Angeles have always been receptive to

new ideas.

Alzheimer’s disease named after the German neuropathologist Alois

Alzheimer is a chronic degenerative illness.

These examples though simple present equations in terms of tangible objects.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral

Phrases.

A Writer at Work

Linh Kieu Ngo’s Use of Sources This section describes how student writer Linh Kieu Ngo selected information from a source and integrated it into one part of his essay on cannibalism.

One paragraph from Ngo’s essay illustrates a sound strategy for integrating sources into your essay, relying on them fully — as you nearly always must do in explanatory writing — and yet making them your own. Here is paragraph 9 from Ngo’s essay (the five sentences are numbered for ease of reference):

(1) In the Miyanmin society of the west Sepik interior of Papua, New Guinea, villagers do not value human life over that of pigs or marsupials because human flesh is part of their normal diet (Poole 7). (2) The Miyanmin people observe no differences in “gender, kinship, ritual status, and bodily substance”; they eat any- one, even their own dead. (3) In this respect, then, they practice both endocan- nibalism and exocannibalism; and to ensure a constant supply of human flesh for food, they raid neighboring tribes and drag their victims back to their village to be eaten (Poole 11). (4) Perhaps, in the history of this society, there was at one time a shortage of wild game to be hunted for food, and because people were more plentiful than fish, deer, rabbits, pigs, or cows, survival cannibalism was adopted as

 

 

182 CHAPTER 4: EXPLAINING A CONCEPT

a last resort. (5) Then, as their culture developed, the Miyanmin may have retained the practice of dietary cannibalism, which has endured as a part of their culture.

Most of the information in this paragraph comes from a twenty-six-page research report by an anthropologist, Fitz John Porter Poole. Given Ngo’s purpose in this paragraph — to illustrate some forms of dietary cannibalism — he selects only a limited amount of information from small sections of text on two different pages of the Poole report. Notice first that Ngo quotes only once, in sentence 2, using a phrase that emphasizes what indiscriminate dietary cannibals the Miyanmin people are.

Otherwise, Ngo paraphrases information from Poole. (When you paraphrase, you construct your own sentences and phrases but rely necessarily on the key words in your source.) For example, in his sentence 1, Ngo paraphrases this sentence: “For Miyanmin, they claim, humans do indeed become food in an ordinary sense and are seen as compa- rable to pigs and marsupials.” Toward the end of sentence 3, Ngo again paraphrases Poole. By contrast, Ngo’s sentences 4 and 5 seem to be his own speculations about the possible origins of Miyanmin cannibalism because this information does not appear in Poole.

The paragraph illustrates a careful balance between a writer’s ideas and infor- mation gleaned from sources. Ngo is careful not to let the sources take over the explanation. The paragraph also illustrates judicious use of quotations and para- phrases. Ngo avoids stringing quotes together to illustrate an explanation.

Thinking Critically About What You Have Learned

A WRITER AT WORK

In this chapter, you have learned a great deal about this genre from reading several con- cept explanations and writing one of your own. To consolidate your learning, it is help- ful to think metacognitively — that is, to reflect not only on what you learned but on how you learned it. Following are two brief activities your instructor may ask you to do.

Reflecting on Your Writing Your instructor may ask you to turn in with your essay and process materials a brief metacognitive essay or letter reflecting on what you have learned about writing your concept explanation. Choose among the following invention activities those that seem most productive for you:

Explain how your purpose and audience — what you wanted your readers to learn from reading your concept explanation — influenced one of your deci- sions as a writer, such as how you focused the concept, how you organized your explanation, how you used writing strategies to convey information, or how you integrated sources into your essay.

Discuss what you learned about yourself as a writer in the process of writing this particular essay. For example, what part of the process did you find most

 

 

CONSIDERING THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS 183 THINKING CRITICALLY

challenging, or did you try something new like getting a critical reading of your draft or outlining your draft in order to revise it?

If you were to give advice to a friend who was about to write a concept explana- tion, what would you say?

Which of the readings in this chapter influenced your essay? Explain the influ- ence, citing specific examples from your essay and the reading.

If you got good advice from a critical reader, explain exactly how the person helped you — perhaps by questioning your definitions, your use of visuals, the way you began or ended your essay, or the kinds of sources you used.

Considering the Social Dimensions: Concept Explanations and the Nature of Knowledge Concepts are the building blocks of knowledge, essential to its creation and acquisi- tion. We use concepts to name and organize ideas and information in areas as diverse as snowboarding and psychiatry. Academic disciplines and most professions are heav- ily concept-based, enabling newcomers to be introduced efficiently, if abstractly, to the basic knowledge they need to begin learning. As you have learned from your reading, research, and writing for this chapter, writers explaining concepts present knowledge as established and uncontested. They presume to be unbiased and objective, and they assume that readers will not doubt or challenge the truth or the value of the knowledge they present. This stance encourages readers to feel confident about the validity of the explanation. However, explanatory writing should not always be accepted at face value.

Textbooks and reference materials, in particular, sometimes present a limited view of knowledge in an academic discipline. Because introductory textbooks must be highly selec- tive, they necessarily leave out certain sources of information and types of knowledge.

1. Consider the claim that concept explanations attempt to present their informa- tion as uncontested truths. Identify a reading in this chapter that particularly seems to support this claim, and then think about how it does so. Do the same for a chapter or section in a textbook you are reading for another course.

2. Reflect on how concept explanations present established knowledge. How do you think knowledge gets established in academic disciplines such as biology, psychol- ogy, and history? How might the prominent researchers and professors in a disci- pline go about deciding what is to be considered established knowledge for now? How might they decide when that established knowledge needs to be revised? If possible, ask these questions of a professor in a subject you are studying.

3. Write a page or two explaining your initial assumptions about the knowledge or information you presented about a concept in your essay. When you were doing research on the concept, did you discover that some of the information was being challenged by experts? Or did the body of knowledge seem settled and established? Did you at any point think that your readers might question any of the information you were presenting? How did you decide what information might seem new or even surprising to readers? Did you feel comfortable in your roles as the selector and giver of knowledge?

 

 

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IN COLLEGE COURSES For a course in sci- ence research ethics, a biology major writes a paper on the debate over stem cell research. She begins with a surprising quote: “Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders are welcoming the National Institute of Health’s (NIH’s) new draft guidelines for federal financing of embryonic stem cell research, in recogni- tion of their common interest in establishing strong ethical parameters in scientific research.” She explains that groups with seemingly irreconcilable views on these issues had found common ground in the NIH’s guidelines, which provide that research be limited to stem cells from embryos that would have been destroyed because they are no longer needed for in vitro fertilization. In addition, the rules bar research on embryos created solely for stem cell research and require donors to give their consent.

The student points out that the NIH guidelines represent a compromise and that not everyone is happy. Some scientists argue that they will be a serious impediment because developing matched organs for transplantation would only be possible if banned techniques like therapeutic cloning or so- matic cell nuclear transfer were allowed. Opponents of stem cell research such as the National Right to Life Committee make a slippery slope counterargu- ment, claiming that the new guidelines are “part of an incremental strategy to desensitize the public to the concept of killing human embryos for research purposes.” The student concludes by pointing out that, despite continuing points of disagreement, support for the guidelines among parties traditionally opposed to such research represents a step toward an eventual resolution of the issue.

Finding Common Ground

5

 

 

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IN THE COMMUNITY The chair of the School Uniform Committee of a middle school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) writes an e-mail to the members reporting on a recent meeting about whether to adopt school uniforms. She begins by summarizing outside research undertaken by the committee: anecdotal information, primarily from school administrators, supports the claim that school uniforms can have a positive effect on dis- cipline, achievement, and safety; however, studies by sociologist David Brunsma, among others, have found no positive correlation between uniforms and school safety or academic achievement.

The committee chair then presents the arguments made at the meeting by those on both sides of the issue. She reports that those who support the adop- tion of uniforms argued that they encourage school spirit, eliminate unnecessary social tensions by ob- scuring differences in socioeconomic background, and forestall gang violence by eliminating the use of gang colors. Those opposed agreed that reducing class distinctions and forestalling gang violence are worthy goals, but expressed concern that school uniforms stifle individuality and are costly and wasteful because they would not be worn outside of school.

Proponents recommended a compromise — to substitute ordinary casual clothes (such as polo shirts and jeans) for expensive formal uniforms. Although this suggestion has appeal to some people, a few voiced the concern that wealthy students would still wear designer jeans. At the conclusion of the meeting, a sub- committee was formed to make specific recommenda- tions for a dress code that would exclude gang colors and achieve a desirable degree of uniformity without incurring undue expense or inviting displays of privilege.

IN THE WORKPLACE Major population growth and haphazard development in a previously rural area in southwest Washington State threaten a watershed that supplies several local communities and supports endangered salmon species. Longtime residents, including Native Americans who live on tribal land adjacent to areas slated for development; developers; and county planning officials come together to discuss a plan for sustainable growth in the area. They agree to hire a consulting firm to write a report that analyzes the positions of the stakeholders and outlines a plan for development.

Whereas the residents’ interest is in maintain- ing quality of life and protecting the environment, the developers want access to building sites, and the county officials need to build infrastructure to support the growing population. The consulting firm analyzes these competing needs and recommends changes to developers’ original proposals, calling for higher-density development that would be situated further from tribal lands and from the endangered watershed but at the same time cost less to build and support with transportation and utilities. The plan also channels money from the economic growth en- abled by development to environmental upkeep.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominates the plan for a National Award in Smart Growth Achievement. The consulting firm and the EPA co-present a session on the proj- ect for the 2009 New Partners for Smart Growth Conference. While the presenters encounter some skepticism, many audience members leave the presentation believing that public-private partner- ships for sustainable growth can work.

 

 

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No one is exempt from the call to find common ground. — BARACK OBAMA, The Audacity of Hope

A debate is raging in Congress, on the airwaves, and in the blogosphere over the president’s proposals for health-care reform. Many citizens are listening in, and some are participating in the discussion. Mostly, those who do tune in witness people with different points of view arguing, sometimes vehemently, but seldom listening to what others are saying. What is too often lacking is a fair and dispassionate overview of the issue, a careful sorting out of the main arguments on various sides, and ideas about where agreement might be possible — in other words, what is lacking is the search for common ground. In this chapter, you will be reading essays that seek common ground and, as you work through the chapter, you will be writing an essay of your own in which you analyze arguments on a controversial issue and suggest where they might find com- mon ground.

Controversial issues are inevitable in any society, and many people shy away from entering public debate because it tends to be loud, raucous, and confusing. Reasoned argument, however, is the lifeblood of a democracy. Free and open dis- cussion offers us insight into why people favor certain policies and resist others, and it helps us establish and refine informed positions of our own. Sometimes the disagreement is local and relatively trivial — whether, for example, traffic should flow two ways or one way on a busy city street. Sometimes the controversy has broader and longer-term implications — for example, whether to build a new campus for a state university system. Sometimes the debate takes on global signifi- cance — as, for example, in the question of whether to permit torture as a means of interrogation.

Essays that analyze arguments to find common ground aim to inform and educate readers. To write a common ground essay, you need to avoid thinking of argument as a zero-sum game in which one side wins and the other sides lose. Where values and concerns are shared, where interests and priorities overlap, win-win thinking takes the place of zero-sum thinking, and it becomes possible to find common ground.

For example, the opening scenario about stem cell research suggests that people may be able to come together over certain shared values and concerns even when they continue to disagree on some fundamental aspects of the issue. As long as the stem cells come from embryos that would be destroyed anyway, many pro- life advocates seem willing to accept their use for research designed to save human lives devastated by disease. The shared value of human life together with the com- mon interest in curing diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s make agreement possible.

Similarly, the second scenario about school uniforms suggests that everyone at the PTA meeting agrees that instituting some policies on clothing makes sense; they share concerns about gang-related violence and about the negative effects of obvi- ous socioeconomic differences among students. They have not yet figured out how to accomplish the shared goal of making students’ lives safer and more harmonious, but they have agreed to try. Finding common ground is often just the beginning of the process, but it is a crucial and challenging first step.

 

 

CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND 187

Learning to write a clear and unbiased explanation of points of agreement and disagreement on a controversial issue can be especially helpful when you are em- barking on a new research project and may be a required part of a prospectus or research proposal. Obviously, honing your ability to analyze arguments, understand differences, and find potential areas of agreement can also be helpful personally and professionally.

In this chapter, you will read student essays analyzing different positions on controversial issues: whether steroids should be banned from baseball, whether the United States should use torture as a means of interrogation, and whether the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be changed to improve public education. These readings illustrate the basic features and strategies writers typically use when ana- lyzing opposing positions to find common ground among them. The questions and activities following the readings will help you consider what is particular to one writer’s approach and what strategies you might want to try out in writing your own common ground essay.

The Guide to Writing that follows the readings will support you as you compose your own essay, showing you ways to use the basic features of the genre to write a probing and creative analysis of opposing positions on an issue that interests you.

Finally, the Appendix to this chapter offers seven readings taking positions on two different issues: torture and same-sex marriage. (Additional essays on different topics can be found at bedfordstmartins.com/theguide.) You might want to use the arguments presented in these readings as the basis of the essay you write for this chapter.

To get a sense of what is involved in trying to find common ground on a controversial issue,

get together with two or three other students, and explore the possibilities for agreement

among those who argue about the issue.

Part 1. Select an issue with which you are familiar. Here are a few possibilities to consider:

Should there be a community service requirement for graduation from college?

Should sororities and fraternities be banned from college campuses? Should college athletes be paid?

Should intelligent design be taught in science classes as an alternative theory to

evolution?

Should oil drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be allowed?

Should private cars be taxed to support mass transit?

Should the drinking age be lowered?

Should marijuana be legalized?

Identify the positions people have taken on the issue and the arguments they typically

put forward to support their position. (You do not have to agree or disagree; you sim-

ply have to recall what others have said or written on the issue. Doing a quick Google

search could be helpful here, though it would be best at this point to stick to arguments

with which you are familiar.)

A Collaborative Activity: Practice Finding Common Ground

 

 

188 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

Identify a couple of shared concerns, needs, priorities, values, or beliefs that you think

could potentially be the basis for agreement among those who have taken a position on

the issue.

Part 2. Discuss what you learned about analyzing arguments on a controversial issue and

trying to find possible common ground.

How would you try to convince people who argue about this particular issue that the

potential points of agreement you have identified could be the basis for a productive

discussion toward building common ground?

Since debates over controversial issues normally emphasize points of disagreement

rather than potential points of agreement, how did you go about finding areas of

possible agreement?

Reading Essays That Seek Common Ground

Basic Features As you read essays that analyze opposing positions to find common ground, you will see how different authors incorporate the basic features of the genre.

An Informative Introduction to the Issue and Opposing Positions

Read first to see how the writer presents the issue. Look, for example, at whether the writer assumes that readers are already well informed or need background informa- tion, and whether they will be interested in the issue or will need to have their inter- est piqued. To inform and interest readers, writers may provide material such as the following:

a political or historical context

facts or statistics

examples or anecdotes

quotations from authorities

Consider also how the writer introduces the opposing positions and their authors. The writer usually provides the following information:

the authors’ names

their professional affiliation or credentials

the titles of the essays that are being analyzed

Basic Features

 

 

BASIC FEATURES 189

where and when the essays were originally published or posted

who sponsored the original publication

A Probing Analysis

Read next to see how the writer analyzes the arguments. Keep in mind that the pur- pose of the common ground essay is not primarily to summarize the arguments, but to analyze them in order to discover ways of bridging significant differences.

Consider whether the writer’s treatment of the arguments is both analytical and constructive — that is, whether it examines the arguments advanced by each side to understand the points of disagreement as well as the points of potential agreement (analytical) and whether it suggests ways to build common ground on shared values and concerns, needs and interests (constructive).

Think, too, about what the writer has chosen to focus on and what has been left out. Because of time and space constraints, essays finding common ground cannot be exhaustive: writers must select only two or three points of comparison, among which the following are perhaps most common:

values (for example, freedom, justice, equality)

moral, ethical, or religious principles (for example, the sense of right and wrong, “do unto others,” social responsibility, stewardship of the natural envi- ronment)

ideology (a system of ideas and ideals — for example, the ideas in the Declaration of Independence that everyone is created equal and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness)

needs and interests (for example, food, shelter, work, respect, privacy, choice)

fears and concerns (for example, regarding safety, socioeconomic status, power)

priorities or agendas about what is most important or urgent (for example, whether law and order is more important than securing justice and equality)

In reading the essay, try to decide whether the writer has selected points of com- parison that are likely to be seen by readers as significant.

Look also at how the writer tries to frame (or reframe) the issue. A sincere attempt at finding common ground will frame the issue so that it can be perceived anew as potentially unifying and productive. For example, the opening scenario about stem cell research indicates how the issue was productively reframed in terms of the ethics of scientific research — an area where interests and concerns overlap — rather than as a pro-life/pro-choice issue, where values and priorities seem irrecon- cilable. Similarly, the scenario about school uniforms shows how people construc- tively framed the issue as an attempt to reduce tensions among students — a shared priority on which agreement could be forged. Finally, the scenario about sustainable development shows how some individuals are seeking a way out of the “either (we make money) or (we do good in the community)” binary thinking traditionally as- sumed by many to be the principle by which capitalism functions.

 

 

190 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

A Fair and Impartial Presentation

Read carefully to see whether the writer comes across as fair and unbiased. A common ground essay is not a passive summary merely repeating what others have said. It is a probing examination seeking to understand not only on what points people agree and disagree, but why they agree and disagree and how they might come to an agreement on at least some points. Therefore, it is necessary for the writer to be per- ceived as unbiased, equitable, even impartial. To win and hold readers’ confidence, the writer normally does the following:

refrains from taking a position on the issue

represents the opposing sides fairly and accurately

avoids judging either side’s arguments

gives roughly equal attention to the opposing viewpoints

A Readable Plan

Finally, read to see how the writer provides a readable plan by dividing the essay into clearly distinguishable points of agreement and disagreement. Examine the strategies the writer uses to make the essay easy to follow, such as:

providing a clear thesis and forecasting statement

using topic sentences for paragraphs or groups of paragraphs

labeling the positions consistently (for example, with the authors’ last names)

repeating key words to identify the points of agreement and disagreement

signaling similarities and differences with clear comparative transitional words and phrases

Purpose and Audience As you read common ground essays, ask yourself what seems to be the writer’s purpose. For example, does the writer seem to be writing for any of the following reasons:

to inform readers about a controversial issue

to explain the kinds of arguments particular writers have made and possibly the kinds of arguments that are typically made on the issue

to clarify different points of view on the issue

to examine ways in which people already agree on the issue

to suggest where there may be potential for significant common ground between different points of view

As you read, also try to decide what the writer assumes about the audience. For example, does the writer

 

 

BERNARD / LOST INNOCENCE 191

expect the readers to be generally well informed but not knowledgeable about this particular issue;

assume the readers may not be especially interested in the issue;

anticipate readers will be unfamiliar with the issue, so that the essay will serve as an introduction;

anticipate readers will know something about the arguments typically made on the issue, so that the essay may open new possibilities; or

expect some readers will already have strong views about the issue?

Readings

JEREMY BERNARD is an avid baseball fan who has closely followed the many steroid scan- dals. He asked his instructor if he could write about the issue and use as his two main texts George Mitchell’s report and a Web site written in response to it. Even though these two texts are too long and complex to cover in depth, his instructor gave Bernard permission to use them if he met two criteria: he had to make sure his essay stayed within the page limit and he had to refrain from stating his own position on the issue. His instructor gave him the opportu- nity to write his next essay, a position paper, on the steroids issue. Moreover, he was told — as was the rest of the class — that he could use the research he did for the common ground essay for his position essay. He could even quote from his common ground essay in his position paper so long as he cited it correctly.

Bernard jumped at the chance to write two essays on baseball. As you read this essay, consider whether Bernard successfully kept his opinion to himself. (Bernard’s sources are available online at bedfordstmartins.com/theguide.)

Basic Features

READINGS

1

Lost Innocence

Jeremy Bernard

In a nation committed to better living through chemistry — where Viagra-

enabled men pursue silicone-contoured women — the national pastime has a

problem of illicit chemical enhancement.

— George Will

Many American writers have waxed poetic about baseball. Walt Whitman, the great

nineteenth-century poet, sang its praises: “It’s our game — the American game.” “More

than anything,” remarked Pete Hamill, the twentieth-century journalist and novelist,

 

 

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3

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“it’s a game of innocence” (Andrijeski). The age of innocence in baseball seems to have

ended in the 1990s when “the Steroid Era” began and players from Mark McGwire to

Roger Clemmons, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez were identified as using performance

enhancing drugs (PEDs). Such substances as anabolic steroids and human growth hor-

mone are a concern in other sports as well, but the steroid scandal has been especially

painful in baseball, possibly because of its special status as America’s national pastime.

In 2006, the concern was so great that George Mitchell, the former Senate Majority

Leader and peace negotiator, was enlisted to investigate. “The minority of players who

used [performance enhancing] substances were wrong,” the Mitchell Report concludes.

“They violated federal law and baseball policy, and they distorted the fairness of com-

petition by trying to gain an unfair advantage over the majority of players who followed

the law and the rules” (310).

An opposing position has been presented by respected baseball authority Eric

Walker on his Web site, Steroids, Other “Drugs,” and Baseball. Walker concedes that

using PEDs is against the law and against the rules of baseball. But he argues that the

real issue is whether PEDs ought to be “illegal and banned” by Major League Baseball

(MLB). He addresses many of Mitchell’s arguments, but I will focus here on two of

Mitchell’s main reasons supporting the ban on PEDs: the health risk and fairness.

Should PEDs Be Banned from Baseball Because

They Constitute a Significant Health Risk?

The health risks of using PEDs would seem to be a question of fact on which everyone

should be able to agree. Mitchell and Walker do agree, but not on everything. They

agree that the medical evidence is inconclusive. More importantly, they agree that there

is a risk of side effects from PEDs. They agree that the medical risks to adolescents are,

as Walker puts it, “substantial and potentially grave.” But they disagree on the signifi-

cance of the risks to adults, and they disagree on who should decide whether the risks

are worth taking.

Mitchell and Walker consider the medical evidence for a variety of PEDs. They each

cite reputable scientists and research studies. While Walker concludes that “PEDs are

by no means guaranteed harmless,” he argues that the side effects tend to be mild and

reversible. Mitchell takes a more negative view, arguing that there is “sufficient data to

conclude that there is an association between steroid abuse and significant adverse side

effects” (6). Nevertheless, it is notable that when discussing each of the possible side

effects, he is careful to use hedging words like can and may and to acknowledge that

clinical trial data is limited. So it’s possible that Mitchell and Walker are closer on the

health risks than their arguments suggest.

 

 

READINGSBERNARD / LOST INNOCENCE 193

6

7

8

9

10

However, Mitchell and Walker seem to be miles apart when it comes to the ques-

tion of who should decide whether the risks are worth taking. Walker argues that

adults ought to have the responsibility to decide for themselves. To support this ethi-

cal argument, Walker cites authorities such as Dr. Norman Fost, Director of the Program

in Medical Ethics at the University of Wisconsin. Fost asserts in “Steroid Hysteria:

Unpacking the Claims” that “even if steroids did have . . . dire effects, it wouldn’t

follow that a competent adult should be prohibited from assuming those risks in

exchange for the possible benefits. We allow adults to do things that are far riskier

than even the most extreme claims about steroids, such as race car driving, and even

playing football.”

Although Mitchell does not address this ethical question directly, he clearly thinks

Major League Baseball should make the decision for the players by banning PEDs. While

Mitchell expresses other ethical concerns (discussed in the sections below), he seems

not to have considered the ethics of who should decide whether the risks are worth tak-

ing. Perhaps he and Walker would be able to find common ground if they discussed this

question directly and if the players themselves made their opinions known.

Should PEDs Be Banned from Baseball Because They Give an

Unfair Advantage to Athletes Willing to Take the Risk?

You’d think anyone interested in sports would value fairness. But fairness turns out

to be rather complicated, at least for Walker. For Mitchell, it’s pretty straightforward. As

I explained earlier, Mitchell claims performance enhancing substances are wrong simply

because they give some players an “unfair advantage” over those who play by the rules

(310). Walker concedes this point. In fact, he says “that is why PEDs are banned.”

However, Walker disagrees with Mitchell’s way of defining “a level playing field”

as one where “success and advancement . . . is the result of ability and hard work”

(Mitchell 5). According to Walker, Mitchell makes a false distinction between what is

natural and unnatural. Whereas certain aids to performance — such as better bats,

chemical-filled drinks like Gatorade, Tommy John and Lasik surgery — are considered

natural and therefore allowable, other aids — particularly PEDs — are deemed unnatu-

ral and banned. To support his argument, Walker cites Fost again. “Here’s what Fost

wrote in ‘Steroid Hysteria’: ‘There is no coherent argument to support the view that

enhancing performance is unfair. If it were, we should ban coaching and training.

Competition can be unfair if there is unequal access to such enhancements.’”

In other words, unequal access is the key to the unfairness argument. On this

point, Mitchell and Walker seem to agree. The argument is really about making sure that

there is a level playing field. Mitchell puts his finger on it when he explains that

 

 

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Why does Bernard indent this quotation?

How effectively does Bernard analyze the argument about fairness?

How effective is this way of end- ing the essay?

What can you learn from these citations for your own essay?

the illegal use of these substances by some players is unfair to the majority of

players who do not use them. These players have a right to expect a level playing

field where success and advancement to the major leagues is the result of ability

and hard work. They should not be forced to choose between joining the ranks of

those who illegally use these substances or falling short of their ambition to suc-

ceed at the major league level. (5)

Ethicists call this a coercion argument. “Steroids are coercive,” Fost explains, because

“if your opponents use them, you have to” as well or you risk losing. Walker has a

simple solution: allow PEDs to be “equally available to any who might want them.”

He argues that there are lots of requirements or expectations that athletes regularly

make choices about. He sees “no logical or ethical distinction between — just for

example — killer workouts and PEDs.” Therefore, Walker concludes, each athlete has to

decide for him- or herself what’s “appropriate or necessary.”

Mitchell, on the other hand, assumes it should be the responsibility of Major

League Baseball to set rules that protect the athletes and protect the sport. He

acknowledges that players “are responsible for their actions” (311). But he insists

that “Commissioners, club officials, the Players Association, and players” should share

“responsibility for the steroids era” and “should join in” the “effort to bring the era of

steroids and human growth hormone to an end” (311).

By saying that everyone involved in Major League Baseball shares some responsibil-

ity for its future well being, Mitchell appears also to be reaching out to critics like Walker

who share a common love of the sport. It seems that they may not really be that far apart

after all.

Works Cited

Andrijeski, Peter. Pete’s Baseball Quotes. Peter Andrijeski, n. d. Web. 24 Apr. 2009.

Fost, Norman. “Steroid Hysteria: Unpacking the Claims.” Virtual Mentor 7.11 (Nov. 2005):

n. pag. Web. 24 Apr. 2009.

Mitchell, George J. Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation

into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by

Players in Major League Baseball. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, 2007. Web.

25 Apr. 2009.

Walker, Eric. Steroids, Other “Drugs,” and Baseball. The Owlcroft Company, 2008. Web. 23

Apr. 2009.

Will, George. “George Will Quotes.” The Baseball Almanac. Baseball Almanac, 2009. Web.

25 Apr. 2009.

 

 

READINGSMAE / LAYING CLAIM TO A HIGHER MORALITY 195

MELISSA MAE asked her instructor if she could analyze the controversy about the U.S. government’s treatment of detainees under the Bush administration. She read two published essays on torture recommended by her instructor, one coauthored by law professor Mirko Bagaric and law lecturer Julie Clarke (reprinted in this chapter on pp. 233–34), the other by retired Army chaplain Kermit D. Johnson (pp. 235–38). Mae decided to focus her essay more on their commonalities than on the obvious differences between them.

As you read Mae’s essay, consider how well she succeeds in finding areas of potential common ground between the authors she is analyzing.

1

2

3

Laying Claim to a Higher Morality

Melissa Mae

In 2004, when the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib became known, many

Americans became concerned that the government was using torture as part of its

interrogation of war-on-terror detainees. Although the government denied a torture

program existed, we now know that the Bush Administration did order what they called

“enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation. The

debate over whether these techniques constitute torture continues today.

In 2005 and 2006, when Kermit D. Johnson wrote “Inhuman Behavior” and

Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke wrote “A Case for Torture,” this debate was just heat-

ing up. Bagaric and Clarke, professor and lecturer, respectively, in the law faculty

at Australia’s Deakin University, argued that torture is necessary in extreme cir-

cumstances to save innocent lives. Major Johnson, a retired Army chaplain, wrote

that torture should never be used for any reason whatsoever. Although their posi-

tions appear to be diametrically opposed, some common ground exists, because the

authors of both essays share a goal — the preservation of human life — as well as a

belief in the importance of morality.

The authors of both essays present their positions on torture as the surest way to save

lives. Bagaric and Clarke write specifically about the lives of innocent victims threatened by

hostage-takers or terrorists and claim that the use of torture in such cases to forestall the

loss of innocent life is “universally accepted” as “self-defense.” Whereas Bagaric and Clarke

think saving lives justifies torture, however, Johnson believes renouncing torture saves

lives. Johnson asserts: “A clear-cut repudiation of torture or abuse is . . . essential to the

safety of the troops” (26), who need to be able to “claim the full protection of the Geneva

Conventions . . . when they are captured, in this or any war” (27).

 

 

196 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDREADINGS

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5

6

This underlying shared value — human life is precious — represents one important

aspect of common ground between the two positions. In addition to this, however, the

authors of both essays agree that torture is ultimately a moral issue, and that morality is

worth arguing about. For Bagaric and Clarke, torture is morally defensible under certain,

extreme circumstances when it “is the only means, due to the immediacy of the situation,

to save the life of an innocent person”; in effect, Bagaric and Clarke argue that the end

justifies the means. Johnson argues against this common claim, writing that “whenever

we torture or mistreat prisoners, we are capitulating morally to the enemy — in fact,

adopting the terrorist ethic that the end justifies the means” (26). Bagaric and Clarke, in

their turn, anticipate Johnson’s argument and refute it by arguing that those who believe

(as Johnson does) that “torture is always wrong” are “misguided.” Bagaric and Clarke

label Johnson’s kind of thinking “absolutist,” and claim it is a “distorted” moral judgment.

It is not surprising that, as a chaplain, Johnson would adopt a religious perspec-

tive on morality. Likewise, it should not be surprising that, as faculty at a law school,

Bagaric and Clarke would take a more pragmatic and legalistic perspective. It is hard to

imagine how they could bridge their differences when their moral perspectives are so

different, but perhaps the answer lies in the real-world application of their principles.

The authors of essays refer to the kind of situation typically raised when a justi-

fication for torture is debated: Bagaric and Clarke call it “the hostage scenario,” and

Johnson refers to it as the “scenario about a ticking time bomb” (26). As the Parents

Fig. 1. Parents Television Council, “Scenes of Torture on Primetime Network TV”; rpt. in

“Primetime Torture,” Human Rights First (Human Rights First, 2009; web; n. pag.).

 

 

READINGSMAE / LAYING CLAIM TO A HIGHER MORALITY 197

7

8

9

10

Television Council has demonstrated (see Figure 1), scenes of torture dominated televi-

sion in the period the authors were writing about, and may have had a profound influ-

ence on the persuasive power of the scenario.

Johnson rejects the scenario outright as an unrealistic “Hollywood drama” (26).

Bagaric and Clarke’s take on it is somewhat more complicated. First, Bagaric and Clarke

ask the rhetorical question: “Will a real-life situation actually occur where the only

option is between torturing a wrongdoer or saving an innocent person?” They initially

answer, “Perhaps not.” Then, however, they offer the real-life example of Douglas

Wood, a 63-year-old engineer taken hostage in Iraq and held for six weeks until he was

rescued by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.

At first glance, they seem to offer this example to refute Johnson’s claim that

such scenarios don’t occur in real life. However, a news report about the rescue of Wood

published in the Age, where Bagaric and Clarke’s essay was also published, says that the

soldiers “effectively ‘stumbled across Wood’ during a ‘routine’ raid on a suspected insur-

gent weapons cache” (“Firefight”). The report’s wording suggests that the Wood example

does not really fit the Hollywood-style hostage scenario; Wood’s rescuers appear to have

acted on information they got from ordinary informants rather than through torture.

By using this example, rather than one that fits the ticking time bomb scenario,

Bagaric and Clarke seem to be conceding that such scenarios are exceedingly rare.

Indeed, they appear to prepare the way for a potentially productive common-ground-

building discussion when they conclude: “Even if a real-life situation where torture

is justifiable does not eventuate, the above argument in favour of torture in limited

circumstances needs to be made because it will encourage the community to think

more carefully about moral judgments. . . .”

Although Bagaric and Clarke continue to take a situational view of torture (considering

the morality of an act in light of its particular situation) and Johnson does not waver in see-

ing torture in terms of moral absolutes, a discussion about real-world applications of their

principles could allow them to find common ground. Because they all value the preservation

of life, they already have a basis for mutual respect and might be motivated to work together

to find ways of acting for the greatest good — to “lay claim to a higher morality” (26).

Works Cited

Bagaric, Mirko, and Julie Clarke. “A Case for Torture.” theage.com.au. The Age, 17 May

2005. Web. 1 May 2009.

“Firefight as Wood Rescued.” theage.com.au. The Age, 16 June 2005. Web. 2 May 2009.

Johnson, Kermit D. “Inhuman Behavior: A Chaplain’s View of Torture.” Christian Century

18 Apr. 2006: 26–27. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 May 2009.

 

 

198 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDREADINGS

LEARN ABOUT MAE’S

WRITING PROCESS

MAKING CONNECTIONS:

HOLLYWOOD AND THE TICKING TIME

BOMB SCENARIO

ANALYZING WRITING

STRATEGIES

To see how Melissa Mae developed her essay, take a look at the Writer at Work sec- tion on pp. 232–41, which shows her progress in moving from close analysis of each position essay to a draft of her finished paper.

The post-9/11 television series 24 brought the ticking time bomb scenario into our homes on a weekly basis. Other popular programs such as Lost and Law & Order, as well as many films, also sometimes show scenes of torture.

In her essay, Mae includes a bar graph she found on the Web site Human Rights First to show how prevalent scenes of torture became during the period her authors are writing about, and she asks us to think about whether the hostage and ticking time bomb scenarios so often used to justify torture are Hollywood dramas or real- life situations.

With two or three other students, discuss your views about torture. Begin by sharing memories of films and television shows you have seen where someone is tortured. Was the torturer the “good guy” or the “bad guy”? Was torture quick and effective? Was it depicted as justifiable, even patriotic?

Then, consider the following questions:

Have your views on torture been influenced by the way torture has been por- trayed on television and in film?

How do you think torture should be portrayed, if at all?

An Informative Introduction to the Issue and Opposing Positions

Common ground essays typically situate the issue in time, as Jeremy Bernard does when he locates the end of the “age of innocence” and the beginning of “the Steroid Era” (par. 1) in the 1990s and suggests that it came to a head in 2006 with the Mitchell Report. To engage readers’ interest, Bernard drops the names of star players who were involved in the steroid scandals — sluggers Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, award-winning pitcher Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez, considered one of the best all-around players. Baseball fans — indeed anyone interested in sports celebrities — would be likely to recognize these names and want to know more about the controversy surrounding them.

To analyze how Melissa Mae introduces her issue and opposing positions, try the following:

Reread paragraph 1 to see how Mae situates the issue in time and tries to engage readers’ interest. Why do you think she chose to mention Abu Ghraib? What, if anything, do you know about it?

Look also at how she introduces the two essays she analyzes. Underline the infor- mation she gives about each author in paragraph 2, and then skim paragraph 5 where she refers again to their backgrounds. How does Mae use the information to

Basic Features

 

 

MAE / LAYING CLAIM TO A HIGHER MORALITY 199

introduce the authors and also to help readers understand their different points of view?

Write a few sentences explaining how Mae introduces the issue and the oppos- ing positions.

A Probing Analysis

In analyzing an argument and attempting to find common ground, writers usually focus on just a few important areas of disagreement. Doing so gives them the space to unpack the arguments and identify underlying values and interests that could be used to bridge differences.

In his essay about the baseball steroid controversy, for example, Jeremy Bernard addresses two points of disagreement: health risks and fairness. He discovers that Walker and Mitchell basically agree on the risk of adverse side effects from using performance-enhancing drugs like steroids. But his analysis leads Bernard to pinpoint where they disagree, namely on the ethical question of responsibility: Should professional athletes make their own decisions about health risks, or should Major League Baseball decide for them? Clarifying the argument in this way may not resolve the disagreement, but it reframes the issue in a way that could lead to fruitful discussion.

To examine Mae’s analysis of the argument about torture, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 4–9 to think about how Mae analyzes the authors’ argu- ments on the morality of torture and tries to see their disagreement in a con- structive way. Focus especially on their different views of the hostage and time bomb scenarios.

Write a couple of sentences explaining how Mae tries to reframe their debate and find a way to bridge their differences. Add another sentence or two assess- ing how effective you think Mae’s efforts are likely to be for most readers.

