English I-A (Sect. 4): "The Art of Argument"

Fall 2000--Sandra Jamieson.

Class meetings: Tues., & Thurs. 11:50-1:05. 205 Embury -- Networked Writing Classroom.
Office hours: Mon. 2:00-4:00, Tues. 10:00-11:00,  Thur.. 2:00-5:00:  S.W.Bowne 118.
Telephone: Office: x3499. Home: 908-757-1051 (please call between 10 am and 9 pm only!). 
E-mail: Office: sjamieso@drew.edu. Home: sjamieson@compuserve.com
English 1-A listserve: engl-1A-004@courses.Drew.edu
The course
The work--kinds of writing
Why Argument? Informal writing
Class time
Due dates
Engl.1-A & Engl.1 Collaborative writing week 1 week 6 week 11
Course texts The debates week 2 week 7 week 12
Ground rules Electronic Democracy Project week 3 week 8 week 13
Grades The Electronic Writer's Journal week 4 week 9 week 14
Writing Center  Handing in work week 5 week 10 week 15

Why Argument?
Most of your college papers will ask you to make an argument. Your task in such papers is not to create one perfectly unified argument that might appear to be "truth"; instead, what you are being asked to do is explore in writing the debate--the similarities, differences, and overlaps--between the authors you study to help the people who read your paper come to a fuller understanding of the complexity of the issue and the factors that influence one's position on it. You will take a position on the material, but the purpose of that position is to structure your paper and help you make decisions about what to include, not to try to convince the world that you have come up with the only way to view reality! The work in this class is designed to help you develop these skills.

English 1-A is designed as a writing workshop where you will learn strategies for writing academic papers and improving your overall writing skills. You will work on the basic skills of effective college-level writing, especially how we use style, grammar, and word choice to create specific effects in written prose. You will work specifically on analyzing arguments and using what you learn in that analysis to write effective arguments of your own. In order to do this we will participate in the Electronic Democracy Project, and you will also write arguments on a number of other topics. By the end of this course, you will have strengthened your ability to select and focus a topic, generate ideas, develop a thesis, plan an argument in support of it, write out that argument, and revise it. You will also be much more adept at evaluating, critiquing, and responding to the arguments of others.  [To read more about the course structure, click here!]

English 1 and English 1-A
English 1-A precedes English 1. When you complete this course you must register for a section of English 1 in the Spring (if you do not, the registrar will automatically register you). The year long writing program (1-A and then 1) will earn you a total of 4 college credits, 2 in the Fall and 2 in the Spring. Placement in English 1-A is based upon a combination of test scores (SAT verbal scores, and any other test scores available to the English department, including writing placement tests) and a personal interview with the director of composition and/or one of the following: the ESOL coordinator, a member of the EOS staff, or the director of the CUE program. 

In many ways, 1-A prepares you for English 1, but it also teaches whatever skills the students in the class need to develop, and a large component of it is determined by the students who are registered in any given semester. Each student will be assigned an individual tutor with whom he or she will meet for an hour each week. Some of the tutors are especially trained to work with students for whom English is a second or third language; others can focus on general writing skills, grammar, punctuation, or the development and structure of papers. The tutors will work closely with the instructors of the class, and will always know what you are assigned to do and when it is due. 

More about the Course:
English 1-A is designed as a writing workshop where you will improve your critical thinking and reasoning skills, strengthen your writing, and learn strategies for writing academic papers. The course will focus on argumentation as a way to achieve these things.

Our first step will be to explore some of the basic components of argumentation and effective college-level writing, especially how we can use style, grammar, and word choice to create specific effects in written prose. In this section of the course you will practice writing definitions, summaries, classifications, comparisons, and, of course, arguments. We will analyze the prose of others in an effort to identify effective strategies for argumentation, and differentiate them from description, explication, narration, and comparison. Your goal will be to develop the skills to support an argument and recognize a well supported argument when you see one.

In the second section of the course we will focus on specific writing strategies, beginning with what academic writers must do before they begin to write. You will learn how to analyze a topic/assignment, how to use all that you know to best respond to it, how to focus your knowledge and organize your ideas, and how to focus a topic. You will learn different strategies for paragraph development and overall paper organization. This section will end with a debate in which you will work collaboratively with others in the class to convince your audience to support an argument of your design. 

