Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Moment of Truth: Letter Writing

Die Blitzkriegkinder,

You have 72 hours to answer the letter-writing prompt that is posted below. It has also been emailed to you. You will be in a computer lab for two days, so that you have access to a printer and Microsoft Word, in addition to Google Docs. The printed letter is due on Thursday at the start of class.

This, like the rest of your week, is really about applying to a particular task the skills and knowledge you’ve ostensibly been developing. You’ve studied logic and logical fallacies; you’ve studied the elements of effective writing; and you’ve been immersed in a collaborative atmosphere, whether working on quizzes or post-mortems. Writing this letter is as much about that collegiality as analysis and argumentation.

The rest of the week is about isolating your skills and knowledge to a certain extent:

Wednesday: Timed general argument essay | Given as a state pre-test, which means that it counts both as a grade this quarter and as a score for the state’s evaluation of us. If you’ve been doing what you should have been doing with those first essays, the course rubric, and the analytical portion of this political unit, you will write a timed response that reflects your abilities. You must write in black ink for this, so pens will be provided; you must also write using the lined response paper that will be set aside for you on Wednesday.

Thursday and Friday: Timed multiple-choice questions | Given as a local pre-assessment, which means it will not count as a grade this quarter, only as a score for the state’s evaluation of us. You will be given passages from various sources and asked to answer multiple-choice questions on rhetoric, style, and meaning. It will take two days to finish all 50 or so questions. You must have a pencil for this, as your responses will be keyed in on a Scantron.

Note that if you are absent for any part of the above two assessment, you will have to schedule a retake immediately.

The letter-writing prompt and rubric-driven outline are below.

Assignment: Using the analysis you prepared last week, and tying all choices to a clear, central purpose, respond to the following writing prompt in less than 72 hours. Print your response and submit it in class on Thursday, October 24.

Prompt: Write a letter to one of the two presidential candidates that takes a position on that candidate’s use of logical fallacies and rhetorical manipulation in his campaign’s recent television ads. Use the six ads posted to The Living Room Candidate as your central details, incorporating other specifics as necessitated by your letter’s purpose.

You are encouraged to use the SOAPSTONE method of outlining to help plan your response, especially with regard to purpose. If you do not remember this method from tenth grade—you should, since it is ostensibly part of the vertical instruction in 10R and 10A—you can Google your way to a functional understanding. You might also consider the following questions, which are organized along the DAMAGES+ rubric:

D: To what extent will you draw details from each of the ads? Does one ad deserve more focus, or will you try to analyze all six equally? Are there details from outside of these six ads—e.g., from the debates or from stump speeches—that you plan to reference? Most importantly, which are the most important patterns with regard to fallacies and manipulations that you plan on addressing?

A: Will you organize your letter by fallacy or rhetorical strategy, by advertisement, or in some other fashion? To what extent will you make your central purpose clear at the outset of the letter? Will you include any potential counterargument to your findings?

M: What is your central thesis with regard to the candidate’s argument, use of logic and logical fallacies, and rhetorical manipulations? Separately, what is your letter’s purpose—do you hope to change the candidate’s mind, mood, or willingness to act? Do you hope to elicit an apology, a simple statement, or something else?

A: What salutation is appropriate in a letter like this? How do you introduce yourselves—as a class, as individuals, as citizens, or in some other way? Do you make explicit reference to the assignment by way of introduction?

G: No questions to ask here. Just follow the conventions of Standard Written English very, very carefully.

E: What kind of closing is appropriate in a letter like this? How will you conclude your response? Will you include any attachments to make some of your central claims clearer (e.g., screen shots or relevant print ads, if you choose to use them)?

S: To what extent should you make your language clinical and unbiased? To what extent should you use informal or figurative language? Will you strive for some other particular tone, and if so, what fits the purpose of your response?

+: How will you format this letter? Will you use some of the templates that are available in Word, or will you design your own? To what extent will you rely on Internet-based resources to determine exactly how such a letter should be presented? Finally, to which address, and in what way, should you deliver this message? If you consider email as a faster alternative to traditional mail, how will that alter your presentation requirements?

As always, email me with questions or concerns.

Good luck,

Mr. Eure

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