making an argument

This is a list of some of the topics my students came up with for their “global” essays…

  1. human trafficking
  2. animal smuggling
  3. kidney sales in Iran
  4. alternative energy sources
  5. adaptation of martial arts
  6. Haiti after earthquake
  7. women’s rights in Afghanistan
  8. human rights in North Korea
  9. whaling
  10. drug trafficking
  11. discriminations against Romani (gypsies)
  12. sweatshops
  13. Facebook and politics abroad
  14. population control in China
  15. effects of increased use of technology on young people around the world
  16. automotive safety rules and regulations abroad
  17. standards of beauty around the world
  18. blood diamonds
  19. “strange” food cultures
  20. condom use in countries with AIDS
  21. democracy in Pakistan?
  22. foot binding practice in China
(image from thadguy.com)

The challenge for some of them seems to be the question of argument.  What is your argument?  Writing a paper that explains the problems that Haiti is facing, for example, after the earthquake does not necessarily lend itself to a clear argument or position.  Yes, Haiti is in bad shape – that’s not an argument.  Some of the students will have to figure out what it is they want to say, propose, take a stand on… and often this can be a challenge.  It seems that they are used to writing “report” that detail the facts.  When asked to write about their position, they are hesitant or they are not sure what it means to make an argument.  Sometimes, students want to “argue” that both sides are right (and wrong).  To help with the assignment, I try to guide them to choose a controversial topic that can be divided into pro and con or topics that have clear opposing viewpoints (we even use a database called Opposing Viewpoints).  The next two weeks will mean close monitoring of how their essays develop…

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