Special Writing Intensive Edition
Craig W. Allin, Instructor
Shawn Doyle & Laura Farmer, Writing Consultants
Jessica Johanningmeier, Quantitative Consultant
FEBRUARY 22, 2012
Web Syllabus: Hypertext seems the ideal medium for course syllabi.
With a click, you can be at a site to which a paper
syllabus could only refer. Short of a power failure, you can't lose it. You can use it all on line
or print whatever you want. Portions of this syllabus
or its attachments make use of the portable document
format (PDF). To read PDF files on your
personal computer you need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader,
which you can download. This software is
already loaded on most college-owned computers. Please report broken or malfunctioning links to me.
Feedback: In addition to the standardized end-of-course evaluation,
I am interested in your comments and suggestions for
improving the course, the readings, the assignments
and this course description. Feel free to send comments
as you think of them. E-mail: email@example.com.
Instructor: Craig W. Allin,
Room 307, South Hall.
Telephone: Office, (895-) 4278; Cell, 431-1100.
Office Hours: If I'm not
in class with you, you can probably find me in my office.
Feel free to make an appointment or just show up. You can also schedule time with me through Ms. Cheryl Dake, Administrative Assistant to the Politics Department, at extension 4283. To help
you find me, the most current version of my schedule is
available for your electronic inspection over the campus
network if you are using Microsoft Outlook [not Outlook
Express or Outlook Web Access].
On the File menu, point to Open, and then click Other
In the Open Other User's Folder box, click Name and
select Craig Allin from the list.
In the Folder box, select Calendar from the pull-down
Classroom: South 300.
Schedule: You should reserve the hours from 9-11 and 1-3, Monday through Friday, for class meetings. Class meets every morning
and many afternoons.
Calendar & Assignments.
Books: The following are available
for purchase in the bookstore. You'll need both
Core Text: Thomas E. Patterson, We
the People: A Concise Introduction to American
Politics, 9th edition (McGraw-Hill, 2011). ISBN: 978-0-07-337906-7. [The 9th edition marks a major revision of this text. Can you get by with the 8th edition? Probably. But I don't recommend it.]
- Writing Text: Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, 2nd edition (Norton, 2009). ISBN: 978-0-393-93361-1
- Recommended Reference: Blanche Ellsworth and John A. Higgins, English Simplified, 12th edition (Longman, 2009). ISBN: 978-0-205-63329-6. [I have been using versions of this book as a ready reference tool for almost 40 years. Many of my lawyer friends keep copies next to their computers, as I do. It provides an amazingly comprehensive summary of grammar, punctuation, mechanics, spelling, word choice, and documentation. If you use this book regularly, you will increase your GPA -- and all for an investment of less than one dollar per course.]
Articles: In addition to the books above, you will have other assigned reading in the form of articles. Most of it will be short, and all of it will be freely available to you on line, either on the Web or in one of the many databases to which the Cole Library subscribes on your behalf.
Internet Resources: The Politics Department Web Site contains a wealth of valuable information including
programs and requirements of the Department of Politics;
information about Politics Courses including course
syllabi like this one; information about graduate
schools and careers, and research
links for politics, government, and law.
Synopsis: This course offers a survey
of the theory and practice of contemporary government
and politics in the United States in the context of a writing intensive course. It is one of several relatively specialized introductory courses offered within the Department of Politics. The others are: Politics, Foundations of the First Amendment, Ethics & Public Policy, Comparative Politics, International Politics, and Public Policy. This course is a prerequisite for
most advanced courses in American Politics including:
& Elections; Congress
& the Presidency; Environmental
Politics; Wilderness Politics; Urban
Sex & the Constitution; Current Cases before the Supreme Court and Constitutional
This course emphasizes the practical consequences
of established institutions and procedures for policy
outcomes. Who wins, and who loses? To whom is the
American government responsive? Its objective is to
provide each student with a reasonably sophisticated understanding
of why the system produces the kinds of policies that
it does without getting bogged down in minutia. This month, more than usual, it emphasizes improving your writing skills.
