The current generation of university students will be confronted with existential problems on scale that no generation has ever faced – and quite frankly, they are not up to the challenge. While this generation of students emerges from a variety of cultural contexts, typically, they represent the most privileged classes within their individual cultures, and they emerge into adulthood from cultures defined by levels of economic and racial inequality on an almost unprecedented scale. And not only are they products of inequality, but they appear to be entirely comfortable with their privilege in a world that is increasingly full of the underprivileged, and they seem entirely apathetic to the inequalities from which they have benefitted. For example, in the U.S., the current generation of university students votes in public elections at historically low levels, and they appear to be more committed to pleasure-seeking, conspicuous consumption and material wealth than any generation since the “Roaring 20s.”
As a species, the human race faces a number of serious problems, but you represent the most significant one.
As the principle genre of academic writing, the clearest and most consistent function of the academic essay is to highlight significant problems and pose thoughtful solutions to those problems. This assignment challenges you to respond to an attack – “You are the problem humanity faces.” Your response to this attack will demonstrate your proficiency with this genre of writing.
In your presentation of a problem and solution, you should draw upon all you’ve learned about the technical side of essay writing, including source selection, research, pre-writing, thesis development, outlining, paragraph development, logical argument, critique, and counter-argument. At the thematic level, you should by now be able to frame an argument in an interesting and effectively manner, conduct research from appropriately scholarly sources and draw upon that research to synthesize information in a persuasive way.
Compose a ten-page argumentative essay in which you address a significant contemporary problem and propose a unified, complex solution to that problem. You can choose any of the previously assigned sources you want, but must use at least six scholarly sources in your essay, with quotations cited and documented according to MLA Style.
Schedule and Due Dates
Preliminary Source Presentation:
Thesis Statement Workshop:
Descriptive Outline Workshop:
Rough Draft Workshop:
Final Drafts Due:
While both men gave widely-praised speeches on the topic of race, Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama also present us with exemplary demonstrations on one of the most practical uses for rhetoric in the modern era – turning aside an attack, and transforming a supposed weakness into a strength. Our in-class examinations of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” highlighted those writers’ effective application of traditional rhetorical techniques for a strategic purpose. Specifically, both men were subject to public condemnation and critique that threatened to frustrated their goals, but both men used the opportunity of public speech in response to this public criticism to do more than simply answer the charges laid against them – instead, they took a strategic approach to these problematic situations in order to further their goals, turning a potential problem into an opportunity for further success.
For this assignment, you will have to follow the examples set by King and Obama. I have unfairly labeled you and your generation as being inadequate to the challenges you will face, and it is your task to answer this charge and prove me wrong.
Specific Writing Task
1. Select an example of a serious threat faced by humanity in the present moment, or in the near future. Examples could include global phenomena such as climate change or ocean acidification, biological problems such as the spread of infectious diseases or overpopulation, geopolitical crises such as the collapse of the global order or the rise of transnational terrorist groups, etc.
2. Whatever example you choose, and whatever position you take on the prompt, you should be prepared to draw upon reputable scholarly sources to define the crisis and to outline solutions.
3. Your essay should assert some first principles – ethical, philosophical, theoretical or political ideals – from which your argument will develop, and from which you will be able to support your solutions.
4. Finally, you should construct a thesis-driven essay, structured in a strategic fashion that answers the charge I have laid against you in such a way as to turn my criticism of your generation to your advantage as you pose your solution(s).
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