Writing Assignment: Issues of Language and Education

Background: As a class, we have examined issues involving language and education, including the effects of education on family life, motivation of students with non-academic interests, cultural literacy, national curriculum, agency within one’s inherited narratives, ethnic chauvinism, gender hierarchies in the classroom, the effects of new media on literacy, and grade inflation. We have read and discussed the importance of starting with inquiry, integrating reading and writing, identifying claims, analyzing arguments, identifying issues, forming questions, summarizing and synthesizing. Now we are going to use these academic skills to address an issue of language and identity in an argumentative essay.

Goal: To practice typical essay format, argumentation, support, summary, paraphrase, quotation, citation, analysis of claims, synthesis, grammar, punctuation, and writing skills.

Your Task: Write a 6-8 page double-spaced essay discussing an issue related to education or language, responding  to two or more of the essays we have read so far.

State the central issue as a question, such as “Should the United States adopt a national curriculum that all schools must follow, which specifies what topics and texts teachers must cover in their classes?” Your thesis should answer your question, name a specific topic, assert an opinion, and address counter arguments. Your response to the question above may be a thesis like this one: “Although a basic national curriculum is necessary, laying out basic topics and texts instructors must cover, legislators must allow teachers leeway to adapt their classes to their own strengths and to their students’ interests and needs.” Most theses will give specific advice to a specific group, suggesting policy changes.

Introduction: Although you do not have to follow this pattern, you could open the introduction with a catchy hook, give background information to the issue at hand, explain your interest or involvement, introduce authors and source materials (with one sentence summaries), and answer your research question in a thesis.

Body paragraphs: Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, giving the specific topic and controlling idea, which is what you want to say about the issue. Early paragraphs will likely address the source material and give your reaction to that material. Following paragraphs will lay out your basic argument, your main and secondary claims, supported with facts, examples, details, anecdotes, and expert opinion. Later paragraphs will explain the logic that leads to your conclusion.

Conclusion: In the conclusion, summarize your main points, discuss how your reading of the poem is different than typical readings, tell us who should care about your analysis and why (the “Who cares?” and “So what?” questions), relate your reading of the poem to a broader cultural and literary context, suggest approaches to further study, or present thought-provoking questions that grow out of your argument.

Generating Ideas (Freewriting and Conversation): Why did you choose this reading instead of the others? How do you feel about the reading? Did you like it? Why or why not? What did you learn from it? Did it change your attitudes to yourself, your background, language, writing or education? How does the reading connect to your own personal experience? How is it different from your experience? What would you add to the reading? What do you disagree with? What would you adapt? What would make the reading better? What did you gain that you wish other people would recognize?

Basic requirements: The paper must

    • be 6-8 pages typed and double-spaced in MLA format (as described on the OWL at Purdue website).
    • be clear, specific and detailed.
    • build sentences on concrete nouns (sentence focus) and active verbs.
    • be relatively free of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
    • get attention with a catchy title and introduction, which gives background and introduces the topic and source materials.
    • focus on a debatable thesis statement which addresses counter arguments, states a specific topic, argues a debatable point about education or language.
    • capture the complexity of the issue.
    • support the main argument with carefully staged reasoning.
    • have topic sentences, giving topic and controlling idea (what you want to say about the topic)
    • include summaries, paraphrases and quotes from at least two articles we have read this semester.
    • identify claims and analyze arguments of source materials.
    • include in-text citations and a works cited page in MLA format.

(Extra credit points) An exceptional paper will:

  • persuade the reader to change attitudes or opinions.
  • give entirely new insights and solutions.
  • include outside research.

Due Dates:
Rough draft due February 25th.
2nd draft due March 4th. Bring in three copies for workshopping.
Thoroughly revised paper due by March 11th. Bring in with previous drafts and prewriting materials in a folder. Post revised paper on iLearn and read your colleagues’ papers.

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