A variety of materials will be used to achieve our objectives.
- Our core text emphasizes political thinking while illuminating the political culture,
fragmentation of authority, competing interests,
individual rights, and separation of economic and
political spheres that characterize American government.
It also contains some readings.
- Our writing text emphasizes the interconnection of listening, reading, thinking, responding and writing. It aims to demystify academic writing and provide tools to help you enter into the academic conversation in any field.
- American mass media provide another important
source of information for this course. Each student
should make daily contact with the world of American
politics. Most Americans get most of their political
information from television, but--with the obvious exceptions of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report--TV is the least
efficient way to get the news. National Public Radio (locally 90.9 FM and 910 AM) is superior to any of the 24-hour TV news channels, both for objectivity and for depth of coverage. Reading remains
the most efficient way to learn. Reading on line
combines your most sophisticated data processing
capacity with the world's most sophisticated communications
technology. Why not use the best tools available?
You can read hundreds
of newspapers including the New
York Times and the Washington
Post. There are countless web aggregators of news and opinion. For a list of some prominent sites: conservative, liberal, and nonpartisan, go here.
These information sources should provide
a foundation for discussion and debate. Reading materials
will be supplemented by occasional videos. Taken together, these materials
will provide a variety of ways to learn as well as
competing viewpoints regarding what should be learned
in an introductory American politics course.
How This Course Is Related to Politics 282: Public Policy: This course emphasizes the role of law, political culture, political organizations and governmental institutions in national governance. The focus of POL 282 is more interdisciplinary and possibly a bit more quantitative, emphasizing the interrelationship of politics and economics, the processes by which public policy is made, and the methods by which it can be evaluated. It gives relatively greater emphasis to exploring specific areas of substantive policy. There is limited overlap, and students may profitably take both courses. Like this course, POL 282 fulfills the prerequisite for many advanced courses in American Politics and Public Policy.
What Former Students Liked -- And What They Didn't: Based on course evaluations, students generally like the reading. They find me knowledgeable and accessible. They say that I provide frightening amounts of feedback on their papers and that they learn a lot. They complain that I go off on tangents and that classroom discussions don't recapitulate the readings. They complain that classroom discussions often lag behind the readings.
I plead guilty on all counts.
- I believe in answering the questions you raise, whether based on assigned readings or events of the day, even when that may seem like a tangent to others. I believe in trying to connect the news of the day to the themes of the course, even if that seems like a tangent to you.
- I believe that doing the reading and attending the class are not alternative ways to learn the same thing. The time to master the reading assignments is when you are reading those assignments. Class discussion should proceed on the assumption that we have all read the assignments. Rather than recapitulating the reading, we should be attempting to build on it, to look at it from a different perspective, or even to refute it.
- I believe that required reading should cover more information than we could possibly discuss in the time available to us and that classroom discussions should reinforce and advance themes identified as important or interesting by students as well as by the teacher. It follows that you will be on your own to master much of what you read. Most of it will not become the subject of classroom discussion unless you put it on the agenda.
- I believe that required reading should be divided into assignments of relatively equal length for your convenience. It follows that a classroom discussion that emphasizes what students and instructor identify as particularly interesting or important will often lag behind the pace of the reading. If you cannot intelligently discuss something your read two days ago, you should seek assistance to develop your reading and note taking skills.
- I believe that we are all engaged in a search for truth, which is often elusive, and that we must be ever vigilant lest we be misled by our biases and assumptions.
- I believe that facts are important. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, "You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts."
- Broadly speaking, I believe that higher education should emphasize strengthening higher-order intellectual skills--like critical reading, analytical thinking, articulate speaking and cogent writing--rather than filling your memory banks. In the social sciences facts change all the time, but learning how to think, speak and write more clearly lasts for a lifetime.
See Course Calendar &
Assignments for daily topics.
- ATTENDANCE: "Eighty percent of success is showing up." -- Woody Allen. Class
attendance is not 80% of your grade, but it is important. I expect you to let
me know in advance by e-mail if there is some reason you cannot be in class.