A Fair and Impartial Presentation

Writers try to adopt an impartial stance when analyzing opposing arguments. One method Bernard uses is to quote an authority to critique one of the authors he is analyzing, rather than doing so directly himself. We can see this strategy in para- graphs 9 and 10 of Bernard’s essay, where Bernard quotes Dr. Norman Fost to provide a critical perspective on Mitchell’s argument about unfairness: “There is no coherent argument to support the view that enhancing performance is unfair . . . ” (par. 9). Bernard makes it clear that Walker also cites Fost, but Bernard found and quoted from Fost’s original article in the American Medical Association’s Virtual Mentor, a highly respected publication.

To examine whether Mae is fair and unbiased, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 6–8, where Mae presents information on the Douglas Wood hostage situation. As you read, consider whether Mae’s use of the

READINGS

 

 

200 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

Wood example is comparable to Bernard’s strategy. How does the Wood example help Mae remain impartial as she questions Bagaric and Clarke’s argument?

Write a sentence or two explaining how Mae tries to appear fair and impartial, and also assess how effective her strategy seems to be.

A Readable Plan

Writers of common ground essays usually try to make the analysis clear and direct. Fairly early in the essay, they typically state the essay’s thesis about the possibil- ity of finding common ground and forecast the main points of disagreement and agreement. Bernard, for example, states his plan explicitly at the end of paragraph 3 when he explains, “I will focus here on two of Mitchell’s main reasons supporting the ban on PEDs: the health risk and fairness.” He organizes his essay around these two topics, introducing each of them with a heading in the form of a rhetorical question that he goes on to answer in some detail.

To analyze how Mae makes the plan of her essay visible to readers, try the following:

Reread paragraph 2 and highlight her thesis statement. What are the two topics Mae plans to discuss in the essay?

Skim the rest of the essay and note in the margin where these two topics are brought up and whether they are used in topic sentences that introduce the paragraph or set of paragraphs that follow.

Write a few sentences assessing how well Mae orients readers and keeps them on track.

GRAPHICAL PRESENTATION OF DATA

Write a few sentences on Mae’s use of the graph in her essay. Before you start, consider the following questions:

When you initially read the essay, did you stop to study the visual, just glance at it in passing, go back to it after finishing the essay, or not look at it at all?

What element(s) of Mae’s subject does it illuminate?

How does Mae’s description of the graph in paragraph 6 help you read it? Is the information the graph conveys intelligible? If not, how might it have been improved?

Is the information the graph conveys easier to understand in graph form, or could it have been conveyed just as well using words only?

Do you think Mae’s essay would have benefited from the addition of other visual elements? If so, what kind(s)?

READINGS

ANALYZING VISUALS

 

 

ALEXANDER / NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND 201

Consider writing about an aspect of the torture debate or about a different politi- cal issue, such as what, if anything, should be done about the Patriot Act, which expanded the ability of the government to monitor communications and medical and financial records without a court order. Other issues might relate to the govern- ment’s handling of the economy, foreign affairs, health care, and so on.

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR OWN ESSAY

ATHENA ALEXANDER is a sociology major who hopes to become a doctor. When she began work on this essay in her composition class, she did not know anything about the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). She wrote the essay in part to understand what it was all about. On the advice of her instructor, she chose two essays — one by Rod Paige, and one by Reg Weaver — that took sharply different positions on the debate. Before analyzing the essays, however, she did some background research, beginning with the Web site of the U.S. Department of Education. From there, she discovered that to find out what happens to schools that do not show improvement under the requirements of the act, she would have to search the sites of individual state departments of education, which is how she happened to find and quote from the Georgia state Web site. As you read the opening paragraphs of Alexander’s essay, notice how she uses the information she got from these two sources.

The two position essays by Rod Paige and Reg Weaver that Alexander uses as the basis of her essay are available on this book’s companion Web site (bedfordstmartins.com/theguide).

READINGS

No Child Left Behind: “Historic Initiative” or “Just an Empty Promise”?

Athena Alexander

In 2001, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress approved President

George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), designed to improve the quality

of education in American schools. Under this law, every state must test public school

students in grades 3–8 annually to assess their progress in reading and math. The NCLB

also sets “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) goals for schools to meet. According to the

Executive Summary of the act posted on ED.gov, the U.S. Department of Education’s Web

site, “schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress toward statewide proficiency

goals will, over time, be subject to improvement, corrective action, and restructuring mea-

sures aimed at getting them back on course to meet State standards” (United States).

Each state determines how its own failing schools will be handled. For example,

according to the Georgia State Department of Education’s Web site, low performing

Georgia schools must meet AYP goals within five years. After a school has fallen below

the AYP target for two years, school administrators are “required to seek outside expert

assistance.” This is also the point at which parents are permitted to transfer their

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5

children to a higher-performing school; if they choose a private school, they are given

vouchers to pay the tuition. If the problem persists after three years, additional actions

may be taken. For example, students may be given additional tutoring. After four or five

years, more severe measures may go into effect, such as replacing teachers, administra-

tors, or both; putting the failing school under “private management”; or even perma-

nently closing it (Georgia).

As the effects of the law began to be felt at the state and local level, the debate

about it intensified. One particular pair of opposing essays appeared in Insight on the

News in 2004. In “Testing Has Raised Students’ Expectations, and Progress in Learning

Is Evident Nationwide,” Rod Paige, the secretary of education under President George

W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, defends NCLB, claiming that major improvements in

schools have resulted in the short time the law has been in effect. Reg Weaver, presi-

dent of the National Education Association, a union representing teachers, argues the

opposite position in his essay, “NCLB’s Excessive Reliance on Testing Is Unrealistic,

Arbitrary and Frequently Unfair.” Weaver calls for changes in the law, arguing that

in its present form, NCLB will destroy the public education system in America. Paige

and Weaver differ on the role standardized testing should play in assessing students’

progress and the NCLB’s effectiveness. Ultimately, however, their disagreement is

political — with Paige accusing NCLB critics of being cynical and Weaver accusing its

supporters of having a hidden agenda.

Whether testing should be the only, or even the most important, diagnostic tool

for assessing the rate of learning is a central topic of debate between Paige and Weaver.

Paige defends the NCLB’s reliance on standardized testing, claiming that testing is an

integral “part of life.” He compares testing of students to tests that certify drivers,

pilots, doctors, and teachers. Furthermore, he argues that testing is essential because it

indicates “whether the system is performing as it should.”

Weaver, however, disagrees with Paige on the role standardized testing should play

in assessment. He argues that the NCLB should not rely on “only one type of assessment”

because “good teachers” know that “judgments about what has been learned” should be

based on “a variety of assessments.” He also points out that teachers complain about

the reliance on standardized testing because it makes preparing students for the test

the focus of coursework, “push[ing] more and more of the important things that prepare

us for life . . . off the curriculum plate.” He reports that the majority of teachers believe

that “teaching to the test ‘inevitably stifles real teaching and learning’.” In addition,

Weaver questions the “one-size-fits-all approach” standardized testing imposes on spe-

cial needs students, who he says require more “complex and multifaceted assessment”

 

 

READINGSALEXANDER / NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND 203

6

7

procedures. Therefore, unlike Paige, who defends standardized tests as “scientifically

based research techniques,” Weaver calls for a change in the NCLB’s method of assessing

adequate yearly progress.

Although Weaver and Paige both agree that, as Weaver puts it, the “focus should

be on helping the individual student,” they appear to have different information about

whether NCLB, in fact, is being used for this purpose. Weaver apparently believes the

tests are used only to compare schools and not to diagnose individual students’ prob-

lems. He asserts: “Measuring this year’s fourth-graders against next year’s fourth-graders

tells us little that we need to know about the improvement of individual students.”

Paige, on the other hand, confidently affirms that the tests identify “problems” indi-

vidual students have “so that they can be fixed.” To support his claim that the law is

helping individual students, Paige points to the example of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania,

“where the district provides schools with specific information about each student’s

abilities and weaknesses in specific academic areas” that teachers use to develop their

lesson plans for the coming school year. Another example Paige cites shows that school

administrators are using grant money to invest in computerized assessment programs

like “Yearly Progress Pro” to track individual student progress. Whether such grants are

funded by NCLB or in some other way is not clear from Paige’s essay. But what is clear

from both Paige and Weaver’s essays is that they both agree the goal of any assessment

should be to help individual students receive the teaching they need to improve.

Indeed, the need to improve America’s educational system is unquestioned by

both writers. But whereas Paige argues passionately that the NCLB is not only neces-

sary but effective, Weaver contends that it fails to deliver on its promise. Paige makes

a strong economic argument for the need to improve high school education so that

students are prepared for the “fastest-growing occupations in the United States” and

can compete in the new “global economy.” To support his argument, Paige cites statis-

tics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and quotes from authorities

like Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. He also refers to a research study that

claims the “vast majority of employers sadly expect that a high-school graduate will not

write clearly or have even fair math skills.” Perhaps most important, Paige argues that

“the status quo result of a decades-old education system before the NCLB” results in a

disparity in student performance along race and ethnic lines: “only one in six African

Americans and one in five Hispanics are proficient in reading by the time they are

high-school seniors.” These are impressive and depressing statistics. But, according to

studies Paige cites, the NCLB is making progress in reversing this trend. For example, he

explains that the “Beating the Odds IV report showed that since NCLB has been imple-

 

 

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9

10

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mented, public-school students across the country” — and especially those in large

metropolitan school systems — “have shown a marked improvement in reading.”

Weaver also cites authorities, studies, and statistics, but his purpose is to ques-

tion the NCLB’s effectiveness in solving the problem. He focuses his criticism on the

concept of “adequate yearly progress” that is used by the NCLB to measure progress.

Weaver claims that the AYP sets an unrealistic standard for schools. He bases this argu-

ment on economic scenarios or projections, together with preliminary results after two

years under the NCLB Act. As he says, “the prediction became reality last summer when

nearly 25 percent of schools in Connecticut were identified as having failed to make AYP.”

Projections also estimate that at the end of twelve years, 93 percent (744 of 802) of

Connecticut’s elementary and middle schools will have failed to reach AYP targets.

Weaver’s point is that if Connecticut, “a state that is regarded nationally as a high

performer[,] is not adequate to meet the statistical demands of this law,” there must

be something wrong with the AYP standard.

The problem, according to Weaver, is that the “current formula for AYP fails to

consider the difference between where you start and how quickly you must reach the

goal.” He therefore calls the formula “irresponsible.” He criticizes the NCLB’s grouping

of English-language learners and special-education students with the general student

population, and its requirement that all students progress at the same rate. Moreover,

he asserts that using standardized tests to determine progress is “totally inappropriate

and emotionally injurious” for some of these groups of students.

Paige refutes Weaver’s argument by labeling critics of the NCLB “cynics” and claim-

ing that they exercise what President Bush has called the “soft bigotry of low expec-

tations.” He argues that “pessimism” sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which the

expectation a teacher has of a student affects the performance of that student. Paige

adamantly insists that such “excuses must stop” and that every child should be treated

equally. He reminds readers of NCLB’s theme: “If you challenge students, they will rise

to the occasion.” Paige is making a political argument here, implying that if you oppose

the law, you do not cherish the American ideal of equal opportunity for all, or you are

prejudiced in your assumptions about the abilities of students.

Weaver, in turn, counters Paige’s political argument with a political argument of

his own. He suggests that the NCLB Act has a hidden agenda to privatize education

in America by replacing public schools with private schools funded by government

vouchers. He presents this argument gingerly through rhetorical questions: “Is this

all the law of unintended consequences? Or is there, as many believe, an insidious

intent to discredit public education, paving the way for a breakup of the current

 

 

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13

system — an opening of the door to a boutique system with increased privatization and

government vouchers?” Weaver contends that if the goal is really to improve “student

achievement,” then before encouraging parents to abandon a school that is fail-

ing according to NCLB measures, “shouldn’t we offer tutoring to struggling students

first?” But vouchers are offered, in Georgia at least, only after two years of failing to

meet AYP targets, and tutoring is not offered until the third year. Weaver seems to

think that by making AYP goals so hard to reach, the NCLB will frighten parents into

taking their children out of public schools and with the help of vouchers put them

into private schools that are likely to have higher scores because they have more

selective enrollments and are not required to take in English-language learners, dis-

abled students, and others who bring down the school average. Private schools, in any

case, are not held to NCLB requirements.

If you look up school vouchers on the Internet, you see that the debate over them

has been going on for years. Many of the arguments that were made about vouchers in

the past are echoed in the arguments about the No Child Left Behind Act. Wikipedia,

for example, points out that whereas supporters of vouchers, like Paige, argue they

“promote competition among schools of all types,” opponents, like Weaver, contend

that the funding for vouchers would compete with the funding for public education.

Similarly, although proponents of vouchers argue that the poor would benefit by being

able to “attend private schools that were previously inaccessible,” opponents fear that

“vouchers are tantamount to providing taxpayer subsidized white flight from urban

public schools, whose student bodies are predominantly non-white in most large cities”

(“Education Voucher”). Readers who are aware of the history of this debate over school

vouchers cannot fail to see how these same arguments support the opposing positions

Weaver and Paige take on No Child Left Behind.

Even though Paige and Weaver are part of a long history of debate on how to

improve American education, they do agree with the sentiment behind the slogan “no

child left behind.” Both support “high standards and accountability.” But they disagree

on the means to achieve these goals. For Weaver, adequate yearly progress as measured

by standardized tests — the backbone of the law — is a stumbling block rather than a

building block to quality education for all. He recommends significant changes in the

law that he believes would make it more effective and fairer. Paige, on the other hand,

characterizes Weaver’s recommendations as “complaints of the unwilling,” arguing that

instead of changing the NCLB Act, we should give it time and “work to make the law

successful.” Time will tell whether No Child Left Behind is viewed as an “historic

initiative,” as Paige predicts, or as “just an empty promise,” as Weaver warns.

 

 

206 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDREADINGS

Works Cited

“Education Voucher.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia, 27 Apr. 2006. Web. 29 Apr. 2006.

Georgia. Dept. of Education. “Consequences for Schools and Districts Not Making

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).” Georgia Department of Education. Georgia Dept. of

Education, 2006. Web. 5 Apr. 2006.

Paige, Rod. “Testing Has Raised Students’ Expectations, and Progress in Learning Is Evident

Nationwide.” Insight on the News 11 May 2004: n. pag. Web. 17 Apr. 2006.

United States. Dept. of Education. “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: Executive

Summary.” ED.gov. U.S. Dept. of Education, 10 Feb. 2004. Web. 5 Apr. 2006.

Weaver, Reg. “NCLB’s Excessive Reliance on Testing Is Unrealistic, Arbitrary and Frequently

Unfair.” Insight on the News 11 May 2004: n. pag. Web. 17 Apr. 2006.

MAKING CONNECTIONS:

IMPROVING SCHOOLS

ANALYZING WRITING

STRATEGIES

Everyone seems to agree that schools in the United States need improvement. Whether you attended public or private schools or both — and even if you were schooled at home or in another country — you have had extensive experience in schooling and could be considered an expert.

In her essay, Athena Alexander indicates that in passing the No Child Left Behind Act, Congress thought that the biggest problem with schooling was the quality of education, particularly in math, reading, and writing. With two or three classmates, discuss what you consider the most pressing problem in the public school system, based on your experience and/or observation. Begin by taking turns briefly saying what you think needs to be solved. Then, together discuss the follow- ing questions:

Does your group agree on what the most pressing problem is?

If the group disagrees, what is the basis of your disagreement — experience, values, ideals, goals, or something else?

If you agree, why do you agree? Is it because you share the same experience, values, ideals, goals, or something else?

An Informative Introduction to the Issue and Opposing Positions

If an issue is current and controversial, there is a good chance that readers will already be familiar with it and will not need much of an introduction. Nevertheless, writers of common ground essays tend to explain the issue anyway. They do so because they want to reframe the issue for readers in a way that prepares them for the analysis to come.

Basic Features

 

 

ALEXANDER / NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND 207

For example, Jeremy Bernard introduces the argument about banning ste- roids in baseball by reminding readers of the nostalgia surrounding baseball and its association with a more innocent, perhaps simpler period in American history. This association of baseball, America, and innocence sets the stage for the debate about ethics. It even makes the metaphor of a level playing field seem to be liter- ally about baseball.

To analyze how Alexander frames her issue, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 1–2 and highlight the information Alexander provides. Focus especially on how she explains the criterion of “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) and how she uses the example of Georgia.

Then reread paragraphs 8–10 to see how Alexander’s analysis of the argument between Weaver and Paige depends on her earlier explanation of AYP.

Write a few sentences about Alexander’s way of framing the issue around the concept of AYP. What does she tell readers in the opening paragraphs that pre- pares them for her later analysis of the argument about AYP?

A Probing Analysis

Although common ground essays seek ways to bridge differences, sometimes the analysis does nothing more than reveal how deep the disagreement is because it is based on fundamental values and beliefs, political ideology, or moral principles. For example, in her essay on torture, Melissa Mae discovered that the authors of the two essays she chose to analyze have very different philosophical or ideologi- cal perspectives on torture. Johnson thinks in terms of moral absolutes: Torture is simply wrong, always, in every situation. Bagaric and Clarke, on the other hand, advocate situational ethics: They think that the situation or context determines whether torture is right or wrong. These ways of thinking about morality appear to be irreconcilable.

To examine Alexander’s analysis, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 11 and 12, where Alexander analyzes Weaver’s political ar- gument about school vouchers. What ideologies and/or value systems seem to underlie opposing positions on vouchers?

Notice that in addition to analyzing Weaver’s essay, Alexander also looked up background information on school vouchers in Wikipedia. Many people think Wikipedia is not a reliable source because it is not written by experts and can easily be changed by readers with a political agenda of their own. As you examine this part of Alexander’s analysis, consider whether she uses the information she gleaned from Wikipedia responsibly, and whether she should have used it at all.

Write a couple of sentences explaining what you learned from Alexander’s analysis of Weaver’s argument about school vouchers. Add another sentence or two evaluating Alexander’s use of Wikipedia as a source.

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208 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

A Fair and Impartial Presentation

To establish themselves as fair and impartial in their analysis, writers of common ground essays try to use neutral language in describing the people whose arguments they are discussing.

All the writers in this chapter describe the authors respectfully, with a few simple words identifying their professions. Melissa Mae, for example, describes Mirko Bagaric as a law professor, Julie Clarke as a law lecturer, and Kermit D. Johnson as “a retired Army Chaplain” (par. 2). Similarly, Alexander describes Rod Paige as “the secretary of education under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005” and Reg Weaver as the “president of the National Education Association, a union represent- ing teachers” (par. 3). Alexander’s descriptions establish the authors’ credentials without evaluation or comment. But she does let readers know something about the authors’ political affiliations, information that is significant because of the politics surrounding the No Child Left Behind Act. Paige, as she explains, wrote his essay defending the No Child Left Behind Act when he was the secretary of education; Weaver wrote his when he was president of the teachers’ union. As spokesmen for these different constituencies, Paige and Weaver represent two important political points of view.

Writers also try to use descriptive but unbiased language when they introduce quotations. For example, Jeremy Bernard uses verbs like concludes, argues, cites, expresses, and assumes. Melissa Mae uses writes, thinks, asserts, argues, and labels. With these descriptive verbs, Bernard and Mae do not reveal their attitude toward the authors or what they wrote. They express no judgments, but act as impartial reporters.

To assess Alexander’s fairness and impartiality, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 4–6 and highlight the verbs Alexander uses to describe Weaver’s and Paige’s writing. Consider whether Alexander’s word choices reveal her attitude or judgment and whether she comes across as fair and unbiased.

Write a sentence or two explaining what you learned from analyzing Alexander’s word choices.

A Readable Plan

To help readers track the points of agreement and disagreement, writers often use comparative transitions, words and phrases that identify similarities or differences in the texts being analyzed. Transitions indicating similarity include both, like, similarly, and in the same way. Transitions to indicate difference include unlike, however, although, and alternatively. Here are a few examples from Jeremy Bernard and Melissa Mae’s essays:

Mitchell, on the other hand, . . . (Bernard, par. 11)

Whereas Bagaric and Clarke think saving lives justifies torture, however, Johnson believes renouncing torture saves lives. (Mae, par. 3)

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ALEXANDER / NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND 209

Bagaric and Clarke, in their turn, . . . (Mae, par. 4)

Bagaric and Clarke’s take on it is somewhat more complicated. (Mae, par. 7)

Note that in these examples, Bernard and Mae use the authors’ last names as a shortcut to help readers keep track of who wrote what. Occasionally, however, a writer will use pronouns, as in this example:

They agree that the medical evidence is inconclusive. . . . But they disagree on . . . (Bernard, par. 4).

Occasionally, writers also use labels (highlighted) to identify different positions:

Although Bagaric and Clarke continue to take a situational view of torture (con- sidering the morality of an act in light of its particular situation) and Johnson does not waver in seeing torture in terms of moral absolutes. . . . (Mae, par. 10)

Using labels like these can be helpful if the writer goes on to discuss the differ- ent positions. (But you can see that even in this example, Mae is careful to use the authors’ names so as not to confuse readers.)

In addition to comparative transitions, writers often use transitional words and phrases to introduce the following:

an additional item: as well as, in addition to, first . . . second

an illustration: for example, specifically

a restatement or clarification: that is, in other words, to put it differently

a cause or result: because, therefore, consequently, so

a conclusion or summary: in conclusion, clearly, thus

To analyze Alexander’s use of transitional words and phrases to make her essay readable, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 5 and 6 and highlight the transitions Alexander uses. For each transition you highlight, note its function.

Write a sentence or two explaining what you have learned about Alexander’s use of transitions in these paragraphs.

You might be interested in writing about other issues related to NCLB — for example, the quality of teaching in the public schools, the value of standardized testing, private versus public schooling, or school vouchers. What basis for com- mon ground might bridge differences on one of these topics? The Collaborative Activity on pp. 187–88 also raises a number of school issues you might consider: sororities and fraternities, college athletics, community service, and the teaching of evolution. Your group discussion about one of these issues could become the basis for your common ground essay.

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210 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Finding Common Ground The search for common ground is in evidence in many areas of our culture. Professional mediators are in constant demand for a wide range of business nego- tiations and for resolution of conflicts ranging from the personal (as, for example, when a counselor helps a couple resolve marital difficulties) to the global (for instance, when the United Nations weighs in on an international conflict). Of course, efforts to find common ground require the prior, full expression of oppos- ing viewpoints.

Perhaps the most familiar examples of the expression of opposing points of view come from television, where talk shows like Washington Week, Real Time with Bill Maher, and The View are explicitly presented as contexts for a wide- ranging discussion of current issues. Online, sites such as bloggingheads.tv and Opposing Views (www.opposingviews.com) offer commentary from experts with opposing perspectives on current issues. While these media projects vary in their commitment to a “fair and unbiased” presentation, most of them do exhibit the other basic features common in traditional essays that search for common ground: a moderator or host typically introduces the issue and often highlights points of similarity and difference in the views expressed by partici- pants; the structure of the show or site and the host’s commentary provide a logical (or at least conventionally perceptible) plan.

READINGS

 

www.opposingviews.com

 

BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL ESSAY: FINDING COMMON GROUND 211

As you work on your own project, you might want to consult some of these projects, both for factual information and for inspiration. If the format in which you are working allows for it — if, for example, you are creating a poster, Web site, or video — you should consider taking advantage of the strategies available to those working in multimedia — for example, by embedding artifacts that are relevant to the positions you are explaining. (Always remember to properly document any material you might use that was created by someone else.)

211

READINGS

 

 

Guide to Writing

212

The Writing Assignment Write an essay analyzing two or more essays taking different positions on an issue. Your purpose is to analyze the essays to understand their authors’ main points of disagreement and to suggest ways to build common ground on shared values, con- cerns, needs, and interests.

This Guide to Writing will help you apply what you have learned about how writers present an issue, analyze the positions others take on it, strive for fair- ness in presenting their analysis, and write a readable essay communicating their ideas. The Guide is divided into five sections with various activities in each section:

Invention and Research

Planning and Drafting

Critical Reading Guide

Revising

Editing and Proofreading

The Guide to Writing is designed to support you through the writing process, from finding an issue and essays arguing different positions on it, to editing your finished essay. Your instructor may require you to follow it from beginning to end. Working through the Guide in this way will help you — as it has helped many other college students — write a thoughtful, fully developed, polished essay.

If, however, your instructor allows it, you can decide on the order in which you will do the activities in the Guide to Writing. For example, the Invention and Research section includes activities to help you choose a set of argument essays to write about, analyze them, and research the issue, among other things. Obviously, choosing essays must precede the other activities, but you may come to the Guide with essays already in mind, and you may choose to research the issue further before turning to an analysis of the essays. In fact, you may find your response to one of the invention activities expanding into a draft before you have had a chance to do any of the other activities. That is a good thing — but you should later flesh out your draft by going back to the activities you skipped and layering the new material into your draft.

The following chart will help you find answers to many of the questions you might have about planning, drafting, and revising an essay finding common ground. The page references in the Where to Look column refer to examples from the readings and activities in the Guide to Writing.

To learn about using the Guide e-book for inven- tion and drafting, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

 

 

Starting Points: Finding Common Ground Basic Features

Choosing a Set of Argument Essays to Write About (p. 214)

Using the Web to Find a Set of Arguments on an Issue (p. 214)

Considering Topics for Your Own Essay (pp. 201, 209)

How do I come up with an issue to write about?

Question Where to Look

Choosing an Issue and Opposing

Arguments to Write About What is my purpose in

writing? Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers (p. 220)

Clarifying Your Purpose and Readers (p. 221)

Analyzing Writing Strategies (pp. 198–99, 206–7)

Thinking about Your Readers (p. 217)

Introducing the Issue and Opposing Positions (p. 221)

Writing the Opening Sentences (pp. 224–25)

Analyzing the Essays (pp. 216–19)

Researching the Issue (pp. 219–20)

How do I interest and inform readers about the issue?

How can I give readers an overview of the debate?

An Informative Introduction to the Issue

and Opposing Positions

Annotate the Essays: Criteria for Analyzing the Essays (pp. 216–17)

List Promising Points (p. 219)

How do I find points of disagreement and agreement to analyze?

How do I analyze them?

Analyzing Writing Strategies (pp. 199–207)

Analyzing the Essays (pp. 216–19)

Exploring Points of Agreement and Disagreement (p. 219)

Try Out an Analysis (p. 219)

A Probing Analysis

How do I avoid entering the debate myself?

Analyzing Writing Strategies (pp. 199, 208) A Fair and Impartial

Presentation

Analyzing Writing Strategies (pp. 200, 208–9) How can I make my essay clear?

A Readable Plan

 

 

214 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

Invention and Research The following invention activities are easy to complete and take only a few minutes. Spreading out the activities over several days will stimulate your creativity, enabling you to analyze the arguments thoughtfully and discover ways to bridge their dis- agreements. Remember to keep a written record of your invention work: you will need it when you draft the essay and later when you revise it.

Choosing a Set of Argument Essays to Write About

If your instructor has not assigned one of the debates from the Appendix to this chapter or from the companion Web site for this book at bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide, choose one that you already know about, that connects to your personal experience or interests, or that you think is especially important.

Getting an Overview

Read the essays to get a basic understanding of each author’s position and supporting argument. Do not expect to understand everything on your first reading, even if you are already fairly knowledgeable about the issue and the way people typically argue about it. As you read, make notes about the following:

points on which the authors disagree and points on which they agree values, ideals, interests, and concerns that seem to be important to each author ideas you have about how the authors might come together around shared values and ideals or common concerns, interests, and goals

The set of argument essays should

address the same controversial issue, which must be arguable — that is, a matter of opinion on which there is no absolute proof or authority on which everyone can rely;

take different positions on the issue;

offer thoughtful arguments supporting the position;

anticipate and respond to opposing arguments;

be interesting to you and worth the time and effort you will need to invest.

Criteria for Choosing a Set of Arguments to

Analyze:

A Checklist

Using the Web to Find or Explore a Set of Arguments on an Issue

Your instructor may allow or even require you to find your own argument essays to analyze, rather than assigning those in the Appendix or on the companion

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 215 GUIDE TO WRITING

Web site, in which case the Internet will likely prove an important resource. However, even if you are working from essays we recommend, exploring the Internet can enrich your understanding of the issue. Moreover, the Web pro- vides a rich repository of information, including photographs and music, which you might be able to use to create a richly detailed, multimedia text for your readers.

Here are some suggestions:

Search Web sites such as ProCon.org, publicagenda.org, cqresearcher.org, or usa.gov for information and arguments.

Do a Google search including keywords such as current debates, controversial issues, arguments or debate plus your issue.

Download or copy any information or quotations you might be able to use as well as any visuals you might include in your essay, being sure to get the information necessary to cite any online sources. (See p. 774–76 for the MLA citation format for electronic sources.)

Testing Your Choice

If you have the option of choosing a set of argument essays to analyze, pause now to decide whether you want to stay with the essays you have chosen or consider choos- ing different essays.

Consider these questions:

Does the issue continue to engage your interest?

Do you have a basic understanding of the issue and the arguments made in these essays?

Have you found points on which the authors disagree and points on which they agree or could potentially agree?

Have you begun to understand the motivating factors such as values, ideals, interests, and concerns in each author’s argument?

Get together with two or three other students and take turns discussing your choice.

Presenters: Begin by identifying the issue and briefly summarizing the position argued

in each of the essays you are analyzing.

Listeners: Tell the presenter what seem to be the motivating factors such as the values,

concerns, or interests at the heart of the debate and where you see the possibility of

finding common ground.

A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

 

 

216 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

Analyzing the Essays

To understand the points of disagreement and to find common ground in the argu- ment essays you have chosen, you need to read them closely and critically. The fol- lowing activities will help you find and annotate the essays’ key features and moti- vating factors and keep track of what you find by filling in a chart. This process of annotating and charting will be helpful as you plan, organize, and draft your essay. Keep in mind that most writers need to reread all or parts of the essays several times to get all they can out of their analysis.

Annotate the Essays

Either on paper or electronically, annotate the essays you have chosen, identifying and labeling the key features of each essay, along with the author’s motivating fac- tors, listed in the “Criteria for Analyzing the Essays” box below. (Do not feel you must annotate every item on these two lists — some might not be relevant, or might not be present in a particular essay.)

CRITERIA FOR ANALYZING THE ESSAYS

Features of the Argument

ISSUE. How does the writer define or frame the issue?

POSITION. What is the writer’s opinion (thesis statement)?

ARGUMENT. What are the main reasons and kinds of evidence (facts, statistics, examples, authorities, and so on) the writer uses to support his/her position?

COUNTERARGUMENT. What opposing arguments does the writer anticipate? Does the writer concede (agree with) or refute (disagree with) these arguments?

Motivating Factors

Factors such as the following may be stated explicitly or implied. If you find any other factor that you consider important but that is not on the list, give it a name and include it in your annotations.

VALUES — MORAL, ETHICAL, OR RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES (for example, justice, equality, the public good, “do unto others,” social responsibility, steward- ship of the natural environment)

IDEOLOGY AND IDEALS (for example, democratic ideals — everyone is cre- ated equal and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; capitalist ideals; socialist ideals; feminist ideals)

NEEDS AND INTERESTS (for example, food, shelter, work, respect, privacy, choice)

FEARS AND CONCERNS (for example, regarding safety, socioeconomic status, power, consequences of actions taken or not taken)

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 217 GUIDE TO WRITING

Fill in the Chart

Creating a chart like the one on p. 218 will make it easy for you to locate points of agreement and disagreement in the essays you are analyzing:

1. At the top of the second and third columns, identify the essays you are analyz- ing. (If you are analyzing more than two essays, add another column.)

2. Begin by charting the argument’s key features. Add paragraph numbers direct- ing you to the places in each essay where the key feature is evident. Add brief notes or jot down key phrases to jog your memory.

3. Chart the argument’s motivating factors, adding paragraph numbers and notes (if appropriate and helpful).

4. Chart any additional significant factors you might find, naming them appropriately.

Remember that you will not necessarily find evidence of every key feature or moti- vating factor in each essay.

Thinking about Your Readers

Now that you have a good understanding of the argument essays you will be dis- cussing, take a few minutes to write about your readers. The following questions will help you identify them and develop a better understanding of them:

Who are my readers?

What are they likely to know and think about the issue?

How can I interest them in it — for example, by connecting it to their experi- ence or concerns, or by citing statistics or vivid anecdotes?

Are there specialized terms or concepts I will have to explain to them? Do the essays give me enough information to define these terms, or will I have to search out further information?

PRIORITIES AND AGENDAS about what is most important or urgent (for example, whether law and order is more important than securing jus- tice and equality; whether the right to life trumps all other concerns; whether combating global warming ought to be a principal concern of our government)

BINARY THINKING (the assumption that things are “either/or” — for example, that only one of two outcomes is possible; that there can only be winners or losers in a situation; that only two positions are possible; that the world is divided into “us” against “them”)

An electronic version of the blank chart is available on the companion Web site at bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

To see an example of stu- dent writer Melissa Mae’s annotations chart, turn to pp. 239–40 of the Writer at Work section.

 

 

218 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

My Annotations Chart Essay 1: Essay 2:

VALUES

(Moral, ethical, religious)

IDEOLOGY AND IDEALS

(Cultural, legal, political)

NEEDS AND INTERESTS

FEARS AND CONCERNS

PRIORITIES AND AGENDAS

BINARY THINKING

Fe at

ur es

o f

th e

A rg

um en

t M

o ti

va ti

ng F

ac to

rs O

th er

F ac

to rs

ISSUE

COUNTERARGUMENT

(Refutation, concession)

ARGUMENT

(Main supporting reasons and evidence)

POSITION

(THESIS)

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 219 GUIDE TO WRITING

Exploring Points of Agreement and Disagreement

These activities will help you find points of agreement and disagreement in the essays and try out your analysis on one or two of them. As you write about the points, you may find you are actually writing parts of a rough draft. Do not censor yourself, but go ahead and see where your exploratory writing leads you.

List Promising Points

Make a list of promising points of agreement and disagreement in the essays you are ana- lyzing. For your analysis, you probably will not need to discuss more than two or three interesting points because you will need to examine them in some detail. Nevertheless, generating a substantial list of points now will give you the luxury of choice.

Generating a substantial list may also lead you to discover less obvious potential points of agreement that will help your readers see the issue in a new way. The most effective analyses often go beyond the obvious, finding common ground where most people would imagine agreement is impossible.

You might begin your list by reviewing the notes you wrote for the Getting an Overview activity (p. 213). Also, review your Annotations Chart. Look for places where the same reasons, evidence, or motivational factors are used in both essays. For example, you may find, as Melissa Mae did, that the essays use a similar scenario to argue different positions or that they both make a moral argument. Or you may find, as Jeremy Bernard did, that both writers are concerned about fairness.

Try Out an Analysis

Choose a point of agreement or disagreement that looks promising, and write a page ana- lyzing it. If the point appears to be one on which the writers disagree, consider whether the disagreement when examined might reveal a potential shared value, concern, or interest. If the point is one on which the writers already agree, think about the signifi- cance of the agreement and whether it could be extended to include other points as well.

You will probably need to go back into both essays and reread the relevant paragraphs. As you do, consider the following:

how the key feature or motivating factor fits into the essay as a whole

how it is used to advance the argument

whether it is central or peripheral

whether the writers use it in similar or different ways

whether the writers use comparable words, examples, and details

whether there are words, phrases, or sentences you could quote (and what you would say about the quotes you use)

Researching the Issue

It may help to gather some background information about the issue and the authors. Researching the history of the issue may help you introduce it in a way that captures your readers’ interest. As you try out your analysis and draft other parts of the essay,

 

 

220 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

you may also discover that you have questions that can be answered with library or Internet research. For example, Athena Alexander noticed that both writers referred to “vouchers,” a word she did not understand. She Googled the word and found information that helped her understand the central role vouchers play in the poli- tics of the argument on reforming public education.

Consider beginning research in your college library, where a librarian can give you advice about the online catalog and databases. Also consult Chapters 23 and 24 for help finding and citing sources.

Designing Your Document

Think about whether your readers might benefit from design features such as head- ings or numbered or bulleted lists or from visuals such as drawings, graphs, tables, or photographs. Earlier in the chapter, for example, Jeremy Bernard uses headings to introduce his two main points and Melissa Mae displays a graph to illustrate an observation brought up by one of the authors she is writing about. You might also look back at the scenario on p. 185 describing a proposal for “smart growth” in a for- merly rural area in Washington State, and then read the Thinking about Document Design on p. 228 to see how this proposal was presented at a conference.

Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers

Write a few sentences defining your purpose. Recall that in an earlier invention activ- ity you identified your readers and considered what they know and think about the issue you are analyzing. Given these readers, try now to define your purpose by considering the following questions:

How can I interest my readers?

If they are likely to have their own opinions about the issue, how much resistance should I expect they will have to my analysis of the points of disagreement?

How can I make my ideas about the potential for common ground intriguing for my readers?

Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Write one or more sentences that could serve as a thesis statement for your essay. These sentences from the end of paragraph 3 in Athena Alexander’s essay assert her thesis:

Paige and Weaver differ on the role standardized testing should play in assessing students’ progress and the NCLB’s effectiveness. Ultimately, however, their dis- agreement is political — with Paige accusing NCLB critics of being cynical and Weaver accusing its supporters of having a hidden agenda.

