Encouraging Learning

* Write an essay in which you compare and contrast Hsun Tzu’s argument in “Encouraging Learning” with Frederick Douglass’s account of learning to read and write. In what ways might Douglass’s account support Hsun Tzu’s ideas about education? In what ways might Douglass’s account challenge Hsun Tzu’s ideas?

The Overall Assignment:

Your task for the first formal essay of the semester is to select one or two of the texts we’ve read and discussed and write an essay in response to them. This response can take several forms. One is to explain the argument made in a single text and discuss the extent to which you find that argument persuasive. Your assessment of the argument could be based on several factors, including the logic of the text’s argument, its use of language, and your own reasoning and knowledge of the issues addressed. Alternatively, you can compare and contrast two texts, explaining the major differences and similarities between them. For example, you might argue that two texts that seem opposed actually display similar ideas or beliefs, or you might explore important contrasts between seemingly similar texts. You might argue that one text makes a more effective or persuasive argument than another. Whatever the direction, however, you should present a focused argument that you develop with reasoning and evidence. Also, you should present this argument in an organized form and in clear, carefully edited prose.

Basic Requirements:
• Length: 5 pages or more
• Format: Typed, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins, MLA citations
• Sources: You must cite at least one text read and discussed in class. Outside sources are permitted but not required.

Criteria for Evaluation

Below are the criteria according to which I will read, respond to, and evaluate your essays. You may refer to these as you write and revise. These criteria will also be discussed in class, and I am always happy to answer any questions you have about them.

Thesis: Your paper should articulate and develop a main claim or thesis in response to at least one of the texts we’ve read. This claim should go beyond mere summary of the reading. It should offer an assertion about or in response to the text(s) you are discussing. You might offer an argument on issues raised in the texts, you might discuss an insightful comparison or contrast between two texts, or you might assess the validity of a text’s argument (among other options). In any case, your thesis should (as noted above) be an assertion or claim about the texts or ideas you write about; that is, it should be a statement that needs to be substantiated or supported, NOT an obvious fact or summary. Last (as we will discuss in future classes), your thesis will likely also include reasons or points that underlie your main claim.

Support/Evidence: As just noted, a genuine thesis or claim requires support. Since you will not simply be summarizing others’ ideas but instead offering your own insights and arguments, you will need to persuade the reader that these insights and arguments are valid because they are based in evidence and reasoning

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