For this paper, you will write 7+ pages that proposes and argues a single ambitious solution for a major local, national, or global problem. Your essay should demonstrate an understanding of the problem and offer persuasive evidence and reasoning to support your solution. Your solution should feel ambitious. Like Singer and Coates, you do not need to worry if your solution is likely one, only that your solution feels persuasive. Pick a strategy to win us over. Take a chance to dream big and swing for the bleachers, as they say!
Some examples of major problems include: deforestation, plastic in our oceans, rising college tuition, the vanishing middle class, poverty, the spread of misinformation, racial discrimination, gendered pay gaps, low access to quality healthcare in the US (rising healthcare costs), bad air quality in the central valley, rising opioid addiction rates, threat of global pandemics, overconsumption, or something else. Try to pick something that feels focused and specific. For example, climate change is a broad problem with tons of elements: deforestation, greenhouse gasses, and water pollution, to name a few. The solutions for deforestation will be different than the solutions for greenhouse gasses, so you’ll want to narrow down the larger problem of climate change and pick either deforestation or greenhouse gasses (or some other sub-problem contributing to the broader problem of climate change). You’ll also want to pick a problem that feels measurable, otherwise you won’t be able to show what “solving” this problem looks like in a clear way. For example, lets say you’re worried about the problem of stereotyping. While this might definitely be a problem in our society, how would you know when this problem is solved? Has this problem been worsening or improving over the past decade and how would you know for sure? Instead of picking a problem that’s abstract (or, hard to measure), think of a way to quantify the problem so that your readers will better understand how you intend to fix it. Perhaps you want to look at the rise in hate crimes in the US over the past few years (we hover near 16-year highs in numbers of hate crimes). (Links to an external site.) While it might be difficult to measure the amount of stereotyping in our country (you could measure media representation– perhaps even harmful amounts of representation, as anti-defamation leagues do though), research can measure and evaluate changes in metrics like hate crimes or unequal income distribution. In that respect, looking at how to reduce hate crimes, or how to increase representation in the media, might be better topics than the more abstract topic of stereotyping.
Choose Your Own Adventure:
A 7+ page essay for The Atlantic, the same magazine that Coates published in, which sells itself as a forum for ideas where “reason should always guide opinion.
A 7+ page traditional academic essay published in an academic journal.
7+ pages in MLA format (the works cited pages do not count towards this page count)
You must have an MLA works cited page and sufficient parenthetical citations throughout so that I can correctly separate your claims from your sources’ claims and information.
You must cite 5 or more credible sources, and at least two peer-reviewed sources. Each source should feel appropriate, authoritative, and credible for its context. The CRAAP test is a useful tool.
Persuade, don’t just argue! Remember, your goal is to win your audience over. Even when you’re “right,” if you don’t have a strategy for persuading us, then being right won’t accomplish your actual goal.
Explain and frame the problem. While you can rely on popular knowledge about topics like climate change and such, you shouldn’t expect that your audience has done nearly the amount of research that you have. How might you frame such a daunting problem? For Singer, he offers trolley problems that transform a global struggle into a puzzle. Coates uses testimonials and historical accounts to give the effects of structural racial inequality a human face.
Be Creative! Because these are ambitious solutions, you won’t probably find research that they work—your solution probably hasn’t been tried yet! The point of learning persuasion and inductive reasoning isn’t so that you can point at work that other people have done, say “let’s do that,” and call it a day. I want to teach you how to problem solve. You might find some research to directly support your solution, but you might not! If you believe in your solution, come up with solid reasoning to back it up! Either way, a lot of your evidence and reasoning will require creative critical thinking. Embrace that! If this were just a “research paper,” I’d say to focus on evidence; instead, like Singer, let’s focus on your reasoning and bring in evidence to buttress that whenever able and necessary (Coates uses a lot of research, but Singer’s only “research” is that a $200 donation will save a life– then rest of his argument is reasoning and explanation).
Dream Big! I don’t expect you to actually solve climate change, COVID-19, or global poverty. Instead, I want you to dream big and argue for an unlikely, maybe even wild solution. Think about Singer and Coates here: even if their solutions might seem unlikely, their solutions feel justified, perhaps even ideal.
Carefully focus the “facts” of the problem so that your audience knows exactly what you are trying to solve. Coates is a great example here. Coates does not claim to solve “racism”; he proposes a solution to address racially biased economic inequality. Be explaining issues like red-lining, Coates focuses the terms of the problem so that he can better tailor his solution. If Coates only focused on reparations for slavery—what most people think about when they hear the word “reparations”—then Coates’s solution might not seem as effective. Instead, Coates focuses on systematic racism so that he narrow his solution to address the economic effects of discrimination. Simply put, fixing all racism is too difficult. If you’re writing about COVID-19, for example, you might consider issues with testing, treatment, and its pandemic spread. Maybe you decide to argue for a solution to slow its spread— refusal to wear a mask should be criminal or something. If you want to propose this solution, you might not want to focus on other facets of the problem, such as limited testing or treatment (unless your strategy interprets these as rebuttals you need to mention); frame your problem carefully in order for you to better tailor your solution.
Remember Cicero! First, change our moods. Then, change our mind. Then, fill us with a desire to act. To persuade people, you need to win their hearts and A lot of academic writing obsesses over the “minds” part, but it’s peoples’ hearts that compel them to invest the time and energy to change stuff!