As you write your own tentative thesis statement, think about how you could help readers see the important ways the writers disagree and also possibly on what basis they might be able to agree. Although you may want to revise your thesis statement as you draft your essay, trying to state it now will give you focus and direction as you plan and draft your essay.

For more information on document design, see Chapter 21.

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 221 GUIDE TO WRITING

Planning and Drafting The following guidelines will help you get the most out of your invention work, determine specific goals for your essay, and write a promising first draft.

Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals

Successful writers are always looking beyond the next sentence to their larger goals for the whole essay. Indeed, that next sentence is easier to write if you keep larger goals in mind. The following questions can help you set these goals. Consider each one now, and then return to them as necessary while you write.

Clarifying Your Purpose and Readers

Who are my readers, and what can I realistically hope to accomplish by analyz- ing this issue?

Should I assume my readers may not understand the points on which people disagree?

Should I assume they have not considered seriously points on which people may agree?

Can I inspire readers to think critically about their own position on the issue by helping them understand some of the motivating factors that could be used as common ground?

How can I gain readers’ confidence? Can I keep my own views to myself and present the opposing positions in a fair and balanced way, as all of the writers in this chapter try to do?

Introducing the Issue and Opposing Positions

Should I place the issue in a historical context and indicate also that the issue is still unresolved, as all of the writers in this chapter try to do?

Should I quote famous people readers may have heard of to help establish the issue’s importance, as Bernard does?

Should I try to clarify the issue by giving concrete examples, as Bernard and Mae do, or by defining terms, as Bernard and Alexander do?

Should I introduce the authors of the opposing positions by name and also give their credentials, as all the writers do?

Presenting Your Analysis

Can I help readers understand what the significant points of disagreement and potential or actual points of agreement are, as all the writers try to do?

Can I suggest that a point of disagreement may actually be based on shared values, as Mae does when she focuses on the importance of saving lives and Bernard does when he discusses fairness?

 

 

222 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

Should I call attention to common needs and concerns, as Alexander does when she notes that both writers want to improve education?

Should I mark where the writers are motivated by different political agendas, as Alexander does when she discusses privatizing education through school vouchers?

Can I point to places where the writers rely on similar scenarios, as Mae does, or other kinds of support, as Bernard and Alexander do?

Striving for Fairness

Can I avoid discussing my own view of the issue?

Should I try to give roughly equal space to each position?

Should I quote others rather than speak in my own voice?

Making Your Plan Readable

Should I forecast my main points early on, as all three writers do?

Should I use the authors’ names and repeat key words to help readers follow my analysis?

Should I use comparative transitions to make it easy to see when I am compar- ing and contrasting the different arguments?

The Ending

Should I end by summarizing the major differences, as Alexander does?

Should I remind readers of the common ground that exists between the differ- ent positions, as all the writers do?

Should I discuss the possibilities for the future, as all the writers do?

Outlining Your Draft

The goals that you have set should help you draft your essay, but first you might want to make a quick scratch outline of the points of agreement and disagreement between the authors that you expect to focus on. Your Annotations Chart plus the list you made under Exploring Points of Agreement and Disagreement should be par- ticularly helpful. Use your outline to guide your drafting, but do not feel tied to it.

Here is an outline of Jeremy Bernard’s essay. Remember that he divides his essay into two points — the health risk and fairness of using steroids — and under each point, he explains the ways in which the writers agree and disagree.

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 223 GUIDE TO WRITING

And here is an outline of the points of agreement and disagreement in the two essays Melissa Mae addresses in her analysis:

 

 

224 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

The introduction to the issue, positions, and debaters could take from one to four paragraphs — Bernard’s introduction takes two paragraphs and Mae’s takes three. What is important is that the introductory paragraphs not dominate your analysis. The thesis statement is usually brief — sometimes only a sentence or two — and often serves also to forecast the main points of disagreement and agree- ment that the essay will address. The concluding paragraph in each of these essays is brief and evolves from the preceding discussion. In neither case does the writer simply summarize the main points of agreement and disagreement that were dis- cussed in detail, although that could be useful for readers. What they do, though, is probably more important because it focuses on underlying motivating factors and the possibility of building on this foundation of common ground.

Consider any outlining that you do before you begin drafting to be tentative. As you draft, expect that your essay will likely depart from your original outline. In fact, it may help, especially if you are drafting the essay over several hours or days, to revise your outline to correspond with the changes you are making.

Drafting

If you have not already begun to draft your essay, this section will help by suggest- ing how to write your opening sentences, and how to use the sentence strategy of introducing a quotation with a colon. Drafting is not always a smooth process, so do not be afraid to leave spaces where you do not know what to put in or to write notes to yourself about what you could do next. If you get stuck while drafting, go back over your invention writing: You may be able to copy and paste some of it into your evolving draft, or you may find that you need to do some additional invention to fill in details in your draft.

Writing the Opening Sentences

You could try out one or two different ways of beginning your essay — possibly from the list that follows — but do not agonize over the first sentences because you are likely to discover the best way to begin only after you have written a rough draft. Again, you might want to review your invention writing to see if you have already written something that would work to launch your essay.

To engage your readers’ interest from the start, consider the following opening strategies:

an interesting and relevant quotation (like Bernard)

an assertion of a topic’s larger cultural relevance (like Bernard)

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 225 GUIDE TO WRITING

an assertion of an issue’s increasing significance (like Mae and Alexander)

an anecdote or personal reminiscence

a surprising statement

statistics

a research study

a scenario

an historical analogy

A Sentence Strategy: Introducing a Quotation with a Colon

As you draft an essay finding common ground, you will need to quote frequently from the two opposing positions. Quoting does more than prove the fairness and accuracy of your report. If you allow readers to see some of the writers’ actual language, you help them understand the debaters as writers and thinkers. There are several strategies avail- able to you for inserting writers’ language directly into the sentences of your own essay.

You may use speaker tags alone — “Johnson says” or “Lopez claims”— or you may rely on the word that, as in “Kynard counters that ‘Graff greatly exaggerates the amount of damage this hurricane will cause.’” And there is another way, not neces- sarily better but a very useful alternative: setting up or preparing for a quotation from the beginning of a sentence that leads the reader towards a colon, with the quotation immediately following the colon. Here is an example:

He [Paige] reminds readers of NCLB’s theme: “If you challenge students, they will rise to the occasion.” (Alexander, par. 10)

Alexander might have written a different sentence: “NCLB’s theme is something he wants to remind you of when he says, ‘if you challenge students, they will rise to the occasion.’” The advantage to the sentence she did write is that it is more precise, and it puts the mention of a theme right next to the quotation that illustrates or defines it.

Here are three more examples:

He [Weaver] presents this argument gingerly through rhetorical questions: “Is this all the law of unintended consequences? . . .” (Alexander, par. 11)

Walt Whitman, the great nineteenth-century poet, sang its praises: “It’s our game — the American game.” (Bernard, par. 1)

Johnson asserts: “A clear-cut repudiation of torture or abuse is . . . essential to the safety of the troops” (26), who need to be able to “claim the full protection of the Geneva Conventions . . . when they are captured, in this or any war” (27). (Mae, par. 3)

Your essay seeking common ground is based on sources: the position essays you have studied and your background research on the issue. In nearly every sentence of your essay, you will be quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing these sources. When you quote from them, you have many options for integrating a quotation smoothly into your explanation.

Working with Sources: Weaving Quoted Materials into Your Own Sentences

 

 

226 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

One familiar, common strategy is to create a noun clause beginning with that, as in this example:

Johnson argues against this common claim, writing that “whenever we tor- ture or mistreat prisoners, we are capitulating morally to the enemy — in fact, adopting the terrorist ethic that the end justifies the means” (26). (Mae, par. 4)

But he insists that “Commissioners, club officials, the Players Association, and players” should share “responsibility for the steroids era” and “should join in” the “effort to bring the era of steroids and human growth hormone to an end” (311). (Bernard, par. 11)

Another common strategy is to introduce the quotation with a verb like say, or alternatives to it like assert, claim, ask, argue, explain:

“Steroids are coercive,” Fost explains, because “if your opponents use them, you have to” as well or you risk losing. (Bernard, par. 10)

“More than anything,” remarked Pete Hamill, the twentieth-century journalist and novelist, “it’s a game of innocence” (Andrijeski). (Bernard, par. 1)

As he says, “the prediction became reality last summer when nearly 25 per- cent of schools in Connecticut were identified as having failed to make AYP.” (Alexander, par. 8)

Therefore, Walker concludes, each athlete has to decide for him- or herself what’s “appropriate or necessary.” (Bernard, par. 10)

Beyond relying on that or a verb alone, you can weave the quotations right into your own sentence structures. This option is especially useful when the material you want to quote is a phrase rather than a clause or a complete sentence.

He sees “no logical or ethical distinction between — just for example — killer workouts and PEDs.” Therefore, Walker concludes, each athlete has to decide for him- or herself what’s “appropriate or necessary.” (Bernard, par. 10)

Johnson puts down the scenario outright as an unrealistic “Hollywood drama” (26). (Mae, par. 7)

This approach allows you to easily accommodate two or more quotations in one of your own sentences:

Paige makes a strong economic argument for the need to improve high school education so that students are prepared for the “fastest-growing occupa- tions in the United States” and can compete in the new “global economy.” (Alexander, par. 7)

Paige, on the other hand, characterizes Weaver’s recommendations as “complaints of the unwilling,” arguing that instead of changing the NCLB Act, we should give it time and “work to make the law successful.” (Alexander, par. 13)

For more help on using sources in your writing, turn to Chapter 24.

 

 

PLANNING AND DRAFTING 227 GUIDE TO WRITING

Critical Reading Guide

Basic Features

Your instructor may arrange a peer review session in class or online where you can exchange drafts with your classmates and give each other a thoughtful critical reading — pointing out what works well and suggesting ways to improve the draft. Remember, a good critical reading does three things: it lets the writer know how well the reader understands the analysis, praises what works best, and indicates where the draft could be improved.

1. Evaluate how effectively the issue and opposing positions are introduced.

Summarize: Briefly tell the writer what you understand the issue to be about and what the different positions are on the issue.

Praise: Indicate where the writer does a good job explaining the issue, intro- ducing the authors, or engaging readers’ interest.

Critique: Describe any confusion or uncertainty you have about the issue, why it is important, or what positions are usually taken on it.

2. Consider whether the analysis is sufficiently probing.

Summarize: Tell the writer what you think are the main points of disagree- ment and agreement (actual or potential).

Praise: Identify one or two passages where the analysis seems especially inter- esting and original — for example, where the arguments seem opposed but are shown to be based on the same reasoning, evidence, or motivational factor, such as a shared value.

Critique: Give the writer suggestions on how the analysis could be im- proved — for example, indicate where one of the writer’s points needs addi- tional explanation or where adding an example would make the point easier to grasp. Let the writer know if you detect any other motivating factors that might be used to establish common ground.

3. Consider whether the writer’s presentation is fair and impartial.

Praise: Note any passages where the writer comes across as being especially fair and impartial.

Critique: Tell the writer if the authors and their positions are presented un- fairly or if one side seems to be favored over the other.

4. Assess the essay’s readability.

Praise: Pick one or two places where the essay is especially clear and easy to follow — for example, where comparative transitions signal similarities and differences.

Critique: Let the writer know where the readability could be improved — for example, where a topic sentence could be clearer or where a transition is needed. Can you suggest a better beginning or more effective ending?

 

 

228 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

5. If the writer has expressed concern about anything in the draft that you have not discussed, respond to that concern.

Making Comments Electronically Most word processing software offers features that allow you to insert comments directly into the text of someone else’s document. Many readers prefer to make their comments this way because it tends to be faster than writing on hard copy and space is virtually unlimited; it also eliminates the process of deciphering handwritten comments. Where such features are not available, simply typing comments directly into a document in a contrasting color can provide the same advantages.

Revising Very likely you have already thought of ways to improve your draft, and you may even have begun to revise it. The Troubleshooting Chart on p. 230 will help. Before using the chart, however, it is a good idea to do the following:

Review critical reading comments from your classmates, instructor, or writing center tutor.

Make an outline of your draft so that you can look at it analytically.

You may have made an outline before writing your draft, but after drafting you need to see what you actually wrote, not what you intended to write. You can outline the draft quickly by highlighting the basic features — presenting the issue, analyzing the opposing positions, effectively presenting an impartial account of the opposing arguments, and making the essay readable.

In the presentation cosponsored by an engineering consulting firm and the EPA at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference (see the chapter-opening scenario on p. 185), document design played an important role in helping attendees visualize the proposed plan for development. The greatest challenge for the presenters was to design materials that would make clear the complexities of the competing needs of the stake- holders, and the proposed resolution of them, in a relatively short session.

Their first impulse was to present the precise statistical data that the consulting firm had gathered to persuade stakeholders that their solution was best for all par- ties. When they drafted PowerPoint slides that contained such data, however, they realized that the information was too detailed and too text-based to be effective in the conference setting: depending on where they were sitting, attendees would not necessarily be able to read all the detail, and they wouldn’t have enough time to absorb it. Instead, the presenters designed a series of slides that conveyed the chal- lenges and alternative solutions concisely and in a visually compelling way.

For example, to introduce one of their key concepts — the large difference between high- and low-density development in terms both of environmental impact and dollar costs — they began by engaging their audience with a simple question, set in an eye- catching yellow font, which they illustrated simply using contrasting photographs:

Thinking About Document Design: Helping Readers Visualize a Solution

 

 

REVISING 229

Next, they used a simple illustration showing the differences in environmental impact from high-, medium-, and low-density developments:

They proceeded to answer their own question with statistics showing that low- density lots cost more to supply with water and basic utilities:

The simplicity and visual appeal of the PowerPoint slides they created were in- strumental in conveying their ideas clearly and persuasively.

GUIDE TO WRITING

 

 

Troubleshooting Your Draft Basic Features

Problem Suggestions for Revising the Draft

An Informative Introduction to the Issue

and Opposing Positions

State the issue explicitly as a should question. Use a comparative transition (i.e., whereas X . . . , Y . . . ; or X . . . but Y . . .) to sharpen the contrast between the opposing positions. Explain the positions in more depth, perhaps providing examples or anecdotes to make them more concrete. Consider adding visuals, graphs, tables, or charts, if these would help clarify the issue and opposing positions.

My readers are not clear about the issue or the opposing positions.

My readers are not interested or do not appreciate the issue’s importance.

Add additional information about the issue and authors. Contextualize the issue in history, politics, socioeconomics, or cultural phenomena or trends. Quote notable authorities on the issue. Cite polls or research studies.

A Fair and Impartial

Presentation

Consider where changing your word choice — perhaps adding may or could — would help you come across as impartial. Cut passages where you evaluate the opposing positions, or quote others to critique weak arguments.

I reveal my own position.

If you favor one side over the other, try to balance your presentation by discussing how the other essay deals with the point. Make sure that you are representing each essay accurately and fairly.

My presentation is not unbiased or balanced.

A Probing Analysis

Determine whether you are trying to cover too many points without going into detail about any of them. Consider which points can be cut or categorized under other points.

My readers do not understand what my main points are.

Reexamine each argument to get at the underlying motivating factors that could explain the agreement or disagreement. Try reorganizing your analysis by grouping related points — on the basis of shared values, common concerns, political agenda, etc.

My analysis seems more like a summary than a probing analysis.

Consider adding a forecasting statement and topic sentences to introduce key terms, and repeating terms to help readers track your main points. Add or clarify comparative transitions when you are comparing or contrasting the opposing arguments.

My readers are confused by my essay, or find it difficult to read.

A Readable Plan

 

 

EDITING AND PROOFREADING 231 GUIDE TO WRITING

Editing and Proofreading Our research indicates that particular errors occur often in common ground essays: incorrect comma usage in sentences with interrupting phrases, and vague pronoun reference. The following guidelines will help you check your essay for these com- mon errors.

Using Commas around Interrupting Phrases

What is an interrupting phrase? When writers are analyzing opposing positions, they need to supply a great deal of information, precisely and accurately. They add much of this information in phrases that interrupt the flow of a sentence, as in the following example:

The concern was so great that George Mitchell, the former Senate Majority Leader and peace negotiator, was enlisted to investigate.

Such interrupting phrases, as they are called, are typically set off with commas.

The Problem. Forgetting to set off an interrupting phrase with commas can make sentences difficult to read or unclear.

How to Correct It. Add a comma on either side of an interrupting phrase.

Live Nation without hesitating paid $350 million to buy HOB Entertainment,

which owns the popular House of Blues clubs.

Virtual football to hold onto its fans and gain more soon has to move beyond

solitary players to teams of players on the Internet.

Correcting Vague Pronoun Reference

The Problem. Pronouns replace and refer to nouns, making writing more efficient and cohesive. If the reference is vague, however, rather than clear and precise, this advantage is lost. A common problem is vague use of this, that, it, or which.

How to Correct It. Scan your writing for pronouns, taking special note of places where you use this, that, it, or which. Check to be sure that it is crystal clear what this, that, it, which, or another pronoun refers to. If it is not, revise your sentence.

Television evangelists seem to be perpetually raising money, which makes some

viewers question their motives.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on Commas around Interrupting Phrases.

A Note on Grammar and Spelling Checkers These tools can be help- ful, but do not rely on them exclusively to catch errors in your text: Spelling checkers cannot catch misspellings that are themselves words, such as to for too. Grammar checkers miss some prob- lems, sometimes give faulty advice for fixing problems, and can flag correct items as wrong. Use these tools as a second line of defense after your own (and, ideally, another reader’s) proofread- ing/editing efforts.

 

 

232 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

A Writer at Work

By the late 1960s, plate tectonics emerged as a new area of study.

Tectonics was based on the notion of the earth’s crust as a collection

of plates or land masses above and below sea level, constantly in motion.

This took a while for most people to accept because of its unexpected novelty.

Inside the Summit Tunnel the Chinese laborers were using as much as

500 kegs a day of costly black powder to blast their way through the

solid rock. It was straining the Central Pacific’s budget.

Melissa Mae’s Analysis Annotating and Charting Annotations

In this section, you can learn how one writer, Melissa Mae, prepared to write “Laying Claim to a Higher Morality” (see pp. 195–97 in the Readings section of this chapter). In this essay, Mae analyzes two essays taking oppos- ing positions on the issue of whether the United States should use torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. Following the Guide to Writing, Mae first annotated the key features of the essays’ arguments and their motivating factors. Then she entered the results of her analysis on a chart that helped her see at a glance where the points of agreement and disagreement were located in both essays.

To learn from this Writer at Work demonstration, first read the two essays Mae analyzed. Then, look at Mae’s Annotation Chart and a passage she annotated.

The Essays Melissa Mae Analyzed

Below are the two essays Mae used for her finding common ground essay. (For three additional essays on the issue of torture, along with a short overview of the issue, see pp. 243–63.)

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on Vague Pronoun Reference.

GUIDE TO WRITING

 

 

MELISSA MAE’S ANALYSIS 233 A WRITER AT WORK

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“A Case for Torture” is the summary of an article written for the University of San Francisco Law Review by MIRKO BAGARIC, professor and coordinator of the Graduate Law Program at the Deakin Law School in Melbourne, Australia, and JULIE CLARKE, lec- turer in the same program. Bagaric’s recent books include How to Live: Being Happy and Living with Moral Dilemmas (2006) and Criminal Laws of Australia, with Ken Arenson (2004). Clarke’s most recent publications include Contract Law: Commentaries, Cases and Perspectives (2008), with Philip Clarke and Ming Zhou. Together, Bagaric and Clarke also wrote Torture: When the Unthinkable Is Morally Permissible (2006). “A Case for Torture” was published in 2005 in the Age, a Melbourne, Australia, newspaper.

A Case for Torture MIRKO BAGARIC AND JULIE CLARKE

Recent events stemming from the “war on terrorism” have highlighted the prevalenceof torture. This is despite the fact that torture is almost universally deplored. The formal prohibition against torture is absolute — there are no exceptions to it.

The belief that torture is always wrong is, however, misguided and symptomatic of the alarmist and reflexive responses typically emanating from social commentators. It is this type of absolutist and short-sighted rhetoric that lies at the core of many distorted moral judgements that we as a community continue to make, resulting in an enormous amount of injustice and suffering in our society and far beyond our borders.

Torture is permissible where the evidence suggests that this is the only means, due to the immediacy of the situation, to save the life of an innocent person. The reason that torture in such a case is defensible and necessary is because the justifica- tion manifests from the closest thing we have to an inviolable right: the right to self- defence, which of course extends to the defence of another. Given the choice between inflicting a relatively small level of harm on a wrongdoer and saving an innocent person, it is verging on moral indecency to prefer the interests of the wrongdoer.

The analogy with self-defence is sharpened by considering the hostage-taking scenario, where a wrongdoer takes a hostage and points a gun to the hostage’s head, threatening to kill the hostage unless a certain (unreasonable) demand is met. In such a case it is not only permissible, but desirable for police to shoot (and kill) the wrong- doer if they get a “clear shot.” This is especially true if it’s known that the wrongdoer has a history of serious violence, and hence is more likely to carry out the threat.

There is no logical or moral difference between this scenario and one where there is overwhelming evidence that a wrongdoer has kidnapped an innocent person and informs police that the victim will be killed by a co-offender if certain demands are not met.

In the hostage scenario, it is universally accepted that it is permissible to violate the right to life of the aggressor to save an innocent person. How can it be wrong to

 

 

234 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

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A WRITER AT WORK

violate an even less important right (the right to physical integrity) by torturing the aggressor in order to save a life in the second scenario?

There are three main [objections] to even the above limited approval of torture. The first is the slippery slope argument: if you start allowing torture in a limited con- text, the situations in which it will be used will increase.

This argument is not sound in the context of torture. First, the floodgates are already open — torture is used widely, despite the absolute legal prohibition against it. Amnesty International has recently reported that it had received, during 2003, reports of torture and ill-treatment from 132 countries, including the United States, Japan and France. It is, in fact, arguable that it is the existence of an unrealistic absolute ban that has driven torture beneath the radar of accountability, and that legalisation in very rare circumstances would in fact reduce instances of it.

The second main argument is that torture will dehumanise society. This is no more true in relation to torture than it is with self-defence, and in fact the contrary is true. A society that elects to favour the interests of wrongdoers over those of the innocent, when a choice must be made between the two, is in need of serious ethical rewiring.

A third [objection] is that we can never be totally sure that torturing a person will in fact result in us saving an innocent life. This, however, is the same situation as in all cases of self-defence. To revisit the hostage example, the hostage-taker’s gun might in fact be empty, yet it is still permissible to shoot. As with any decision, we must decide on the best evidence at the time.

Torture in order to save an innocent person is the only situation where it is clearly justifiable. This means that the recent high-profile incidents of torture, apparently un- dertaken as punitive measures or in a bid to acquire information where there was no evidence of an immediate risk to the life of an innocent person, were reprehensible.

Will a real-life situation actually occur where the only option is between torturing a wrongdoer or saving an innocent person? Perhaps not. However, a minor alteration to the Douglas Wood situation illustrates that the issue is far from moot. If Western forces in Iraq arrested one of Mr. Wood’s captors, it would be a perverse ethic that required us to respect the physical integrity of the captor, and not torture him to ascertain Mr. Wood’s whereabouts, in preference to taking all possible steps to save Mr. Wood.

Even if a real-life situation where torture is justifiable does not eventuate, the above argument in favour of torture in limited circumstances needs to be made because it will encourage the community to think more carefully about moral judgements we collec- tively hold that are the cause of an enormous amount of suffering in the world.

First, no right or interest is absolute. Secondly, rights must always yield to con- sequences, which are the ultimate criteria upon which the soundness of a decision is gauged. Lost lives hurt a lot more than bent principles.

Thirdly, we must take responsibility not only for the things that we do, but also for the things that we can — but fail to — prevent. The retort that we are not respon- sible for the lives lost through a decision not to torture a wrongdoer because we did not create the situation is code for moral indifference.

Equally vacuous is the claim that we in the affluent West have no responsibility for more than 13,000 people dying daily due to starvation. Hopefully, the debate on torture will prompt us to correct some of these fundamental failings.

 

 

MELISSA MAE’S ANALYSIS 235 A WRITER AT WORK

“Inhuman Behavior” was written by Major General KERMIT D. JOHNSON, a retired chaplain in the U.S. Army. Johnson is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, the Princeton Theological Seminary, the U.S. Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. As an infantry officer, he commanded a heavy mortar company in the Korean War. As a chaplain, he served in the United States, Germany, and Vietnam, completing his service as Chief of Chaplains from 1979 to 1982.

“Inhuman Behavior” was published in 2006 in the Christian Century, a national magazine concerned with “faithful living, critical thinking.”

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Inhuman Behavior: A Chaplain’s View of Torture Kermit D. Johnson

The historian Arnold Toynbee called war “an act of religious worship.” Appropriately, when most people enter the cathedral of violence, their voices become hushed. This silence, this reluctance to speak, is based in part on not wishing to trivialize or jeopardize the lives of those who have been put in harm’s way. We want to support the men and women in our armed forces, whether we are crusaders, just warriors or pacifists.

Furthermore, those who interrupt this service of worship become a source of public embarrassment, if not shame. The undercurrent seems to be that dissent or critique in the midst of war is inherently unpatriotic because it violates a sacred wartime precept: support our troops.

From the standpoint of Christian faith, how do we respond? I would say that if war causes us to suppress our deepest religious, ethical and moral convictions, then we have indeed caved in to a “higher religion” called war.

Since this obeisance to war is pack- aged in the guise of patriotism, it is well to admit to the beauty of patriotism, the beauty of unselfishness and love of coun- try, land, community, family, friends and,

yes, our system of government. But this fabulous beauty makes us appreciate all the more what Reinhold Niebuhr called the “ethical paradox in patriotism.” The paradox is that patriotism can transmute individual unselfishness into na- tional egoism. When this happens, when the critical attitude of the individual is

If war causes us to suppress our deepest religious, ethical and

moral convictions, then we have indeed caved

in to a “higher religion” called war.

 

 

236 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

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squelched, this permits the nation, as Niebuhr observed, to use “power without moral constraint.”

I believe this has been the case, particularly since 9/11, in the treatment of prisoners under U.S. custody.

We must react when our nation breaks the moral constraints and historic values contained in treaties, laws and our Constitution, as well as violating the consciences of individuals who engage in so-called “authorized” inhuman treat- ment. Out of an unsentimental patriotism we must say no to torture and all inhu- man forms of interrogation and incarceration. It is precisely by speaking out that we can support our troops and at the same time affirm the universal values which emanate from religious faith.

A clear-cut repudiation of torture or abuse is also essential to the safety of the troops. If the life and rule of Jesus and his incarnation is to be normative in the church, then we must stand for real people, not abstractions: for soldiers, their families, congregations to which they belong, and the chaplains and pastors who minister to their needs from near and far. By “real people” we also mean that tiny percentage of the armed forces who are guards and interrogators and the commanders responsible for what individuals and units do or fail to do in treating prisoners.

Too often the topic of torture is reduced to a Hollywood drama, a theoretical scenario about a ticking time bomb and the supposed need to torture someone so the bomb can be discovered and defused in the nick of time. Real torture is what takes place in the daily interchange between guards, interrogators and prisoners, and in the everyday, unglamorous, intricate job of collecting intelligence.

U.S. troops in Iraq are fighting an insurgency. It is a battle for the “hearts and minds” of the people. Mao Zedong referred to guerrillas or insurgents as the fish and the supporting population as the water. This is an asymmetrical battle. As a weaker force, the insurgents cannot operate without the support of the people. So the classic formula for combating an insurgency is to drain the swamp — cut the insurgents off from their life support. Both sides are trying to win the “hearts and minds” of the people.

Imagine, then, the consequences when people learn that U.S. forces have tortured and abused captives. A strengthened and sustained insurgency means danger and death for U.S. forces. Never mind that the other side routinely tortures. It is we who lay claim to a higher morality.

Nor should we take comfort that we do not chop off heads or field suicide bombers. What we must face squarely is this: whenever we torture or mistreat prisoners, we are capitulating morally to the enemy — in fact, adopting the terror- ist ethic that the end justifies the means. And let us not deceive ourselves: torture is a form of terrorism. Never mind the never-ending debate about the distinctions between “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” and “torture.” The object of all such physical and mental torment is singularly clear: to terrify prisoners so they will yield information. Whenever this happens to prisoners in U.S. control, we are handing terrorists and insurgents a priceless ideological gift, known in wartime as aid and comfort to the enemy.

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

MELISSA MAE’S ANALYSIS 237 A WRITER AT WORK

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As for individual guards or interrogators, whenever they are encouraged or ordered to use torture, two war crimes are committed: one against the torturer and the other against the prisoner. The torturer and the tortured are both victims, unless the torturer is a sadist or a loose cannon who needs to be court-martialed. This violation of conscience is sure to breed self-hatred, shame and mental tor- ment for a lifetime to come.

Finally, the most obvious reason for repudiating torture and inhuman treatment is that our nation needs to claim the full protection of the Geneva Conventions on behalf of our troops when they are captured, in this or any war.

The congressional votes for and the presidential capitulation to the amend- ment offered by Senator John McCain prohibiting torture and inhuman treatment have to be seen as positive (despite the president’s statement in signing it, in which he claimed an exception to the rule when acting as commander in chief). But reasons for concern remain.

The most passionate defenders of the Geneva Conventions, the judge ad- vocate generals, the military lawyers, were completely cut off from providing input on the torture issue.

The government has denigrated international treaties that the U.S. has signed and that constitute U.S. law regarding torture and inhuman treatment.

The definition of torture has been reinterpreted by the Justice Department as follows: “Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impair- ment of bodily function, or even death.”

There is no indication that the outsourcing or “rendition” of brutal treatment will cease. Is it not odd that some of the countries the U.S. State Department faults for torture are the very countries we utilize in outsourcing interrogations? What credence can we put in their assurances that they will not torture?

In Senate testimony, Senator Jack Reed (D., R.I.) asked the military this ques- tion: “If you were shown a video of a United States Marine or an American citizen [under the] control of a foreign power, in a cell block, naked with a bag over their head, squatting with their arms uplifted for 45 minutes, would you describe that as a good interrogation technique or a violation of the Geneva Convention?” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace, answered: “I would describe it as a violation.” The next question might be: Why have these and other violations of the Geneva Conventions been certified as legal when employed by the U.S.?

The public has been dragged through a labyrinth of denials, retractions, redefinitions and tortured arguments, all designed to justify and rationalize lowered moral standards in the treatment of prisoners, not to strengthen and defend high ethical standards.

 

 

238 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUNDGUIDE TO WRITING

How Mae Analyzed the Debate between Bagaric/Clarke and Johnson

As Mae reread each essay, she highlighted the text and made notes in the margin where she found the key features of the argument and several motivating factors. At the same time, she entered the paragraph numbers and brief summaries of what she found into her Annotations Chart (see pp. 239–40).

Analyzing both essays took a few hours of intense close reading, but when she was done, Mae felt she understood both essays very well and had many ideas about which points of disagreement and agreement she could discuss in her essay. In fact, Mae felt confident that she had found more material than she could use in an essay her instructor limited to one thousand words.

Mae found it easy to identify the issue and position in each essay. After some careful analysis, she also located the main reasons and supporting evidence for each argument, as well as all counterarguments and possible objections the authors acknowledged, along with how they responded to them (either by conceding or refuting them).

The trickiest part for Mae was identifying the authors’ motivating factors. Her instructor had forewarned the class that this would likely be the case, because the motivating factors were likely not to be explicitly stated. After rereading key pas- sages a few times, Mae felt satisfied that she had found the major motivating factors for both essays in paragraphs she had already annotated.

An example of Mae’s annotations of one portion of the Bagaric and Clarke essay and her completed Annotations Chart are shown in this section.

In a letter to Senator McCain, Captain Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate in the 82nd Airborne Division, said, “Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as al-Qaeda’s we should not be concerned. When did al-Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? I strongly urge you to do justice to your men and women in uniform. Give them clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals they risk their lives for.” Torture is not one of those ideals.

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Torture is permissible where the evidence suggests that this is the only means, due to the immediacy of the situation, to save the life of an innocent person. The reason that torture in such a case is de- fensible and necessary is because the justification manifests from the closest thing we have to an inviolable right: the right to self-defence, which of course extends to the defence of another. Given the choice between inflicting a relatively small level of harm on a wrongdoer and saving an innocent person, it is verging on moral indecency to prefer the interests of the wrongdoer.

The analogy with self-defence is sharpened by considering the hostage-taking scenario, where a wrongdoer takes a hostage and

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A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

MELISSA MAE’S ANALYSIS 239 A WRITER AT WORK

points a gun to the hostage’s head, threatening to kill the hostage unless a certain (unreasonable) demand is met. In such a case it is not only permissible, but desirable for police to shoot (and kill) the wrongdoer if they get a “clear shot.” This is especially true if it’s known that the wrongdoer has a history of serious violence, and hence is more likely to carry out the threat.

There is no logical or moral difference between this scenario and one where there is overwhelming evidence that a wrongdoer has kidnapped an innocent person and informs police that the victim will be killed by a co-offender if certain demands are not met.

In the hostage scenario, it is universally accepted that it is per- missible to violate the right to life of the aggressor to save an inno- cent person. How can it be wrong to violate an even less important right (the right to physical integrity) by torturing the aggressor in order to save a life in the second scenario?

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Melissa Mae’s Annotations Chart Essay 1: Essay 2:

Bagaric/Clarke Johnson

Fe at

ur es

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th e

A rg

um en

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ISSUE

ARGUMENT

(Main supporting reasons and evidence)

POSITION

(THESIS)

(continued)

 

 

240 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

How Mae Used the Annotations Chart to Plan and Draft Her Essay

Mae relied on the Annotations Chart as a guide to planning her essay (see pp. 195–97). It seemed logical to her to start her essay where she started the chart: by identifying the issue and the positions on the issue presented by each essay.

In her first paragraph, she provides some context for the issue, noting that the disclosure in 2004 of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib first led many Americans

Essay 1: Essay 2: Bagaric/Clarke Johnson

VALUES

(Moral, ethical, religious)

IDEOLOGY AND IDEALS

(Cultural, legal, political)

PRIORITIES AND AGENDAS

BINARY THINKING

FEARS AND CONCERNSM o

ti va

ti ng

F ac

to rs

COUNTERARGUMENT

(Refutation or concession?)

(continued)

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

MELISSA MAE’S ANALYSIS 241 THINKING CRITICALLY

to become concerned about torture and that the debate over “enhanced inter- rogation techniques” such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation continues today. Like Mae, you may turn up relevant details in your background research about the issue — facts, history, current news — that you can use to present it to readers.

In her second paragraph, Mae introduces the two opposing position essays by title and date of publication, gives some background on the writers, and briefly states the positions they take in their essays. She concludes the paragraph by sug- gesting that common ground exists between what seem at first glance to be starkly opposing perspectives.

In her third and fourth paragraphs, Mae continues to make good use of her chart in presenting key aspects of the authors’ main arguments. To represent their arguments fairly and accurately and to identify the language she would paraphrase, she first consulted her chart and then looked again at her highlighted and annotated essays. You can see from the chart that she made use of information from several paragraphs in both readings. Her patience in charting the topics ensured that she would not overlook any important material that would help her compare and con- trast these writers’ essays.

As you read the rest of Mae’s essay, note that she does not cover every element in her chart but selected those that enable her to represent fairly what she considers to be the most interesting and important points of agreement and disagreement between the two writers.

Now that you have read and discussed several common ground essays and writ- ten one of your own, take some time to think critically and write about what you have learned. To think critically means to use all of your new genre knowledge — acquired from the information in this chapter, your own writing, the writing of other students, and class discussions — to reflect deeply on your work for this assignment. It also requires that you consider the social implications of your new knowledge.

Critical thinking is sustained by analysis — a thoughtful, patient survey of all of the materials you have read and produced during your work in this chapter. The benefit is proven and important: You will remember longer what you have learned, ensuring that you will be able to put it to good use well beyond this writ- ing course.

Thinking Critically About What You Have Learned

 

 

242 CHAPTER 5: FINDING COMMON GROUND

Reflecting on Your Writing Your instructor may ask you to turn in with your essay and process materials a brief metacognitive essay or letter reflecting on what you have learned in writing your essay finding common ground. Choose among the following invention activities those that seem most productive for you.

Explain how your purpose and audience — what you wanted your readers to understand about why people disagree and where they might find com- mon ground — influenced one of your decisions as a writer, such as how you framed the issue, how you introduced the authors, which points of dis- agreement and agreement you chose to discuss, or the motivating factors you emphasized.

Discuss what you learned about yourself as a writer in the process of writing this particular essay. For example, what part of the process did you find most chal- lenging. Did you try something new, like annotating the essays and making a chart of your annotations or listing the points of disagreement and agreement?

If you were to give advice to a friend who was about to write an essay finding common ground, what would you say?

Which of the readings in this chapter influenced your essay? Explain the influ- ence, citing specific examples from your essay and the reading.

If you got good advice from a critical reader, explain exactly how the person helped you — perhaps by suggesting a motivating factor, a shared concern or value that your analysis was hinting at but not addressing directly or by noting passages where comparative transitions or clearer labeling was needed to help readers keep track of the similarities or differences between the arguments.

