AP Language and Composition essay, Beyond the Culture Wars

AP Language and Composition
Term 2 2020-2021
Essay 1(a)–Rough Draft due December 18, 2020

In his book Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education, Gerald Graff alludes to “the communicative disorders of a society that is becoming so shell-shocked by cultural conflict and disagreement that it would rather escape from the battle than confront it and try to work things out.” He also points to “unpleasant adversaries” whom people avoid and laments debates that are not had; the resulting polarization, it is easy to see, is problematic in a democratic nation.

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(Note: this book was published in 1992, and it is worth considering how much more polarized American society is now than it was three decades ago.)

Debate and argumentation over millennia have proven to be effective practices in teaching as well as learning. In a debate format, debaters–if they are going to be effective, if they are going to be able to respond skillfully and effectively–must listen to and actually hear what their opponents/fellow debaters are saying. Part of the scholarly task in this paper will be to “listen to” viewpoints with which the reader/rhetor does not agree; this task is an integral part of the analysis.

In order to “[improve] the quality, interest, and power of” students’ argumentative writing, in this first paper of Term 2–introduced separately as Essay 1a and 1b but eventually combined as a single composition–students will be required to assess, analyze, and respond to an article containing ideas and arguments with which the reader/rhetor does not agree.

Introductory Section

In a “general” to specific progression, “identify and describe components of the rhetorical situation: the exigence, audience, writer, purpose, context, and message.”

Thesis: “pointed” analytical statement focused on the (other) author’s thesis as well as related argumentation in combination with an equally specific argument-based statement that introduces the claims that the writer will present as her/his claims. (“Write a thesis statement that requires proof or defense …”)

Note: “An introduction may orient, engage, and/or focus the audience by presenting quotations, intriguing statements, anecdotes, questions, statistics, data, contextualized information, or a scenario.” You have many options! Be creative!

BODY Paragraphs

Topic sentences that serve to develop the thesis statement must be drafted, sharpened, and included. These topic sentences then must be developed via use of technical language– including but not limited to ethos, pathos, and logos. Thorough analysis of the author’s arguments is the goal; a single topic sentence can be developed in a single paragraph or two consecutive paragraphs.

What follows these argument-based responses that may or may not be presented as individual paragraphs. The claims/rebuttals are then developed by the writer.

For the purposes of this component of the paper, students’ writing will be developed without the use of outside research. Development will be dependent upon critical thinking, close reading, and analytical thought. (Needless to say, the writer’s ability to successfully assess and respond to the thesis and related arguments in a well-written essay will depend largely on her/his knowledge of scholarly language and terminology related to rhetorical analysis.)


“The conclusion of an argument brings the argument to a unified end. A conclusion may present the argument’s thesis. It may engage and/or focus the audience by explaining the significance of the argument within a broader context, making connections, calling the audience to act, suggesting a change in behavior or attitude, proposing a solution, leaving the audience with a compelling image,” etc.

As has been the case in previous papers, the expectation is that the writer will proceed from “general” to specific and will include a fair amount of reflection that serves to conclude the essay in a thought-provoking and earnest-sounding manner.

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