Finding Opinion-Based Articles

In my English 5, Critical Thinking classes, I often ask students to find opinion-based articles in topic areas of their interest. I ask them to do this, so that they go out into the world and begin to look at topics as debates or discussions that they can then analyze to deepen their understanding of the issue and how each debate is being framed.

So, how do you do this?

To start, you need a general topic area and then narrow by choosing issues that are being debated an interesting to you. Once you have an issue, then start brainstorming the different people who might have different perspectives on an issue. For example:

  • Topic: Professional Sports.
    • Issues/Questions: How safe is playing football?; Should Division I athletes be paid? Why are professional women’s sports not watched or compensated in the same ways as men?
    • Who might be interested in concussions: NFL Players’ Association, NFL owners, parents of high school football players, physicians, etc.
  • Topic: Parental Leave for New Parents.
    • Issues: How much time should be given to newborn parents to care for their children? How much should stay-at-home parents be paid to care for their child? Who should pay for that time? What are the emotional benefits for children? How does paternity/maternity leave affect the labor market? What do businesses gain (if anything)?
    • What are the emotional benefits of parental leave for children? : Parents, educators, child psychologists, managers of employees, human resource experts, etc.

Now that you have some ideas of what issues you’d like to investigate and who might care about them, you can begin exploring library databases and other online forums to find people writing arguments about these topics. In some cases, like the parental leave issue, no one is going to say outright that it’s best for the child NOT to have their parents around for the first year, so you’ll have to think about other ways people ignore this issue or create a different argument to avoid it.

If you need help, please don’t  be afraid to ask!

 

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English 5, Critical Thinking: Spring 2014 Blogs

For the last few semesters, I’ve been having students in my critical thinking classes create reserach blogs that help them show their evolving understanding of an issue. I’m still working out the kinks in the development of these projects, but I think for the most part students have really discovered a number of important things for themselves and their academic careers. Enjoy!

Alphabetical by last name:

Louis Cessna — Criminal Justice

Gabrielle Cuellar — Economics and Incentives: This student struggled to find a good angle to discuss her major and career field, accounting, until she read the book Freakanomics, which helped her see how the field of economics and accounting connects to many different issues in the world.

Mike Ran Du — Tech Bus: A Look at Technology and Business

Ed Horcasitas — Affirmative Action

Taylor Jones — Healthcare to the Highest Bidder?

Doyeon Kim — Educating Children in Developing Countries

Youri Koh — Effects of Parenting Styles on Child Development

Chaerin Lee — The Living of Asian Americans

Elisha Lloyd — Implications of Habitat Destruction 

Philip Mills — Discrimination in Sports

Azquena Munoz — Social Work

David Nicholas — Math Education: Anxiety and Reform

Chrissel Oricino — I am Human: Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

Hyungjung Park — Animal Welfare

Nate Pedley — Women in Hip-Hop — Nice design and thoughts for musicians… Using love of music to become interested in other fields.

Annakaren Pizano — Annakaren’s Time: On Nursing

Alberto Rivera — Immigration Reform

Ly Tran — How World Fairs Affect the Public

William Vega — PTSD and Firefighters

Jacqueline Verdin — Teaching

Nautica Welch — A Nautical Life: My Research and Work on How to Become a “Good” Teacher

Alan Wong — Exploring My Interest of Going into Human Resources

Meia Joy Yumi — Me In Action

 

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English 5, Fall 2014 — Syllabus Introduction

Here’s my syllabus introduction for my Fall 2014 Critical Thinking class:

Introduction: My mom often talked about my grandparents working as strawberry farmers. They started off as sharecroppers, then leased the land, and eventually grew their own crops, hiring their own set of workers. They worked late when the berries were ripe, and my grandfather had to wake up at all hours to move irrigation pipes. I remember hearing my grandmother’s pick up come up the driveway of her house, and then she would walk in the backdoor of her house smelling of moist soil and sickly sweet berries that had been smashed into the knees of her pants as she crouched to pick them, and even then I remember thinking that I did not have the fortitude to squat in the dirt and pick berries to make a living.

I was not judging them or their work; they were my beloved grandparents after all, but by the time high school graduation neared, I knew that I would be attending college, and at the time I took my opportunities and what they would mean for granted. For on the rare occasions we left the comforts of their home to go shopping or to a restaurant, it was clear that I could navigate those situations more easily: I could read and speak fluently; I was not intimidated; I did not have the same worries that the world would judge me for how I spoke, and it was only in college that I began to understand that our world often divided us into categories: blue-collar v. white-collar; graduates v. drop-outs; body v. mind; educated v. ignorant; smart versus…You can probably figure out the rest.