Considering the Social Dimensions: Being Fair and Impartial Essays that attempt to understand the basis for disagreement and find common ground on controversial topics are unquestionably helpful for writers and read- ers alike. They help us to understand complicated arguments and discover ways to move forward amicably and constructively. They are especially important in a democracy because they enable us to perform our role as citizens conscientiously, informing ourselves about important issues.

Traditionally, journalists and academics have served as authors of analytical es- says that seek to help us understand differences and find common ground on contro- versial social, cultural, and political issues. For example, the Committee of Concerned Journalists identifies the news media as “the common carriers of public discussion” and asserts that it bears a responsibility “to fairly represent the varied viewpoints and interests in society, and to place them in context rather than highlight only the

THINKING CRITICALLY

 

 

APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES 243 APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

conflicting fringes of debate.” Most importantly, they make clear that “[a]ccuracy and truthfulness require that as framers of the public discussion we not neglect the points of common ground where problem solving occurs” (“A Statement of Shared Purpose,” www.concernedjournalists.org/node/380).

Journalists and academic analysts, however, recognize that maintaining ac- curacy and trustworthiness can be quite challenging on highly contentious issues. They wrestle with the requirement that analysis be impartial. They often make a distinction between impartiality — which can be defined as not partial or biased, but fair and just — and objectivity — which assumes that it is possible to examine a controversy scientifically, without being influenced by personal feelings, experi- ences, values, or prior knowledge. Most analysts, however, acknowledge that while objectivity may not be possible, writers can strive to be fair in the way they represent different viewpoints, even-handed and balanced in giving each side its voice, and unbiased in avoiding judgmental language.

1. Consider how challenging it was to make your analysis fair and impartial. As you were analyzing the argument essays and writing your finding common ground essay, in what ways, if any, did you have difficulty maintaining your impartiality? How did you try to make sure you were being fair? What strate- gies did you use in your writing to come across to readers as a trustworthy analyst?

2. Write a page or so about the goal of trying to be fair and impartial as an analyst. Based on your own experience as a writer of a finding common ground essay (as well as other writing you may have done in the past), what have you learned about the goal of trying to be fair and impartial? Is it an achievable goal? Is it a worthwhile goal? Why or why not?

Add to your discussion any ideas you have from your experience as a consumer of analytical writing and talk. How critical are you as a reader or listener? How important do you think it is for you as a citizen and student to feel confident that the analysis you are consuming comes across as fair, unbiased, impartial, even ob- jective? Be sure to distinguish between op-ed style commentary intended to express opinions and judgments and journalism or academic style analysis intended to be fair and impartial.

Appendix: Two Debates

Following are two clusters of essays taking positions on two different issues: torture and same-sex marriage. These essays are also available electronically on the com- panion Web site for this book, bedfordstmartins.com/theguide, which also includes several other debates for you or your instructor to choose from.

 

www.concernedjournalists.org/node/380

 

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Debate 1: Torture “Thinking about Torture” by Ross Douthat (pp. 245–48)

“Committing War Crimes for the ‘Right Reasons’” by Glenn Greenwald (pp. 248–51)

“An End to Torture” by Maryann Cusimano Love (pp. 251–55)

See also:

“A Case for Torture” by Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke (pp. 233–34)

“Inhuman Behavior” by Kermit D. Johnson (pp. 235–38)

Understanding the Torture Debate

The United States ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture (1987), which asserts that “[n]o exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may be invoked as a justification for torture.” People differ on what constitutes torture, but the U.N. defined torture as

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is inten- tionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an offi- cial capacity.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent revela- tions of abuse of prisoners by the U.S. military and others at the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons and elsewhere, however, torture has again become a subject of intense debate in the United States. For example, writers have debated whether torture is effective in obtaining the truth, affects the torturers, threat- ens the international standing of the United States, or undermines justice. Other contested issues include what qualifies as torture, whether the United States must observe international laws forbidding torture, or whether the United States should set an example by not torturing. The five essays in this chapter take different approaches to the issue, but they all make arguments that are worth examining.

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ROSS DOUTHAT is the author of Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class (2005) and the coauthor, with Reihan Salam, of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (2008). He is the film critic for National Review, and his work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, GQ, Slate, and other publications. Currently a col- umnist for the New York Times, Douthat was a senior editor at the

Atlantic until April 2009. He posted “Thinking about Torture” to his blog on the Altantic .com on December 16, 2008.

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Thinking about Torture

ROSS DOUTHAT

I haven’t written anything substantial, ever, about America’s treatment of detainees in the War on Terror. There are good reasons for this, and bad ones. Or maybe there’s only one reason, and it’s probably a bad one — a desire to avoid taking on a fraught and desperately importantly subject without feeling extremely confident about my own views on the subject.

I keep waiting, I think, for somebody else to write a piece about the subject that eloquently captures my own inarticulate mix of anger, uncertainty and guilt about the Bush Administration’s interrogation policy, so that I can just point to their argument and say go read that. But so far as I know, nobody has. There’s been straightforward outrage, obviously, from many quarters, and then there’s been a lot of evasion — especially on the Right, where occasional defenses of torture in ex- treme scenarios have coexisted with a remarkable silence about the broad writ the Bush Administration seems to have extended to physically-abusive interrogation, and the human costs thereof. But to my knowledge, nobody’s written something that captures the sheer muddiness that surrounds my own thinking (such as it is) on the issue.

That muddiness may reflect moral and/or intellectual confusion on my part, since the grounds for straightforward outrage are pretty obvious. There’s a great deal of political tendentiousness woven into Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side, for in- stance, but it’s very difficult to come away from her reportage unpersuaded that this Administration’s counterterrorism policies exposed significant numbers of people — many guilty, but some innocent — to forms of detention and interrogation that we would almost certainly describe as torture if they were carried out by a lawless or dictatorial regime. For a less vivid but also somewhat less partisan analysis that reaches the same conclusion, you can read the executive summary of the just- released Levin-McCain report. (And of course both Mayer’s book and the Arms

 

 

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Services Committee report are just the latest in a line of similar findings, by report- ers and government investigations alike.)

Now it’s true that a great deal of what seems to have been done to detainees arguably falls into the category of what Mark Bowden, in his post-9/11 Atlantic essay on “The Dark Art of Interrogation,” called “torture lite”: It’s been mostly “stress positions,” extreme temperatures, and “smacky-face,” not thumbscrews and brand- ing irons. But it’s also clear now, in a way that it wasn’t when these things were still theoretical to most Americans, that the torture/torture lite distinction gets pretty blurry pretty quickly in practice. It’s clear from the deaths suffered in American custody. It’s clear from the testimony that Mayer puts together in her book. And it’s clear from the outraged response, among conservatives and liberals alike, to the photographs from Abu Ghraib, which were almost all of practices closer to “torture-lite” than outright torture but which met, justly I think, with near-universal condemnation nonetheless. (And while it still may be true that in some sense, the horrors of Abu Ghraib involved individual bad apples running amok, they clearly weren’t running all that far amok, since an awful lot of the things they photo- graphed themselves doing — maybe not the human pyramids, but the dogs, the hoods, the nudity and so forth — showed up on lists of interrogation techniques approved by the Secretary of Defense himself.)

So as far as the bigger picture goes, then, it seems indisputable that in the name of national security, and with the backing of seemingly dubious interpreta- tions of the laws, this Administration pursued policies that delivered many detain- ees to physical and mental abuse, and not a few to death. These were wartime measures, yes, but war is not a moral blank check: If you believe that Abu Ghraib constituted a failure of jus in bello, then you have to condemn the decisions that led to Abu Ghraib, which means that you have to condemn the President and his Cabinet. . . .

Given this reality, whence my uncertainty about how to think about the issue? Basically, it stems from the following thought: That while the Bush Administration’s policies clearly failed a just-war test, they didn’t fail it in quite so new a way as some of their critics suppose . . . and moreover, had I been in their shoes I might have failed the test as well. . . .

For instance: The use of the atomic bomb. I think it’s very, very difficult to jus- tify Harry Truman’s decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in any kind of plau- sible just-war framework, and if that’s the case then the nuclear destruction of two Japanese cities — and indeed, the tactics employed in our bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan more broadly — represents a “war crime” that makes Abu Ghraib look like a trip to Pleasure Island. (And this obviously has implications for the justice of our entire Cold War nuclear posture as well.) But in so thinking, I also have to agree with Richard Frank’s argument that “it is hard to imagine any- one who could have been president at the time (a spectrum that includes FDR, Henry Wallace, William O. Douglas, Harry Truman, and Thomas Dewey) failing to authorize use of the atomic bombs” — in so small part because I find it hard to imagine myself being in Truman’s shoes and deciding the matter differently, my beliefs about just-war principle notwithstanding.

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The same difficulty obtains where certain forms of torture are concerned. If I find it hard to condemn Harry Truman for incinerating tens of thousands of Japanese civilians, even though I think his decision probably violated the moral framework that should govern the conduct of war, I certainly find it hard to con- demn the waterboarding of, say, a Khalid Sheikh Muhammed in the aftermath of an event like 9/11, and with more such attacks presumably in the planning stages. I disagree with Charles Krauthammer, who has called torture in such extreme cir- cumstances a “moral duty”; rather, I would describe it as a kind of immorality that we cannot expect those charged with the public’s safety to always and everywhere refrain from. (Perhaps this means, as some have suggested, that we should ban torture, but issue retroactive pardons to an interrogator who crosses the line when confronted with extreme circumstances and high-value targets. But I suspect that this “maybe you’ll get retroactive immunity, wink wink” approach probably places too great a burden on the individual interrogator, and that ultimately some kind of mechanism is required whereby the use of extreme measures in extreme circum- stances is brought within the law.)

Yet of course the waterboarding of al Qaeda’s high command, despite the controversy it’s generated, is not in fact the biggest moral problem posed by the Bush Administration’s approach to torture and interrogation. The biggest problem is the sheer scope of the physical abuse that was endorsed from on high — the way it was routinized, extended to an ever-larger pool of detainees, and delegated ever-further down the chain of command. Here I’m more comfortable saying straightforwardly that this should never have been allowed — that it should be considered impermissible as well as immoral, and that it should involve disgrace for those responsible, the Cheneys and Rumsfelds as well as the people who actu- ally implemented the techniques that the Vice President’s office promoted and the Secretary of Defense signed off on.

But here, too, I have uncertainty, mixed together with guilt, about how strongly to condemn those involved — because in a sense I know that what they were doing was what I wanted to them to do. . . .

Some of the most passionate torture opponents have stated that they never, ever imagined that the Bush Administration would even consider authorizing the sort of interrogation techniques described above, to say nothing of more extreme measures like waterboarding. I was not so innocent, or perhaps I should I say I was more so: If you had listed, in the aftermath of 9/11, most of the things that have been done to prisoners by representatives of the U.S. government, I would have said that of course I expected the Bush Administration to authorize “stress positions,” or “slapping, shoving and shaking,” or the use of heat and cold to elicit information. After all, there was a war on! I just had no idea — until the pictures came out of Abu Ghraib, and really until I started reading detailed accounts of how detainees were being treated — what these methods could mean in practice, and especially as practiced on a global scale. A term like “stress positions” sounds like one thing when it’s sitting, bloodless, on a page; it sounds like something else when somebody dies from it.

 

 

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Now obviously what I’ve said with regard to the financial crisis is also true in this arena: With great power comes the responsibility to exercise better judgment than, say, my twenty-three year old, pro-torture-lite self. But with great power comes a lot of pressures as well, starting with great fear: The fear that through inaction you’ll be responsible for the deaths of thousands or even millions of the Americans whose lived you were personally charged to protect. This fear ran wild the post-9/11 Bush Administration, with often-appalling consequences, but it wasn’t an irrational fear — not then, and now. It doesn’t excuse what was done by our government, and in our name, in prisons and detention cells around the world. But anyone who felt the way I felt after 9/11 has to reckon with the fact that what was done in our name was, in some sense, done for us — not with our knowledge, exactly, but arguably with our blessing. I didn’t get what I wanted from this administration, but I think you could say with some justification that I got what I asked for. And that awareness undergirds — to return to where I began this rambling post — the mix of anger, uncertainty and guilt that I bring to the current debate over what the Bush Administration has done and failed to do, and how its members should be judged.

GLENN GREENWALD worked as a constitutional law and civil rights lawyer in New York before becoming a columnist for Salon, where he focuses on legal and political issues. Greenwald, whose writing also appears in such publications as the American Conservative, the National Interest, and In These Times, is the author of three books: How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok (2006), A Tragic Legacy: How a Good v. Evil Mentality Destroyed

the Bush Presidency (2007), and Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics (2008). The following article, a response to Ross Douthat’s blog post “Thinking about Torture,” was published on Salon on December 17, 2008.

Committing War Crimes for the “Right Reasons”

GLENN GREENWALD

The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat has a post today — “Thinking about Torture” — which, he acknowledges quite remarkably, is the first time he has “written anything sub- stantial, ever, about America’s treatment of detainees in the War on Terror.” He’s abstained until today due to what he calls “a desire to avoid taking on a fraught and desperately importantly (sic) subject without feeling extremely confident about my own views on the subject.”

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I don’t want to purport to summarize what he’s written. It’s a somewhat me- andering and at times even internally inconsistent statement. Douthat himself characterizes it as “rambling” — befitting someone who appears to think that his own lack of moral certainty and borderline-disorientation on this subject may somehow be a more intellectually respectable posture than those who simplisti- cally express “straightforward outrage.” In the midst of what is largely an intellec- tually honest attempt to describe the causes for his ambiguity, he actually does express some “straightforward outrage” of his own. About the widespread abuse, he writes: “it should be considered impermissible as well as immoral” and “should involve disgrace for those responsible, the Cheneys and Rumsfelds as well as the people who actually implemented the techniques that the Vice President’s office promoted and the Secretary of Defense signed off on.”

Nonetheless, Douthat repeatedly explains that he is burdened by “uncertainty, mixed together with guilt, about how strongly to condemn those involved,” and one of the central reasons for that uncertainty — one that is commonly expressed — is contained in this passage:

But with great power comes a lot of pressures as well, starting with great fear: The fear that through inaction you’ll be responsible for the deaths of thousands or even millions of the Americans whose lived you were personally charged to protect. This fear ran wild the post-9/11 Bush Administration, with often-appalling consequences, but it wasn’t an irra- tional fear — not then, and now. It doesn’t excuse what was done by our government, and in our name, in prisons and detention cells around the world. But anyone who felt the way I felt after 9/11 has to reckon with the fact that what was done in our name was, in some sense, done for us — not with our knowledge, exactly, but arguably with our blessing. I didn’t get what I wanted from this administration, but I think you could say with some justification that I got what I asked for. And that awareness undergirds — to return to where I began this rambling post — the mix of anger, uncertainty and guilt that I bring to the current debate over what the Bush Administration has done and failed to do, and how its members should be judged.

This is the Jack Goldsmith argument: while what Bush officials did may have been misguided and wrong, they did it out of a true fear of Islamic enemies, with the intent to protect us, perhaps even consistent with the citizenry’s wishes. And while Douthat presents this view as some sort of candid and conflicted complex- ity, it isn’t really anything more than standard American exceptionalism — more accurately: blinding American narcissism — masquerading as a difficult moral struggle.

The moral ambiguity Douthat thinks he finds is applicable to virtually every war crime. It’s the extremely rare political leader who ends up engaging in tyran- nical acts, or commits war crimes or other atrocities, simply for the fun of it, or for purely frivolous reasons. Every tyrant can point to real and legitimate threats that they feared.

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Ask supporters of Fidel Castro why he imprisoned dissidents and created a police state and they’ll tell you — accurately — that he was the head of a small, defenseless island situated 90 miles to the South of a huge, militaristic superpower that repeatedly tried to overthrow his government and replace it with something it preferred. Ask Hugo Chavez why he rails against the U.S. and has shut down op- position media stations and he’ll point out — truthfully — that the U.S. participated to some extent in a coup attempt to overthrow his democratically elected govern- ment and that internal factions inside Venezuela have done the same.

Iranian mullahs really do face internal, foreign-funded revolutionary groups that are violent and which seek to overthrow them. Serbian leaders — including those ultimately convicted of war crimes — had legitimate grievances about the treat- ment of Serbs outside of Serbia proper and threats posed to Serbian sovereignty. The complaints of Islamic terrorists regarding U.S. hegemony and exploitation in the Middle East are grounded in factual truth, as are those of Gazan terrorists who point to the four-decades-old Israeli occupation. Georgia really did and does face external threats from Russia, and Russia really did have an interest in protecting Russians and South Ossetians under assault from civilian-attacking Georgian artillery. The threat of Israeli invasion which Hezbollah cites is real. Some Muslims really have been persecuted by Hindus.

But none of those facts justify tyranny, terrorism or war crimes. There are virtually always “good reasons” that can be and are cited to justify war crimes and acts of aggression. It’s often the case that nationalistic impulses — or genu- ine fears — lead the country’s citizens to support or at least acquiesce to those crimes. War crimes and other atrocities are typically undertaken in defense against some real (if exaggerated) threat, or to target actual enemies, or to redress real grievances.

But we don’t accept that justifying reasoning when offered by others. In fact, those who seek merely to explain — let alone justify — the tyranny, extremism and/or violence of Castro, or Chavez, or Hamas, or Slobodan Milosevic or Islamic extremists are immediately condemned for seeking to defend the indefensible, or invoking “root causes” to justify the unjustifiable, or offering mitigating rationale for pure evil.

Yet here we have American leaders who now, more openly than ever, are literally admitting to what has long been known — that they violated the laws of war and international treaties which, in the past, we’ve led the way in advocating and enforcing. And what do we hear even from the most well-intentioned com- mentators such as Douthat? Yes, it was wrong. True, they shouldn’t have done it. But they did it for good reasons: they believed they had to do it to protect us, to guard against truly bad people, to discharge their heavy responsibility to protect the country, because we were at war.

All of the same can be said for virtually every tyrant we righteously condemn and every war criminal we’ve pursued and prosecuted. The laws of war aren’t applicable only in times of peace, to be waived away in times of war or crisis. To the contrary, they exist precisely because the factors Douthat cites to explain and

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mitigate what our leaders did always exist, especially when countries perceive themselves at war. To cite those factors to explain away war crimes — or to render them morally ambiguous — is to deny the very validity of the concept itself.

The pressures and allegedly selfless motivations being cited on behalf of Bush officials who ordered torture and other crimes — even if accurate — aren’t unique to American leaders. They are extremely common. They don’t mitigate war crimes. They are what typically motivate war crimes, and they’re the reason such crimes are banned by international agreement in the first place — to deter leaders, through the force of law, from succumbing to those exact temptations. What determines whether a political leader is good or evil isn’t their nationality. It’s their conduct. And leaders who violate the laws of war and commit war crimes, by definition, aren’t good, even if they are American.

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MARYANN CUSIMANO LOVE teaches graduate and undergradu- ate courses in politics and ethics at both the Pentagon and Catholic University, as well as serving on the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ International Policy Committee and, since 1998, on the Council on Foreign Relations. Her recent books include Beyond Sovereignty: Issues for a Global Agenda (3rd edition, 2006) and Morality Matters: Ethics and the War on Terrorism (forthcoming). “An End to Torture” was pub-

lished in the December 1, 2008 issue of America.

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An End to Torture Maryann Cusimano Love

Sixty years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt and the U.S. government worked doggedly to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt knew many successes in her long years of public service, yet she regarded the writing and passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as her greatest accomplishment. She envisioned it as an international Magna Carta and Bill of Rights for people everywhere. She worked so hard (and drove others hard as well) that one delegate charged that the length of the draft- ing committee meetings violated his own human rights.

Like all other human organizations, the United States has a less than pure record on human rights. The same U.S. founding documents that set some souls soaring with language of universal rights also enslaved other human beings and defined them as property, while also excluding the female majority of the population

 

 

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entirely. We the people have spent the last 232 years working to live up to the best and undo the worst of those founding documents. Protecting human rights and prohibiting torture is practical and advances U.S. inter- ests, especially security interests. By con- trast, using torture undermines security.

Whatever one thinks of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton, the 2008 presidential election campaign was a his- toric move to open up our political life and

leadership to all. Eleanor Roosevelt was no starry-eyed idealist. As a woman, an advocate for the poor and the wife of a man with a disability, she knew that U.S. rhetoric on human rights often did not match reality. Lest she forget it, the Soviet and other Communist delegates to the United Nations continually reminded her. As she recounted it, they would point out some failure of human rights in the United States and ask, “‘Is that what you consider democracy, Mrs. Roosevelt?’ And I am sorry to say that quite often I have to say, ‘No, that isn’t what I consider democracy. That’s a failure of democracy, but there is one thing in my country: we can know about our failures and those of us who care can work to improve our democracy!’” Mrs. Roosevelt placed her faith in the transparency of our society and in the ready supply of everyday prophets who would challenge and overcome injustices.

What Would Eleanor Do?

What would Mrs. Roosevelt make of the current U.S. debate over the use of torture in the war on terrorism? Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits torture, unequivocally stating, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” So serious was this basic human right that the drafters placed it at the very beginning of the document, right after the articles stating that all human beings are free and equal and enjoy “the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Articles 6 to 11 guaranteed a person’s legal rights, including freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, a right to an impartial trial and a presumption of innocence; these were the “easy” articles from the U.S. perspective. The harder rights for the United States, with its laissez-faire, capitalist economic system, were the social and economic rights tucked in at the end of the document, particularly Articles 23 and 25, which guar- antee the right to a job, adequate compensation and an adequate standard of living, “including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, dis- ability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Throughout the cold war, the United States repeatedly criticized violations by Soviet and Communist countries of the legal and political rights enumerated in the declaration. These countries returned fire by noting their “iron rice bowl,” a state-supported social safety net that they charged was lacking in the

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APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

Protecting human rights and prohibiting torture is practical and advances U.S. interests, especially

security interests. By contrast, using torture undermines security.

 

 

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United States and other capi- talist states.

The current torture de- bate has turned this history on its head. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration retreated from the traditional U.S. stance against torture and argued instead for an American ex- ception. Lawyers like John Yoo argued that a “new kind of war” against an enemy that has no regard for human rights excused the United States of its responsibilities as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the Geneva Conventions. While never admitting to practicing torture, the Bush administration allowed and undertook what it characterized as “aggressive interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, sexual humiliation, attacks by dogs, sleep deprivation and so on. While some of the practices were later decried, particularly those atrocities captured on photos at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, many others were doggedly defended (particularly by Vice President Dick Cheney) as necessary and helpful in the war on terror.

Not all members of the government defense and security communities were so convinced. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and State Department law- yers, as well as military JAG lawyers, fought the administration’s interpretations. They believed such interrogation techniques were illegal and counterproductive, undermining military morale and discipline, exposing U.S. troops and citizens to the risk of same or similar treatment, and undermining the standing of the United States around the world. So concerned were C.I.A. employees that they pur- chased insurance policies and urged Congressional action to protect them from lawsuits and legal liability should the political winds change and the actions they were being ordered to undertake be declared illegal.

Congress and the public largely acquiesced. Polls showed that pluralities of Americans (and among them, Catholics) believed torture to be permissible. Congressional action to rein in the administration was tepid. In order to avoid a presidential veto, Congress watered down more vigorous anti-torture legislation, never declared waterboarding and other administration-approved methods to be torture, and granted legal protections to government agents who used these aggressive techniques.

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was 16 years old at the time, appears in multiple video screen grabs during a February 2003 interview in the Guantánamo Bay prison. His attorney and some human rights groups allege that Khadr was tortured.

 

 

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President Obama’s administration will have to take up the torture debate. Most of the debate centered on whether particular “aggressive interrogation techniques” constituted torture, and whether particular actions taken by agents of the U.S. government (Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, military interrogators and government contractors) were legal, including foreign renditions to countries suspected of torture. Religious leaders like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture addressed the morality of torture by emphasizing the fundamental dignity of all human life, as expressed in the Universal Declaration, over the utilitarian view (that the ends of protecting the United States from acts of terror justified the means of violating the rights of suspected terrorists). Torture is a particularly problematic form of violence because it is inflicted by the very state that is supposed to be the protector and guarantor of human rights.

Points Missing in the Public Debate

First, torture is ineffective. Philosophers and television shows erroneously propa- gate the scenario of the “bomb in a baby carriage”: government agents apprehend a terrorist who knows when and where the next attack will take place; agents must stop the imminent attack; so they use torture to extract information quickly from the attacker. This model is wrong in almost all respects. Such “exquisite” intelligence as is depicted in prime time never exists in the real world. Instead, government agents never know exactly whom they have caught and what such persons know. Torture does not work because individuals respond in different ways to pain. Aggressive interrogation techniques can yield false information made up to satisfy interroga- tors and stop the pain. Instead of actionable intelligence that could stop the next attack, such false information wastes scarce government resources on wild goose chases. Even when government agents catch real terrorists, the application of coercive techniques may play into their apocalyptic visions of martyrdom, rather than “loosening lips.”

Second, torture is immoral, even in a utilitarian calculus. Others besides suspected terrorists are harmed by torture. Arriving at the conclusion that “the end” of saving innocents from terrorist attack justifies the means of torture grossly underestimates the costs of torture to society, to our nation’s military and legal institutions and to our role in the world. Those we ask to do the torturing are also harmed, sometimes irreparably. Our legal and political systems are harmed, as professionalism in the military and in law enforcement suffers. For this reason, military lawyers are among the strongest critics of torture. As Shannon E. French, formerly of the U.S. Naval Academy, notes in her book The Code of the Warrior, military professionals need ethical codes to work effectively and to differentiate themselves from barbarians and murderers. The United States has the strongest military on earth, and others come from far and wide to study and emulate U.S. military professionalism and codes of conduct. The ethical frameworks of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the military code of conduct and the Geneva Conventions protect not only innocent civilians but military personnel

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themselves. Violating those norms puts Americans at risk for similar treatment. According to his killers, contractor Nicholas Berg was beheaded in retaliation for torture at Abu Ghraib.

Third, torture is impractical. Protecting human rights and prohibiting torture is practical and advances U.S. interests, especially U.S. security interests. By con- trast, using torture undermines U.S. security. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture acknowledges this in its call for the new president to issue an executive order banning torture (www.nrcat.org). The war against terror is primar- ily a battle of ideas. Al Qaeda fights for the idea of the bankruptcy of modern and secular Islamic states allied with the West, while the United States fights for the idea that the tactic of terrorism, of intentionally killing civilians, is impermissible. The United States cannot effectively fight for a global norm while ignoring norma- tive constraints. The United States cannot champion human rights abroad while ignoring them at Guantánamo. The United States certainly cannot do this with the world watching.

Military force is not the source of American power in the world today. The strength and attractiveness of U.S. ideals are at the basis of U.S. “soft power,” and torture undermines those. The debate is not between realists keen on protecting U.S. citizens and idealists who place human rights ahead of security concerns. As Eleanor Roosevelt knew 60 years ago, and a new administration must rediscover now, advancing human rights also advances U.S. interests and security.

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Debate 2: Same-Sex Marriage “Interracial Marriage: Slippery Slope?” by La Shawn Barber (pp. 256–57)

“The Loving Decision” by Anna Quindlen (pp. 258–60)

“The Future of Marriage,” Editorial from National Review (pp. 260–61)

“The Right’s Contempt for Gay Lives” by Andrew Sullivan (pp. 261–63)

Understanding the Debate over Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage — the right of gay couples to marry and enjoy all the legal rights and protections of married couples — has been the source of heated debate in the United States for decades. Much of the current conversation about same-sex marriage has centered around recent activity at the ballot box, in state legislatures, and in the courts. Ballot measures in November 2008 in California, Florida, and Arizona explicitly defined marriage as between one man and one woman or other- wise attempted to forestall measures designed to allow same-sex marriage. In early

 

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2009, judicial and legislative decisions in Iowa, Vermont, and Maine specifically allowed same-sex marriage in those states.

As a result, some of the discussion around same-sex marriage — both in the articles collected here and elsewhere — centers around the relative merits of “ma- jority rule” versus “judicial activism” when it comes to establishing or protecting rights. A good deal of discussion, particularly among opponents of same-sex mar- riage, rests on perceptions of what marriage has meant and should mean and how it differs from civil unions.

The issue is complex, and passions run high. In reading the four articles pre- sented here, try to put aside your own preconceptions and weigh each argument on its own merits. The need to find common ground on this issue is more than just a classroom activity — most people would agree that, as with other divisive but significant issues, our future direction as a society depends on finding a resolution we can all live with.

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Interracial Marriage: Slippery Slope?

LA SHAWN BARBER

Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court case that declared Virginia’s law against interracial marriage unconstitutional.

Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving had to leave their home state to marry. They exchanged vows in Washington, D.C., in June 1958, where there was no prohibi- tion against interracial marriage. Shortly after returning to Virginia, the couple was arrested in their home and charged with “unlawful cohabitation.”

LA SHAWN BARBER is a freelance writer whose writing about poli- tics, faith, and culture has appeared in a variety of publications includ- ing the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Christianity Today, Beliefnet.com, and National Review Online. Barber has appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” as well as MSNBC, National Public Radio, and Bill O’Reilly’s “The Radio Factor.” She also blogs at the American Civil Rights Institute blog and her own Web site, La Shawn Barber’s

Corner (www.lashawnbarber.com). On her “Who Am I?” page, Barber tells us how to introduce her: “Don’t call her ‘African American.’ She hates that term. If you must refer to her race, call her ‘black.’ And La Shawn is not a Republican. She’s an independent con- servative.” She posted the following essay arguing her position on same-sex marriage at Townhall.com on June 11, 2007.

APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

 

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DEBATE 2: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE 257 APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

The court suspended sentence on the condition that the two leave the state and not return together for 25 years. In 1963, the Lovings filed a motion to vacate the judgment and set aside the sentence. Almost a year later, the court still hadn’t ruled on the motion, and the couple filed a class action suit in federal court. The case eventually made its way to Virginia’s highest court, which upheld the state’s law against miscegenation and affirmed the convictions.

On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute unconstitutional. As marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman, there was no “legitimate overriding purpose” to outlaw marriage between a white man and a black woman other than blatant racial discrimination. Racial classifications are suspect. For courts to uphold such classifications, states must demonstrate a “permissible state objective, independent of the racial discrimina- tion which it was the object of the Fourteenth Amendment to eliminate.”

The court also found that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law violated the Due Process Clause: “To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes . . . is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.”

Ironically, Democrats created laws prohibiting interracial marriage. After the Civil War, states enacted laws called Black Codes in response to the emancipation of slaves, which restricted the rights of newly freed slaves to own or rent farmland, vote, sit on juries, testify against white men, sue, enter into contracts, and inter- marry with whites. Republicans opposed the laws and wanted to pass the Civil Rights Bill, but Democratic president Andrew Johnson refused. The rest is well documented history.

Homosexuals have cited Loving v. Virginia and the modern civil rights move- ment to argue for marriage between two men. Aside from the moral outrage this should generate in the black community but doesn’t, marriage between a man and woman of different races and marriage between people of the same sex aren’t comparable at all.

The goal of interracial marriage bans and legalized segregation was to main- tain a subordinate class of citizens based on race. The goal of same-sex marriage bans is to protect traditional marriage, not maintain a subordinate class based on “sexual orientation.” One would be hard-pressed to argue that homosexuals in America are second-class citizens.

Marriage is a legal union and social institution recognized by the states as serv- ing fundamental purposes: providing structure for family formation and rearing chil- dren, and acting as a stabilizing influence that benefits the whole society. Changing the definition to include the union of two men and two women opens the door to legal- izing increasingly deviant unions. Marriage will cease to have any meaning at all.

For instance, if we extend marriage to same-sex couples, on what grounds can we deny the same to three people? Or 10? Or close relatives? Or adults and children? It makes a mockery of marriage.

Individuals are worthy of equal treatment under the law, regardless of race, but an individual’s lifestyle choices are not.

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ANNA QUINDLEN is a prolific and nationally acclaimed writer. She has written many novels for adults and children, including One True Thing (1994) and Black and Blue (1998), both of which were also made into movies. Among Quindlen’s nonfiction books are A Short Guide to a Happy Life (2000) and several collections of essays reprinted from her Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times column. As a contributing editor for Newsweek magazine, Quindlen writes a regular column in

which the following essay arguing her opinion on same-sex marriage originally appeared on November 12, 2008.

The Loving Decision Anna Quindlen

Same-sex marriage was beaten back at the ballot box. Now here’s a history lesson on why victory is inevitable in the long run.One of my favorite supreme court cases is Loving v. Virginia, and not just because it has a name that would delight any novelist. It’s because it reminds me, when I’m downhearted, of the truth of the sentiment at the end of “Angels in America,” Tony Kushner’s brilliant play: “The world only spins forward.”

Here are the facts of the case, and if they leave you breathless with disbe- lief and rage it only proves Kushner’s point, and mine: Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving got married in Washington, D.C. They went home to Virginia, there to be rousted out of their bed one night by police and charged with a felony. The felony was

that Mildred was black and Richard was white and they were therefore guilty of miscegenation, which is a $10 word for bigotry. Virginia, like a number of other states, considered cross-racial matrimony a crime at the time.

It turned out that it wasn’t just the state that hated the idea of black people mar- rying white people. God was onboard, too, according to the trial judge, who wrote, “The fact that He separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” But the Supreme Court, which eventually heard the case, passed over the Almighty for the Constitution, which luckily has an equal-protection clause. “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man,” the unanimous opinion striking down the couple’s conviction said, “fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

That was in 1967.

Same-sex marriage was beaten back at the ballot box. Now here’s a history lesson on why victory is

inevitable in the long run.

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DEBATE 2: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE 259 APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

Fast-forward to Election Day 2008, and a flurry of state ballot propositions to outlaw gay marriage, all of which were successful. This is the latest wedge issue of the good-old-days crowd, supplanting abortion and immigration. They really put their backs into it this time around, galvanized by court decisions in three states ruling that it is discriminatory not to extend the right to marry to gay men and lesbians.

The most high-profile of those rulings, and the most high-profile ballot proposal, came in California. A state court gave its imprimatur to same-sex marriage in June; the electorate reversed that decision on Nov. 4 with the passage of Proposition 8, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. The opponents of gay marriage will tell you that the people have spoken. It’s truer to say that money talks. The Mormons donated millions to the anti effort; the Knights of Columbus did, too. Like the judge who ruled in the Loving case, they said they were doing God’s bid- ding. When I was a small child I always used to picture God on a cloud, with a beard. Now I picture God saying, “Why does all the worst stuff get done in my name?”

Just informationally, this is how things are going to go from here on in: two steps forward, one step back. Courts will continue to rule in some jurisdictions that there is no good reason to forbid same-sex couples from marrying. Legislatures in two states, New York and New Jersey, could pass a measure guaranteeing the right to matrimony to all, and both states have governors who have said they would sign such legislation.

Opponents will scream that the issue should be put to the people, as it was in Arizona, Florida and California. (Arkansas had a different sort of measure, forbidding unmarried couples from adopting or serving as foster parents. This will undoubtedly have the effect of leaving more kids without stable homes. For shame.) Of course if the issue in Loving had been put to the people, there is no doubt that many would have been delighted to make racial intermarriage a crime. That’s why God invented courts.

The world only spins forward. “I think the day will come when the lesbian and gay community will have

its own Loving v. Virginia,” says David Buckel, the Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal.

Yes, and then the past will seem as preposterous and mean-spirited as the events leading up to the Loving decision do today. After all, this is about one of the most powerful forces for good on earth, the determination of two human beings to tether their lives forever. The pitch of the opposition this year spoke to how far we have already come — the states in which civil unions and domestic partnerships are recognized, the families in which gay partners are welcome and beloved.

The antis argued that churches could be forced to perform same-sex unions, when any divorced Roman Catholic can tell you that the clergy refuse to officiate whenever they see fit. They argued that the purpose of same-sex marriage was the indoctrination of children, a popular talking point that has no basis in reality. As Ellen DeGeneres, who was married several months ago to the lovely Portia de Rossi (great dress, girl), said about being shaped by the orientation of those around you, “I was raised by two heterosexuals. I was surrounded by heterosexu- als. Just everywhere I looked: heterosexuals. They did not influence me.” As for

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the notion that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will destroy conventional marriage, I have found heterosexuals perfectly willing to do that themselves.

The last word here goes to an authority on battling connubial bigotry. On the anniversary of the Loving decision last year, the bride wore tolerance. Mildred Loving, mother and grandmother, who once had cops burst into her bedroom because she was sleeping with her own husband, was quoted in a rare public statement saying she believed all Americans, “no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.” She concluded, “That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

National Review describes itself as “America’s most widely read and influential magazine and web site for Republican/conservative news, commentary, and opinion.” It was founded by William F. Buckley Jr. and is currently edited by Rich Lowry. The following essay was pub- lished in the National Review Online on April 8, 2009. A slightly dif- ferent version was published in the May 4, 2009, print edition of the National Review under the title “Marriage and Civilization.”

APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

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The Future of Marriage

NATIONAL REVIEW EDITORIAL

One of the great coups of the movement for same-sex marriage has been to plant the premise that it represents the inevitable future. This sense has inhibited even some who know perfectly well that marriage is by nature the union of a man and a woman. They fear that throwing themselves into the cause of opposing it is futile — worse, that it will call down the judgment of history that they were bigots.