- READING ASSIGNMENTS: Read the formal assignments in advance of the class periods for which they are scheduled. Read critically. Argue with the authors. Mark your text or take notes. The more you do to interact with the text, the better you will understand and remember it. For some of these readings, you will have an informal writing assignment. In addition to the formal assignments, please be on the lookout for news articles pertinent to the day's assigned readings. I encourage you to share them with the class.
- WRITING ABOUT READING: There will be regular opportunities to sharpen your thinking by writing about what you have read. These assignments – which evolve over the course of the term – are described in detail under the heading Writing about Reading below.
- CLASS PARTICIPATION: In addition to showing up, reading your assignments, writing thoughtfully about some of them, I expect you to take an active and constructive role in class discussion.
- EXAMINATIONS & QUIZZES: There will
be no final examination. There will be four quizzes
designed to test your mastery of the assigned reading and classroom learning.
Consult the Course Calendar
& Assignments for quiz dates.
- POLICY PAPER: The research and long-form writing
component of Politics 262 is a policy paper described
in excruciating detail under the heading Public
Policy Paper Assignment below.
Writing about Reading
| Classroom Contribution
| Four Quizzes
| Policy Paper
| Policy Paper Rewrite
|Extra Credit [see below]
Extra Credit Opportunity #1: Of course,
this is a class devoted to politics, but it is
also a class devoted to critical reading, cogent
writing, and analytical thinking -- invaluable
skills for living and for working in every field
of endeavor. One way to improve your writing as
you read is to become more conscious of the writing
of others. With that in mind, I will provide you
the opportunity to earn extra credit in my continuing
contest for students enrolled in POL 262:
Click the flaming text for full details.
Extra Credit Opportunity #2: To encourage
thoughtful participation in the polity, 25 extra-credit
points will be awarded for each "letter to
the editor" written by you about a question
of public policy and "published" this term in an off-campus
newspaper or magazine. For the purposes of this extra credit opportunity, "published" means appearing in the print edition; an on-line response to an article or blog post does not qualify. Submit appropriate evidence.
Extra Credit Opportunity #3: To encourage
participation in meaningful science, 25 extra-credit
points will be awarded for participation as a subject in an approved research project.
The maximum number of extra-credit points that
may be applied to your course grade is 50. The deadline for submission of applications for extra credit is noon on the penultimate day of the course. All submissions must be in writing.
OBJECTIVES: This assignment
is designed to encourage close reading and serious thinking about what constitutes a good argument. Desirable side effects might be more thoughtful contributions to classroom discussion and increased capacity to think clearly and write cogently throughout your college career and beyond.
ASSIGNMENTS: Short, daily, writing assignments will come in a variety of flavors. Some will be specific exercises from your writing text. Others will ask you to respond in specific ways to one or more readings assigned for the course. Still others may require you to locate relevant reading on your own. Hopefully there will be some cross fertilization between this writing about reading and your classroom participation. More careful reading may encourage you to contribute to classroom conversations. Indeed, if you write something particularly intriguing about one of the day’s essays, I might very well ask you about it in class.
EVALUATION: For these short, daily, writing assignments you will not receive individual grades for each submission. You will receive written feedback infrequently if things are going well and more frequently if they are not. From time to time, in the spirit of learning together, you will spend some class time reading and discussing each other's written work. I'll keep a running record of the relative quality of your submissions throughout the term, much has I will do with your classroom participation. In each instance, the result will be a single grade at the end of the course.
Among the assignments that you might expect are summaries, analyses, and comparative analyses.
- In a summary, you are attempting to communicate the essential message of the text. To do so you will need to communicate clearly both the author's conclusions and the author’s premises/reasons for reaching those conclusions. You will want to do this in your own words and through careful quotation, being sensitive to what you have learned in Part 1 of They Say / I Say. This assignment is all about reading carefully and understanding what you have read. It does not ask you to evaluate the author[s]’s claims.
- Sample Template: "The primary conclusion of X's article is _______. In support of that conclusion, X argues _______."
