Assignment #2: Opinion-Editorial on Relevant Social or Political Issue. Due by end of Week 8. Reflecting on the sample opinion-editorials (op-eds) from your weekly reading and the lecture(s) from Professo, write a 500-700 word op-ed that enters the civic discourse in our current world about race, politics, or values in America.
This is obviously a charged and sensitive set of issues. My goal in this unit is not to teach you what to think. Instead, I want to help each of you consider how you arrive at your beliefs and how you express them to an audience who doesn’t agree with you. Frankly, our nation is stuck in a “this-is-what-I-think-and-here’s-why” loop rather than the fertile ground of “this is what I think, and let me see if I can understand your ‘hook’ so that we can have a productive talk.”
Part of your task will be your ability to engage less with the conclusions of our sample texts and your own writing, and more with the norms of this writing genre. In other words, you will earn your grade by showing adherence to the norms of the genre, staying focused on the actual issue, and exhibiting writing mechanics indicative of an upper-division college student.
In order to guide each of you down an appropriate path of critical thought, I will provide a few prompts for you to choose from. Your op-ed should only address one of them, not multiple. For those of you who have an idea of your own, feel free to consult with me and I will help you target the idea in a sufficient manner.
While I will not grade you on your beliefs, I will be highly critical of your commonplaces, premises, and logical fallacies. Review Heinrichs’s chapters 15 and 16 to become more aware of how to avoid faulty foundations in your writing and in your thinking.
Be prepared to structure your pieces similar to the examples. For your op-ed, consider the following structure:
For more information about what each of these elements entail, please see: https://www.theopedproject.org/oped-basics (Links to an external site.)
Note: An average opinion-editorial contains between 12 and 20 paragraphs, so do not dedicate a single paragraph to each element outlined above. You may have to split some of the above ideas into multiple paragraphs. Note that if you write 5 or 6 paragraphs, you are likely to earn a maximum grade of “C.”
In terms of citation practices, you refer to where your evidence comes from, but it will be cited according to journalistic standards rather than academic norms. You should not have a References or Works Cited page and will lose points if you break this norm. Just make sure all information is accounted for in narrative citations. Your voice will be intellectual, but it will be less formal.
Prompts (select one, or consult with me to create your own)
1. Let’s assume it is objectively true that a two-party system harms our politics. Let’s also assume that advocating for a third-party is ineffective due to the voter monopoly Democrats and Republicans have in the system. What do you think is a meaningful way to either a) break up the two-party monopoly in our country or b) incentivize political leaders to vote with their country in mind rather than with their party?
2. Let’s assume that police departments begin to lose their funding. What are some ideas for cities and municipalities to restart these organizations in a way that can better serve and protect people of color while also satisfying people who are against changing police departments?
3. January 6, 2021 was a tragic day for the United States, as domestic terrorists stormed our nation’s Capitol building in an attempt to overturn a cornerstone of our democratic process. How can future politicians (Presidents/VPs/Senators/House/Governors/etc.) change their rhetoric to make sure nothing of this sort happens again?
4. If you are in favor of athletes kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequity, what should society do to help the cause? What should other players do? What should the NFL do?
5. If you are against athletes kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequity, what are other forms of protest that would a) be more acceptable, b) garner as much attention, and c) actually help the anti-racism movement succeed?
6. What can your generation do to maintain the momentum around a) stopping racist practices in our institutions or b) advocating for empirically provable truth in our politics ? What can older generations do to help?
7. Let’s assume that privilege is undeniably a real thing. What are some concrete ways that people who were born into privilege can begin actively contributing toward equity in our politics and in our country?
Your grade will be earned based on the following characteristics:
a) Genre expectations. This is an opinion-editorial intended for an audience of people who typically read newspapers and stay “tuned in” to world affairs. They do not agree with your worldview, but they are open-minded to shifting.
DO: Use the academic voice (Links to an external site.). Write focused, effective ledes and arguments that meet the expectations of this genre. Appeal not only to logic, but also to emotion and credibility. Consider counterarguments in your piece, and address realistic (and reasonable) apprehensions your readers may have.
DON’T: Use formal language; cite your sources in an academic fashion; assume your reader understands your worldview; mistake your values for facts.
b) Formatting requirements. This paper must be formatted in a manner that looks like the sample opinion-editorials. Some students get creative and actually make their piece look like it was published in a newspaper – this is good. Revise carefully, as newspapers do not release op-eds with errors.
DO: Have a title and header (including your name and the date). Structure paragraphs in a manner that will create the most impact, which sometimes will include using the “single-sentence” paragraph or splitting an idea into multiple paragraphs. Single-space the piece and make it “look the part.” Stay within the word count window, as op-eds tend to have highly restrictive amounts of space in their publications.
DON’T: Use APA or MLA formatting; write a five- or six-paragraph essay; have a title page or a references list; forget to credit your sources in narrative form; leave out any of the above elements and expect to get an A!
c) Minimum assignment requirements. The requirement of 500 to 700 words must be strictly followed. Any less or more will result in a minimum of 10% point deduction. Part of good writing is editing to get it where it needs to be. Often op-eds require strict limitations because they are published on pages that have limited space; it’s vital that you follow the rule.
d) Grammar, usage, and mechanics. Revise your paper as you write, but also look over it before you submit. There have been excellent papers that have lost entire letter grades due to typos and lack of care. There have also been poorly written papers that gained points due to high levels of revision. Again, this is an area completely in your control. Go to the Writing Center; use Grammarly; ask a friend to read it. There are ways to get this part near perfect.
Please be in touch with any questions, and carefully watch the lecture videos that help with this assignment. It regularly frustrates students who do not seek outside help to see how “harsh” the grades are. The grades are not harsh if you take all necessary, mindful steps to achieve them. I will say this one last time: THE RESOURCES ARE ALL HERE FOR YOU (including the professor himself), SO DO NOT EXPECT AN ‘A’ OR EVEN A ‘B’ IF YOU DO NOT TAKE THE TIME TO TEND TO EVERY SINGLE ISSUE ABOVE.
How do I get started?
Step 1: Pick your issue. Narrow it down if you need to. For help selecting and narrowing your issue, see the following resource: https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/narrowing-topic-and-developing-research-question (Links to an external site.)
Step 2: Decide who “holds a stake” in the matter. This will be your audience. What is their “hook”? What do they have to gain? What do they have to lose? Why does this matter?
Step 3: Write the opinion-editorial according to the norms online and from lecture. The op-ed should be between 500 and 700 words in length, and it should include appropriate appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos, where appropriate. Citations should follow typical journalistic norms (i.e., introduced as a lead in to the text or as a tag after – not parenthetically cited like APA/MLA).
Step 4: REVISE! Make sure each are well-edited, concise, and effective.
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