In the third section of the course, you will learn how to refine your relationship with your audience and structure an argument, and therefore a paper, accordingly. In this section we will focus on revision and refining prose so that it achieves maximum effectiveness. You will turn the skills you learned in the first part of the course onto your own prose so that you can critique what you have written. 

At each stage of this course you will learn how to evaluate your own arguments and those of others, making you a more effective editor and writer. As you become more of an expert writer, you will learn how to understand the writings of others more fully: how to perceive their thesis, analyze the assumptions they make about their audience, and follow their overall patterns of organization. This, in turn, will make you more able to analyze questions and understand what you read. You will also expand your active vocabulary (the words you can actually use rather than just recognize). 

The Work:
The writing you will do will be frequent and varied, ranging from informal e-journal writing, through formal papers to a formal debate, with many revisions and writing work-outs in between. At times I will ask you to save a copy of a piece of writing into a public K:/ Drive folder so that we may evaluate it in class during workshops. In order for you to practice writing in response to a number of different stimuli, I will assign some of the writing topics from the text The Elements of Reasoning, while the focus of others will be collectively determined by the class, and yet others will be of your individual choosing in response to what you have been reading and thinking over the course of the semester. Because students come to college with different levels of preparation, we will work on issues of grammar, style, and general language use both in class in the context of our readings, and in conferences and individual projects. Each student will help me to design an "individual writing program" which will build on areas of strength and develop two specific skills of each student's choosing. Students will work on their program at their own pace, and will be graded on that work as part of the final grade for the course. 
To see a detailed description of each paper, click here.

INFORMAL WRITING--Research shows that frequent writing produces stronger, more fluent, and more comfortable writers. Writing is a skill, and all skills need practice, so I would like you to practice writing by keeping an Electronic Writer's Journal (e-journal). Many of you have probably already kept a journal at some point in your lives, but in this class your journal entries will be written on your computer and some will be sent email messages to me.  In your e-journal entries you will respond to assignments, the class, and anything else to do with writing, argument, or language use in general. 

During the final part of the Electronic Democracy Project (Oct. 10 to Nov. 3) you or another member of your group will also post at least once a day to the class listserve and read and respond to the postings of others.

In addition to all of this, you may send me questions, and comments via e-mail). I will try to reply to each message as soon as possible, although at certain points in the semester I might take up to 24 hours to do so. 

COLLABORATIVE WRITING--in the world of the work place, and in many academic disciplines too, collaboration is the name of the game. Corporations organize workers into teams responsible for conducting necessary research, identifying problems, brainstorming solutions, and then writing up what they find. For Folder #4 you will work with your team to compile a candidate log and a collaboratively written introduction to the log tracing the themes and patterns the log reveals. At first you may not like this kind of writing, and with some cause because it involves cooperation, trust, and some loss of ego--things we have learned to avoid if possible. Yet these team skills are also the very things that will make you successful in the workplace and, more important to me, in college. There are a number of ways to work collaboratively, and you will learn them in this class. There are also strategies to make it less painful, and you'll learn those too. The end result will be worth it. Carefully produced, collaborative research, planning, and writing are better than any of the individuals in the team could have achieved alone.

DEBATE--On Oct. 31 & Nov. 2 we will hold in-class formal debates in which each team will adopt the position of the candidate it is following and try to persuade classmates to vote for that candidate based on his or her arguments, policies, and history. Although you will work collaboratively on the debate, you will write up your findings individually as a traditional argument paper for Folder #5

FOLDERS--Each time you hand me a paper you will include a number of other things, too. You'll find those things listed on the syllabus on the day the paper is due. The work MUST be handed to me in a plain manila file folder (available from the book store for about 15c). On the day the paper is due, your e-journal entries since the last folder are also due (print them out and put them into the folder).  I WILL NOT GRADE INCOMPLETE FOLDERS.

MID-TERM AND FINAL PORTFOLIOS--A little after half way through the semester and then again at the end you will hand in a portfolio of your best work to be graded by me and also by the instructors of the other sections of English 1-A.  The mid-term portfolio will contain two papers and two revised e-journal entries and the final portfolio will contain three papers and three revised e-journal entries.  Each portfolio will include an introduction in which you discuss the papers and e-journal entries you selected, your reasons for selecting them (rather than others), and your assessment of your writing skills and the areas you still need to work on.  The content of each folder will be graded holistically based on a shared grading rubric.