- In an analysis, you will move beyond summation and exercise judgment. Briefly summarize the author's conclusions and premises/reasons. Then discuss the quality of the argument. In doing so, focus on what you believe is most important, being sensitive to what you have learned from your writing text about distinguishing what you say from what they say. Your primary mission is to answer the question "What makes this argument persuasive or unpersuasive?"
- Sample Template: "The primary conclusion of X's article is _______. In support of that conclusion, X argues _______. I find X's argument persuasive/unpersuasive because ________."
- The questions that follow are designed to help you think about analyzing an argument. They are not meant to be used as a checklist of things that should be commented upon in every case.
- Are important terms used appropriately and consistently?
- Are the premises true (well supported by empirical evidence) or conjecture?
- Is the argument logically coherent?
- Are the premises and the logical structure sufficient to justify the conclusion?
- Does the author use emotional language, create a false dichotomy, set up a straw man, confuse correlation with causation, fail to distinguish between is and ought, appeal to unqualified authority, or engage in ad hominem attacks?
- I recognize that some of this terminology may be new to some of you, so allow me to define terms.
- Emotional language refers to efforts to incite the reader’s passions rather than to engage the reader’s reason.
- A false dichotomy is when an author suggests that we must choose between two alternatives when there are really more than two alternatives. "Defeat healthcare reform or face death panels," is an example of a false dichotomy. There are a lot of other possibilities.
- To set up a straw man is to caricature or misrepresent an opponent’s argument in order to make it easy to refute. A common example is to characterize "affirmative action" as "racial quotas." Most forms of affirmative action do not involve racial quotas, but describing affirmative action that way makes it easier to argue against it.
- To confuse correlation with causation is to argue for (or assume) a cause-and-effect relationship where no such relationship exists. I often feel hungry about the time the sun is going down, so there is a correlation between my hunger and the sunset. It should be apparent, however, that my getting hungry is not causing the sun to set.
- Failure to distinguish is from ought refers to a conflation of facts and values, often in the form of suggesting that because something is the case, it ought to be the case. A common modern example is the claim that because climate change exists in nature, it's "natural" and therefore good.
- An appeal to unqualified authority means being deferential to sources that have no apparent claim to appropriate expertise. A former student of mine once told me that she planned to transfer to Pepperdine University so that it would be easier to be admitted to Pepperdine Law School. When I inquired why that would be a good idea, she told me that it was the recommendation of her dentist. Fortunately this true story has a happy ending. The student in question did not transfer to Pepperdine University. She graduated from Cornell College, earned her law degree from Georgetown University, was selected to be attorney to the governor of the state of Minnesota, and eventually became the youngest judge ever appointed in that state.
- An ad hominem (literally, "to the man") argument is one that attacks the source rather than attacking the argument. You might say, "according to Sarah Palin…" And I might respond "I can see Russia from my house." Rather than responding to her argument, I'm just defaming Palin — in this case by repeating a quotation which she never uttered. (The quotation is from Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live.)
- In a comparative analysis you will address two sources. Determine which of the two readings makes the more persuasive argument and explain your conclusion. Here I am asking you to make an argument. That is to say that I am asking you to state a conclusion--specifically, that one of the arguments is better than the other--and to give persuasive reasons for the conclusion you have reached.
- Sample Template: "the central question addressed by both X and Y is _______. In general, X argues that _______. Y differs, arguing that _______. I find X's/Y's argument to be more persuasive because ________."
"He who knows only
his own side of the case, knows little of that."
--John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859), chapter
"As far as I'm conceived, this correction of short writty is the most wonderfoul larf I've ever ready."
--John Lennon, In My Own Write (1964), p. 84 ("About the Awful")
OBJECTIVES: This assignment
has three major objectives. The first is to increase
your familiarity with an issue of public policy importance
and the arguments that surround that issue. The second
is to increase your familiarity with relevant sources
of information like professional journals and government
documents. The third is to help you improve an important
intellectual skill: writing a clear and convincing
argument supported by reliable evidence. This is a
complex and difficult assignment, and I would like
each of you to do it well. To that end, I have broken
the assignment down into pieces and provided explicit
instructions about how you can maximize your success.