Contrary to common perception, however, the public is not becoming mark- edly more favorable toward same-sex marriage. Support for same-sex marriage rose during the 1990s but seems to have frozen in place (at least according to Gallup) since the high court of Massachusetts invented a right to same-sex mar- riage earlier this decade.

Our guess is that if the federal judiciary does not intervene to impose same- sex marriage on the entire country, we are not going to see it triumph from coast to coast. Rather, we will for some time have a patchwork of laws. The division will not be so much between socially liberal and conservative states as between those states where voters can amend their state constitutions easily and those where they cannot. Thus same-sex marriage is likely to stay the law of the land in Massachusetts, Iowa, and Vermont, and perhaps also in New Hampshire.

 

 

DEBATE 2: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE 261 APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

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In two of those states, at least, democratic procedure is now being respected. Vermont has chosen to recognize same-sex marriages legislatively, and New Hampshire may do so. Other states, such as Connecticut, have legislated recogni- tion of civil unions for same-sex couples. While free from the taint of lawlessness, these decisions seem to us unwise. Few social goods will come from recognizing same-sex couples as married. Some practical benefits may accrue to the couples, but most of them could easily be realized without changing marriage laws. Same- sex couples will also receive the symbolic affirmation of being treated by the state as equivalent to a traditional married couple — but this spurious equality is a cost of the new laws, not a benefit. One still sometimes hears people make the alleg- edly “conservative” case for same-sex marriage that it will reduce promiscuity and encourage commitment among homosexuals. This prospect seems improbable, and in any case these do not strike us as important governmental goals.

Both as a social institution and as a public policy, marriage exists to foster connections between heterosexual sex and the rearing of children within stable households. It is a non-coercive way to channel (heterosexual) desire into civi- lized patterns of living. State recognition of the marital relationship does not imply devaluation of any other type of relationship, whether friendship or brotherhood. State recognition of those other types of relationships is unnecessary. So too is the governmental recognition of same-sex sexual relationships, committed or oth- erwise, in a deep sense pointless.

No, we do not expect marriage rates to plummet and illegitimacy rates to skyrocket in these jurisdictions over the next decade. But to the extent same-sex marriage is normalized here, it will be harder for American culture and law to con- nect marriage and parenthood. That it has already gotten harder over the last few decades is no answer to this concern. In foisting same-sex marriage on Iowa, the state’s supreme court opined in a footnote that the idea that it is best for children to have mothers and fathers married to each other is merely based on “stereotype.”

If worse comes to worst, and the federal courts sweep aside the marriage laws that most Americans still want, then decades from now traditionalists should be ready to brandish that footnote and explain to generations yet unborn: That is why we resisted.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, a self-identified gay Catholic conservative, has written extensively about politics and culture. He has written several books, including The Conservative Soul: Fundamentalism, Freedom, and the Future of the Right (2006), and edited Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con (2004), a collection of argument essays. He is a senior editor at the New Republic and writes a popular blog, “The Daily Dish,” which originally appeared at Time.com and is now published by the Atlantic online. He has

appeared on numerous television and radio talk shows, including The Colbert Report, Meet the Press, The O’Reilly Factor, and Real Time with Bill Maher. He wrote the following blog post on April 8, 2009, in response to the National Review editorial that appears on pp. 260–61.

 

 

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The Right’s Contempt for Gay Lives

ANDREW SULLIVAN

National Review’s new editorial comes out firmly against even civil unions for gay couples, and continues to insist that society’s exclusive support for straight couples is designed “to foster connections between heterosexual sex and the rear- ing of children within stable households.”

This is an honest and revealing point, and, in a strange way, it confirms my own analysis of the theocon position. It reaffirms, for example, that infertile couples who want to marry in order to adopt children have no place within existing mar- riage laws, as NR sees them. Such infertile and adoptive “marriages” rest on a decoupling of actual sex and the rearing of children. The same, of course, applies much more extensively to any straight married couple that uses contraception: they too are undermining what National Review believes to be the core reason for civil marriage. Now, you could argue — and I suspect NR ’s editors would — that society nonetheless has a role in providing moral, social and legal support for couples with children, however those children came about, and to provide “a non- coercive way to channel (heterosexual) desire into civilized patterns of living.” I agree with this, actually, which is why I do not want to alter or weaken traditional marriage in any way, and regard it as a vital social institution that deserves our support.

But what of “channeling homosexual desire into civilized patterns of living?” Ah, there’s the rub.

National Review clearly believes that gays exist beyond the boundaries of civi- lized life, or even social life, let alone the purview of social policy. But, of course, a total absence of social policy is still a social policy. And such a social policy — leaving gay people outside of existing social institutions, while tolerating their existence — has led to some rather predictable consequences. We have, for example, lived through a period in which around 300,000 young Americans died of a terrible disease that was undoubtedly compounded by the total lack of any social incentives for stable relation- ships. Imagine what would happen to STD rates or legitimacy rates if heterosexual marriage were somehow not in existence. Do you think that straight men would be more or less socially responsible without the institution of civil marriage?

This is not to deny the responsibility of those of us who contracted HIV. It is to make the core conservative case that culture matters, and that in so far as we can non-coercively encourage and support committed relationships, society, which includes gay people, will be better off. But National Review, stunningly, regards the well-being, health and flourishing of gay people as unworthy of any attention at all. Here is the passage that reflects the core homophobia — and yes, I see no alternative to using that word — in that magazine:

Same-sex couples will also receive the symbolic affirmation of being treated by the state as equivalent to a traditional married couple — but this spurious

APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

 

 

DEBATE 2: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE 263 APPENDIX: TWO DEBATES

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equality is a cost of the new laws, not a benefit. One still sometimes hears people make the allegedly “conservative” case for same-sex marriage that it will reduce promiscuity and encourage commitment among homosexuals. This prospect seems improbable, and in any case these do not strike us as important governmental goals.

Ponder those sentences for a moment. The fact that gay Americans may feel equal because of inclusion within their own families and societies is now a cost to soci- ety, not a benefit. Encouraging commitment, fewer partners, and greater responsi- bility are important governmental goals with respect to heterosexuals but not with respect to homosexuals. As far as National Review is concerned, homosexuals can go to hell. Their interests and views cannot even be accorded respect. They are non-persons to National Review: means, not ends.

Flip this around and you see what the theocon right actually believes: that society has no interest in the welfare of its gay citizens, and an abiding interest in ensuring that they remain unequal, feel unequal and suffer the consequences of a culture where family and commitment and fidelity are non-existent. And they write this within living memory of an appalling and devastating plague. This is how the social right is responding to our times, and to put it personally, my life and the lives and deaths of countless others. One day, they will understand the callousness and bitterness and willful ignorance they currently represent. As civilized society leaves them increasingly behind.

 

 

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Arguing a Position

6 IN COLLEGE COURSES For a political science course, a student writes an essay arguing in favor of the controversial Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). She begins by explaining that the EFCA would reform current labor law by allowing workers to unionize if a majority simply signed a card requesting it; by con- trast, under current law, if workers express interest in forming a union, their employer can require a secret ballot. Those who oppose the new law claim that without a secret ballot, workers could be intimidated by union representatives into voting for the union.

The student’s essay acknowledges that sup- porting the new law in the name of free choice might seem counterintuitive because it does away with the secret ballot, a staple of democracy. She argues, however, that under existing law, employers routinely make use of the time required to set up a secret ballot by dissuading workers from voting to unionize, using such tactics as videotaping people going into union meetings and then harassing them at work and at home, or requiring employees to at- tend meetings during which they are bombarded with anti-union propaganda, including threats of mass firing. To support her argument, she cites statis- tics from the National Labor Relations Board and other sources showing, among other things, that 88 percent of the unfair labor practice citations in 2006 and 2007 were against employers, not unions; 25 percent of employers illegally fire at least one worker for union activity; 92 percent of employers force employees to attend mandatory closed-door meetings against the union; and 51 percent of companies threaten to shut down if the union wins the election.

 

 

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IN THE COMMUNITY In a letter to the school board, a group of parents writes a petition in favor of a proposal to institute a Peacemakers program at the local middle school. Their argument refutes the claims made by another group of parents who op- pose the idea.

They begin with anecdotal reports of bullying at the school to underscore the need for action. They emphasize that the program’s primary goal — teaching children not to avoid conflict but to manage conflict constructively — is one all parents could endorse, and they argue that those who oppose the program misunderstand it. To support this claim, they quote a parent who described the Peacemakers’ objectives as teaching children “to become passive and submissive rather than thinking adults who can make their way in the world and speak up for what is right.” To clarify the Peacemakers’ true objec- tives, they quote the program’s Web site as well as research studies of schools where the program has been in effect.

In addition, they refute parents’ misunderstand- ing of the program’s methods — for example, the ideas that students must keep their hands clasped behind their backs when walking down the halls and that students cannot play contact sports like basketball and football. To clarify the Peacemakers’ actual methods, they briefly describe the negotia- tion procedure children are taught that involves articulating what they want, listening to what others want, and cooperatively inventing ways of resolving the conflict. They conclude by claiming that learning negotiation skills like these will help children in their personal, professional, and civic lives.

IN THE WORKPLACE An executive in the finan- cial industry writes a blog entry defending American International Group (AIG) for paying out $165 million in bonuses after the company was saved from bankruptcy by an infusion of taxpayer money. The executive, whose company is not affiliated with AIG, begins by acknowledging the justifiable public indig- nation at the situation. Nevertheless, he argues that, legally, AIG had no choice but to honor the contracts that guaranteed the bonuses. He claims that efforts by the government to void the contracts would set a dangerous precedent. He warns, too, that punitively taxing the bonuses would make companies less likely to accept government help, even when doing so is in the nation’s best interests, as in the case of AIG.

He refutes charges that Congress acted in- consistently in allowing AIG executives’ contracts to stand while requiring the autoworkers’ union to renegotiate their contracts with bailed-out automak- ers: The AIG situation, he points out, refers to past contracts, whereas the autoworkers’ situation refers to future contracts. He concludes by reminding his readers of what he assumes is a shared value: not getting paid for work already performed is un- American.

To his surprise, his blog entry provokes nearly two hundred responses, most of which disagree with his defense of the bonuses, arguing that incompetence and greed should not be federally subsidized.

 

 

266 CHAPTER 6: ARGUING A POSITION

You may associate arguing with quarreling or with the in-your-face debating we hear so often on radio and television talk shows. These ways of arguing may let you vent strong feelings, but they seldom lead you to consider seriously other points of view or to reflect on your own thinking.

This chapter presents a more deliberative way of arguing that we call reasoned argument because it depends on giving reasons rather than raising voices. Like the college student supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, the parents arguing in favor of the Peacemakers program, and the financial industry executive defending AIG bonuses, writers advocating controversial positions know that they will have a better chance of convincing others, or at least getting a fair hearing for their opinions, if they offer plausible reasons and acknowledge other points of view.

Controversial issues are, by definition, issues about which people may have strong feelings. The issue may involve a practice that has been accepted for some time, like allowing college athletes to register for their courses before all other students to accommodate practice and travel schedules, or it may concern a newly proposed or recently instituted policy, like the U.S. military’s use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques to get information from suspected terrorists. People may agree about goals but disagree about the best way to achieve them, as in the peren- nial debate over how to make a public-college education affordable to all qualified students. Or they may disagree about fundamental values and beliefs, as in the debate over gay marriage or granting citizenship to immigrants who have entered the United States illegally.

As you can see from these examples, controversial issues have no obvious right answer, no truth that everyone accepts, no single authority on which ev- eryone relies. Writers cannot offer absolute proof in debates about controversial issues because such issues are matters of opinion and judgment. Simply gathering information — finding the facts or learning from experts — will not settle disputes like these. (Of course, the more you know about an issue, the more in- formed your position on it will be.)

Although it is not possible to prove that a position on a controversial issue is right or wrong, it is possible through reasoned argument to convince others to ac- cept or reject the position. To be convincing, an argument must not only present convincing reasons and plausible support for its position, but also should anticipate readers’ likely objections and opposing arguments, conceding those that are reason- able and refuting those that are not. Vigorous debate that sets forth arguments and counterarguments on all sides of an issue can advance everyone’s thinking.

Learning to make reasoned arguments on controversial issues and to evaluate our own as well as others’ arguments is not a luxury; it is a necessity if our form of government is to survive and flourish. As citizens in a democracy, we have a special duty to inform ourselves about pressing issues and to participate constructively in the public debate. Improving our research and reasoning strategies also has practical advantages in school, where we often are judged by our ability to write convincingly, and in the workplace, where we may want to take a stand on issues concerning working conditions, environmental impact, or pay and promotional policies.

 

 

BASIC FEATURES 267

A Collaborative Activity: Practice Arguing a Position

To get a sense of the complexities and possibilities involved in arguing a position, get

together with two or three other students, and discuss an issue you have strong feelings

about. Here are some guidelines to follow:

Part 1.

As a group, choose one issue from the following list, or think of a different college

issue you all know about:

Decide which audience you are trying to convince of your position on this particular

issue — college administrators, your parents, or your fellow students.

Divide into two teams — pro (those in favor) and con (those opposed) — and take a

few minutes to think of reasons why your audience should accept your position.

Take turns presenting your argument. You may have only a few minutes each, so set

a phone alarm or countdown timer.

Part 2. Discuss what you learned about making an argument for your position on a contro

versial issue.

How did knowing whether you were addressing administrators, parents, or students

To set up a debate, we asked you to think in pro/con terms, but there are usually

or interests do you think are most important to your audience when they think about

Basic Features As you read essays in this chapter arguing a position, you will see how different authors incorporate the basic features of the genre.

A Well-Presented Issue

Read first to see how the writer presents the issue. Is the issue controversial and clearly arguable — a matter on which people can reasonably disagree — or is the issue not arguable because opinions are based on belief, faith, or personal taste?

Reading Essays Arguing a Position

Basic Features

 

 

268 CHAPTER 6: ARGUING A POSITION

Writers may also use a variety of strategies to present the issue. Their choice of strategies depends in part on what they assume readers already know and what they want readers to think about the issue. For current, hotly debated issues, the title may be enough to identify the issue, but for less well-known issues, the writer may need to establish that the issue exists and is serious enough to deserve read- ers’ attention. To inform readers about the issue’s seriousness and arouse readers’ concern, writers may

give examples or statistics that show how many people are affected by the issue and how they are affected;

use scenarios or anecdotes that resonate with readers’ own experience and raise their concern; or

quote authorities or research studies to show that the issue deserves attention.

Do not assume that the writer’s presentation of the issue is objective. Writers almost always try to define or frame the issue in a way that promotes their position, usually by emphasizing values, priorities, and interests that are important to the reader. So as you read essays in this chapter, be attentive to how the writers frame the issues, and consider how this framing affects your response to the essays.

A Well-Supported Position

Find where the essay states and supports the writer’s position on the issue. Very often writers declare their position in a thesis statement early in the essay. If you cannot at first find a direct statement of the writer’s position, consider the title and the first and last paragraphs, and then read the entire essay through. Once you have decided what position the author is arguing, determine whether the argument is plausible by assessing whether the supporting reasons and evidence clearly back up the writer’s claims and come from trustworthy sources. For example, consider the following questions:

Are statements asserted to be facts widely accepted as true and complete?

Are examples and anecdotes representative or idiosyncratic and are they illustra- tive or manipulative?

Are cited authorities credible and trustworthy?

Are statistics taken from reliable sources and representative population samples?

An Effective Counterargument

Read also to see how the writer responds to possible objections readers might raise as well as to opposing positions. Writers may counterargue in one or more of the fol- lowing ways:

by acknowledging readers’ concerns and points of view

by conceding an objection and modifying the argument to accommodate it

by refuting readers’ objections or by arguing against opposing positions

 

 

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A Readable Plan

Finally, examine the essay to see whether the writer provides a readable plan. Essays arguing a position need to explain the issue, provide a reasoned argument for the position, and counterargue objections and alternative positions, backing every- thing up with solid support and clear citations. Therefore, it is especially impor- tant to have a readable plan that helps readers follow the twists and turns of the argument.

To make their essays easy to read, writers usually include some or all of the following:

a forecast of the argument

key words introduced in the thesis and forecasting statement

topic sentences introducing paragraphs or groups of paragraphs

repeated use of key words and synonyms throughout the essay, particularly in topic sentences

clear transitional words and phrases

Purpose and Audience People sometimes write position essays to clarify their own reasons for taking a par- ticular position, but most position essays are written to influence readers’ thinking on the issue. As you read essays arguing a position, ask yourself what seems to be the writer’s purpose in writing. For example, does the writer seem to be writing

to change readers’ minds

to confirm readers’ opinions

to supply readers with reasons and evidence to support the writer’s position

to convince readers to look at the issue in a new way

to move readers to take action

to establish common ground on which people might be able to agree

to win readers’ respect for a different point of view?

As you read, also try to guess what the writer assumes about the audience. For example, does the writer assume readers will

be only mildly interested or know little about the issue

care deeply about the issue and have strong convictions

oppose or be skeptical of the writer’s position

have their own position on the issue

have serious objections to the writer’s argument?

 

 

Readings

JESSICA STATSKY wrote the following essay about children’s competitive sports for her college composition course. Before reading, recall your own experiences as an elementary student playing competitive sports, either in or out of school. If you were not actively involved yourself, did you know anyone who was? Looking back, do you think that win- ning was unduly emphasized? What value was placed on having a good time? On learning to get along with others? On developing athletic skills and confidence?

As you read, consider the questions in the margin. Your instructor may ask you to post your answers or bring them to class.

Children Need to Play, Not Compete

Jessica Statsky

Over the past three decades, organized sports for children have increased dramati-

cally in the United States. And though many adults regard Little League Baseball and

Peewee Football as a basic part of childhood, the games are not always joyous ones.

When overzealous parents and coaches impose adult standards on children’s sports, the

result can be activities that are neither satisfying nor beneficial to children.

I am concerned about all organized sports activities for children between the ages

of six and twelve. The damage I see results from noncontact as well as contact sports,

from sports organized locally as well as those organized nationally. Highly organized

competitive sports such as Peewee Football and Little League Baseball are too often

played to adult standards, which are developmentally inappropriate for children and can

be both physically and psychologically harmful. Furthermore, because they eliminate

many children from organized sports before they are ready to compete, they are actu-

ally counterproductive for developing either future players or fans. Finally, because they

emphasize competition and winning, they unfortunately provide occasions for some par-

ents and coaches to place their own fantasies and needs ahead of children’s welfare.

One readily understandable danger of overly competitive sports is that they

entice children into physical actions that are bad for growing bodies. Although the

official Little League Web site acknowledges that children do risk injury playing base-

ball, it insists that “severe injuries . . . are infrequent,” the risk “far less than the risk

of riding a skateboard, a bicycle, or even the school bus” (“What about My Child?”).

How does Statsky present the issue in a way that prepares readers for her argument?

How does she qualify her position in par. 2?

What reasons does she forecast here, and in which paragraphs does she discuss each reason?

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STATSKY / CHILDREN NEED TO PLAY, NOT COMPETE 271

How does Statsky try to establish the credibility of her sources in pars. 3–5?

Why do you think she uses block quotations instead of integrat- ing these quotes into her own sentences?

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Nevertheless, Leonard Koppett in Sports Illusion, Sports Reality claims that a twelve-year-

old trying to throw a curve ball, for example, may put abnormal strain on developing arm

and shoulder muscles, sometimes resulting in lifelong injuries (294). Contact sports like

football can be even more hazardous. Thomas Tutko, a psychology professor at San Jose

State University and coauthor of the book Winning Is Everything and Other American Myths,

writes:

I am strongly opposed to young kids playing tackle football. It is not the right

stage of development for them to be taught to crash into other kids. Kids under the

age of fourteen are not by nature physical. Their main concern is self-preservation.

They don’t want to meet head on and slam into each other. But tackle football

absolutely requires that they try to hit each other as hard as they can. And it is

too traumatic for young kids. (qtd. in Tosches A1)

As Tutko indicates, even when children are not injured, fear of being hurt

detracts from their enjoyment of the sport. The Little League Web site ranks fear

of injury as the seventh of seven reasons children quit (“What about My Child?”).

One mother of an eight-year-old Peewee Football player explained, “The kids get so

scared. They get hit once and they don’t want anything to do with football anymore.

They’ll sit on the bench and pretend their leg hurts . . . ” (qtd. in Tosches A1). Some

children are driven to even more desperate measures. For example, in one Peewee

Football game, a reporter watched the following scene as a player took himself out

of the game:

“Coach, my tummy hurts. I can’t play,” he said. The coach told the player to get

back onto the field. “There’s nothing wrong with your stomach,” he said. When the

coach turned his head the seven-year-old stuck a finger down his throat and made

himself vomit. When the coach turned back, the boy pointed to the ground and

told him, “Yes there is, coach. See?” (Tosches A33)

Besides physical hazards and anxieties, competitive sports pose psychologi-

cal dangers for children. Martin Rablovsky, a former sports editor for the New York

Times, says that in all his years of watching young children play organized sports,

he has noticed very few of them smiling. “I’ve seen children enjoying a spontaneous

pre-practice scrimmage become somber and serious when the coach’s whistle blows,”

Rablovsky says. “The spirit of play suddenly disappears, and sport becomes joblike”

(qtd. in Coakley 94). The primary goal of a professional athlete — winning — is not

appropriate for children. Their goals should be having fun, learning, and being with

friends. Although winning does add to the fun, too many adults lose sight of what

matters and make winning the most important goal. Several studies have shown that

 

 

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when children are asked whether they would rather be warming the bench on a win-

ning team or playing regularly on a losing team, about 90 percent choose the latter

(Smith, Smith, and Smoll 11).

Winning and losing may be an inevitable part of adult life, but they should not be

part of childhood. Too much competition too early in life can affect a child’s development.

Children are easily influenced, and when they sense that their competence and worth are

based on their ability to live up to their parents’ and coaches’ high expectations — and

on their ability to win — they can become discouraged and depressed. Little League

advises parents to “keep winning in perspective” (“Your Role”), noting that the most com-

mon reasons children give for quitting, aside from change in interest, are lack of playing

time, failure and fear of failure, disapproval by significant others, and psychological stress

(“What about My Child?”). According to Dr. Glyn C. Roberts, a professor of kinesiology at

the Institute of Child Behavior and Development at the University of Illinois, 80 to 90 per-

cent of children who play competitive sports at a young age drop out by sixteen (Kutner).

This statistic illustrates another reason I oppose competitive sports for children:

because they are so highly selective, very few children get to participate. Far too

soon, a few children are singled out for their athletic promise, while many others, who

may be on the verge of developing the necessary strength and ability, are screened

out and discouraged from trying out again. Like adults, children fear failure, and so

even those with good physical skills may stay away because they lack self-confidence.

Consequently, teams lose many promising players who with some encouragement and

experience might have become stars. The problem is that many parent-sponsored, out-

of-school programs give more importance to having a winning team than to developing

children’s physical skills and self-esteem.

Indeed, it is no secret that too often scorekeeping, league standings, and the drive

to win bring out the worst in adults who are more absorbed in living out their own fan-

tasies than in enhancing the quality of the experience for children (Smith, Smith, and

Smoll 9). Recent newspaper articles on children’s sports contain plenty of horror stories.

Los Angeles Times reporter Rich Tosches, for example, tells the story of a brawl among

seventy-five parents following a Peewee Football game (A33). As a result of the brawl,

which began when a parent from one team confronted a player from the other team, the

teams are now thinking of hiring security guards for future games. Another example is

provided by a Los Angeles Times editorial about a Little League manager who intimi-

dated the opposing team by setting fire to one of their team’s jerseys on the pitcher’s

mound before the game began. As the editorial writer commented, the manager showed

his young team that “intimidation could substitute for playing well” (“The Bad News”).

How does Statsky try to refute this objection?

How effective do you think Statsky’s argument in par. 7 is? Why?

In criticizing some parents’ be- havior in pars. 8–9, Statsky risks alienating her readers. How effec- tive is this part of her argument?

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STATSKY / CHILDREN NEED TO PLAY, NOT COMPETE 273

Although not all parents or coaches behave so inappropriately, the seriousness

of the problem is illustrated by the fact that Adelphi University in Garden City, New

York, offers a sports psychology workshop for Little League coaches, designed to

balance their “animal instincts” with “educational theory” in hopes of reducing the

“screaming and hollering,” in the words of Harold Weisman, manager of sixteen Little

Leagues in New York City (Schmitt). In a three-and-one-half-hour Sunday morning

workshop, coaches learn how to make practices more fun, treat injuries, deal with

irate parents, and be “more sensitive to their young players’ fears, emotional frail-

ties, and need for recognition.” Little League is to be credited with recognizing the

need for such workshops.

Some parents would no doubt argue that children cannot start too soon preparing

to live in a competitive free-market economy. After all, secondary schools and colleges

require students to compete for grades, and college admission is extremely competitive.

And it is perfectly obvious how important competitive skills are in finding a job. Yet the

ability to cooperate is also important for success in life. Before children are psychologi-

cally ready for competition, maybe we should emphasize cooperation and individual

performance in team sports rather than winning.

Many people are ready for such an emphasis. In 1988, one New York Little League

official who had attended the Adelphi workshop tried to ban scoring from six- to eight-

year-olds’ games — but parents wouldn’t support him (Schmitt). An innovative chil-

dren’s sports program in New York City, City Sports for Kids, emphasizes fitness, self-

esteem, and sportsmanship. In this program’s basketball games, every member on a

team plays at least two of six eight-minute periods. The basket is seven feet from

the floor, rather than ten feet, and a player can score a point just by hitting the rim

(Bloch). I believe this kind of local program should replace overly competitive programs

like Peewee Football and Little League Baseball. As one coach explains, significant

improvements can result from a few simple rule changes, such as including every player

in the batting order and giving every player, regardless of age or ability, the opportu-

nity to play at least four innings a game (Frank).

Authorities have clearly documented the excesses and dangers of many com-

petitive sports programs for children. It would seem that few children benefit

from these programs and that those who do would benefit even more from programs

emphasizing fitness, cooperation, sportsmanship, and individual performance.

Thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds may be eager for competition, but few younger

children are. These younger children deserve sports programs designed specifically

for their needs and abilities.

How effective is Statsky’s use of concession and refutation here?

How effectively does Statsky conclude her argument?

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Works Cited

“The Bad News Pyromaniacs?” Editorial. Los Angeles Times 16 June 1990: B6. LexisNexis.

Web. 16 May 2008.

Bloch, Gordon B. “Thrill of Victory Is Secondary to Fun.” New York Times 2 Apr. 1990, late

ed.: C12. LexisNexis. Web. 14 May 2008.

Coakley, Jay J. Sport in Society: Issues and Controversies. St. Louis: Mosby, 1982. Print.

Frank, L. “Contributions from Parents and Coaches.” CYB Message Board. AOL, 8 July 1997.

Web. 14 May 2008.

Koppett, Leonard. Sports Illusion, Sports Reality. Boston: Houghton, 1981. Print.

Kutner, Lawrence. “Athletics, through a Child’s Eyes.” New York Times 23 Mar. 1989, late

ed.: C8. LexisNexis. Web. 15 May 2008.

Schmitt, Eric. “Psychologists Take Seat on Little League Bench.” New York Times

14 Mar. 1988, late ed.: B2. LexisNexis. Web. 14 May 2008.

Smith, Nathan, Ronald Smith, and Frank Smoll. Kidsports: A Survival Guide for Parents.

Reading: Addison, 1983. Print.

Tosches, Rich. “Peewee Football: Is It Time to Blow the Whistle?” Los Angeles Times 3

Dec. 1988: A1+. LexisNexis. Web. 22 May 2008.

“What about My Child?” Little League Online. Little League Baseball, Incorporated, 1999.

Web. 30 May 2008.

“Your Role as a Little League Parent.” Little League Online. Little League Baseball,

Incorporated, 1999. Web. 30 May 2008.

Are Statsky’s sources adequate to support her position, in number and kind? Has she documented them clearly and accurately?

To learn about Statsky’s process of writing this essay, turn to A Writer at Work on pp. 315–17. How did anticipating readers’ possible objections strengthen the pre- sentation of her argument?

LEARN ABOUT STATSKY’S

WRITING PROCESS

RICHARD ESTRADA, best known as a thoughtful, independent-minded commenta- tor on immigration and social issues, was the associate editor of the Dallas Morning News editorial page and a syndicated columnist whose essays appeared regularly in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other major newspapers. Before join- ing the Dallas Morning News in 1988, Estrada worked as a congressional staff member and as a researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. In the 1990s, he was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform. The Richard Estrada Fellowship in Immigration Studies was established in his honor after his death in 1999.

(continued)

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ESTRADA / STICKS AND STONES AND SPORTS TEAM NAMES 275

Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names

RICHARD ESTRADA

When I was a kid living in Baltimore in the late 1950s, there was only one pro-fessional sports team worth following. Anyone who ever saw the movie Diner knows which one it was. Back when we liked Ike, the Colts were the gods of the grid- iron and Memorial Stadium was their Mount Olympus.

Ah, yes: The Colts. The Lions. Da Bears. Back when defensive tackle Big Daddy Lipscomb was letting running backs know exactly what time it was, a young fan could easily forget that in a game where men were men, the teams they played on were not invariably named after animals. Among others, the Packers, the Steelers and the dis- tant 49ers were cases in point. But in the roll call of pro teams, one name in particular always discomfited me: the Washington Redskins. Still, however willing I may have been to go along with the name as a kid, as an adult I have concluded that using an ethnic group essentially as a sports mascot is wrong.

The Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs, along with baseball teams like the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians, should find other names that avoid high- lighting ethnicity.

By no means were such names originally meant to disparage Native Americans. The noble symbols of the Redskins or college football’s Florida State Seminoles or the Illinois Illini are meant to be strong and proud. Yet, ultimately, the practice of using a people as mascots is dehumanizing. It sets them apart from the rest of society. It promotes the politics of racial aggrievement at a moment when our storehouse is running over with it.

The World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves re- ignited the debate. In the chill night air of October, tomahawk chops and war chants suddenly became far more familiar to millions of fans, along with the ridiculous and offensive cartoon logo of Cleveland’s “Chief Wahoo.”

(continued)

In this essay, Estrada argues his position on naming sports teams using words asso- ciated with Native Americans. Several high schools and at least one university, Stanford, have changed the names of their sports teams because of this ongoing controversy. A coworker remarked that in his newspaper columns, Estrada “firmly opposed separating the American people into competing ethnic and linguistic groups.” As you read this essay, think about his purpose in writing this position essay and how he constructs his argu- ment on common ground that could bring different groups together.

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The defenders of team names that use variations on the Indian theme argue that tradition should not be sacrificed at the altar of political correctness. In truth, the na- tion’s No. 1 P.C. [politically correct] school, Stanford University, helped matters some when it changed its team nickname from “the Indians” to “the Cardinals.” To be sure, Stanford did the right thing, but the school’s status as P.C. without peer tainted the decision for those who still need to do the right thing.

Another argument is that ethnic group leaders are too inclined to cry wolf in al- leging racial insensitivity. Often, this is the case. But no one should overlook genuine cases of political insensitivity in an attempt to avoid accusations of hypersensitivity and political correctness.

The real world is different from the world of sports entertainment. I recently heard a father who happened to be a Native American complain on the radio that his child was being pressured into participating in celebrations of Braves baseball. At his kid’s school, certain days are set aside on which all children are told to dress in Indian garb and celebrate with tomahawk chops and the like.

That father should be forgiven for not wanting his family to serve as somebody’s mascot. The desire to avoid ridicule is legitimate and understandable. Nobody likes to be trivialized or deprived of their dignity. This has nothing to do with political cor- rectness and the provocations of militant leaders.

Against this backdrop, the decision by newspapers in Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland to ban references to Native American nicknames is more reasonable than some might think.

What makes naming teams after ethnic groups, particularly minorities, repre- hensible is that politically impotent groups continue to be targeted, while politically powerful ones who bite back are left alone. How long does anyone think the name “Washington Blackskins” would last? Or how about “the New York Jews”?

With no fewer than 10 Latino ballplayers on the Cleveland Indians’ roster, the team could change its name to “the Banditos.” The trouble is, they would be missing the point: Latinos would correctly object to that stereotype, just as they rightly pro- tested against Frito-Lay’s use of the “Frito Bandito” character years ago.

It seems to me that what Native Americans are saying is that what would be in- tolerable for Jews, blacks, Latinos and others is no less offensive to them. Theirs is a request not only for dignified treatment, but for fair treatment as well. For America to ignore the complaints of a numerically small segment of the population because it is small is neither dignified nor fair.

As children, we may say, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Most children, however, recognize the power of words, especially words that make them feel different or inferior.

With two or three other students, discuss the power of name-calling. Begin by making a list of words that are used to refer to groups with which you iden- tify. Try to think of words associated with your body, ethnicity, religion, gender,

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ESTRADA / STICKS AND STONES AND SPORTS TEAM NAMES 277

interests, geographic region, or any other factor. Then, together consider the following questions:

Which of the words on your list seem to you to be most hurtful? How does the identity of the person who uses the word or the situation in which it is used affect its power to hurt?

Why do you think words like these have the power to hurt?

How does name-calling compare to what Estrada calls “the practice of using a people as mascots,” a practice he thinks is “dehumanizing” (par. 4)?

ANALYZING WRITING STRATEGIES

A Well-Presented Issue

At the center of every position essay is a controversial issue — a question on which people disagree, sometimes vehemently. Controversial issues have no definitive answers because they cannot be proven by facts alone, although convincing readers what the facts are may be a necessary part of the argument. Disagreement over con- troversial issues usually depends on a difference of values, principles, and priorities. Therefore, writers not only need to identify the issue early in the essay, but they also must present it in a way that sets the stage for the argument. To do so effectively, they need to think about their purpose and audience — to consider how much their readers are likely to know about the issue and what they are likely to think about it.

Estrada wrote this essay during the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians, when team mascots and fans wearing headdresses and war paint rallied their teams with the “tomahawk chop” and the “Indian chant.” The con- troversy over these practices revitalized a long-standing debate over naming sports teams with words associated with Native Americans. Writing at this time, Estrada could assume readers of his Dallas Morning News column would be familiar with the issue. But knowing that his readers tended to be politically conservative, Estrada could also assume they would not be very sympathetic to his point of view on this issue. Therefore, in presenting the issue, he tries to define or frame it for readers.

Writers frame issues (and reframe issues that have already been framed) to in- fluence how readers think about the issue. Framing an issue is like putting a frame around a picture, or in digital terms, using an editing program to crop and resize a photograph to focus the viewer’s eye on the part of the picture you think is most important. Framing, like cropping, cuts some parts out altogether or moves them to the margins. Framing an issue essentially does the same thing by focusing attention on a certain way of seeing the issue.

For example, Jessica Statsky’s title “Children Need to Play, Not Compete” frames the issue as a story about what children need. She clarifies this story in the first paragraph by asserting that the parents and coaches have taken over young children’s sports, imposing their own “adult standards” of competition, and that these standards are not appropriate, “neither satisfying nor beneficial to children.”

In “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names,” Estrada refers in paragraph 6 to the way in which the issue of sports team names has already been framed by

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278 CHAPTER 6: ARGUING A POSITION

political conservatives, who use the label “political correctness” to belittle concerns about the issue. The label makes it sound as though those who object are just being overly sensitive. Estrada tries to reframe the issue — changing it from a story about oversensitivity to a story about bullying.

To analyze how Estrada reframes the issue, try the following:

Consider what each of the following elements contributes to the story he is try- ing to tell about bullying:

the title

Estrada’s remembered experience of being upset by the name “the Washington Redskins” (par. 1–2)

the anecdote about the Native American father upset about the practice at his son’s school of celebrating Braves’ victories with Indian costumes and tomahawk chops (par. 8)

Write a few sentences speculating about how effective Estrada’s reframing of the issue was for his original readers and is today for readers like you.

A Well-Supported Position

To argue a position effectively, writers need to state the position clearly and provide sup- porting reasons and evidence. Very often writers declare the position early in the essay, as Jessica Statsky does in the opening paragraphs of her essay. At the end of the first paragraph, she indicates her position: “When overzealous parents and coaches impose adult standards on children’s sports, the result can be activities that are neither satisfy- ing nor beneficial to children.” In paragraph 2, she elaborates on what “neither satisfy- ing nor beneficial” means by specifying two of her reasons: “adult standards . . . can be both physically and psychologically harmful.” Taking each reason in turn — physical harm in paragraphs 3–4 and psychological harm in paragraphs 5–6 — Statsky then supports her position with expert testimony, anecdotes, and statistics.

To analyze how Estrada presents and supports his position, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 1–3 and highlight the sentence where Estrada first states his position.

Skim the essay and note in the margin where he states his reasons for this position.

Notice that in paragraphs 11–13, Estrada offers hypothetical examples of team names for ethnic groups. How do these examples support Estrada’s position? Given his original Dallas Morning News readers, how convincing do you think the examples are likely to be? How convincing are they for you?

Write a few sentences explaining what you discovered in analyzing Estrada’s argument.