Due dates for Writing folders and portfolios:

  • Folder #1 (Rhetorical Analysis--using ethos, logos, and pathos). Due September 19. 
  • Folder #2 (Content Analysis--using the Stasis of Conjecture). Due October 5.
  • Folder #3 (Content Analysis--using the Stases of Definition and Value). Due October 19
MIDTERM PORTFOLIO (your two best essays, two revised journal entries,
      and a preface/self analysis) Due October  20
  • Folder #4 (Collaborative Candidate Log & Introduction). Due Nov. 7.
  • Folder #5 (A Debate and An Argument--for one candidate). Due Nov. 9.
  • Folder #6 (A Proposal for Change--Freedom and the Internet). Due Nov. 27.
  • Folder #7 (Becoming a Citizen Critic--A Letter Proposing Change). Due Dec. 5.

  • FINAL PORTFOLIO (your three best essays, three revised journal entries, and a
         preface/self analysis--paper #8) Due Dec. 8

The Electronic Writer's Journal (e-journal):
Because extensive research has shown that writing every day has the same impact on a person's writing as working out has on his or her body, every student will keep a Writer's Journal as part of this class. Because you will be typing all of your college papers, you also need practice at word processing, using the K:/ Drive, and so on, so your Writer's Journal will be electronic rather than hand-written.  You will be required to write in your e-journal five days a week (just try--I know it isn't always realistic, but on those days when you are overwhelmed with work, write a sentence explaining why you can't write that day). While you will not be graded on the content of the e-journal, you will be graded on the seriousness with which you address the issues raised and the frequency with which you write (I will give extra consideration to people who write an entry every day). Therefore it is important that you read the following instructions carefully, and ask questions if they are not clear.

An e-journal is not a daily record of events--I do not want to know about parties, dates, heart-throbs, arguments, gossip, or other things that might prevent you from running for political office in later life. Instead, an e-journal is a Writer's Journal: a place for you to practice thinking-in-writing, which is the fundamental skill demanded of members of the academic community. Your entries should quite literally be mental work-outs, and, like physical work-outs they demand that you do them when you are awake. If you try to write when you are tired you will not help yourself, nor will you produce an interesting entry. If you try to do a week's worth of entries at once, you will be wasting your time (just as doing 5 hours of exercise one day a week does not help your body as much as doing 30-45 minutes a day). You might fool me, but ultimately you will be the fool because you will waste the opportunity to become a better writer . . .

Sometimes I will require that you write an e-journal entry on a specific issue as homework for the class, and I my ask you to send me those journal entries by e-mail before the next class session. These entries will generally take the form of a continuation of discussion started in class, a topic we did not cover in class, or an issue raised in class but not discussed. I may also ask you to consider a particular topic in writing to prepare you for discussion the next day or in response to an assignment. At other times I will leave you to come up with a topic for the day. You'll see that on the syllabus I have listed some topics that I'd like you to write about, but the rest of the time you'll need to come up with your own topic. You might select a story from a newspaper and summarize, analyze, and respond to it; or you might do the same for some event that occurred during the day, a conversation you overheard, a discussion from another class, etc. You might decide to practice the reasoning skills described in Elements of Reasoning by reasoning about a situation, news item, or topic from another class.  e-journal entries may be written in response to an event, discussion, reading, film, or conversation--in short, anything that inspired, angered, or otherwise aroused your interest. You may analyze and respond, or summarize and respond; however, you may not simply summarize or narrate a story--you must say something ABOUT the issue you raise (preferably something that you have not already worked out and drawn conclusions about).  If you are stuck about what to say, remember the stasis questions Corbett and Eberly propose (p.21):

  • What happened?
  • What should we call this?
  • What are its causes and consequences?
  • What values are associated with it?
  • What should we do about this?
E-journal entries may also take the form of "dilemmas" where you consider a particular dilemma or argument you have observed. The structure for these entries will be as follows:
  • State and explain the dilemma/argument; 
  • Describe two (or more) opposing positions one could adopt on this issue; 
  • State your position (or adopt one if you have not thought about this issue before); 
  • Defend your position--explain why you consider it to be the better response to the dilemma in as much detail as possible (imagine you are attempting to persuade a person holding the opposing opinion). 
Finally, you can use e-journals to write answers to the questions in the "Reasoning Practice" sections of Elements of Reasoning, or to critique those exercises if you don't like them or don't find them useful.