Please read all the information that follows, before you begin. Then go back and master this task one step at a time.
I have tried to answer the most obvious questions
here in writing, but obviously I have not answered
all the possible questions. Please feel free to ask
me for help along the way.
ASSIGNMENT: Your job
is to write a public policy paper of 2,000 to 2,500
words exclusive of title page, abstract, illustrations,
notes, bibliography, appendices, etc. Your paper must
deal with a matter of public policy within the Constitutional
power of some officer, agency or institution of the
United States federal government. If in doubt, ask
PUBLIC POLICY & POLICY
PAPERS: A "policy" is a clear course of action.
(E.g., it is the policy of Cornell College to issue
grades each term.) A "public policy" is a policy adopted
by a government. (E.g., it is the policy of the United
States to intervene militarily wherever America's
national interests are threatened.) A "public policy
paper" is a written document that (1) recommends a
public policy and (2) argues for the adoption of that
policy. Your public policy paper will be developed
through four stages. Consult the Course
Calendar & Assignments for deadlines associated
with this project.
E-Mail Attachments: Unless directed otherwise, please deliver
each component of this project by e-mail attachment. Please
save your papers and other submissions in Word® (*.doc or *.docx). If you cannot save to Word®, please save to Rich Text (*.rtf) format. Make sure your file does not exceed the 10MB limit for the Cornell e-mail server. Attach
your file to an e-mail addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more detailed information about e-mail attachments, click here.
Stage I -- RESEARCH QUESTION & BIBLIOGRAPHY: Send an e-mail attachment [with a copy to Paul Waelchli,
Consulting Librarian] stating your research question and providing a properly documented working bibliography for the investigation of that question.
- Selecting a research question requires that you identify a topic appropriate for inquiry and susceptible to a public policy recommendation.
- So what's a good topic?
- One that is consistent with assignment: “Your paper must deal with a matter of public policy within the Constitutional power of some officer, agency or institution of the United States federal government.”
- One that people are talking about – "they say."
- One that is interesting to you. One where you would like to join the conversation – "I say."
- One where you have no preconceived bias to blind you.
- One that is narrow enough to allow relatively thorough research. Exactly how narrow is more art than science.
- If your topic is too broad, your research will be unfocused and superficial.
- If your topic is too narrow, you won’t find the information you need to proceed.
- You need to strike a balance based on preliminary exploration of your topic.
- In this wired world, it is probably easier to be too broad than too narrow.
- Here are some topics that are too broad:
- Endangered species
- Environmental protection
- National park policy
- Yellowstone National Park
- Federal wolf management
- Ranchers' rights
- Threats to livestock
- And here's one that has something to do with all of the topics above but is appropriately narrow:
- Whether the Yellowstone wolves should be protected when they leave the park.
- Notice that the formulation above is more than just a topic: it is a research question. Should they be protected or shouldn't they? What do "they say"? There are probably some good arguments being made on both sides of this question. Let's go examine the evidence and reach a conclusion. Doing the hard work of answering your policy question will result in the policy recommendation required in Stage II.
- Before submitting your research question, make sure that it begins with the word whether and includes the word should with respect to some specific issue. Template: "Whether ________ should _______."
- Your bibliography will continue to evolve throughout your research and writing, but the working bibliography you submit at this time should demonstrate that you have located and have access to high-quality information relevant to your research question. In most cases your working bibliography should include some mix of scholarly books, articles in scholarly journals, and primary sources such as laws, court cases, census data or polling results. If the sources you can locate are primarily secondary and non-scholarly, i.e., journalistic, seek help in finding better sources or choose a new research question.
- Choose one of the approved style sheets and label your working bibliography to indicate which one you have chosen.
- This assignment is not graded, but failure to complete it in a timely fashion will negatively affect your class participation grade.
Stage II -- POLICY RECOMMENDATION & CONTENTIONS: Prepare a document (2 paper copies) stating your policy recommendation and setting forth an outline of the contentions you intend to make for it. Bring it to your individual paper conference.