An Effective Counterargument

Writers of position essays try to anticipate other widely held positions on the issue as well as objections and questions readers might raise to their argument. Writers have three options in anticipating readers’ alternative positions and objections:

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ESTRADA / STICKS AND STONES AND SPORTS TEAM NAMES 279

they can simply acknowledge readers’ views;

they can accommodate them by making concessions; or

they can try to refute them.

Anticipating readers’ positions and objections can enhance the writer’s credibility and strengthen the argument. When readers holding an opposing position recog- nize that the writer takes their position seriously, they are more likely to listen to what the writer has to say. It can also reassure readers that they share certain impor- tant values and interests with the writer, building a bridge of common concerns among people who have been separated by difference and antagonism.

To analyze how Estrada anticipates and counterargues opposing positions, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 6 and 7, where Estrada introduces two opposing arguments to his position. Highlight the sentence in each paragraph that best states an op- posing position.

Examine paragraphs 6–9 to see how Estrada counterargues these two opposing arguments. For example, notice that he both concedes and refutes, and con- sider why he would attempt to do both. What seems to be his attitude toward those who disagree with him or, at least, object to parts of his argument?

Write a few sentences reflecting on Estrada’s way of counterarguing.

A Readable Plan

Writers of position essays usually try to make their arguments easy for readers to fol- low. They typically preview their main reasons early in the essay and clearly mark each reason as it comes up. For example, notice how directly Statsky announces her reason in the topic sentence of paragraph 7: “This statistic illustrates another reason I oppose competitive sports for children: because they are so highly selective, very few children get to participate.” Similarly, in the topic sentence of paragraph 10, she announces an objection readers are likely to raise to her argument: “Some parents would no doubt argue. . . .” Inexperienced writers are sometimes reluctant to be this explicit, but read- ers tend to appreciate the directness because it makes reading easier.

To analyze how Estrada makes his reasoning explicit, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 6 and 7, and highlight the language Estrada uses to an- nounce two objections likely to be raised by those who disagree with his posi- tion on the issue.

Write a sentence or two explaining what you discovered about how Estrada tries to help readers follow his argument.

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR OWN ESSAY

List some issues that involve what you believe to be unfair treatment of any group. For example, should a law be passed to make English the official language in this country, requiring that election ballots and drivers’ tests be printed only in English? Should teenagers be required to get their parents’ permission to obtain birth-control

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information and contraception? What is affirmative action, and should it be used in college admissions for underrepresented groups? Should schools create and enforce guidelines to protect individuals from bullying and discrimination? Should every- one, regardless of their sexual orientation, be allowed to marry?

AMITAI ETZIONI is a sociologist who has taught at Columbia, Harvard, and George Washington Universities, where he currently directs the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies. He has written numerous articles and more than two dozen books reflecting his commitment to peace in a nuclear age (for example, Winning without War [1964]); overcoming excessive individualism through communitarianism (for example, The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society

[1983]); limiting the erosion of privacy in an age of technological surveillance (for exam- ple, The Limits of Privacy [2004]); and most recently, rethinking foreign policy in an age of terrorism (for example, Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy [2007]).

The following essay was originally published in the Miami Herald. The original headnote identifies Etzioni as the father of five sons, including three teenagers, and points out that his son Dari helped Etzioni write this essay — although it does not say what Dari contributed.

As you read, think about what you learned from the various summer and school-year jobs you have held.

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Working at McDonald’s AMITAI ETZIONI

McDonald’s is bad for your kids. I do not mean the flat patties and the white-flour buns; I refer to the jobs teen-agers undertake, mass-producing these choice items. As many as two-thirds of America’s high school juniors and seniors now hold

down part-time paying jobs, according to studies. Many of these are in fast-food chains, of which McDonald’s is the pioneer, trend-setter and symbol.

At first, such jobs may seem right out of the Founding Fathers’ educational manual for how to bring up self-reliant, work-ethic-driven, productive youngsters. But in fact, these jobs undermine school attendance and involvement, impart few skills that will be useful in later life, and simultaneously skew the values of teen-agers — especially their ideas about the worth of a dollar.

It has been a longstanding American tradition that youngsters ought to get pay- ing jobs. In folklore, few pursuits are more deeply revered than the newspaper route and the sidewalk lemonade stand. Here the youngsters are to learn how sweet are the

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fruits of labor and self-discipline (papers are delivered early in the morning, rain or shine), and the ways of trade (if you price your lemonade too high or too low . . . ).

Roy Rogers, Baskin Robbins, Kentucky Fried Chicken, et al. may at first seem nothing but a vast extension of the lemonade stand. They provide very large numbers of teen jobs, provide regular employment, pay quite well compared to many other teen jobs and, in the modern equivalent of toiling over a hot stove, test one’s stamina.

Closer examination, however, finds the McDonald’s kind of job highly unedu- cational in several ways. Far from providing opportunities for entrepreneurship (the lemonade stand) or self-discipline, self-supervision and self-scheduling (the paper route), most teen jobs these days are highly structured — what social scientists call “highly routinized.”

True, you still have to have the gumption to get yourself over to the hamburger stand, but once you don the prescribed uniform, your task is spelled out in minute detail. The franchise prescribes the shape of the coffee cups; the weight, size, shape and color of the patties; and the texture of the napkins (if any). Fresh coffee is to be made every eight minutes. And so on. There is no room for initiative, creativity, or even elementary re- arrangements. These are breeding grounds for robots working for yesterday’s assembly lines, not tomorrow’s high-tech posts.

There are very few studies on the matter. One of the few is a 1984 study by Ivan Charper and Bryan Shore Fraser. The study relies mainly on what teen-agers write in response to questionnaires rather than actual observations of fast-food jobs. The authors argue that the employees develop many skills such as how to operate a food- preparation machine and a cash register. However, little attention is paid to how long it takes to acquire such a skill, or what its significance is.

What does it matter if you spend 20 minutes to learn to use a cash register, and then — “operate” it? What “skill” have you acquired? It is a long way from learning to work with a lathe or carpenter tools in the olden days or to program computers in the modern age.

A 1980 study by A. V. Harrell and P. W. Wirtz found that, among those students who worked at least 25 hours per week while in school, their unemployment rate four years later was half of that of seniors who did not work. This is an impressive statistic. It must be seen, though, together with the finding that many who begin as part-time employees in fast-food chains drop out of high school and are gobbled up in the world of low-skill jobs.

Some say that while these jobs are rather unsuited for college-bound, white, middle-class youngsters, they are “ideal” for lower-class, “non-academic,” minority youngsters. Indeed, minorities are “over-represented” in these jobs (21 percent of fast-food employees). While it is true that these places provide income, work and even some training to such youngsters, they also tend to perpetuate their disadvantaged status. They provide no career ladders, few marketable skills, and undermine school attendance and involvement.

The hours are often long. Among those 14 to 17, a third of fast-food employees (including some school dropouts) labor more than 30 hours per week, according to the Charper-Fraser study. Only 20 percent work 15 hours or less. The rest: between 15 and 30 hours.

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Often the stores close late, and after closing one must clean up and tally up. In affluent Montgomery County, Md., where child labor would not seem to be a widespread economic necessity, 24 percent of the seniors at one high school in 1985 worked as much as five to seven days a week; 27 percent, three to five. There is just no way such amounts of work will not interfere with school work, especially homework. In an informal survey published in the most recent yearbook of the high school, 58 percent of seniors acknowledged that their jobs interfere with their school work.

The Charper-Fraser study sees merit in learning teamwork and working under supervision. The authors have a point here. However, it must be noted that such learning is not automatically educational or wholesome. For example, much of the supervision in fast-food places leans toward teaching one the wrong kinds of compli- ance: blind obedience, or shared alienation with the “boss.”

Supervision is often both tight and woefully inappropriate. Today, fast-food chains and other such places of work (record shops, bowling alleys) keep costs down by having teens supervise teens with often no adult on the premises.

There is no father or mother figure with which to identify, to emulate, to pro- vide a role model and guidance. The work-culture varies from one place to another: Sometimes it is a tightly run shop (must keep the cash registers ringing); sometimes a rather loose pot party interrupted by customers. However, only rarely is there a master to learn from, or much worth learning. Indeed, far from being places where solid adult work values are being transmitted, these are places where all too often delinquent teen values dominate. Typically, when my son Oren was dishing out ice cream for Baskin Robbins in upper Manhattan, his fellow teen-workers considered him a sucker for not helping himself to the till. Most youngsters felt they were entitled to $50 severance “pay” on their last day on the job.

The pay, oddly, is the part of the teen work-world that is most difficult to evaluate. The lemonade stand or paper route money was for your allowance. In the old days, apprentices learning a trade from a master contributed most, if not all, of their income to their parents’ household. Today, the teen pay may be low by adult standards, but it is often, especially in the middle class, spent largely or wholly by the teens. That is, the youngsters live free at home (“after all, they are high school kids”) and are left with very substantial sums of money.

Where this money goes is not quite clear. Some use it to support themselves, es- pecially among the poor. More middle-class kids set some money aside to help pay for college, or save it for a major purchase — often a car. But large amounts seem to flow to pay for an early introduction into the most trite aspects of American consumerism: flimsy punk clothes, trinkets and whatever else is the last fast-moving teen craze.

One may say that this is only fair and square; they are being good American con- sumers and spend their money on what turns them on. At least, a cynic might add, these funds do not go into illicit drugs and booze. On the other hand, an educator might bemoan that these young, yet unformed individuals, so early in life driven to buy objects of no intrinsic educational, cultural or social merit, learn so quickly the dubious merit of keeping up with the Joneses in ever-changing fads, promoted by mass merchandising.

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ETZIONI / WORKING AT MCDONALD’S 283

Many teens find the instant reward of money, and the youth status symbols it buys, much more alluring than credits in calculus courses, European history or foreign languages. No wonder quite a few would rather skip school — and certainly homework — and instead work longer at a Burger King. Thus, most teen work these days is not providing early lessons in the work ethic; it fosters escape from school and responsibilities, quick gratification and a short cut to the consumeristic aspects of adult life.

Thus, parents should look at teen employment not as automatically educational. It is an activity — like sports — that can be turned into an educational opportunity. But it can also easily be abused. Youngsters must learn to balance the quest for income with the needs to keep growing and pursue other endeavors that do not pay off in- stantly — above all education.

Go back to school.

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Etzioni argues that fast-food jobs do not qualify as meaningful work experience because they do not teach young people the skills and habits they will need for fulfilling careers: “entrepreneurship . . . self-discipline, self-supervision and self-scheduling” (par. 6).

With two or three other students, discuss what you have learned from your summer and after-school jobs. Begin by taking turns briefly describing the various jobs you have held. If you have never held a job, describe other significant activities you have participated in that required time and effort. Then, together consider the following questions:

Which, if any, of the skills and habits Etzioni lists as important did you practice at your job or through the activities in which you participated?

Why do you think these skills and habits are worth learning? If you think other skills and habits are as important or even more important, explain what they are and why you think so.

MAKING CONNECTIONS: JOB SKILLS

ANALYZING WRITING STRATEGIES

A Well-Presented Issue

From the first sentence, it is clear that Etzioni’s primary audience is parents of teen- agers, rather than the teenagers themselves. Given his readers, it may seem fitting that Etzioni refers to “a longstanding American tradition that youngsters ought to get paying jobs” and what he calls the “folklore” associated with “the newspaper route and the sidewalk lemonade stand” (par. 4). In other words, Etzioni begins his essay by assuming the issue has already been framed for his audience through their associations and experience.

Framing, as we explained on p. 277, refers to the way the issue is defined. To get these readers to listen to his argument, Etzioni has to reframe the issue — to show that today’s McDonald’s-type jobs are not the same as the newspaper route and lemonade stand of yesteryear.

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To analyze how Etzioni tries to reframe the issue, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 1–7, highlighting the qualities — values and skills — associated with traditional jobs and with McDonald’s-type jobs, at least according to Etzioni.

Write a couple of sentences explaining how Etzioni tries to reframe the issue and whether you think the story he tells about McDonald’s-type jobs compared to traditional jobs is likely to make his readers reconsider their assumption that McDonald’s-type jobs are good for kids.

A Well-Supported Position

Writers may use various kinds of support for their arguments. Like Statsky, Etzioni cites authorities. For example, Statsky quotes the official Little League Web site, professors, journalists, and parents. She carefully identifies her sources by supply- ing their credentials — for example, “Thomas Tutko, a psychology professor at San Jose State University and coauthor of the book Winning Is Everything and Other American Myths” (par. 3).

While Statsky cites credible authorities and tends to present their evidence con- fidently, she also qualifies it where appropriate — that is, she presents it tentatively when there can be reasonable debate about whether it qualifies as fact. For example, she reports that “Leonard Koppett in Sports Illusion, Sports Reality claims that a twelve-year-old trying to throw a curve ball . . . may put abnormal strain on devel- oping arm and shoulder muscles, sometimes resulting in lifelong injuries” (par. 3). Notice that Statsky uses the word claims to indicate that the statement’s status as fact is not certain, and she also uses the words may and sometimes to emphasize that throwing a curve ball is not necessarily injurious. This is the kind of careful qualifi- cation of sources that readers deserve and academic audiences typically require.

To analyze how Etzioni uses statistics, numerical data about a given population sample, to support his position, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 8–15 where Etzioni reports on two research studies. Both studies provide Etzioni with statistics. Underline the statistics, and note what each statistic is being used to illustrate or prove. Why do you think Etzioni relies on statistics?

Write a few sentences reporting what you have learned about Etzioni’s use of statistics to argue for his position on a controversial issue.

An Effective Counterargument

At key points throughout his essay, Etzioni acknowledges readers’ likely objections and then counterargues them. In paragraph 3, he acknowledges that some read- ers will believe that McDonald’s-type jobs are good because they teach teenagers to become “self-reliant, work-ethic-driven, productive youngsters.” Although he agrees with his readers that these are valuable objectives, Etzioni makes clear that he disagrees about how well fast-food jobs fulfill these goals.

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To analyze how Etzioni counterargues, try the following activity:

Examine how Etzioni refutes findings of the Charper-Fraser study — specifically, the claims that employees in McDonald’s-type jobs develop many skills (pars. 8 and 9) and that they learn how to work under supervision (pars. 14–16). Highlight places where he presents the claims and note how he asserts and sup- ports his refutation.

Write a couple of sentences explaining how Etzioni refutes the findings of this particular research study. Add another sentence assessing the effectiveness of Etzioni’s counterargument.

A Readable Plan

The thesis statement in a position essay is particularly important because it asserts the writer’s position on the issue. Most writers also use the thesis statement to forecast the reasons they will develop and support in the essay. Jessica Statsky, for example, asserts her position in paragraph 1 and uses paragraph 2 to qualify and clarify the position and to forecast her three reasons for it.

To analyze how Etzioni forecasts his argument, try the following:

Etzioni states his thesis in the opening sentence of paragraph 1. But he does not preview his reasons until paragraph 3. Find and underline the forecasting statement in which he does so.

Skim the essay and note in the margin where Etzioni supports his reasons.

Write a couple of sentences indicating whether Etzioni’s method of forecasting his reasons makes his argument easy to follow.

Etzioni focuses on a single kind of part-time work, takes a position on how worthwhile it is, and recommends against it. You could write a similar kind of essay. For example, you could take a position for or against students’ participat- ing in other kinds of part-time work or recreation during the high school or college academic year — for example, playing on an interscholastic or collegiate sports team, doing volunteer work, or taking an elective class. You might pursue a different argument, taking a position on students’ doing a certain kind of work or recreation during the summer months — say, working or volunteering in a job related to a career they would like to pursue; focusing on learning something important to them, such as another language or a musical instrument; or par- ticipating in an exercise program. If you work to support yourself and pay for college, you could focus on why the job either strengthens or weakens you as a person, given your life and career goals. Writing for other students, you would either recommend the job or activity to them or discourage them from pursuing it, giving reasons and support for your position. Like Etzioni, you might enrich your argument by citing studies or by interviewing students who participate in the activity.

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AMY GOLDWASSER is a writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in a wide array of journals and Web sites including the New Yorker, Vogue, and Salon, where this essay first appeared. She has served as the execu- tive editor of Elle and Seventeen, features editor of New York Magazine, and staff editor at Outside. A volunteer at the Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York, Goldwasser founded a writing and blogging program that led to her editing a collection of essays called Red: The Next Generation

of American Writers — Teenage Girls — on What Fires Up Their Lives Today (2007). “I came to realize,” Goldwasser observed in an interview, “how much more excited I was about the writing I was getting from the girls than the writing I was getting from professional writers in my day job.” You can learn about the book and the authors at www.redthebook.com.

This position essay was occasioned by the publication of a 2008 survey called “Still at Risk: What Students Don’t Know, Even Now” (http://www.aei.org/docLib/20080226_ CommonCorereport.pdf). As Goldwasser indicates, the report is the latest in a series of cri- tiques of the Millennial or Google generation, as it is sometimes called. As you read, think about why Goldwasser uses the pronouns we and they repeatedly throughout the essay.

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What’s the Matter with Kids Today?

AMY GOLDWASSER

The other week was only the latest takedown of what has become a fashionable segment of the population to bash: the American teenager. A phone (land line!) survey of 1,200 17-year-olds, conducted by the research organization Common Core and released Feb. 26, found our young people to be living in “stunning ignorance” of history and literature.

This furthered the report that the National Endowment for the Arts came out with at the end of 2007, lamenting “the diminished role of voluntary reading in American life,” particularly among 13-to-17-year-olds, and Doris Lessing’s con- demnation, in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in literature, of “a frag- menting culture” in which “young men and women . . . have read nothing, knowing only some specialty or other, for instance, computers.”

Kids today — we’re telling you! — don’t read, don’t write, don’t care about anything farther in front of them than their iPods. The Internet, according to 88- year-old Lessing (whose specialty is sturdy typewriters, or perhaps pens), has “seduced a whole generation into its inanities.”

Or is it the older generation that the Internet has seduced — into the inani- ties of leveling charges based on fear, ignorance and old-media, multiple-choice testing? So much so that we can’t see that the Internet is only a means of com- munication, and one that has created a generation, perhaps the first, of writers, activists, storytellers? When the world worked in hard copy, no parent or teacher

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www.redthebook.com
http://www.aei.org/docLib/20080226_CommonCorereport.pdf
http://www.aei.org/docLib/20080226_CommonCorereport.pdf

 

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ever begrudged teenagers who disappeared into their rooms to write letters to friends — or a movie review, or an editorial for the school paper on the first presi- dent they’ll vote for. Even 15-year-old boys are sharing some part of their feelings with someone out there.

We’re talking about 33 million Americans who are fluent in texting, e-mailing, blogging, IM’ing and constantly amending their profiles on social network sites — which, on average, 30 of their friends will visit every day, hanging out and writing for 20 minutes or so each. They’re connected, they’re collaborative, they’re used to writing about themselves. In fact, they choose to write about themselves, on their own time, rather than its being a forced labor when a paper’s due in school. Regularly, often late at night, they’re generating a body of intimate written work. They appreciate the value of a good story and the power of a speech that moves: Ninety-seven percent of the teenagers in the Common Core survey con- nected “I have a dream” with its speaker — they can watch Dr. King deliver it on demand — and eight in 10 knew what “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about.

This is, of course, the kind of knowledge we should be encouraging. The Internet has turned teenagers into honest documentarians of their own lives — reporters embedded in their homes, their schools, their own heads.

But this is also why it’s dangerous, why we can’t seem to recognize that it’s just a medium. We’re afraid. Our kids know things we don’t. They drove the presi- dential debates onto YouTube and very well may determine the outcome of this election. They’re texting at the dinner table and responsible for pretty much every enduring consumer cultural phenomenon: iPod, iTunes, iPhone; Harry Potter, “High School Musical”; large hot drinks with gingerbread flavoring. They can sell ads on their social network pages, and they essentially made MySpace worth $580 million and “Juno” an Oscar winner.

Besides, we’re tired of having to ask them every time we need to find Season 2 of “Heroes,” calculate a carbon footprint or upload photos to Facebook (now that we’re allowed on).

Plus, they’re blogging about us. So we’ve made the Internet one more thing unknowable about the American

teenager, when, really, it’s one of the few revelations. We conduct these surveys and overgeneralize — labeling like the mean girls, driven by the same jealousy and insecurity.

Common Core drew its multiple-choice questions for teens from a test admin- istered by the federal government in 1986. Twenty-plus years ago, high school stu- dents didn’t have the Internet to store their trivia. Now they know that the specific dates and what-was-that-prince’s-name will always be there; they can free their brains to go a little deeper into the concepts instead of the copyrights, step back and consider what Scout and Atticus were really fighting for. To criticize teenager’s author-to-book title matching on the spot, over the phone, is similar to cold-calling over-40s and claiming their long-division skills or date of “Jaws” recall is rusty. This is what we all rely on the Internet for.

That’s not to say some of the survey findings aren’t disturbing. It’s crushing to hear that one in four teens could not identify Adolf Hitler’s role in world history, for instance. But it’s not because teenagers were online that they missed this. Had a

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parent introduced 20 minutes of researching the Holocaust to one month of their teen’s Internet life, or a teacher assigned “The Diary of Anne Frank” (arguably a 13-year-old girl’s blog) — if we worked with, rather than against, the way this generation voluntarily takes in information — we might not be able to pick up the phone and expose tragic pockets of ignorance.

The average teen chooses to spend an average of 16.7 hours a week read- ing and writing online. Yet the NEA report did not consider this to be “voluntary” reading and writing. Its findings also concluded that “literary reading declined significantly in a period of rising Internet use”. The corollary is weak — this has as well been a period of rising franchises of frozen yogurt that doesn’t taste like frozen yogurt, of global warming, of declining rates of pregnancy and illicit drug use among teenagers, and of girls sweeping the country’s most prestigious high school science competition for the first time.

Teenagers today read and write for fun; it’s part of their social lives. We need to start celebrating this unprecedented surge, incorporating it as an educational tool instead of meeting it with punishing pop quizzes and suspicion.

We need to start trusting our kids to communicate as they will online — even when that comes with the risk that they’ll spill the family secrets or campaign for a candidate who’s not ours.

Once we stop regarding the Internet as a villain, stop presenting it as the enemy of history and literature and worldly knowledge, then our teenagers have the potential to become the next great voices of America. One of them, 70 years from now, might even get up there to accept the very award Lessing did — and thank the Internet for making him or her a writer and a thinker.

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It is often said that we live in an Age of Information. But, as Goldwasser suggests, there may now be a generational shift in the way information is thought of and accessed.

With two or three other students, discuss your own experience. Begin by taking turns listing the ways you use technology to transmit and retrieve information on a typical day. Then, together consider the following questions:

Goldwasser reports that the National Endowment for the Arts laments “the di- minished role of voluntary reading in American life” (par. 2). How much time do you spend reading in a typical day? What kinds of things do you read?

What kinds of information do you typically look up in the course of a day? How do you most commonly look it up? Would your answers to these ques- tions be different if you did not have easy access to the Internet?

Goldwasser distinguishes between “concepts” (for example, “Adolf Hitler’s role in world history” [par. 12] and “what ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is about” [par. 5]) and “copyrights” or “trivia” (for example, dates and author-to-book title matching [par. 11]). Why do you think she distinguishes between what you should know and what you could just as easily look up when you need it? What do you think about Goldwasser’s distinction?

MAKING CONNECTIONS:

THE INFORMATION AGE

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GOLDWASSER / WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KIDS TODAY? 289

ANALYZING WRITING STRATEGIES

A Well-Presented Issue

Like the other writers in this chapter, Goldwasser tries to reframe the issue for her readers. Her title, “What’s the Matter with Kids Today?,” is the title of a song from Bye Bye Birdie, a late-1950s musical. The lyrics tell the story of how the issue has traditionally been framed:

Why can’t they be like we were, Perfect in every way? What’s the matter with kids today?

To analyze how Goldwasser tries to reframe the issue, try the following:

Reread paragraph 7 to determine what story Goldwasser is telling about the generational divide. How does this story reframe the issue?

Who are the we and the they in this paragraph? Assuming Goldwasser is addressing the we, how effective do you think this way of reframing the issue is likely to be for these particular readers?

A Well-Supported Position

In arguing for a position, writers may provide various kinds of supporting evidence, including facts, statistics, examples, anecdotes, and quotes from authorities.

Facts are statements that can be proven to be true. However, a statement that is not true or only partially true may be asserted as fact. Therefore, readers may need to be reassured that an asserted fact is reliable and comes from a trustwor- thy source.

Statistics are sometimes mistaken for facts, but they are only interpretations or correlations of numerical data. Their reliability depends on how and by whom the information was collected and interpreted.

Examples and anecdotes illustrate what may be true in certain situations; effective writers do not usually offer them as hard-and-fast evidence of the universal truth of their positions. Using them can, however, make an argument less abstract and enable readers to identify with those affected by the issue.

Quotes from authorities can carry weight if readers see them as knowledgeable and trustworthy.

To analyze how Goldwasser supports her position, try the following:

Reread the essay and highlight at least two places where Goldwasser presents different kinds of supporting evidence. Examine each instance to determine how she uses the evidence to support her argument, and consider how effective the evidence is likely to be in convincing her readers.

Write a few sentences explaining what you discovered about Goldwasser’s use of supporting evidence in this essay.

Basic Features

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An Effective Counterargument

Some position essays are essentially organized as a defense or refutation. This is the case with Goldwasser’s essay. As she explains in the opening paragraph, it has become “fashionable” to “bash” teenagers, and her essay attempts to defend against this “latest takedown.” One object of her counterargument is the Common Core phone survey, but she also counterargues the claims made by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Doris Lessing in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Before examining how Goldwasser tries to refute these authorities, however, look at one passage where she makes a concession. In paragraph 12, she begins by acknowledging that “some of the survey findings” are “disturbing.” In fact, she calls it “crushing” that “one in four teens could not identify Adolf Hitler’s role in world history.” Not only does this concession allow her to express her strong feelings, but it is also a smart rhetorical strategy in that it shows readers that she shares their values about the kinds of knowledge that really are important for everyone to learn.

To analyze Goldwasser’s counterargument, try the following:

Reread paragraphs 4–5 where she tries to defend teenagers’ use of the Internet against Doris Lessing’s criticism.

Notice that one of her strategies is to support her counterargument with the same Common Core survey that was used to attack teenagers’ use of the Internet. How effective is this strategy likely to be for her readers? Ask yourself what these statistics allow Goldwasser to demonstrate.

Write a few sentences describing what you have learned about Goldwasser’s use of counterargument.

A Readable Plan

Writers of position essays sometimes repeat in the conclusion language or ideas introduced in the opening paragraphs of the essay. For example, Statsky comes back in the last paragraph to her concerns about “the excesses and dangers” of competi- tive sports, ideas she introduced in her first two paragraphs. Similarly, Estrada uses actual names of sports teams in his opening paragraphs and lists imagined sports team names in his last few paragraphs.

To analyze how Goldwasser uses this strategy, try the following:

Reread the opening and closing paragraphs of Goldwasser’s essay, and highlight any language or ideas that are repeated.

Write a few sentences describing what you found and discussing whether you think this strategy of repeating material makes her essay more readable.

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BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL ESSAY: ARGUING A POSITION 291

You could consider writing a position essay on some other aspect of contemporary culture and its effects on relationships, education, work, or recreation. For example, social-networking sites cost businesses a lot of money in lost productivity: Should they be banned at workplaces? Social-networking sites are increasingly being used by school administrations, law-enforcement officials, and human-resources depart- ments to check up on students, parolees and suspects, and job applicants: Should the information on these sites be protected from such uses? Should music lyrics be censored for violence and exploitation? Should the legal drinking age be lowered? Should community service be required of all high school or college students? Is video gaming a harmless hobby or a health hazard?

Beyond the Traditional Essay: Arguing a Position Reasoned argument takes many forms in our culture. Among the most common forms of written argument are the editorials found in major newspapers. These editorials usually exhibit the basic features of argument — a well-presented issue, a well-supported position, effective counterargument, and a readable plan — found in formal academic essays. Formal debates and courtroom summations are the classic forms of oral argument found in our culture, and these, too, tend to exhibit the basic features of the academic argument essay. Examples of argument that exhibit at least some of the basic features can commonly be found in advertise- ments, brochures, Web sites, documentaries, and many other forms of expression that present specific positions or perspectives.

As an example, consider the public service announcement (PSA) repro- duced on p. 292. Cosponsored by the AdCouncil and the U.S. Department of Transportation, the ad achieves a surprising amount with a single image and relatively few words. The “recipe” presented is a recipe for disaster: fatigue, an icy road, and a seemingly harmless “few rounds with the guys” result in a totalled car. The enticing visual, the familiar and nonthreatening recipe format, and the use of realistic language expressing a seemingly moderate perspective (“It’s only another beer”; “just a few”) reach out to average adults, who likely do not think of themselves as reckless or irresponsible, and remind them that it can be a short step from an ordinary evening relaxing with friends to a catastrophic accident.

As you work on your own project, you might want to consult some of these al- ternative forms of argument for inspiration. If the format in which you are working allows for it — if, for example, you are creating a poster, Web site, or video — you should consider taking advantage of the strategies available to those working in multimedia — for example, by embedding artifacts that are relevant to the position you are arguing. Always remember to properly document any material you might use that was created by someone else.

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Guide to Writing

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Guide to Writing

The Writing Assignment Write an essay on a controversial issue. Learn more about the issue, and take a posi- tion on it. Present the issue to readers, and develop a well-supported argument for the purpose of confirming, challenging, or changing your readers’ views on the issue.

This Guide to Writing will help you apply what you have learned about how writers clearly present an issue, argue effectively for their position on it, present counter- arguments to opposing positions, and deliver their argument in a readable manner. The Guide is divided into five sections with various activities in each section:

Invention and Research

Planning and Drafting

Critical Reading Guide

Revising

Editing and Proofreading

The Guide is designed to escort you through the writing process, from finding an issue to editing your finished essay. Your instructor may require you to follow the Guide to Writing from beginning to end. Working through the Guide to Writing in this way will help you — as it has helped many other college students — write a thoughtful, fully developed, polished essay.

If, however, your instructor gives you latitude to choose and if you have had expe- rience writing an essay in which you argue a position, then you can decide on the order in which you will do the activities in the Guide to Writing. For example, the Invention and Research section includes activities to help you find an issue to write about, explore it, analyze and define your audience and purpose, and formulate a tentative position on it, among other things.

Obviously, finding an issue must precede the other activities, but you may come to the Guide with an issue already in mind, and you may choose to define your audience and purpose before turning to a fuller exploration of the issue itself. In fact, you may find your response to one of the invention activities expanding into a draft before you have had a chance to do any of the other activities. That is a good thing — but you should later flesh out your draft by going back to the activities you skipped and layering the new material into your draft.

The chart on p. 294 will help you find answers to many of the questions you might have about planning, drafting, and revising an essay arguing a position. Because we know different students will start at different places, we designed the chart so you could find the information you need, when you need it. The page references in the Where to Look column refer to examples from the readings and activities in the Guide to Writing.

To learn about using the Guide e-book for invention and drafting, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

 

 

Starting Points: Arguing a Position Basic Features

Question Where to Look

A Well-Presented Issue

A Well-Supported Position

An Effective Counterargument

A Readable Plan

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 295

Invention and Research The following activities should take only a few minutes to complete. Spreading them out over several days will stimulate your creativity, enabling you to consid- er many more potential issues to address and possible ways in which to address them. Remember to keep a record of your invention work: you will need it when you draft and revise your essay.

Choosing an Issue to Write About

List several issues that you might like to write about. You may already have an issue in mind, possibly one suggested by the topics you considered following the read- ings. If you want to try writing about that issue, make sure it meets the criteria below and, if so, go on to the next section. If you are not ready to make a choice, the suggestions below may help you think of issues to consider.

Criteria for Choosing

an Issue:

A Checklist

The issue should be

controversial — an issue that people disagree about, sometimes passionately;

arguable — a matter of opinion on which there is no absolute proof or authority;

one about which you already know something, or about which you want to know more;

one that you can research, if necessary, in the time you have; and

one that you care about.

Listing Issues

Make a list of issues you might consider writing about. Begin your list now, and add to it over the next few days. It might help you generate ideas if, at first, you focus on three categories: school, community, and work. Put the issues you come up with in the form of questions, as in the following examples.

School

Should boys and girls be educated in single-sex schools or classrooms?

Should local school boards be allowed to ban books from school libraries or block access to selected Internet sites?

Should students attending public colleges be required to pay higher tuition fees if they have been full-time students but have not graduated within four years?

Community

Should businesses remain loyal to their communities, or should they move wherever labor costs, taxes, or other conditions are most favorable?

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Should materials related to voting, driving, and income-tax reporting be written only in English or also in other languages read by members of the community?

Should the racial, ethnic, or gender makeup of a police force resemble the makeup of the community it serves?

Work

When people choose careers, should they look primarily for jobs that are well paid or for jobs that are personally fulfilling, morally acceptable, or socially responsible?

Should the state or federal government provide job training or temporary employment to people who are unemployed but willing to work?

Should drug testing be mandatory for people such as bus drivers, heavy-equipment operators, and airplane pilots?

Going Local

Proposing to write on an issue directly related to a community to which you belong gives you an important advantage: You know something about the history of the issue and you might already have taken a position on it. Equally important, you will know your readers, and you can interview them to get their views of the issue and your position on it. From such knowledge and authority comes confi- dent, convincing writing.

If you want to argue your position on an issue of national scope, try to concen- trate on one with which you have some direct experience. Even better, focus on unique local aspects of the issue. For example, instead of writing generally about school boards that block access to Internet sites, write about efforts to do so at your former high school. If you are concerned about the effect of megachains like Wal-Mart and Home Depot on small businesses nationwide, you could write your argument about whether a new big-box store should be allowed in your area.

Using the Web to Find or Explore an Issue

Exploring Web sites can provide you with an idea of what to write about, if you have not already chosen an issue, and it can enrich your understanding of an issue you have already chosen. Moreover, the Web provides a rich repository of cultural and historical information, including photographs and music, which you might be able to use to create a richly detailed, multimedia text for your readers.

Here are some suggestions:

Look for sites related to the community, workplace, or group you are writing about. See what issues are of concern to members of those groups and whether you might write about one of them.

Consider getting in touch with others who are concerned about the issue that concerns you. If your conversation is fruitful, ask their permission to include their insights in your project.

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 297 GUIDE TO WRITING

Do a Google search on a particular issue, and try to get a sense of how common it might be — or, on the other hand, of how specific it might be to your local community, campus, or workplace.

Make notes of any ideas or insights suggested by your online research, and down- load any visuals you might include in your essay, being sure to get the information necessary to cite any online sources.

Ways In: Bringing the Issue and Your Audience into Focus

Once you have made a preliminary choice of an issue, the following activities will help you explore what you know now about it, determine what else you need to find out, and discover ways of presenting the issue to your readers. You can begin with whichever activity you want, but wherever you begin, be sure to return to the other activities to bring the issue and your readers fully into focus.

(See pp. 774–76 for the MLA citation format for electronic sources.)

Exploring the Issue Identifying Your Possible Readers

Define the Issue. Write for a few minutes explaining how you think people currently understand the issue. Focus on clarifying the issue by considering questions like these:

positions have they taken? What position are you inclined to take? What typically causes people to disagree about this issue? On what about the issue, if anything, do people agree?

an issue? Has it changed over time? What makes it important now?

Write several sentences describing the readers to whom you will be addressing your argument. Begin by briefly identifying your readers; then use the following questions to help you describe them:

What do my readers know about the issue? In what contexts are they likely to have encountered it? In what ways might the issue affect them personally or professionally?

issue? How strongly do they hold these positions? Which of my readers’ values, priorities, and interests might influence their views?

What fundamental differences in worldview or experience might keep us from agreeing? What shared values and concerns might enable us to find common ground?

particular readers — convincing them to adopt my point of view, getting them to reconsider their own position, confirming or challenging some of their underlying beliefs and values?

Learn More about the Issue. If you do not know very much about the issue, do some preliminary research to help you decide whether you want to write about it. You might start by talking to other people about the issue and their opinions; doing a search online; or searching your school’s library for information. If you find that you are not interested in an issue, do not have the time to research it fully, or do not have a strong opinion yourself, you should switch to another issue. Return to your list of possible issues, and make another choice.

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Framing the Issue for Your Readers

Write several sentences exploring ways you might frame or reframe the issue for your readers. If the issue has already been framed for your readers in a particular way, you may want to reframe it. Specifically, ask yourself what the argument over this issue has tended to be about and what you think it should be about. What values, priorities, and interests are at stake? For example, Statsky assumed her readers would be uncritically in favor of Little League–type sports for children because they are healthy and fun, so she tried to reframe the issue in terms of the potential physical and psychological damage they can have for young children.

Testing Your Choice

Test your choice by asking yourself the following questions:

Do I now know enough about the issue, or can I learn what I need to know in the time I have remaining?

Have I begun to understand the issue well enough to present it to readers — to frame or reframe it in a way that might make readers open to my point of view?

Do I feel a personal need to reach a deeper understanding of the issue? Do I want to learn about other people’s points of view on the issue and to develop an argument that addresses our shared concerns as well as our different perspectives?

Does the issue matter to other people? If the issue is not currently one of wide- spread concern, would I be able to argue convincingly at the beginning of my essay that it ought to be of concern?