You may revise journal entries as part of your individual writing program, and you will be asked to revise five entries for inclusion in your two portfolios.

Ground rules:
A seminar is only as strong as its laziest member, so it is essential that each member of the seminar accepts her or his responsibility to the other members. Thus:
1) You will be expected to attend every class prepared to participate and share your ideas and writing with your writing colleagues. If you are unprepared, the workshop will not work, your colleagues will suffer, and you will be marked as absent. More than three unexplained absences will result in your final grade being lowered by one letter;
2) You must respect your fellow writers. This means that you must take them and their ideas and writing seriously and comment constructively with sensitivity to their feelings. Failure to do this will result in a collapse of the trust necessary for a workshop and you will be asked to leave (and marked as absent). Lack of respect ranges from discriminating comments (homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.), to yawns, the pulling of faces, drumming fingers, laughter, asides to other members of the seminar, and so on.

The grades for this course are assigned on the basis of the distance each writer travels during the semester in addition to the place each person has reached by the end of the course. Specifically, grades will be based on the following:
  • The mid-term and final portfolio of papers will constitute 50% of your final grade (20% for the mid-term; 30% for the final). Both portfolios will be graded by  at least one of the other professors teaching English 1-A as well as the professor for this course. As they read your portfolios, the professors will be paying special attention to the way you have applied the material covered in the course. 
  • Preparedness and contribution to class discussion and writer's workshops, and weekly attendance at the writing center will constitute 10% of your final grade. Obviously if you do not attend class, sleep through it, or otherwise fail to participate, I cannot assess the extent of your preparation, and will be forced to assume there was none. Failure to attend writing center appointments or conferences with me will lead me to the same conclusion. 10% may not seem much, but it can significantly alter your final grade. Take it seriously!
  • Folders 1-7 and your overall effort toward improvement will constitute 40% of your final grade. The grade for the first folder will not be included in your final grade, but will act as a benchmark of the progress you need to make (the final paper in that folder may be included in your mid-term portfolio if you like). I will judge your effort on the basis of your notes, prewriting, drafts, and revisions, paying attention to the differences between the first drafts and the final drafts of each paper. I will also consider your e-journal entries as part of this grade. 

Please buy the following:
  • Chris Anson & Robert Schwegler's The Longman Writer's Companion (the book also used in your FYS) 
  • Edward Corbett and Rosa Eberly's The Elements of Reasoning, 2nd Edition. (Allyn and Bacon, 2000) 
  • -----You also need
    • a good dictionary: the heavier the better (which you should bring to class), 
    • pens of several colors (at least one green, purple or red) for editing, 
    • nine plain manila folders to hold folder and portfolio work (also available from the bookstore), 
    • a three-ring folder for handouts from this class, and to store printed e-journal entries, 
    • one computer disk to store and backup your work for this class (do not share this disk!). 
    • network cables and a working portable computer. 
Our main text will be your writing, so you must bring all of the handouts and homework assignments for English 1-A and all of the work you have done on them to every class and conference. You must also save all of your computer work on your hard drive AND in your folder on the network. I suggest that you also make backups onto a separate floppy disk -- when using a computer there is no such thing as TOO careful!

Class time:
This class meets in a computer networked seminar room for good reason. Classes will be spent writing and workshopping or discussing writing, writing assignments and examples of writing produced by writers from a variety of discourse situations, including this class. In some class periods we will be using material from the LAN and/or the internet in class. You must bring your computer and network cable when the syllabus tells you to do so.

Writing Center:
Drew is blessed with an excellent Writing Center and individual tutors. Both are free, so there is no excuse for not using them except your own folly. Professors ask other people to read drafts of their papers and articles; books are edited by professional editors before being published; and graduate students regularly take papers to the Writing Center. Some foolish undergraduates think they "don't need any help." Don't be one of them. Think smart: get a second opinion!!
Students get exactly the same amount of learning out of a writing class as the amount of effort they put in. This puts the onus on you--if you don't put anything in, you won't get anything out (except a bad grade).

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