- The policy recommendation is the paper's thesis. The outline of contentions previews your paper's anticipated structure.
- Please note that articulating a good policy recommendation requires that you have done the research required to answer your research question with some specificity. For example: "The United States Fish And Wildlife Service should provide the full protection of the Endangered Species Act to the Yellowstone wolves as they spread beyond the park's boundaries."
- Remember your policy recommendation must be within the legal power of some officer, agency or institution of the United States national government.
- This is the point at which trouble most often arises, so before you submit your policy recommendation and contentions, examine them carefully using the criteria set forth in Getting from Research Question & Bibliography to
Policy Proposal & Contentions.
- Before you organize your contentions into an outline, consult A Good Argument Is a Hierarchy of Contentions.
- This assignment is not graded, but failure to complete it in a timely fashion will negatively affect your class participation grade.
Stage III -- POLICY PAPER: Send an e-mail attachment presenting your recommendation and supporting arguments in a formal paper with appropriate manuscript format, proper citations, etc. [Note: All the components of a formal paper (cover, abstract, body, reference list, etc.) must be merged into one e-document in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format.] Remember, you are being asked to take a position and make a case for it. A good policy paper consists of a clear policy recommendation supported by strong arguments supported by unimpeachable evidence. It takes into account what others are saying, and responds effectively to their arguments. A good policy paper will be:
- Persuasive: You must state a conclusion and back that conclusion with reasoned argument. Your mission is to persuade the reader, and the better the argument, the higher the probability of success.
- Well Researched: Your arguments must be firmly rooted in careful research. You must have a command of the relevant facts. You must understand your own position, the positions of those with whom you disagree, and the relationship of the facts to each.
- Concise: A good policy paper is not always brief, but it must be concise. That means no padding and no B.S. The typical audience for a policy paper is a judge, a corporate executive, or a high government official. If your policy paper does not get to the point quickly and move the argument forward relentlessly, you are unlikely to get and hold the attention of your target audience. If you want to persuade a busy person, do not waste her time. The assigned length of your paper is short in part to force you to be concise. If you don't have to struggle some to reduce your arguments and evidence to 2,500 words, you probably have not done the research you should have done.
- Hierarchically Organized: It will organize the arguments to be made into the strongest possible hierarchy of contentions. Refer again to A Good Argument Is a Hierarchy of Contentions.
- Appropriately Documented: Documentation is important for both ethical and practical reasons. Ethically, documentation gives credit where credit is due. Practically, documentation enhances the credibility of your work by demonstrating its reliance on and relationship with credible sources of information. I expect you to use one of the approved styles of documentation, to tell me which one you are using, and to follow it with care throughout your paper.
- Well Written: I will be looking for (a) a good introduction that identifies the issue being discussed, provides brief context for the debate into which you are entering, sets forth your policy recommendation and previews the case you will make for it; (b) clear organization of you ideas and arguments and effective handling of the counter arguments; (c) effective use of paragraphs (and subheadings, if you like) to orient the reader; (d) good transitions from one part of the text to the next; (e) a conclusion that is both substantive and relevant; and (f) sound grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage. Every chapter in your writing text contains lessons that are relevant to writing this argument well.
- Professionally Presented: I will also be looking for a paper that has all its component parts appropriately formatted, in proper order, and in the form of a single e-mail attachment.
Consult POLICY PAPERS: How to Succeed for more detailed instructions.
For an annotated example of an excellent policy paper written by a former student in this class, click on the PDF icon below.
Stage IV -- REWRITE: After receiving a written critique of your policy paper, you will rewrite and resubmit the paper as an e-mail attachment making as many improvements in substance and presentation as you can manage.
[Note: To receive credit rewrites must also be uploaded to Moodle--instructions here. The Moddle cache will be used for evaluation of Cornell's first year writing program. Student, instructor and course names will be removed prior to analysis.]
- The rewrite should be better than the original paper. After all, you will have had the benefit of expert editorial advice.
- As a practical matter, a conscientious effort to address the technical problems that have been identified in your paper will preserve your grade. More substantive improvements will enhance your grade.