As you plan and draft your argument, you will probably want to consider these questions again. If at any point you cannot answer them with a confident yes, you may want to consider taking a different position on the issue or choose a different issue to write about. If you have serious doubts, consider discussing them with your instructor.

A Collaborative Activity: Testing Your Choice

Get together with two or three other students and take turns discussing the issues you have

tentatively chosen.

Presenters: Begin by identifying your issue, and briefly explaining the values, priorities,

and interests you think are at stake.

Listeners: Tell the presenter how you understand the issue — the values, priorities, or

interests that are at stake for you.

 

 

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Ways in: Developing Your Argument and Counterargument

The following activities will help you develop your argument and counterargument by finding plausible reasons and evidence for your position and by anticipating read- ers’ objections to your argument. You can begin with whichever activity you want, but wherever you begin, be sure to return to the other activities to explore all possibilities.

You may need more information to fully develop your argument. If so, you could start with these activities to develop the outlines of an argument and then do research, using the suggestions on p. 301, to fill in the details. Alternatively, you could start with research and return to these activities afterwards. Wherever you start, keeping careful notes will make it easy to fill in details and ideas as you develop your essay.

Consider Other Positions. Identify one or more widely held opposing positions and consider the one you think most likely to be attractive to your particular readers. Try to represent the argument accurately and fairly. Decide whether you need to do research to find out more about this opposing position.

List Reasons for the Opposing Position. List as many reasons as you can think of that your readers are likely to give in support of this position.

State Your Tentative Position. Briefly state your current position on the issue. As you develop your argument and counterargument, you will refine this claim and decide how to formulate it effectively for your readers. For now, say as directly as you can where you stand on the issue.

List Possible Reasons. List the reasons for your position. Try to come up with as many reasons as you can. Later, you may add reasons or modify the ones you have listed.

Counterarguing Readers’ Objections

Counterarguing Opposing Positions

Developing Your Argument

List Possible Objections. Look for places where your argument is vulnerable. For example, think of an assumption that you are making that others might not accept or a value others might not share. Imagine how people in different situations — different neighborhoods, occupations, age groups, living arrangements — might react to each of your reasons.

Accommodate a Legitimate Objection. Choose one objection that makes sense to you, and write for a few minutes on how you could accommodate it into your argument. You may be able simply to acknowledge an objection and explain why you think it does not negatively affect your argument. If the criticism is more serious, consider conceding the point and qualifying your position or changing the way you argue for it. If the criticism seems so damaging that you cannot accommodate it into your argument, however, you may need to rethink your position.

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Accommodate a Plausible Reason. Choose one reason that makes sense to you, and write for a few minutes on how you could accommodate it into your argument. Consider whether you can concede the point and yet put it aside as not really damaging to your central argument. You may also have to consider qualifying your position or changing the way you argue for it.

Collect Evidence. Make notes of the evidence — such as authorities, facts, anecdotes, and statistics — you might be able to use to support your reasons. You may already have some evidence you could use. If you need to do research, make notes of sources you could consult.

Choose the Most Plausible Reasons. Write several sentences explaining why you think each reason would be likely to convince your particular readers to take your argument seriously. Then identify your most plausible reasons. If you decide that none of your reasons seems very plausible, you might need to reconsider your position, do some more research, or choose another issue.

Refute an Illegitimate Objection. Choose one objection that seems to challenge or weaken your argument, and write for a few minutes on how you could refute it. Do not choose to refute only the weakest objection while ignoring the strongest one. Consider whether you can show that the objection is based on a misunderstanding or that it does not really damage your argument. You may also need to modify your position to make sure the objection is not valid.

Refute an Implausible Reason. Choose one reason that you do not accept, and write for a few minutes on how you could refute it. Consider trying one of these strategies: argue that readers’ values are better served by your position; point out where the reasoning is flawed (for instance, that it commits a straw-man fallacy by refuting your weakest reason and ignoring stronger ones); show that the argument lacks convincing support (for instance, that an example applies only to certain people in certain situations or that alternative authorities disagree). If you do not have all the information you need, make a note of what you need and where you might find it. (Note: Do not choose to refute a position no one takes seriously. Also, be careful not to misrepresent other people’s positions or to criticize people personally.)

(continued)

Counterarguing Readers’ Objections

Counterarguing Opposing Positions

Developing Your Argument

 

 

INVENTION AND RESEARCH 301 GUIDE TO WRITING

Researching Your Argument

Do some library and Internet research to find out how others have framed the issue and what positions they have taken. If you are writing on an issue relating to your school, community, or workplace, you may also want to conduct interviews to see how people view the issue, what they know about its history, what positions they take, and how they react to your position.

Searching the Web can be a productive way of learning more about arguments other people have made on your issue and gathering additional information. Here are some suggestions for conducting an efficient search:

Enter keywords — words or brief phrases related to the issue or your position — into a search tool such as Google. For example, Statsky could have tried key- words such as children’s competitive sports, or she could have tried the question Should children participate in competitive sports? You could also try Googling your keywords plus statistics, anecdotes, or facts.

If you think your issue has been dealt with by a government agency, you could try entering your keywords on FirstGov.gov, the U.S. government’s official Web portal. If you want to see whether the issue has been addressed in your state or by local government, you can go to the Library of Congress Internet Resource Page on State and Local Governments (www.loc.gov/global/state/) and follow the links.

Bookmark or keep a record of the URLs of promising sites. You may want to download or copy information you could use in your essay, including visuals; if so, remember to record source information.

Designing Your Document

Think about whether your readers might benefit from design features such as headings or numbered or bulleted lists or from visuals such as drawings, photographs, tables, or graphs. Elements like these often make the presentation of an issue easier to follow and an argu- ment more convincing. For an example, look back at the scenario on p. 264 describing a student’s argument on the Employee Free Choice Act and then read Thinking about Document Design on pp. 311–12 to see how she used visuals to bolster its impact.

Defining Your Purpose for Your Readers

Write a few sentences defining your purpose. Remember that you have already identi- fied your readers and developed a tentative argument with these readers in mind. Try now to define your purpose by considering the following questions:

If my readers are likely to be sympathetic to my point of view, what is my aim in writing — to give them reasons to commit to my position, to suggest argu- ments they can use, and/or to win their respect and admiration?

If my readers are likely to be hostile to my point of view, what is my aim in writing — to get them to take my point of view seriously, to make them defend

For more information on library and Internet research, see Chapter 23.

For more on document design, see Chapter 21.

 

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their reasons, to show them how knowledgeable and committed I am to my position, or to show them how well I can argue?

If my readers are likely to take an opposing position but are not staunchly com- mitted to it, what should I try to do — make them question or doubt the reasons and the kinds of support they have for their position, show them how my position serves their interests better, appeal to their values and sense of responsibility, or make them reconsider their preconceptions and prejudices against my position?

Formulating a Tentative Thesis Statement

Write a few sentences that could serve as a thesis — that is, a statement that tells your readers simply and directly what you want them to think about the issue and why. You might also forecast your reasons, mentioning them in the order in which you will take them up in your argument.

Estrada states his thesis at the end of paragraph 2: “Still, however willing I may have been to go along with the name as a kid, as an adult I have concluded that using an ethnic group essentially as a sports mascot is wrong.” Perhaps the most explicit and fully developed thesis statement in this chapter’s readings is Jessica Statsky’s. She asserts her thesis at the end of paragraph 1 and then qualifies it and forecasts her reasons in paragraph 2:

When overzealous parents and coaches impose adult standards on children’s sports, the result can be activities that are neither satisfying nor beneficial to children.

I am concerned about all organized sports activities for children between the ages of six and twelve. The damage I see results from noncontact as well as contact sports, from sports organized locally as well as those organized nationally. Highly organized competitive sports such as Peewee Football and Little League Baseball are too often played to adult standards, which are devel- opmentally inappropriate for children and can be both physically and psycho- logically harmful. Furthermore, because they eliminate many children from organized sports before they are ready to compete, they are actually counter- productive for developing either future players or fans. Finally, because they emphasize competition and winning, they unfortunately provide occasions for some parents and coaches to place their own fantasies and needs ahead of children’s welfare.

As you draft your own thesis, pay attention to the language you use. It should be clear and unambiguous, emphatic but appropriately qualified. Although you will probably refine your thesis as you draft and revise your essay, trying now to articu- late it will help give your planning and drafting direction and impetus.

Planning and Drafting The following activities will help you refine your purpose, set goals for your draft, and outline it. In addition, this section will help you write a draft with advice on writing opening sentences, using effective sentence strategies, and working with sources.

For more on thesis and forecasting statements, see Chapter 19.

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Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals

Before starting to draft, here are some questions that may help you sharpen your purpose for your audience and set goals for your draft. Your instructor may ask you to write out your answers to some of these questions or simply to think about them as you plan and draft your essay.

Clarifying Your Purpose and Audience

Who are my readers, and what can I realistically hope to accomplish by address- ing them?

Should I write primarily to change readers’ minds, to get them to consider my arguments seriously, to confirm their opinions, to urge them to do something about the issue, or to accomplish some other purpose?

How can I present myself so that my readers will consider me informed, knowl- edgeable, and fair?

Presenting the Issue

Should I place the issue in a historical context or in a personal context, as Estrada does?

Should I use examples — real or hypothetical — to make the issue concrete for readers, as Estrada does?

Should I try to demonstrate that the issue is important by citing statis- tics, quoting authorities, or describing its negative effects, as Statsky and Goldwasser do?

Should I try to reframe the issue by showing how first impressions are wrong, as Etzioni does?

Making Your Argument and Counterargument

How can I present my reasons so that readers will see them as plausible, logically supporting my position?

If I have more than one reason, how should I sequence them?

Should I forecast my reasons or counterarguments early in the essay, as Statsky does?

Which objections should I anticipate? Can I concede any objections without undermining my argument, as Estrada and Goldwasser do?

Should I refute any objections, as Etzioni and Goldwasser do?

Which opposing positions should I anticipate?

Can I counterargue by showing that the statistics offered by others are not rel- evant, as Etzioni does?

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Can I support my reasoning by narrating anecdotes (Estrada), pointing out benefits (Goldwasser), stressing benefits and losses (Etzioni, Statsky), or quot- ing research (Etzioni, Statsky)?

The Ending

How can I conclude my argument effectively? Should I reiterate my position, as Estrada and Etzioni do?

Should I try to unite readers with different allegiances by reminding them of values we share, as Estrada does?

Could I conclude by looking to the future or by urging readers to take action or make changes, as Statsky and Goldwasser do?

Should I conclude with a challenge, as Etzioni does?

Outlining Your Draft

With your purpose and goals in mind, you might want to make a quick scratch out- line that includes the following:

I. Presentation of the issue

II. A clear position

III. Reasons and support

IV. Anticipation of opposing positions and objections

This simple plan is nearly always complicated by other factors, however. In outlin- ing your material, you must take into consideration whether your readers are likely to agree or disagree with your position, which will determine how you will present the issue and how much attention you should give to readers’ likely objections and to alternative solutions.

If most or all of your readers are likely to disagree with you, for example, you might try to redefine the issue so that these readers can see the possibility that they may share some common values with you after all. To reinforce your connection to readers, you could go on to concede the wisdom of an aspect of their position before presenting the reasons and support for your position. You would conclude by reiterating the shared values on which you hope to build agreement. In this case, an outline might look like this:

I. Presentation of the issue

II. Accommodation of some aspect of an opposing position

III. Thesis statement

IV. First reason with support

V. Second reason with support (etc.)

VI. Conclusion

If you have decided to write primarily for readers who agree rather than disagree with you, then you might choose to strengthen your readers’ convictions by

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PLANNING AND DRAFTING 305

organizing your argument as a refutation of opposing arguments, and you might conclude by calling your supporters to arms. Here is an outline showing what this kind of essay might look like:

I. Presentation of the issue

II. Thesis statement

III. Your most plausible reasons

IV. First opposing argument with refutation

V. Second opposing argument with refutation (etc.)

VI. Conclusion

Your outline will, of course, reflect your own writing situation. Once you have a working outline, you should not hesitate to change it as necessary while drafting and revising. For instance, you might find it more effective to hold back on presenting your own position until you have discussed alternative but unacceptable positions. Or you might find a better way to order the reasons for supporting your position. The purpose of an outline is to identify the basic components of your argument and to help you organize them effectively, not to lock you into a particular structure.

Drafting

If you have not already begun to draft your essay, this section will help by suggest- ing how to write your opening sentences; how to use the sentence strategy of con- cession followed by refutation; and how to cite opposing arguments. Drafting is not always a smooth process, so do not be afraid to leave spaces where you do not know what to put in or to write notes to yourself about what you could do next. If you get stuck while drafting, go back over your invention writing: You may be able to copy and paste some of it into your evolving draft, or you may find that you need to do some additional invention to fill in details in your draft.

Writing the Opening Sentences

You could try out one or two different ways of beginning your essay — possibly from the list that follows — but do not agonize over the first sentences because you are likely to discover the best way to begin only after you have written a rough draft. Again, you might want to review your invention writing to see if you have already written something that would work to launch your essay.

To engage your readers’ interest from the start, consider the following opening strategies:

an anecdote or personal reminiscence (like Estrada)

a surprising statement (like Etzioni)

an assertion of an issue’s increasing significance (like Statsky)

statistics (like Etzioni)

For more on outlining, see Chapter 11.

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a research study (like Goldwasser)

a scenario

an historical analogy

criticism of an alternative position

A Sentence Strategy: Concession Followed by Refutation

As you draft, you will need to move back and forth smoothly between arguments for your position and counterarguments against your readers’ likely objections and preferred positions. One useful strategy for making this move is to concede the value of a likely criticism and then to refute it immediately, either in the same sentence or in the next one.

The following sentences from Jessica Statsky’s essay illustrate several ways to make this move (the concessions are in italics, the refutations in bold):

The primary goal of a professional athlete — winning — is not appropriate for children. Their goals should be having fun, learning, and being with friends. Although winning does add to the fun, too many adults lose sight of what matters and make winning the most important goal. (par. 5)

And it is perfectly obvious how important competitive skills are in finding a job. Yet the ability to cooperate is also important for success in life. (par. 10)

In both these examples from different stages in her argument, Statsky concedes the importance or value of some of her readers’ likely objections, but then firmly refutes them. (Because these illustrations are woven into an extended argument, you may be better able to appreciate them if you look at them in context by turning to the paragraphs where they appear.) The following examples come from other readings in the chapter:

The authors argue that the employees develop many skills such as how to operate a food-preparation machine and a cash register. However, little attention is paid to how long it takes to acquire such a skill, or what its significance is. (Etzioni, par. 8)

Another argument is that ethnic group leaders are too inclined to cry wolf in alleg- ing racial insensitivity. Often, this is the case. But no one should overlook genuine cases of political insensitivity in an attempt to avoid accusations of hypersensi- tivity and political correctness. (Estrada, par. 7)

That’s not to say some of the survey findings aren’t disturbing. It’s crushing to hear that one in four teens could not identify Adolf Hitler’s role in world history, for instance. But it’s not because teenagers were online that they missed this. Had a parent introduced 20 minutes of researching the Holocaust to one month of their teen’s Internet life, or a teacher assigned “The Diary of Anne Frank” (argu- ably a 13-year-old girl’s blog) . . . we might not be able to pick up the phone and expose tragic pockets of ignorance. (Goldwasser, par. 12)

The concession-refutation move, sometimes called the “yes-but” strategy, is impor- tant in most arguments. Following is an outline of some other kinds of language authors rely on to introduce their concession-refutation moves:

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PLANNING AND DRAFTING 307

I understand that ____. What I think is ____.

I cannot prove ____. But I think ____.

X claims that ____. As it happens ____.

It is true that ____. But my point is ____.

Another argument ____. But ____.

It has been argued that ____. Nevertheless, ____.

We are told that ____. My own belief is ____.

Proponents argue that ____. This argument, however, ____.

This argument seems But experience and evidence plausible ____. show ____.

One common complaint is ____. In recent years, however, ____.

I am not saying ____, nor am But I am saying ____. I saying ____.

Activists insist ____. Still, in spite of their good intentions ____.

A reader might ask ____. But the real issue ____.

Introducing the Concession Introducing the Refutation That Follows

For more on concession followed by refutation, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide and click on Sentence Strategies.

Working with Sources: Fairly and Accurately Quoting Opposing Positions

GUIDE TO WRITING

How you represent the views of those who disagree with your position is especially important because it affects your credibility with readers. If you do not represent your opponents’ views fairly and accurately, readers very likely will — and probably should — question your honesty. One useful strategy is to quote your sources.

Compare the sentence from paragraph 3 of Statsky’s essay to the passage from her source, the Little League Web site. The words Statsky quotes are highlighted.

Quote: Although the official Little League Web site acknowledges that children do risk injury playing baseball, it insists that “severe injuries . . . are infrequent,” the risk “far less than the risk of riding a skateboard, a bicycle, or even the school bus” (“What about My Child?”).

Source: (1) We know that injuries constitute one of parents’ foremost concerns, and rightly so. (2) Injuries seem to be inevitable in any rigorous activity, especially if players are new to the sport and unfamiliar with its demands. (3) But because of the safety precautions taken in Little League, severe injuries such as bone frac- tures are infrequent. (4) Most injuries are sprains and strains, abrasions and cuts and bruises. (5) The risk of serious injury in Little League Baseball is far less than the risk of riding a skateboard, a bicycle, or even the school bus.

Statsky accurately condenses her source’s second sentence (“Injuries seem to be inevitable in any rigorous activity, especially if players are new to the sport and unfamiliar with its demands”) into one clause (“children do risk injury playing baseball”). She makes clear in the second part of her sentence that although the Little League agrees with her on the risk of injury, it disagrees about the seriousness of that risk. By quoting (“it insists that ‘severe injuries . . . are infrequent,’ ‘far less

 

 

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than the risk of riding a skateboard, a bicycle, or even the school bus’”), she assures readers she has not distorted the Little League’s position.

Quoting Appropriately to Avoid Plagiarism

In an earlier, rough draft, Statsky omitted the quotation marks in her sentence. Below is part of her draft sentence, followed by the source with the quoted words highlighted.

. . . it insists that severe injuries are infrequent, the risk far less than the risk of rid- ing a skateboard, a bicycle, or even the school bus (“What about My Child?”).

. . . severe injuries such as bone fractures are infrequent. Most injuries are sprains and strains, abrasions and cuts and bruises. The risk of serious injury in Little League Baseball is far less than the risk of riding a skateboard, a bicycle, or even the school bus.

Even though Statsky cites the source, this failure to use quotation marks around language that is borrowed amounts to plagiarism. Use quotation marks whenever you use phrases from your source and indicate your source. Doing one or the other is not enough; you must do both.

For more information on integrating language from sources into your own sen- tences, see pp. 759–60 in Chapter 24.

Critical Reading

Guide

GUIDE TO WRITING

For more help avoiding plagiarism, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide and click on Avoiding Plagiarism Tutorial.

For a printable version of this Critical Reading Guide, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

Basic Features

Your instructor may arrange a peer review session in class or online where you can exchange drafts with your classmates and give each other a thoughtful criti- cal reading — pointing out what works well and suggesting ways to improve the draft. This Critical Reading Guide can also be used productively by a tutor in the writing center or by a roommate or family member.

A good critical reading does three things: It lets the writer know how the reader understands the point of the story, praises what works best, and indicates where the draft could be improved.

1. Evaluate how well the issue is presented.

Summarize: Tell the writer what you understand the issue to be about. If you were already familiar with it and understand it differently, briefly explain.

Praise: Give an example from the essay where the issue and its significance come across effectively.

Critique: Tell the writer where more information about the issue is needed, where more might be done to establish its seriousness, or how the issue could be reframed in a way that would better prepare readers for the argument.

2. Assess how well the position is supported.

Summarize: Underline the thesis statement and the main reasons.

Praise: Give an example in the essay where the argument is especially effective for example, indicate which reason is especially convincing or which supporting evidence is particularly compelling.

 

 

REVISING 309

Revising Very likely you have already thought of ways to improve your draft, and you may even have begun to revise it. In this section is a Troubleshooting chart that may help. Before using the chart, however, it is a good idea to

review critical reading comments from your classmates, instructor, or writing center tutor, and

make an outline of your draft so that you can look at it analytically.

You may have made an outline before writing your draft, but after drafting you need to see what you actually wrote, not what you intended to write. You can outline the draft quickly by highlighting the basic features — presenting the issue, supporting a position, effectively anticipating counterarguments and alternative positions, and making the argument readable.

For an electronic version of this Troubleshooting chart, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide.

GUIDE TO WRITING

Critique: Tell the writer where the argument could be strengthened for example, indicate how the thesis statement could be made clearer or more appropriately qualified, how the argument could be developed, or where ad- ditional support is needed.

3. Consider how effectively objections and alternative positions are counterargued.

Praise: Give an example in the essay where a concession seems particularly well done or a refutation is convincing.

Critique: Tell the writer how a concession or refutation could be made more convincing; what objection or alternative position should be counterargued; or where common ground could be sought.

4. Assess how readable the argument is.

Praise: Give an example of where the essay succeeds in being especially easy to read, either in its overall organization, clear presentation of the thesis, clear transitions, an effective opening or closing, or by other means.

Critique: Tell the writer where the readability could be improved. Can you, for example, suggest better forecasting, clearer transitions, or a more effec- tive ending? If the overall organization of the essay needs work, make sug- gestions for rearranging parts or strengthening connections.

5. If the writer has expressed concern about anything in the draft that you have not discussed, respond to that concern.

Making Comments Electronically Most word processing software offers features that allow you to insert comments directly into the text of someone else’s document. Many readers prefer to make their comments this way because it tends to be faster than writing on hard copy and space is virtually unlimited; it also eliminates the process of deciphering handwritten comments. Where such features are not available, sim- ply typing comments directly into a document in a contrasting color can provide the same advantages.

 

 

Troubleshooting Your Draft Basic Features

Problem Suggestions for Revising the Draft

A Well- Presented

Issue

Add information — statistics, examples, anecdotes, and so on. Consider adding visuals, graphs, tables, or charts.

The issue is not clear to readers.

Readers understand the issue differently than I do.

Show the limitations of how the issue has traditionally been understood. Reframe the issue by showing how it relates to values, concerns, needs, and priorities you share with readers. Give concrete examples or anecdotes, facts, and details that could help readers see the issue as you see it.

An Effective Counter- argument

Address the objections directly in your argument. If possible, refute them, using clear reasons and support. If objections cannot be completely refuted, acknowledge them but demonstrate that they do not make your position invalid. Try using sentence openers like It is true that . . . , but my point is . . . . If you can neither refute nor accommodate objections, rethink your position or add qualifications.

My readers continue to raise objections to my position.

Address opposing positions directly. Establish common ground with opponents, if possible, but use clear reasons and support to show why their positions are not as reasonable as yours. If you cannot show that your position is preferable, rethink it.

My readers have proposed opposing positions that I do not discuss in my argument.

A Well- Supported

Position

Explain your reasons. Add additional supporting evidence. Ask yourself whether you have inadvertently offended or alienated readers. If so, change the way you have presented your position. Consider whether your position is in fact arguable. If you cannot provide reasons and support for it, consider modifying your position or writing about a different issue.

My readers are not convinced that my position is reasonable and/or persuasive.

Go over the way you present your position; if necessary, explain it and your supporting reasons more clearly. Try outlining your argument; if the organization or coherence is weak, try reorganizing it.

My readers do not understand my position.

Outline your essay. If necessary, move, add, or delete sections to strengthen coherence. Consider adding a forecasting statement with key terms that are repeated in topic sentences throughout the essay. Check for appropriate transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and major sections of your essay. Review your opening and closing paragraphs. Be sure that your thesis is clearly expressed and that you review your main points in your closing.

My readers are confused by my essay or find it difficult to read.

A Readable Plan

 

 

REVISING 311

Thinking About Document Design: Adding Visuals

In her paper arguing that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) should become law (see the scenario described on p. 264), the student decides to reinforce her written argument with visuals because she believes her readers may have difficulty absorbing information from text that is densely packed with numerical data.

First, she considers downloading visual aids directly from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). After examining the material she finds online at www .nrlb.gov, however, she decides that the available charts and tables are too de- tailed to make a strong visual impact. Eventually, she locates “Dropping the Ax,” a March 2009 report written by John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which condenses some of this NLRB data in easy-to-comprehend charts, tables, and graphs. She decides to reproduce one of these graphs in her paper.

GUIDE TO WRITING

In the sections of her paper where she deals with the perspectives of those who oppose the EFCA, the student decides to reproduce an ad from the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which offers a summary of the results of a January 2009 survey it commissioned. (See p. 312.) After doing some research on the survey, the student explains why the statistics do not persuade her that the EFCA is a bad idea. In addition, she analyzes the ad as a visual text using the criteria for analysis from Chapter 20 (pp. 675–77) and explains how it illustrates the

Fig. 1. Probability that a Pro-Union Worker Is Fired During a Union Election Campaign, 1976–2007

 

www.nrlb.gov
www.nrlb.gov

 

312 CHAPTER 6: ARGUING A POSITION

(in her view, misguided) attitudes and strategies of those who actively campaign against the EFCA.

Editing and Proofreading Our research indicates that particular errors occur often in essays that argue a position: incorrect comma usage in sentences with coordinating conjunctions and punctuation errors in sentences that use conjunctive adverbs. The following guide- lines will help you check your essay for these common errors.

GUIDE TO WRITING

 

 

EDITING AND PROOFREADING 313

Using Commas before Coordinating Conjunctions

The Problem. In essays that argue a position, writers often link related ideas by joining independent clauses — groups of words that can stand alone as complete sentences — with coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet). Consider this example from Jessica Statsky’s essay:

Winning and losing may be an inevitable part of adult life, but they should not be part of childhood. (par. 6)

In this sentence, Statsky links two complete ideas: (1) that winning and losing may be part of adult life, and (2) that they should not be part of childhood. She links these ideas using a comma and the coordinating conjunction but.

A common error in sentences like these is the omission of the comma, which makes it difficult for the reader to see where one idea stops and the next one starts.

How to Correct It. Add a comma before coordinating conjunctions that join two independent clauses, as in the examples below:

The new immigration laws will bring in more skilled people but their presence

will take jobs away from other Americans.

Sexually transmitted diseases are widespread and many students are sexually

active.

Note: Do not use a comma when coordinating conjunctions join phrases that are not independent clauses, as in the following examples:

Newspaper reporters have visited pharmacies,/ and observed pharmacists selling

steroids illegally.

We need people with special talents,/ and diverse skills to make the United States

a stronger nation.

Using Punctuation with Conjunctive Adverbs

The Problem. When writers take a position, the reasoning they need to employ in- vites the use of conjunctive adverbs (consequently, furthermore, however, moreover, therefore, thus) to connect sentences and clauses. Sentences that use conjunctive

A Note on Grammar and Spelling Checkers These tools can be help- ful, but do not rely on them exclusively to catch errors in your text: Spelling checkers cannot catch misspellings that are themselves words, such as to for too. Grammar checkers miss some prob- lems, sometimes give faulty advice for fixing problems, and can flag correct items as wrong. Use these tools as a second line of defense after your own (and, ideally, another reader’s) proofread- ing/editing efforts.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on Commas before Coordinating Conjunctions.

GUIDE TO WRITING

 

 

314 CHAPTER 6: ARGUING A POSITION

adverbs require different punctuation, depending on how the conjunctive adverbs are used. Incorrect use of punctuation can make the sentences grammatically in- correct and/or difficult to understand.

How to Correct It. Conjunctive adverbs that open a sentence should be followed by a comma:

Consequently many local governments have banned smoking.

Therefore talented teachers will leave the profession because of poor working

conditions and low salaries.

If a conjunctive adverb joins two independent clauses, it must be preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma:

The recent vote on increasing student fees produced a disappointing turnout,/

moreover the presence of campaign literature on ballot tables violated voting

procedures.

Children watching television recognize violence but not its intention thus

they become desensitized to violence.

Conjunctive adverbs that fall in the middle of an independent clause should be set off with commas:

Due to trade restrictions however sales of Japanese cars did not surpass sales

of domestic cars.

A Common ESL Problem: Subtle Differences in Meaning

Because the distinctions in meaning among some common conjunctive adverbs are subtle, nonnative speakers often have difficulty using them accurately. For example, the difference between however and nevertheless is small; each is used to introduce a statement that contrasts with what precedes it. But nevertheless emphasizes the contrast, whereas however softens it. Check usage of such terms in an English dictionary rather than a bilingual one. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has special usage notes to help distinguish fre- quently confused words.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on Punctuation of Conjunctive Adverbs.

For practice, go to bedfordstmartins.com/ theguide/exercisecentral and click on A Common ESL Problem: Subtle Differences in Meaning.

GUIDE TO WRITING

 

 

Jessica Statsky’s Response to Opposing Positions In this section, we look at how Jessica Statsky tried to anticipate opposing positions and respond to them. To understand Statsky’s thinking about her possible counter- argument, look first at the invention writing she did while analyzing her potential readers.

I think I will write mainly to parents who are considering letting their children get involved in competitive sports and to those whose children are already on teams and who don’t know about the possible dangers. Parents who are really into competition and winning probably couldn’t be swayed by my arguments anyway. I don’t know how to reach coaches (but aren’t they also parents?) or league organizers. I’ll tell parents some horror stories and present solid evidence from psychologists that competitive sports can really harm children under the age of twelve. I think they’ll be impressed with this scientific evidence.

I share with parents one important value: the best interests of children. Competition really works against children’s best interests. Maybe parents’ maga- zines (don’t know of any specific ones) publish essays like mine.

Notice that Statsky lists three potential groups of readers here — parents, coaches, and league organizers — but she is already leaning toward making parents her primary audience. Moreover, she divides these parents into two camps: those who are new to organized sports and unaware of the adverse effects of competition and those who are really into winning. Statsky decides early on against trying to change the minds of parents who place great value on winning. But as you will see in the next excerpt from her invention writing, Statsky gave a lot of thought to the position these parents would likely favor.

Listing Reasons for the Opposing Position

In continuing her invention writing, Statsky listed the following reasons she thought others might have for their position that organized competitive sports teach young children valuable skills:

–because competition teaches children how to succeed in later life –because competition–especially winning–is fun –because competition boosts children’s self-esteem –because competition gives children an incentive to excel

A Writer at Work

315

 

 

316 CHAPTER 6: ARGUING A POSITION

This list appears to pose serious challenges to Statsky’s argument, but she benefited considerably before she drafted her essay by considering the reasons her readers might give for opposing her position. By preparing this list, she gained in- sight into how she had to develop her own argument in light of these predictable arguments, and she could begin thinking about which reasons she might accom- modate and which she had to refute. Her essay ultimately gained authority because she could demonstrate a good understanding of the opposing arguments that might be offered by her primary readers — parents who have not considered the dangers of competition for young children.

Accommodating a Plausible Reason

Looking over her list of reasons, Statsky decided that she could accommodate read- ers by conceding that competitive sports can sometimes be fun for children — at least for those who win. Here are her invention notes:

It is true that children do sometimes enjoy getting prizes and being recognized as winners in competitions adults set up for them. I remember feeling very excited when our sixth-grade relay team won a race at our school’s sports day. And I felt really good when I would occasionally win the candy bar for being the last one standing in classroom spelling contests. But when I think about these events, it’s the activity itself I remember as the main fun, not the winning. I think I can concede that winning is exciting to six- to twelve-year-olds, while arguing that it’s not as important as adults might think. I hope this will win me some friends among readers who are undecided about my position.

We can see this accommodation in paragraph 5 of Statsky’s revised essay (p. 271), where she concedes that sports should be fun but quotes an authority who argues that even fun is jeopardized when competition becomes intense.

Refuting an Implausible Reason

Statsky recognized that she had to attempt to refute the other objections in her list. She chose one and tried out the following refutation to the first reason in her list:

It irritates me that adults are so eager to make first and second graders go into training for getting and keeping jobs as adults. I don’t see why the pressures on adults need to be put on children. Anyway, both my parents tell me that in their jobs, cooperation and teamwork are keys to success. You can’t get ahead unless you’re effective in working with others. Maybe we should be

A WRITER AT WORK

 

 

REFLECTING ON YOUR WRITING 317

training children and even high school and college students in the skills neces- sary for cooperation, rather than competition. Sports and physical activity are important for children, but elementary schools should emphasize achievement rather than competition–race against the clock rather than against each other. Rewards could be given for gains in speed or strength instead of for defeating somebody in a competition.

This brief invention activity led to the argument in paragraph 10 of the revised essay (p. 273), where Statsky acknowledges the importance of competition for suc- cess in school and work, but goes on to argue that cooperation is also important. To support this part of her argument, she gives examples in paragraph 11 of sports programs that emphasize cooperation over competition.

You can see from Statsky’s revised essay that her refutation of this opposing ar- gument runs through her entire essay. The invention activities Statsky did advanced her thinking about her readers and purpose; they also brought an early, productive focus to her research on competition in children’s sports.

In this chapter, you have learned a great deal about this genre from reading several essays that argue a position and from writing one of your own. To consolidate your learning, it is helpful to think metacognitively — that, is to reflect not only on what you learned but on how you learned it. Following are two brief activities your instructor may ask you to do.

Reflecting on Your Writing Your instructor may ask you to turn in with your essay and process materials a brief metacognitive essay or letter reflecting on what you have learned about writ- ing your essay arguing a position. Choose among the following invention activities those that seem most productive for you.

Explain how your purpose and audience influenced one of your decisions as a writer, such as how you presented the issue, the strategies you used in arguing your position, or the ways in which you attempted to counter pos- sible objections.

Thinking Critically About What You Have Learned

THINKING CRITICALLY

 

 

318 CHAPTER 6: ARGUING A POSITION

Discuss what you learned about yourself as a writer in the process of writing this particular essay. For example, what part of the process did you find most challenging? Did you try anything new, like getting a critical reading of your draft or outlining your draft in order to revise it?

If you were to give advice to a friend who was about to write an essay arguing a position, what would you say?

Which of the readings in this chapter influenced your essay? Explain the influ- ence, citing specific examples from your essay and the reading.

If you got good advice from a critical reader, explain exactly how the person helped you — perhaps by questioning the way you addressed your audience or the kinds of evidence you offered in support of your position.

Considering the Social Dimensions: Suppressing Dissent Some critics argue that society privileges reasoned argument over other ways of arguing in order to control dissent. Instead of expressing what may be legitimate outrage and inciting public concern through passionate language, dissenters are urged to be dispassionate and reasonable. They may even be encouraged to try to build their arguments on shared values even though they are arguing with people whose views they find repugnant. While it may help prevent violent confrontation, this emphasis on calmly giving reasons and support may also prevent an honest and open exchange of differences. In the end, trying to present a well-reasoned, well- supported argument may serve to maintain the status quo by silencing the more radical voices within the community.

1. In your own experience of writing an essay arguing a position on a controversial issue, did having to give reasons and support discourage you from choosing any particular issue or from expressing strong feelings? Reflect on the issues you listed as possible subjects for your essay and how you made your choice. Did you reject any issues because you could not come up with reasons and support for your position? When you made your choice, did you think about whether you could be dispassionate and reasonable about it?

2. Consider the readings in this chapter and the essays you read by other stu- dents in the class. Do you think any of these writers felt limited by the need to give reasons and support for their position? Which of the essays you read, if any, seemed to you to express strong feelings about the issue? Which, if any, seemed dispassionate?

THINKING CRITICALLY

 

 

CONSIDERING THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS: SUPPRESSING DISSENT 319

3. Consider the kind of arguing you typically witness in the media — radio, tele- vision, newspapers, magazines, the Internet. We have said that society privi- leges reasoned argument, but in the media, have giving reasons and support and anticipating readers’ objections been replaced with a more contentious, in- your-face style of arguing? Think of media examples of these two different ways of arguing. What do these examples lead you to conclude about the contention that reasoned argument can stifle dissent?

4. Write a page or two explaining your ideas about whether the requirement to give reasons and support suppresses dissent. Connect your ideas to your own essay and to the readings in this chapter.

THINKING CRITICALLY

 

 

320

Proposing a Solution

7 IN COLLEGE COURSES In an early childhood education class, a student becomes interested in the potential of television for educational purposes. Online, he learns about the Communications Act of 1934, which requires publicly owned airwaves to serve the public interest, and the Children’s Television Act of 1990, which was designed to en- courage commercial stations to provide educational children’s programming. The student reviews current programming and discovers that commercial net- works actually offer little in the way of educational programming for children and nothing targeted to English-language learners.

He decides to develop a proposal that would require television networks to provide programming specifically designed to help preschool children learn English. After consulting his professor and the college reference librarian for advice on resources, the student finds statistics that establish the need for such programming and sources on early educa- tion theory to support his proposal. In addition, he interviews via e-mail both an educational researcher who specializes in the impact of media on children’s language acquisition and the programming coor- dinator for a national television network. In writing his proposal, he counters possible objections that his proposal is impractical by citing two model pro- grams, public television’s Sesame Street and cable’s Mi Casita (My Little House).

 

 

321

IN THE COMMUNITY A social services ad- ministrator in a large northeastern city becomes increasingly concerned about what he perceives to be a dramatic rise in the number of adolescents in jail. In search of data to support his observations, he visits the library of a local university and locates a number of recent studies, from which he con- cludes that the problem is in fact national in scope and growing in urgency. He reflects on his research and experience and comes to the conclusion that a partial solution to the problem would be to intervene at the first sign of delinquent behavior in eight- to twelve-year-olds.

