Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Week 13: Monday, November 17th - Friday, November 21st

Goals for this Week

  • Provide students with an opportunity to evaluate sample argumentative essays, including examples from the NYT.
  • Discuss sample essays. As you do so, ensure that students understand that sample essays are not models for writing, but that they serve as vehicles for discussing the choices writers make in response to their writing situations. You can use:
    • samples from the NYT Editorial and Op-Ed pages
    • samples from the PHG
    • sample essay(s) from the appendix
    • find/create your own—perhaps providing an online link via Syllabase so that students print out their copies at home and read them before class

To facilitate the discussion, you can place the arguments on an overhead or have students examine the essays in groups and report back to the class with their findings. You’ll find an expanded discussion of strategies for meeting this goal in "Planning to Model or Critique Student Samples" located in the teaching guide Planning a Class on Writing@CSU.

  • Use Backward Outlining (see Week 11 class plans or consult the appendix for clarification of backward outlining) to examine the structure of the sample arguments
  • Review the goals and expectations for the arguing essay.
  • Spend time in class writing argumentative briefs
  • Peer Review of argumentative briefs
  • Discuss the optional use of illustrations to enhance arguments and to conform to a target publication. See the discussion of this issue under Connection to Course Goals, below.

Connection to Course Goals

As Thanksgiving and the end of the course begin to loom, try to keep your students as much on task as possible. Many a student has “flaked out” at this late stage, and that tragedy can often be prevented by your attentiveness at this stage to signs of resignation, exhaustion, and withdrawal. While you are under no obligation to provide “mothering,” you expend little and possibly avoid a lot of later complications by simply indicating your concern and awareness of their attendance and conscientious completion of assignments. Often, for instance, a sudden pattern of sloppiness on the part of an otherwise good student can be called to their attention (and corrected) with just a simple question. Also, a quick whole-class email that provides a little cheerleading at this point can do some good. You might point out that the more they get done now, the less they’ll have to do over the break. Some will be delighted to have the break to work on their papers, while others will resent having any work at all. Remind them that the Portfolio is due at the end of the week they return from break. Also, since you are preparing them to work independently over the break, you’ll need to make sure that they have a solid argument plan before they leave. The argumentative brief is an effective way of ensuring that every student has (at least) an outline of the essay before leaving campus. Among other things, this outline is a good hedge against writer’s block, tendencies to procrastinate, and even the kind of forgetting that can occur when students make a break from campus and academics for over a week.

The activities for this week emphasize

  • the importance of ongoing revision during the writing process
  • the development of an argumentative brief
  • the use of illustrations (charts, graphs, images, animations, video, etc.) as persuasive and informative devices

In terms of revising, your overall goal is to help students understand that writing continues even after they've completed their first draft. It would be ideal if they began to see and value the improvements made during this process of rewriting.

In terms of argumentative briefs and doing a peer review of the brief, your goal here is to help students see that they can block out their arguments (and play with organization and development) before they draft. The brief makes an argument visible while also offering high levels of flexibility for easy revision before whole paragraphs are committed. Argument briefs are most effective if written in full sentence form, compelling the writer to assert his or her argument points (thesis, reasons, and evidence). At the conclusion of this lesson plan, please find an example you could use with students.

In terms of illustrations, your goal is to expand students’ understanding of “evidence.” Students should understand that, in addition to such devices as paraphrases and quotations, they can draw on a wide range of illustrations, tables, charts, and so on to support their arguments. If they have been collecting samples of graphics from the NYT during this section of the course, they should be in good shape to understand and discuss the role of visuals in making points and supplementing arguments. Have them bring examples to class and bring your own as well.

Required Reading and Assignments

Students should be working hard to supplement their sources, to plan their arguments, and to integrate all they’ve learned about argumentative principles and writing for specific contexts. Their homework over the Thanksgiving break is to return with a solid draft that is ready to be workshopped on the first day back. No further reading, beyond their own research, the sample essays and their peers’ argument briefs, should be assigned at this point. The NYT will not be delivered during the fall break.

Sample Argumentative Brief

Essay Title (Working): Return the Right to Forego Treatment of Neonates to Parents and Their Physicians

Thesis: The decision whether to treat or not treat a neonate with a serious medical condition, when combined with significant handicaps and abnormalities, should be left to the parents’ discretion—supplemented by consultation with a family physician and an ethics board.

      I.         Introduction/Background: Neonatology has resulted in remarkable advances in the care of very ill newborns, but the costs of such care are not fully recognized.

a.     The most significant development in neonatal care after WWII was the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the capabilities of which have grown steadily since its inception.

b.     Advancements in medical technology have resulted in babies surviving at ever smaller birth weights.

c.     The costs associated with care of the very small neonate are often not considered, either from the point of view of immediate family costs or long-term society costs.

d.     The costs of such care are also measured in terms of the long-term prognosis of surviving babies, which in general is not particularly good since care and illness do not end when sick babies go home.

    II.         Legalities and Ethics: Both legal and ethical dilemmas are associated with advances in neonatology.

a.     It is illegal to deny treatment to any infant.

b.     However, it is unethical to require treatment for newborns whose prognosis is poor and for whom suffering is inevitable and without end.

c.     Without reliable data about the long-term effects of many treatments currently available, vegetative “new species of human beings” are being created—at great cost to society, which absorbs the expenses of such care through increased insurance and medical care costs.

  III.         Ethics Committees: Ethics committees may offer a reasonable way for hospitals, parents, and physicians to make logical decisions about ill neonates’ lives.

a.     In many place, ethics committees have been developed for helping with decisions about ill neonates.

b.     Such committees, made up of religious counselors, physicians, nurses, social workers, and legal counsel, exist for the sole purpose of informing parents and usually are without institutional affiliation.

c.     There is little data (research) to suggest how well these committees are working, and many hospitals do not employ them.

  IV.         The Courts: Legislation has eroded local decision-making regarding neonate life decision.

a.     The 1982 Baby Doe case was a landmark Supreme Court ruling in which The National Right to Life Association petitioned the Courts to allow Baby Doe to be adopted rather than allowed to forego surgery and die, as requested by the parents. Baby Doe died before the case reached conclusion.

b.     Regulations followed the Baby Doe petition specifically seeking that parents not be allowed to deny their children treatment.

c.     The receipt of federal funding would be jeopardized if hospitals failed to comply.

d.     The U.S. Court of Appeals replied saying that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was “intended to assure the disabled equality such as housing and employment” and was not intended to address the medical treatment of newborns.

e.     On October 9, 1984, President Reagan signed a Senate bill which amended the Child Abuse regulations to include non-treatment of neonates as child abuse and neglect.

    V.         Physicians and Parents: Both parents of ill neonates and their physicians are frustrated by current laws that prevent their decision-making.

a.     A survey of pediatricians showed that most doctors believe that current regulations “encourage or require the over-treatment of infants.”

b.     A survey of parents of ill neonates showed that most believe current regulations cause unnecessary pain and suffering to both neonates and their families.

VI.   Conclusion: Decisions about newborns with poor prognosis should be returned to families and their physicians. Hospitals should seek legal protection by instituting ethics boards comprised of persons without hospital affiliation.