What special considerations, if any, should black Americans receive in federal employment, in university admissions, or in another specific setting? Argue this point. Consider both sides of the argument.
(Would your answer have been different 50 years ago? Will your answer be different 50 years from now?)
How to write a good argument: Claims, reasons, evidence, and warrants
Many people confuse “contradiction” and “argument.” For a humorous but helpful demonstration of the differences, watch this old Monty Python sketch, “The Argument Clinic”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkQhK8O9Jik
Articulating an argument involves much more than declaring where you stand. Simply asserting something does not make it true. You must present your case persuasively. A good argument starts with a central claim that takes a clear stance, stated unambiguously in the opening paragraph. Back this claim with logical reasons, each of which is supported by factual evidence. A reason is warranted if there is a defensible moral or philosophical belief connecting it back to the claim; otherwise, it is unwarranted (and, as a result, useless).
Recognize that opposing arguments exist. “Advance,” “support,” or “defend” your claim, but do not claim to “prove” it. Politics deals with contentious issues, where each side can make strong arguments. Claiming to have “proved” your claim suggests you have not understood John Stuart Mill’s point, quoted above.
Understanding opposing arguments will aid you in developing your own. If you understand opposing arguments “in their most plausible and persuasive form,” you will be able to present your own arguments in such a compelling manner that your opponents respect your views even if they still disagree. By contrast, using emotional jabs, personal attacks, or “straw man” reasoning will render your writing unpersuasive and trite. Perhaps the best way to improve your argument is to practice outlining reasons and evidence that support the opposing claim.
Some students struggle to understand claims, reasons, evidence, and warrants. Suppose that your state legislature is debating a bill that would impose a special tax on soft drinks. An argument favoring this proposal might look like this:
Claim: The state government should impose a special sales tax on soft drinks.
Reason 1: Soft drinks contribute to a variety of health problems.
o Evidence: Studies show that sugary drinks cause tooth decay, bone loss, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. In turn, these conditions can cause serious secondary conditions, such as stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and premature death.
o Warrant: As a society, we should find ways to encourage people to take care of their own health.
Reason 2: These health problems create societal costs.
o Evidence: The health conditions caused directly or indirectly by soft drinks are so
expensive to treat that many of those afflicted will rely on government assistance to pay for them. Also, people with serious medical conditions may find that their physical limitations prevent them from working full time, leading them to rely on public assistance.
o Warrant: If an individual’s choices impose societal costs, then society has a right to govern those choices.
Reason 3: A targeted sales tax would have the intended effect of shifting people toward healthier nutritional habits.
o Evidence: Sales of cigarettes and beer have fallen in states that impose special taxes on them, so we can likewise expect sales of soft drinks to fall if taxed.
o Warrant: Effectiveness matters. Before passing a new law, we should carefully consider whether it is likely to have the intended effect. This proposal will.
Conclusion (i.e. the claim and reasons restated): The state government should impose a special sales tax on soft drinks. This tax will reduce consumption of soda, preventing a variety of health problems that have major societal costs.Customer files
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