Sociology

The Two Cultures of Educational Reform”  I will not be providing hard copies of these papers to you.  You must read and/or print them from the website.  This essay will be slightly more challenging that the earlier paper assignments because it may be a little more difficult to sift out the author’s conclusion and supporting reasons.  Nevertheless, he is arguing for a point, but it is admittedly more subtle than was your first author’s essay.

One other difference between this assignment and the previous one, is that I will asking each of you to review two (2) of your peer’s papers rather than one.

As before I am looking for a critical summary and then a critical review.

Two Parts:

Part One; Critical Summary:

Summarize the article:

A.) Outline the Major thesis that the author is attempting to establish. (What is the Conclusion he is trying to establish?  What’s his Big Point?)

B.) Outline what reasons he gives to support this. (What are his premises?)

Part Two; Critical Evaluation:

Evaluate the argument:

A.) Support Question- If his premises were true, would they support the conclusion? Would the make the conclusion more likely?  Would they give one good reason to accept his conclusion?

B.) Content Question- Are his premises good (clear, true, non-controversial /reasonable)?

Clarity: To be a good premise it must be clear.  It must not contain vagaries and ambiguities which prevent the reader from understanding what is being asserted.  One cannot deterime if the premise is true if it admits of multiple interpretations.  However, note two things:

i.  It is not enough to merely claim that a premise is vague or contains a vague term.  If you make such a claim, you must defend it.  Why do you say the premise is vague?  What is the troublesome term or terms and why are they troublesome?  Why does this vagueness prevent you from determining whether the sentence is true or reasonable?

ii.  As we discussed in class, where an author uses a vague term, it is appropriate to extend to him or her the “principle of charity” and try to guess what a reasonable, intelligent person might have meant by the term.  It is a weakness of the argument is the author is vague, but in the interest of advancing the dialog it becomes the reader’s responsibility to try to “fill in the blanks.”

Truth:  Of course the premise must be true.  False premises support nothing.  However, be careful here.  That a premise is false, in and of itself, is no reason for thinking that the conclusion is false.  Only that the conclusion is not supported by this argument.

Reasonableness:  Since the work of an argument is to persuade, one must make use of premises that are acceptable to the general public if one is to persuade the general public (you).  It is a weakness of an argument if it makes use of a premise which is controversial, whether, it turns out to be true or not.  However, it is not enough to merely claim that a premise is controversial.  If you are asserting that this is a claim that the author is being unreasonable and that reasonable people would reject his premise(s), you then must say who the reasonable people are/ or what rational grounds they could give you for rejecting the author’s claim(s).

For Example: Consider the argument

God Exists
If God exists then this is the best of all possible worlds.

Therefore

This is the best of all possible worlds.

Support:

The premises would supply excellent support for the conclusion if true.  In fact, if the premises were true they would raise the probability of the conclusion to 1.  There is no way the premises could be true and the conclusion be false. (Formally Valid)

Content:

There is a problem with the content of this argument.

It is not the clarity (because the premises are very clear) and not the truth (since I do not claim to know that the premises are false).

The problem is that the first premise is not good because it is so controversial.  There are many who reject premise one as false (atheists) or who doubt premise 1 (agnostics) claiming that there is insufficient evidence to know that premise 1 is true.  Indeed some suggest that the amount and degree of suffering and evil in the world is sufficient evidence to know that premise one is false.

Therefore, as it stands, the argument is unpersuasive.  Thus is does not “work” (as an argument).  People who doubt the conclusion will also doubt the 1st premise. And anyone who does not doubt the first premise will in all likelihood, would not have doubted the conclusion in the first place.  Therefore the argument can accomplish no persuasive work.

Stray notes:

  1. I want you to begin your paper with something like this as your opening statement:

“The author of the article claims that (insert the conclusion here) and offers various reasons in support of this position.  In my paper I shall summarize and evaluate the argument.  In the end I believe that it is (successful/unsuccessful) and will explain and defend my assessment.

It would be nice to see something similar in the way of a summary at the end to bookend your essay.

  1. The paper should be 4-5 pages double spaced in length however, I will not count pages or grade on the basis of number of pages.  I will however grade based on completeness of the assignment.  Doing an adequate-good paper would only earn and average-good grade (C-B).  An Excellent Paper (A) will do more than the minimum.  For instance, one might consider implications of the view or how the issue may be resolved.

Here is a rough rubric to follow:  You might also look at my colleague’s (Dr. Kenneth Henley) directions to his classes “Writing a philosophy paper for Prof. Kenneth Henley” a link to which you will find on the left hand side of his webpage.

Unsatisfactory

Poor

Average

Good

Excellent

I

Spelling and grammar mistakes that prevent the reader from understanding the author’s meaning.

Spelling and grammar mistakes that distract the reader and detract from the author’s meaning.

Very few or no spelling or grammar mistakes.

No spelling or grammar mistakes

Well-constructed sentences and good use of phrases.

No spelling or grammar mistakes

Well-constructed sentences and good use of phrases which powerfully and clearly express the author’s meaning.

II

Poorly articulated  or unarticulated thesis and no evidence of logical development within the paper.

Poorly articulated  or unarticulated thesis.

Clearly articulated thesis which is roughly followed throughout the paper.

Clearly articulated thesis followed throughout the paper.

Clearly articulated thesis that is adhered to and referred to throughout the paper.

III

Unorganized, weak or shallow ideas showing little internal relations or logical development.

Unorganized, ideas showing little internal relations or logical development.

Logical Development within the paper.

Well organized paper where the theme is articulated and developed.

Well organized paper where the theme is articulated and developed and brought to a final conclusion.

IV

Misidentifies or mischaracterizes the author’s position on the issue and the reasons the author supplies in support of that position.

Correctly identifies and characterizes the authors position on the issue, but mischaracterizes or omits  the reasons that the author supplies in support of his or her position.

Correctly identifies and characterizes the author’s position on the issue and the reasons the author supplies in support of that position.  Offers only a cursory or weak critical evaluation.

Correctly identifies and characterizes the author’s position on the issue and the reasons the author supplies in support of that position.  Provides a thoughtful critical evaluation.

Correctly identifies and characterizes the author’s position on the issue and the reasons the author supplies in support of that position.  Provides a thoughtful critical evaluation.  Introduces additional  considerations or relates this issue to other issues not directly covered by the author.