But my mother also shared how my grandfather had learned Spanish to communicate with the Mexican laborers he worked with and hired; how he had to learn about new technologies, pesticides and herbicides that would protect their crops and profits (though not their health). How they had to understand how new strands of berries would sell better because they looked prettier even though the sweetness had been lost. They had to calculate crop yields, negotiate loans and prices, and forecast the best and worst weather circumstances: they were hard-working, determined, and smart no matter how broken their English, no matter the level of their education.

I’m telling you this because by confining the idea of thinking, especially “critical” thinking, to a college classroom is unfair and possibly harmful. It causes us to judge the intelligence of a person or groups of people based on their work, their neighborhood, the color of their skin, their place of birth, or any other number of factors that shape their lives. Conversely, it can make those who have taken those classes, who have those degrees, to feel as if they stand above those who have not.

So, in order to explore this question of intelligence and critical thinking, of how we obtain and cultivate such habits of mind, we will read about different types of work and the thinking they require; we will explore the debates about the purpose of college—whether it is preparation for the workforce or for the development of the mind—and we will ask ourselves how we can transfer our intelligence, or smarts, or whatever you want to call that expertise, from one context to another. Specifically, I want you to take the joy of learning, analyzing, and thinking you have in one area, like football or make up or hacky-sacking, and transfer it to a new space, a new journey, a new research project.

Today, I still drive the yellow pickup that my grandmother gave me; it once smelled of those sweet strawberries, of dirt, and a life of work, but now those smells are gone. As I think about her, I compare her work with how I approach each class: I am planting seeds and cultivating minds, I am considering the yields I might achieve with the proper technology and care, and this makes me think that if given the right circumstances, she might have been able to do the same.

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Putting an article into standard form….

In one assignment I often give students, I  ask them to find argumentative articles connected to the issue they’re researching. Then, based on the format given by Writing Logically, Thinking Critically, I ask them put their form into standard form. It looks something like this:

PREMISE:

PREMISE:

(HIDDEN ASSUMPTION):

CONCLUSION:

This outline helps us see the argument more clearly and understand what assumptions are being made in the text. From this, we can summarize more effectively  and critique the quality of the argument.

Here’s a link to an article that I’m going to analyze: https://diigo.com/03dlv4

Gutting, Gary. “What Is College For?” The New York Times. 14 December 2011. Web. 3 September 2014.

  • PREMISE: Students are disengaged from the material in their college classes.
    • (Assumption: it’s the materials that are causing them to be disengaged).
  • PREMISE: They are bored with their courses and find them valuable only if they are training for a particular job or if the teacher is pleasing to them.
    • (Assumption: Only being a pleasing teacher or being connected to job training will stop students from being bored. Slippery definition: “pleasing.”)
  • PREMISE: College is not there for the engagement of the student.
  • PREMISE: Colleges’ reason for being is to “nourish a world of intellectual culture.”
  • Conclusion/PREMISE: Our support for higher education makes sense ONLY if we see this intellectual culture as essential to our society.
  • PREMISE: Teachers need to see themselves as intellectuals in this culture.
  • PREMISE: Teachers need to believe that their “idiosyncratic interests” have general human significance apart from immediate application.

CONCLUSION: Lack of academic engagement results from a basic misunderstanding–by students and teachers–of what colleges are for.


 

Just so you know, it took me quite some time to do this, and I’m quite apprehensive that I’ve done it incorrectly. What I think it helpful, however, is to pick apart the main points of an argument in order to begin looking at the hidden assumptions made.

In the case of this article, it’s clear that the author makes a few hidden assumptions about why students are engaged and what teachers believe about their work. Neither of these are horrible omissions, but they are places where I might ask questions like: maybe students’ perception of the academy’s “intellectual culture” is to Western-centric, or snobby, and that causes them to appear to be disengaged. Or, perhaps, teachers who are trying to be “pleasing” see the disconnect between the lives of many students and the hallways of elite academies, and are attempting to reach across this divide.

Anyways, this is just an example of how to begin to put this altogether. I hope it helps.

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What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades – NYTimes.com

This is an interesting argument for me to continue to use handwritten journal writing in my classes:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=pockethits&_r=0&referrer=

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