Module 1: The Standard Argument Essay
The activities in this module are designed to help you build up to this module’s assessment, the Standard Argument Essay. The general requirements are outlined here, but reading the textbook and completing the activities will deepen your understanding of these directions.
Goal:
This module and the assignment detailed below are designed to establish the basic features of defending an argument. By the end of the module, students should be to write a clear academic argument(as described in the section on Defining Arguments, in the module’s first reading “An Introduction to Argument”).
Essay Topic:
Your essay will argue your answer to the question, “For an ‘average’ student, is attempting a Bachelor’s degree worth the cost?” Your answer to that question should be your thesis, and you’ll spend the rest of the essay defending that stance.
A few things to think about: Of course, there is no “average” person, and in reality, the answer to the essay’s question depends on a person’s unique circumstances. So you’re asked to imagine the”average” high school graduate because it provides an identifiable audience and, more importantly, it makes sure the question is debatable (as described in the section on Defining Arguments, in the module’s first reading “An Introduction to Argument”). For our purposes, an “average” high school graduate could be defined as a 17-19 year old who scored in the middle of their class at an averagehigh school. Should that student spend the thousands of dollars required to take a chance at a getting a Bachelor’s degree? (Note that it says “take a chance” on getting a degree. It’s easy to say college is worth it if the outcome is guaranteed, but no one knows that when they start out, so there’s always an element of chance involved.)
One more important note: Yes, of course, WE are all smart enough to know that the smart way to avoid many of the problems mentioned is to go to a community college! However, the same reasons that make community colleges a great choice in real life make it a bad approach to this paper: lower costs, risks and commitments. But another real issue with that stance is that it tends to ignore that most people use community college as a path to a bachelor’s degree, and there’s no way to get a 4-year degree (beyond getting a full scholarship, and remember, our student is “average”) without spending a lot of time and money and effort trying. So that’s what’s at stake here. After all you will read, you’ll have to imagine this “average” student, and decide what you’re going to recommend they do: skip college and try vocational school, the military, or apprenticeships? Or risk the time, money and emotions to go for a 4-year college degree? You might imagine yourself as a mentor or guidance counselor who’s got a nice, average student sitting across your desk asking you if they should ,“should I go to college?”
Sources:
You may use any or all of the textbook’s readings or summaries of the college issue, but you can only use what’s in the textbook. Mostly, you’ll use the articles from outside authors featured at the end of Chapter 1 and in Chapter 21’s “Casebook.”) You’ll only need to actually incorporate (and cite) three of the readings, but you’ll want your paper to be aware of the arguments in all of them. You won’t want to say something that’s been contradicted in other readings.
Please do not look up or include any research beyond what’s in the book. You’ll lose at least 30% of the points for the paper (see criteria below). We’ll study how to find credible sources later, so until we do, we’re going to use the articles from the book. If you would like to add personal experience relevant to what’s been cited, that’s fine, and can often add pathos if your argument is filled with a lot of statistics and studies otherwise, but personal experience alone should not be the basis for your stance in any argument. Everyone’s experience is valuable, but we’re practicing how to utilize sources, so that’s our focus.
Documentation:
There’s a lot to learn about citations, and we’re going to get to them, but for now, we’re just looking to get the big ideas right. Before submission you’ll read Ch. 9’s discussion of how to clearly separate your words from your sources’, but you also might want to skim over the formatting of the sample MLA essay at the end of Ch. 10, (“Should Data Posted…Employers?”). That will show you how the essay should be formatted and what documentation looks like in an actual paper.
To make things easier, you can copy the format below for everyarticle you choose from the book. You’ll just need to alter the author, title and page numbers for each specific article you cite:
Nemko, Marty “We Send Too Many Students to College.” Practical Argument, edited by Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014, pp. 36-40.
Also remember what Chapter 9 explains: use in-text citations after any quote or evidence cited in your body paragraphs. Even if you paraphrase something, like noting that some influential people find greater value in the practical experience than in college, you have to note where you saw it (Stephens 43).
The assignment doesn’t expect flawless citations; we’ll study them in more depth as the semester goes on. But you are expected to cite what you’ve used, and we’ll treat those efforts as “teachable” moments.
However, to be clear, if there’s no attempt to document the sources (especially no attempt to use quotation marks around word-for-word material), no credit will be given for this aspect of the paper. The same penalty will apply if your paper only makes use of outside sources. The goal is to see how you can manage the information you’re given.
Structure:
Your essay should use the standard academic essay structure (something close to the classic 5-paragraph essay College Composition I will have reviewed. After an introduction establishing your position, you’ll write at least three body paragraphs presenting different supporting arguments for your thesis. In addition, as the book notes, you’ll want to include a refutation. You should mostly rely on evidence from the readings, but you are welcome and encouraged to add personal experiences. Each body paragraph should include at least one specific reference (either a direct quote or a paraphrase) to a reading.
Format:
MLA format required for all citations and the general set-up of the paper. (As mentioned under “Documentation,” review Chapter 10’s sample student essay, “Should Data Posted […] Employers?” for MLA format guidelines and a visual for how all your essays (not only in this course) should be set up. The book doesn’t specify, but Times New Roman is usually the preferred font in college.)
Length:
3-4 pages (no cover sheet necessary)
Criteria/Rubric Weights:
1. Overall understanding of argument (30%)
2. Organization/development (30%)
3. Use of sources (30%)
4. Grammar/mechanics (10%)
Points Possible:
100

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