In developing a proposal to circulate among decision makers in the local police department, juvenile justice system, school system, and busi- ness and religious communities, the administrator begins by describing the consequences of jailing young criminals, focusing on the costs of incar- ceration and the high rate of return to criminal activity by juveniles after their release. To bring his description to life, he provides the case histories of several juvenile offenders he has worked with over the years. He then discusses the major com- ponents of his early intervention program, which include finding mentors for young people who are beginning to fail in school, placing social workers with troubled families, and hiring neighborhood residents to work full-time on the streets to counter the influence of gangs. The administrator acknowl- edges the costs of the program but points to low- ered costs for incarceration if it is successful. He also suggests sources of grant money to fund it.

IN THE WORKPLACE A driver of a heavy diesel tractor-and-trailer truck has an idea for a solution to the perennial shortage of well-qualified drivers at her trucking company. She convinces two coworkers to help her write a proposal suggesting that the company actively recruit more women. The driver talks to the owner of her company and to the few other women drivers she knows and concludes that women tend to be turned off by truck-driving schools, which cater to and are largely run by men. In trucking industry magazines, one of her coau- thors finds statistics they can use to argue for a new training program that would exceed the Professional Truck Driver Institute standard, which requires a minimum of forty-four hours of driving time. They propose that after an initial off-road training period, recruits would be assigned to experienced drivers serving as paid mentors. The students would not have to attend a truck-driving school, thus saving the $4,000-plus cost of tuition, but they would be required to sign a contract agreeing to drive for the company at a reduced salary for a minimum number of months after the training period.

In the final draft of the proposal, the coauthors argue that everyone benefits. The company gets a skilled workforce. The experienced drivers get additional income. The recruits get hands-on experience without the up-front cost of tuition. The three coauthors give the proposal to the company president, and it is eventually published in an online industry newsletter, where it generates many comments, some of which propose that the plan be made available to men, too.

 

 

322 CHAPTER 7: PROPOSING A SOLUTION

As the chapter-opening scenarios suggest, people write proposals in many different contexts and for a variety of purposes and audiences. The college student, for example, writes a proposal designed to support the creation of educational television programming for children. The social services administrator proposes an interven- tion program for at-risk children in the city where he works. Finally, in order to redress a shortage of qualified drivers, three employees of a trucking company draft a proposal for a recruitment program aimed at women.

Proposals are in fact vital to a democracy. By reading proposals, citizens learn about problems affecting their well-being and explore possible solutions to them. By writing proposals, citizens can significantly affect the ways in which individuals, families, and communities function. In the scenarios, for example, the proposals for more educational television programming and for intervention programs for at-risk children address problems of broad social import. Proposals, however, do not have to be about large social problems. Many proposals, like the one to train women as truck drivers, concern business-related or other problems that are narrower in scope.

As a special form of argument, proposals have much in common with position papers, described in Chapter 6. Both take a stand on a subject about which there is disagreement and both make a reasoned argument, acknowledging readers’ likely objections. Proposals, however, go further: They urge readers to take specific action. They argue for a proposed solution to a problem, and they succeed or fail by the strength of that argument.

Good proposals are creative as well as convincing. Problem-solving depends on a questioning attitude — wondering about alternative approaches to bringing about change and posing challenges to the status quo. To solve a problem, you need to look at it from new angles and in new contexts.

Because a proposal tries to convince readers that its way of defining and solv- ing the problem makes sense, proposal writers must be sensitive to readers’ needs and expectations. Readers may be wary of costs, demands on their time, and grand schemes. Consequently, readers need to know details of the solution and to be con- vinced that it will solve the problem and can be implemented. If readers initially favor a different solution, knowing why the writer rejects it will help them decide whether to support or reject the writer’s proposal.

In this chapter, you will read proposals designed to change the ways in which students are evaluated in college courses; to address the problems of childcare faced by families with multiple wage-earners; to increase the number of good jobs avail- able to Americans; and to expand and improve the pool of applicants for teaching jobs. These readings illustrate the basic features and strategies writers typically use when writing proposals. The questions and activities following the readings will help you consider what is particular to one writer’s approach and which strategies might be most effective for your proposal.

The Guide to Writing that follows the readings will support you as you compose a proposal, showing you ways to use the basic features of the genre to write a creative and convincing argument for change. Like the student who advocates more children’s educational television programming, you may be asked in a course to propose a solu- tion to a problem addressed in the course material, or you may decide on your own

 

 

BASIC FEATURES 323

to address a problem in a class you are taking, as Patrick O’Malley does in proposing a solution to the problem of “high-stakes exams.”

As you plan and draft a proposal, you will have to determine whether your readers are aware of the problem and whether they recognize its seriousness, and you will have to consider their views on possible alternative solutions. Knowing what your readers know — their understanding of the problem, their assump- tions and attitudes toward change, and the kinds of arguments likely to appeal to them — is a central part of proposal writing.

Basic Features As you read essays proposing a solution in this chapter, you will see how different authors incorporate the basic features of the genre.

A Well-Defined Problem

Read first to see how the writer presents the problem. Writers try to define the problem in a way that establishes the need to find a solution. Notice which

Reading Essays Proposing a Solution

Basic Features

A Collaborative Activity: Practice Proposing a Solution to a Problem

To get a sense of the complexities and possibilities involved in proposing solutions, think

through a specific problem with two or three other students, and try to come up with a

feasible proposal — one that could actually help solve the problem and be implemented:

Part 1. Select a problem in your college community that you know something about — for

example, overly complicated registration procedures or noisy residence halls.

Discuss possible solutions and identify one solution that seems feasible. (You need

not all be equally enthusiastic about this solution.)

Determine who can act on your proposed solution and how to convince them that it

could be implemented and would indeed help solve the problem.

Part 2. As a group, discuss your efforts.

How did you think of possible solutions — for example, did you consider comparable

problems and borrow their solutions, try to figure out what caused the problem and

how to eliminate it, or use some other strategies?

What seemed most challenging about constructing an argument to convince people

to take action on your proposed solution — for example, showing how your solution

could be implemented, proving it would help solve the problem, or something else?

 

 

324 CHAPTER 7: PROPOSING A SOLUTION

strategies, such as the following, the writer uses to present the problem as real and serious:

giving examples to make the problem specific

using scenarios or anecdotes to dramatize the problem

quoting testimony from those affected by the problem

citing statistics to show the severity of the problem

vividly describing the problem’s negative consequences

A Well-Argued Solution

To find where the essay advocates a solution, look for the thesis statement. A good thesis statement in an essay proposing a solution makes clear exactly what is being proposed and may also forecast the reasons for it that will be developed and sup- ported in the essay. Check to see that the argument for the proposed solution offers concrete reasons and support showing that the solution is feasible — meaning it meets the following criteria:

it will help solve the problem;

it can be implemented; and

it is worth the expense, time, and effort.

For example, a writer might demonstrate that

the proposed solution would reduce or eliminate a major cause of the problem;

a similar solution has worked elsewhere;

the necessary steps to put the solution into practice can be taken without exces- sive cost or inconvenience; or

stakeholders could come together behind the proposal.

An Effective Counterargument

Read also to see how the writer responds to possible objections and alternative solutions. Writers may counterargue in one or more of the following ways:

by acknowledging an objection

by conceding the point and modifying the proposal to accommodate it

by refuting criticism — for example, by arguing that an alternative solution would be more costly or less likely to solve the problem than the proposed solution.

A Readable Plan

Finally, read to see how clearly the writer presents the proposal. Essays proposing a solution tend to be rather complicated because the writer has to establish the problem, argue for the proposed solution, and counterargue against objections and

 

 

PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE 325

alternative solutions — all of which must be backed with solid support and clear citations. Therefore, it is especially important to have a readable plan that helps readers follow the twists and turns of the argument.

To make their essays easy to read, writers usually include some or all of the following:

a forecast of the argument

key words introduced in the thesis and forecasting statement

topic sentences introducing paragraphs or groups of paragraphs

repeated use of key words and synonyms throughout the essay, particularly in topic sentences

clear transitional words and phrases

headings that explicitly identify different sections of the essay

visuals, including charts that present information in an easy to read format

Purpose and Audience An effective proposal is one that is taken seriously by readers and that stands a chance of convincing them to support or act on the proposed solution. To be effec- tive, a writer must establish credibility by anticipating readers’ needs and concerns and by representing readers’ views fairly.

As you read essays proposing solutions, ask yourself what seems to be the writer’s purpose in writing. For example, does the writer seem to be writing primarily

to convince readers that the problem truly exists and needs immediate action;

to assure readers that the problem can indeed be solved;

to persuade readers that the writer’s proposed solution is better than alternative solutions;

to inspire readers to take action; or

to rekindle readers’ interest in a long-standing problem?

As you read, also try to determine what the writer assumes about the audience. For example, does the writer assume most readers will

be unaware of the problem;

recognize the existence of the problem but fail to take it seriously;

think the problem has already been solved;

feel it is someone else’s problem and not of concern to them;

be skeptical about the cost and possibility of implementing the proposed solu- tion; or

prefer an alternative solution?

 

 

Readings

PATRICK O’MALLEY wrote the following proposal while he was a first-year college student frustrated by what he calls “high-stakes exams.” O’Malley interviewed two pro- fessors (his writing instructor and the writing program director), talked with several students, and read published research on the subject of testing. Notice how he anticipates professors’ likely objections to his proposed solution and argues against their preferred solutions to the problem. Where do you think his argument is strongest? Weakest?

As you read, consider the questions in the margin. Your instructor may ask you to post your answers or bring them to class.

1

2

3

What is the function of this opening paragraph?

How does defining the problem this way set up the solution?

How does O’Malley use the key terms introduced here through- out the essay?

What does par. 3 contribute to the argument?

326

More Testing, More Learning

Patrick O’Malley

It’s late at night. The final’s tomorrow. You got a C on the midterm, so this one will

make or break you. Will it be like the midterm? Did you study enough? Did you study

the right things? It’s too late to drop the course. So what happens if you fail? No time

to worry about that now — you’ve got a ton of notes to go over.

Although this last-minute anxiety about midterm and final exams is only too

familiar to most college students, many professors may not realize how such major,

infrequent, high-stakes exams work against the best interests of students both

psychologically and intellectually. They cause unnecessary amounts of stress, plac-

ing too much importance on one or two days in the students’ entire term, judging

ability on a single or dual performance. They don’t encourage frequent study, and

they fail to inspire students’ best performance. If professors gave additional brief

exams at frequent intervals, students would be spurred to study more regularly,

learn more, worry less, and perform better on midterms, finals, and other papers

and projects.

Ideally, a professor would give an in-class test or quiz after each unit, chapter, or

focus of study, depending on the type of class and course material. A physics class might

require a test on concepts after every chapter covered, while a history class could neces-

sitate quizzes covering certain time periods or major events. These exams should be given

weekly or at least twice monthly. Whenever possible, they should consist of two or three

essay questions rather than many multiple-choice or short-answer questions. To preserve

class time for lecture and discussion, exams should take no more than 15 or 20 minutes.

Basic Features

Counterargument

 

 

O’MALLEY / MORE TESTING, MORE LEARNING 327

How does O’Malley introduce this reason? What kinds of support does he offer?

How does O’Malley integrate sources into his text and cite them?

How does O’Malley support this reason? Why does he in- clude it?

4

5

READINGS

The main reason professors should give frequent exams is that when they do and

when they provide feedback to students on how well they are doing, students learn

more in the course and perform better on major exams, projects, and papers. It makes

sense that in a challenging course containing a great deal of material, students will

learn more of it and put it to better use if they have to apply or “practice” it frequently

on exams, which also helps them find out how much they are learning and what they

need to go over again. A 2006 study reported in Psychological Science journal con-

cluded that “taking repeated tests on material leads to better long-term retention than

repeated studying,” according to the study’s coauthors, Henry L. Roediger and Jeff

Karpicke. When asked what the impact of this breakthrough research would be, they

responded: “We hope that this research may be picked up in educational circles as a

way to improve educational practices, both for students in the classroom and as a study

strategy outside of class” (ScienceWatch.com, 2008). “Incorporating more frequent

classroom testing into a course,” the study concludes, “may improve students’ learning

and promote retention of material long after a course has ended” (qtd. in Science Blog,

2006). Many students already recognize the value of frequent testing, but their reason

is that they need the professor’s feedback. A Harvard study notes students’ “strong

preference for frequent evaluation in a course.” Harvard students feel they learn least in

courses that have “only a midterm and a final exam, with no other personal evaluation.”

They believe they learn most in courses with “many opportunities to see how they are

doing” (Light, 1990, p. 32). In a review of a number of studies of student learning,

Frederiksen (1984) reports that students who take weekly quizzes achieve higher scores

on final exams than students who take only a midterm exam and that testing increases

retention of material tested.

Another, closely related argument in favor of multiple exams is that they encourage

students to improve their study habits. Greater frequency in test taking means greater

frequency in studying for tests. Students prone to cramming will be required — or at

least strongly motivated — to open their textbooks and notebooks more often, mak-

ing them less likely to resort to long, kamikaze nights of studying for major exams.

Since there is so much to be learned in the typical course, it makes sense that frequent,

careful study and review are highly beneficial. But students need motivation to study

regularly, and nothing works like an exam. If students had frequent exams in all their

courses, they would have to schedule study time each week and gradually would develop

a habit of frequent study. It might be argued that students are adults who have to learn

how to manage their own lives, but learning history or physics is more complicated

than learning to drive a car or balance a checkbook. Students need coaching and practice

How does O’Malley introduce and respond to this possible objection?

 

 

328 CHAPTER 7: PROPOSING A SOLUTION

What is the purpose of this question?

How effectively does O’Malley use this source?

How does O’Malley argue against possible objections in pars. 8 and 9?

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in learning. The right way to learn new material needs to become a habit, and I believe

that frequent exams are key to developing good habits of study and learning. The

Harvard study concludes that “tying regular evaluation to good course organization

enables students to plan their work more than a few days in advance. If quizzes and

homework are scheduled on specific days, students plan their work to capitalize on

them” (Light, 1990, p. 33).

By encouraging regular study habits, frequent exams would also decrease anxiety

by reducing the procrastination that produces anxiety. Students would benefit psycho-

logically if they were not subjected to the emotional ups and downs caused by major

exams, when after being virtually worry-free for weeks they are suddenly ready to check

into the psychiatric ward. Researchers at the University of Vermont found a strong rela-

tionship among procrastination, anxiety, and achievement. Students who regularly put off

studying for exams had continuing high anxiety and lower grades than students who procras-

tinated less. The researchers found that even “low” procrastinators did not study regularly and

recommended that professors give frequent assignments and exams to reduce procrastination

and increase achievement (Rothblum, Solomon, & Murakami, 1986, pp. 393–394).

Research supports my proposed solution to the problems I have described. Common

sense as well as my experience and that of many of my friends support it. Why, then, do

so few professors give frequent brief exams?

Some believe that such exams take up too much of the limited class time available

to cover the material in the course. Most courses meet 150 minutes a week — three

times a week for 50 minutes each time. A 20-minute weekly exam might take 30 min-

utes to administer, and that is one-fifth of each week’s class time. From the student’s

perspective, however, this time is well spent. Better learning and greater confidence

about the course seem a good trade-off for another 30 minutes of lecture. Moreover,

time lost to lecturing or discussion could easily be made up in students’ learning on

their own through careful regular study for the weekly exams. If weekly exams still

seem too time-consuming to some professors, their frequency could be reduced to

every other week or their length to 5 or 10 minutes. In courses where multiple-choice

exams are appropriate, several questions could be designed to take only a few minutes

to answer.

Another objection professors have to frequent exams is that they take too much

time to read and grade. In a 20-minute essay exam, a well-prepared student can easily

write two pages. A relatively small class of 30 students might then produce 60 pages,

no small amount of material to read each week. A large class of 100 or more students

would produce an insurmountable pile of material. There are a number of responses

 

 

O’MALLEY / MORE TESTING, MORE LEARNING 329

How effectively does O’Malley present alternative solutions in pars. 10–12?

How do the highlighted words and phrases make the argu- ment easy to follow?

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to this objection. Again, professors could give exams every other week or make them

very short. Instead of reading them closely they could skim them quickly to see

whether students understand an idea or can apply it to an unfamiliar problem; and

instead of numerical or letter grades they could give a plus, check, or minus. Exams

could be collected and responded to only every third or fourth week. Professors who

have readers or teaching assistants could rely on them to grade or check exams. And

the Scantron machine is always available for instant grading of multiple-choice exams.

Finally, frequent exams could be given in place of a midterm exam or out-of-class

essay assignment.

Since frequent exams seem to some professors to create too many problems, how-

ever, it is reasonable to consider alternative ways to achieve the same goals. One alter-

native solution is to implement a program that would improve study skills. While such a

program might teach students how to study for exams, it cannot prevent procrastination

or reduce “large test anxiety” by a substantial amount. One research team studying

anxiety and test performance found that study skills training was not effective in reduc-

ing anxiety or improving performance (Dendato & Diener, 1986, p. 134). This team,

which also reviewed other research that reached the same conclusion, did find that a

combination of “cognitive/relaxation therapy” and study skills training was effective.

This possible solution seems complicated, however, not to mention time-consuming

and expensive. It seems much easier and more effective to change the cause of the bad

habit rather than treat the habit itself. That is, it would make more sense to solve the

problem at its root: the method of learning and evaluation.

Still another solution might be to provide frequent study questions for students

to answer. These would no doubt be helpful in focusing students’ time studying, but

students would probably not actually write out the answers unless they were required

to. To get students to complete the questions in a timely way, professors would have

to collect and check the answers. In that case, however, they might as well devote the

time to grading an exam. Even if it asks the same questions, a scheduled exam is prefer-

able to a set of study questions because it takes far less time to write in class, com-

pared to the time students would devote to responding to questions at home. In-class

exams also ensure that each student produces his or her own work.

Another possible solution would be to help students prepare for midterm and final

exams by providing sets of questions from which the exam questions will be selected or

announcing possible exam topics at the beginning of the course. This solution would

have the advantage of reducing students’ anxiety about learning every fact in the text-

book, and it would clarify the course goals, but it would not motivate students to study

 

 

330 CHAPTER 7: PROPOSING A SOLUTION

How effective is this conclusion?

Why do you think O’Malley as- sumes these sources would carry weight with his readers?

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carefully each new unit, concept, or text chapter in the course. I see this as a way of

complementing frequent exams, not as substituting for them.

From the evidence and from my talks with professors and students, I see frequent,

brief in-class exams as the only way to improve students’ study habits and learning,

reduce their anxiety and procrastination, and increase their satisfaction with college.

These exams are not a panacea, but only more parking spaces and a winning football

team would do as much to improve college life. Professors can’t do much about parking

or football, but they can give more frequent exams. Campus administrators should get

behind this effort, and professors should get together to consider giving exams more

frequently. It would make a difference.

References

Dendato, K. M., & Diener, D. (1986). Effectiveness of cognitive/relaxation therapy and study skills training in reducing self-reported anxiety and improving the academic performance of test-anxious students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 33, 131–135.

Frederiksen, N. (1984). The real test bias: Influences of testing on teaching and learn- ing. American Psychologist, 39, 193–202.

Light, R. J. (1990). Explorations with students and faculty about teaching, learning, and student life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Education and Kennedy School of Government.

Rothblum, E. D., Solomon, L., & Murakami, J. (1986). Affective, cognitive, and be- havioral differences between high and low procrastinators. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 33, 387–394.

ScienceBlog. (2006, March 7). To learn something, testing beats studying. [Blog posting]. Retrieved from http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/to_learn_something_ testing_beats_studying_10161.html

ScienceWatch.com. (2008, February). Fast Breaking Papers – 2008. [Interview with authors Henry L. Roediger & Jeff Karpicke about journal article Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention]. Retrieved from http://sciencewatch .com/dr/fbp/2008/08febfbp/08febfbpRoedigerETAL/

To learn about O’Malley’s process of writing this essay, turn to A Writer at Work on pp. 379–81. How did revision help O’Malley strengthen the presentation of his argument?

LEARN ABOUT O’MALLEY’S

WRITING PROCESS

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http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/to_learn_something_testing_beats_studying_10161.html
http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/to_learn_something_testing_beats_studying_10161.html

 

KORNBLUH / WIN-WIN FLEXIBILITY 331

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WIN-WIN FLEXIBILITY Karen Kornbluh

Introduction

Today fully 70 percent of families with children are headed by two working parents or by an unmarried working parent. The “traditional family” of the breadwinner and homemaker has been replaced by the “juggler family,” in which no one is home full- time. Two-parent families are working 10 more hours a week than in 1979 (Bernstein and Kornbluh).

To be decent parents, caregivers, and members of their communities, workers now need greater flexibility than they once did. Yet good part-time or flex-time jobs remain rare. Whereas companies have embraced flexibility in virtually every other aspect of their businesses (inventory control, production schedules, financing), full- time workers’ schedules remain largely inflexible. Employers often demand workers be available around the clock. Moreover, many employees have no right to a minimum number of sick or vacation days; almost two thirds of all workers — and an even

KAREN KORNBLUH earned a B.A. in economics and English and an M.A. from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She worked in the private sector as an economist and management consultant and in the public sector as director of the office of legisla- tive and intergovernmental affairs at the Federal Communications Commission before becoming the deputy chief of staff at the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration. Kornbluh has been a senior adviser to President Barack Obama since 2004.

As director of the Work and Family Program of the New America Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan institute that sponsors research and conferences on public policy issues, Kornbluh led an effort to change the American workplace to accommodate what she calls the new “juggler family,” in which parents have to juggle their time for parenting and work. Her book Running Harder to Stay in Place: The Growth of Family Work Hours and Incomes was published in 2005 by the New America Foundation, and Kornbluh’s ar- ticles have appeared in such distinguished venues as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly. The following proposal was published in 2005 by the Work and Family Program.

As you read, think about your own experiences as a child, a parent, or both and how they affect your response to Kornbluh’s proposal. Have you or your parents had to juggle time for parenting and work — and if so, how did you or they manage it?

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332 CHAPTER 7: PROPOSING A SOLUTION

larger percentage of low-income parents — lack the ability to take a day off to care for a family member (Lovell). The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 finally guaranteed that workers at large companies could take a leave of absence for the birth or adoption of a baby, or for the illness of a family member. Yet that guaranteed leave is unpaid.

Many businesses are finding ways to give their most valued employees flex- ibility but, all too often, workers who need flexibility find themselves shunted into part-time, temporary, on-call, or contract jobs with reduced wages and career opportunities — and, often, no benefits. A full quarter of American workers are in these jobs. Only 15 percent of women and 12 percent of men in such jobs receive health insurance from their employers (Wenger). A number of European countries provide workers the right to a part-time schedule and all have enacted legislation to implement a European Union directive to prohibit discrimination against part- time workers.

In America, employers are required to accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities — even if that means providing a part-time or flexible schedule. Employers may also provide religious accommodations for employees by offering a part-time or flexible schedule. At the same time, employers have no obligation to allow parents or employees caring for sick relatives to work part-time or flexible schedules, even if the cost to the employer would be inconsequential.

In the 21st Century global economy, America needs a new approach that allows businesses to gain flexibility in staffing without sacrificing their competitiveness and enables workers to gain control over their work-lives without sacrificing their eco- nomic security. This win-win flexibility arrangement will not be the same in every company, nor even for each employee working within the same organization. Each case will be different. But flexibility will not come for all employees without some education, prodding, and leadership. So, employers and employees must be required to come to the table to work out a solution that benefits everyone. American busi- nesses must be educated on strategies for giving employees flexibility without sacrific- ing productivity or morale. And businesses should be recognized and rewarded when they do so.

America is a nation that continually rises to the occasion. At the dawn of a new century, we face many challenges. One of these is helping families to raise our next generation in an increasingly demanding global economy. This is a challenge America must meet with imagination and determination.

Background: The Need for Workplace Flexibility

Between 1970 and 2000, the percentage of mothers in the workforce rose from 38 to 67 percent (Smolensky and Gootman). Moreover, the number of hours worked by dual-income families has increased dramatically. Couples with children worked a full 60 hours a week in 1979. By 2000 they were working 70 hours a week (Bernstein and Kornbluh). And more parents than ever are working long hours. In 2000, nearly 1 out of every 8 couples with children was putting in 100 hours a

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KORNBLUH / WIN-WIN FLEXIBILITY 333

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week or more on the job, compared to only 1 out of 12 families in 1970 (Jacobs and Gerson).

In addition to working parents, there are over 44.4 million Americans who pro- vide care to another adult, often an older relative. Fifty-nine percent of these caregivers either work or have worked while providing care (“Caregiving”).

In a 2002 report by the Families and Work Institute, 45 percent of employees reported that work and family responsibilities interfered with each other “a lot” or “some” and 67 percent of employed parents report that they do not have enough time with their children (Galinksy, Bond, and Hill).

Over half of workers today have no control over scheduling alternative start and end times at work (Galinksy, Bond, and Hill). According to a recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 49 percent of workers — over 59 million Americans — lack basic paid sick days for themselves. And almost two-thirds of all workers — and an even larger percentage of low-income parents — lack the ability to take a day off to care for a family member (Lovell). Thirteen percent of non-poor workers with caregiving responsibilities lack paid vacation leave, while 28 percent of poor caregivers lack any paid vacation time (Heymann). Research has shown that flexible arrangements and benefits tend to be more accessible in larger and more profitable firms, and then to the most valued professional and managerial workers in those firms (Golden). Parents with young children and working welfare recipients — the workers who need access to paid leave the most — are the least likely to have these benefits, according to research from the Urban Institute (Ross Phillips).

In the US, only 5 percent of workers have access to a job that provides paid pa- rental leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act grants the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious illness of the worker or a worker’s family member. But the law does not apply to employees who work in com- panies with fewer than 50 people, employees who have worked for less than a year at their place of employment, or employees who work fewer than 1,250 hours a year. Consequently, only 45 percent of parents working in the private sector are eligible to take even this unpaid time off (Smolensky and Gootman).

Workers often buy flexibility by sacrificing job security, benefits, and pay. Part- time workers are less likely to have employer-provided health insurance or pensions and their hourly wages are lower. One study in 2002 found that 43 percent of employed parents said that using flexibility would jeopardize their advancement (Galinksy, Bond, and Hill).

Children, in particular, pay a heavy price for workplace inflexibility (Waters Boots 2004). Almost 60 percent of child care arrangements are of poor or mediocre quality (Smolensky and Gootman). Children in low-income families are even less likely to be in good or excellent care settings. Full-day child care easily costs $4,000 to $10,000 per year — approaching the price of college tuition at a public university. As a result of the unaffordable and low quality nature of child care in this country, a disturbing number of today’s children are left home alone: Over 3.3 million children age 6–12 are home alone after school each day (Vandivere et al).

 

 

334 CHAPTER 7: PROPOSING A SOLUTION

Many enlightened businesses are showing the way forward to a 21st century flex- ible workplace. Currently, however, businesses have little incentive to provide families with the flexibility they need. We need to level the playing field and remove the com- petitive disadvantages for all businesses that do provide workplace flexibility.

This should be a popular priority. A recent poll found that 77 percent of likely voters feel that it is difficult for families to earn enough and still have time to be with their families. Eighty-four percent of voters agree that children are being shortchanged when their parents have to work long hours. . . .

Proposal: Win-Win Flexibility

A win-win approach in the US to flexibility . . . might function as follows. It would be “soft touch” at first — requiring a process and giving business an out if it would be costly to implement — with a high-profile public education campaign on the impor- tance of workplace flexibility to American business, American families, and American society. A survey at the end of the second year would determine whether a stricter approach is needed.

Employees would have the right to make a formal request to their employers for flexibility in the number of hours worked, the times worked, and/or the ability to work from home. Examples of such flexibility would include part-time, annualized hours,1 compressed hours,2 flex-time,3 job-sharing, shift working, staggered hours, and telecommuting.

The employee would be required to make a written application providing details on the change in work, the effect on the employer, and solutions to any problems caused to the employer. The employer would be required to meet with the employee and give the employee a decision on the request within two weeks, as well as provide an opportunity for an internal appeal within one month from the initial request.

The employee request would be granted unless the employer demonstrated it would require significant difficulty or expense entailing more than ordinary costs, de- creased job efficiency, impairment of worker safety, infringement of other employees’ rights, or conflict with another law or regulation.

The employer would be required to provide an employee working a flexible schedule with the same hourly pay and proportionate health, pension, vacation, holiday, and FMLA benefits that the employee received before working flexibly and would be required thereafter to advance the employee at the same rate as full-time employees.

Who would be covered: Parents (including parents, legal guardians, foster parents) and other caregivers at first. Eventually all workers should be eligible in our flexible, 24 7 economy. During the initial period, it will be necessary to define non-parental “caregivers.” One proposal is to define them as immediate relatives or other caregivers

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1 Annualized hours means working different numbers of hours a week but a fixed annual total.

2 Compressed hours means working more hours a day in exchange for working fewer days a week.

3 Flex-time means working on an adjustable daily schedule.

 

 

KORNBLUH / WIN-WIN FLEXIBILITY 335

of “certified care recipients” (defined as those whom a doctor certifies as having three or more limitations that impede daily functioning — using diagnostic criteria such as Activities of Daily Living [ADL]/Instrumental Activities of Daily Living [IADL] — for at least 180 consecutive days). . . .

Public Education: Critical to the success of the proposal will be public education along the lines of the education that the government and business schools conducted in the 1980s about the need for American business to adopt higher quality standards to compete against Japanese business. A Malcolm Baldridge–like award4 should be created for companies that make flexibility win-win. A public education campaign conducted by the Department of Labor should encourage small businesses to adopt best practices of win-win flexibility. Tax credits could be used in the first year to re- ward early adopters.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Jared, and Karen Kornbluh. Running Faster to Stay in Place: The Growth of Family Work Hours and Incomes. Washington: New America Foundation, 2005. New America Foundation. Web. 22 May 2008.

Galinsky, Ellen, James Bond, and Jeffrey E. Hill. Workplace Flexibility: What Is It? Who Has It? Who Wants It? Does It Make a Difference? New York: Families and Work Institute, 2004. Print.

Golden, Lonnie. The Time Bandit: What U.S. Workers Surrender to Get Greater Flexibility in Work Schedules. Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2000. Economic Policy Institute. Web. 18 May 2008.

Heyman, Jody. The Widening Gap: Why America’s Working Families Are in Jeopardy — and What Can Be Done About It. New York: Basic, 2000. Print.

Jacobs, Jerry, and Kathleen Gerson. The Time Divide: Work, Family and Gender Inequality. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2004. Print.

Lovell, Vickey. No Time to Be Sick: Why Everyone Suffers When Workers Don’t Have Paid Sick Leave. Washington: Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2004. Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Web. 20 May 2008.

National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Caregiving in the U.S. Bethesda: NAC, 2004. National Alliance for Caregiving. Web. 20 May 2008.

Ross Phillips, Katherine. Getting Time Off: Access to Leave among Working Parents. Washington: Urban Institute, 2004. Urban Institute. Web. 21 May 2008. New Federalism: National Survey of America’s Families B-57.

Smolensky, Eugene, and Jennifer A. Gootman, eds. Working Families and Growing Kids: Caring for Children and Adolescents. Washington: The National Academies P, 2004. Print.

Vandivere, Sharon, et al. Unsupervised Time: Family and Child Factors Associated with Self-Care. Washington: Urban Institute, 2003. Urban Institute. Web. 21 May 2008. Assessing the New Federalism 71.

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4 The Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award is given by the U.S. President to outstanding businesses.

 

 

336 CHAPTER 7: PROPOSING A SOLUTION

Waters Boots, Shelley. The Way We Work: How Children and Their Families Fare in a 21st Century Workplace. Washington: New America Foundation, 2004. New America Foundation. Web. 22 May 2008.

Wenger, Jeffrey. Share of Workers in “Nonstandard” Jobs Declines. Briefing Paper. Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2003. Economic Policy Institute. Web. 18 May 2008.

Many of you have probably grown up during the period Kornbluh is describing, and your family may have been configured more as a “juggler” than as a “traditional family” (par. 1). Kornbluh asserts in paragraph 13 that it is the children in juggler families who “pay a heavy price.” She is particularly critical of child care, which she says is very expensive and of low quality, especially for low-income families. She cites Vandivere et al. to argue that more than “3.3 million children age 6–12 are home alone after school each day” (par. 13).

With two or three other students, discuss how well Kornbluh’s argument com- pares with your experiences as a child. Begin by taking turns telling whether you attended after-school programs, were a “latchkey child,” or had some other arrange- ment. Then, together consider the following questions:

Kornbluh cites research claiming that “60 percent of child care arrangements are of poor or mediocre quality” (par. 13). Looking back, how would you rate your child-care arrangements?

Based on your experience, what kinds of child-care arrangements do you think would serve children and their parents best today?

MAKING CONNECTIONS: THE PROBLEM

OF CHILD CARE

ANALYZING WRITING

STRATEGIES

Your instructor may assign these activities in class or as homework for you to do by yourself or with classmates.

A Well-Defined Problem

Every proposal begins with a problem. What writers say about the problem and how much space they devote to it depend on what they assume their readers already know and think about the problem.

Some problems require more explanation than others. For problems that are new to readers, writers not only need to explain the problem but also to convince readers that it exists and is serious enough to justify taking the actions the writer thinks are necessary to solve it. Kornbluh assumes readers will not be familiar with key aspects of the problem she is writing about, so she spends the first part of her essay introducing the problem and the second part establishing the problem’s existence and seriousness.

To analyze how Kornbluh defines the problem, do the following:

Skim the first two sections, highlighting each time she uses some form of the word flexibility.

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Basic Features

 

 

KORNBLUH / WIN-WIN FLEXIBILITY 337

Write a few sentences explaining how Kornbluh establishes that there is a lack of workplace flexibility for the “juggler family” and why it is a serious problem that needs to be solved.

A Well-Argued Solution

You have seen that O’Malley gives three reasons why he thinks a greater number of brief exams will solve the problem he addresses and how he supports each reason with published research studies as well as his own experience. Kornbluh does not have to prove that her proposed solution would help solve the problem because it is obvious that a flexible work schedule would help juggler families juggle their responsibilities. But she does have to argue that her solution is feasible (possible). Readers of essays proposing a solution to a problem need to be told precisely what the solution is that the writer is advocating. Therefore, writers describe the proposed solution simply and directly in a way that readers cannot miss.

O’Malley presents his solution in his title, as does Kornbluh. But they both go on to describe the solution and to argue for it by trying to convince readers that the proposed solution would help solve the problem, is feasible, and could be imple- mented within a reasonable time and budget.

To analyze how Kornbluh argues that her solution can be implemented, try the following:

Reread paragraph 5, where she sets out some general principles, and paragraphs 16–22, where she details what is needed to implement her solution. As you read, highlight the guidelines for what employees as well as what employers should do, and also underline the would, should, and could verb forms.

Write a few sentences explaining how well you think the procedure she outlines satisfies the goals Kornbluh sets out in paragraph 5. What, if anything, do you think is missing?

Add a sentence speculating about why Kornbluh uses would, should, and could verb forms, as O’Malley does in paragraph 3 of his essay.

An Effective Counterargument

Writers of essays proposing solutions need to anticipate other solutions their read- ers may prefer. O’Malley, for example, brings up several alternative solutions his readers might prefer: implementing programs to improve students’ study skills, giving students frequent study questions, and handing out possible exam topics to help students prepare. He acknowledges the benefits of some of these solutions but also points out their shortcomings, arguing that his solution is preferable to the alternatives.

To analyze how Kornbluh anticipates alternative solutions and counterargues, do the following:

Reread paragraphs 10–12.

Write a sentence or two for each alternative solution she brings up, explaining what the solution is and how effectively she handles it.

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338 CHAPTER 7: PROPOSING A SOLUTION

A Readable Plan

Writers sometimes use headings to make it easy for readers to follow the argument. In long proposals, headings can be especially helpful. But what do you think they add to a short essay like this one?

To analyze how Kornbluh uses headings, follow these suggestions:

Skim the essay, noting how each heading functions.

Write a few sentences describing the function of the headings and indicating whether you think they are helpful.

Add another sentence or two comparing Kornbluh’s headings to the headings in Robert Kuttner’s essay (pp. 346–52), if you have read that essay as well.

If you are interested in the problem Kornbluh describes, you might suggest other ways of helping parents juggle their parenting and work responsibilities. For example, consider writing a proposal for increasing opportunities for one or more parents to work at home via telecommuting. Alternatively, you might consider ways of improving preschool or after-school child-care arrangements. Would it be feasible, for instance, for high schools or community colleges to train interested students who could provide child care at supervised facili- ties on campus? You might interview people in your community to explore alternative ways of funding after-school programs. Perhaps you could propose that local businesses sponsor sports teams or offer after-school internships to students.

CONSIDERING TOPICS FOR YOUR

OWN ESSAY

MATT MILLER has a B.A. in economics and a law degree, is a nation- ally syndicated columnist, hosts the public radio program Left, Right, and Center, is a commentator on Morning Edition, and has a Web site, mattmilleronline.com. His articles have appeared