(1) One 5-8 page double spaced essays. It is worth 40 points
Each essay will be 5-8 pages double spaced, times new roman, and can be on any of the material we’ve covered leading up to the date it is due. You can also opt to chat with me privately about doing an “independent study” essay on a topic of your choosing which isn’t discussed in class. For the first essay assignment — but not the second — every student will be required to meet with me for 15-30 minutes to chat about their paper topic/argument before turning it in. Each essay, of course, will contain an argument for a conclusion.The essays should be written in a laid back style of the sort that you might find in an op-ed for a media outlet or a blog, and should eschew jargon except where clearly defined. You’ll be graded on three criteria:
Clarity – Can an average reader — say, of 8th grade education — understand what you’re arguing? Can they see your reasons for concluding the thing(s) you do?
Enjoyability – Make it a little fun for your audience! Do you grip their attention at the beginning and maintain that hold throughout the work? Let the reader see some of your personality inflected in your words, emphases, and sentence transitions. Try to illustrate points by using examples which are entertaining.
Insight – Does your essay strike the reader with some intrigue? Will he or she see an issue in a new light? Will he take pause to consider something you’ve said which captivated his imagination? Do you make the reader question a tacit assumption he wasn’t previously aware of? I can’t provide much more specificity for satisfying these criteria, unfortunately, as it is ultimately a matter of judgment, like a chef who knows — from years of practice — when a chicken is cooked just right. But you can of course disagree with my assessment of your essay on any of the criteria. We will work it out.
These essay assignments are to provide you with practice for doing philosophically argued public writing later on in your life. Many of you probably won’t pursue academia, but you will all be members of communities; businesses, churches, clubs, associations, etc. At the very least, you’re all participatory agents in some nation or another. As such, to learn how to write for a public venue is to learn a skill for public speaking which allows you to vocalize your concerns and desires in your community. Also, on a more personal note, learning to write well in this way enables you to send thoughtful letters to people close to you in life. It may seem like a strange or foreign thing right now, but writing letters can become special later in life when you want to retain substantive relationships with people who live far away.