Paper details:Writing Project 2:
Cultures of Education
Academic institutions have policies and regulations in place to uphold educational standards as well as to ensure the safety and fair treatment of all students. While those policies are usually well intended, some policies do not work as expected because of the ways in which they are designed, phrased or implemented. The same policy may also affect different people in different ways, and some policies that are helpful for some people may not be well received by others. People who are affected by these policies might respond in a number of ways: some may accept the policies as they are and abide by them regardless of how they feel about them, while others might try to change them by persuading those in power to change or abolish the policies–or at least change the ways they are implemented. If the policies are well designed and implemented but widely misunderstood, it is also possible to communicate with those who are affected to clarify the misunderstanding, providing a different way of seeing the current situation.
The goal of this project is to address a policy issue that affects members of the campus community–students, faculty, staff and administrators. What are some of the current issues and concerns that members of your institution are discussing? What are some of the controversies that are being covered by student newspapers and other campus publications? What policies are in place–or not in place–that may be related to those issues? Who are the stakeholders being affected by those policies and in what ways? Could the situation be improved by creating a new policy, or modifying or abolishing the current policy? Could the issue be resolved by changing the ways in which current policies are implemented? Or could it be addressed by raising the awareness among the stakeholders?
Once you have identified a policy issue, find out as much information as you can about the policy. Possible sources of information could include policy documents, policy makers, people who implement or enforce the policy and people who are affected by the policy. You may choose to interview or survey some of the people involved. You may also find relevant information in local publications, such as campus newspapers and websites.
As you do your research, consider the following questions: What is the policy? Who created it and for what purpose? How effective is the policy? How is it implemented? Which members of the community are being affected by it and how? How is the policy or the implementation perceived by the members of the community? What solutions have already been proposed? What other possible solutions can you think of? If policy changes are needed, who are in the position to create, change, or abolish relevant policies?
If the issue you have chosen is not related to a current policy, but you feel that one needs to be created in order to address the problem, then think about the following questions: Does the issue really require the creation of a policy? Or can it be handled in another way? What would the policy look like? Who would be affected by it? Who has the power to take action? In other words, who might you need to convince about the need for a policy and the creation or implementation of one?
Once you have a sense of the issue that you want to address, you will need to determine what type of action needs to be taken in order to address it. Could the problem that you are focusing on be solved by the creation of a new policy or by modifying a policy that is currently in place? Or, would it be easier to solve if an existing policy was abolished or the implementation of it was improved? Upon asking yourself these questions, you should have a better idea of the type of action that needs to be taken in order to solve or alleviate the problem. Then, write a formal proposal in which you call for that action to be taken. Ideally, you should address your proposal to the person or group of people who are in the position to accept or consider it. Thus, you will want to include an overview of the problem, including reasons as to why it is an issue. After you have established the reason for your proposal, you will want to explain what it is that you are proposing, whether it is the creation, modification, or abolishment of a policy or improving the way that an existing policy is currently implemented. In other words, what is your plan? In addition to explaining your proposed course of action, you will also need to include facts and/or research to support your plan and also convince your audience why they should adopt or consider your proposal.
Another option you have is to employ a combination of genres to persuade your audience to create, modify, improve, or abolish the policy you choose. The genres will depend not only upon the policy that you choose, but also upon your audience. Who needs to know about this policy? Who are the individuals or institutions that can enact change? For example, you may need to write a letter to the editor, or even a letter to address the policy makers directly. In other cases, you may want to contact peers, classmates, or future students to spread awareness for the policy. You can target the public at large by writing a news article or exposé on the policy and why it necessitates change. You may choose to create a visual argument (flier, poster, advertisement, public service announcement, brochure) to publicize the policy and why it needs to be created, changed, or eliminated. Or, you can take your policy to the digital world: create a blog post, Facebook group or event, or petition (like on Change.org) that explains the policy (or lack thereof) to spread awareness of the issue and policy. If you choose this option, you will write an additional rhetorical rationale that justifies the genres you choose and the decisions you make within each genre.
In this project, you will learn to:
use argumentative strategies to persuade a particular audience
respond appropriately to different kinds of rhetorical situations
use stasis theory to conduct critical analysis of an issue
understand the relationships among language, knowledge, and power
conduct inquiry-based research and writing
identify the kind of ideological work a text undertakes and how it serves to persuade readers to accept a particular account of a specific concept or strategy as effective
The primary audience for this writing project will depend on the issue that you have chosen to address in your proposal, so you will need to do some research to determine who the “stakeholders” are. In other words, who would be affected if the issue on which you are writing were to be put into practice or adopted? Who has the power to take action? Who is it that you need to persuade? Depending on the nature of the issue, you may need to reach one particular person or multiple groups.
Proposal writing takes place is all of the different spheres–personal, academic, professional and civic. They may serve different purposes: to offer solutions to problems or issues or to request funding for a research or permission to begin a large project. Regardless of why proposals are written, they typically call for some kind of action or change; they call on an audience to come to a decision and to do something.
The proposal begins by introducing the issue or problem that is being addressed, followed by a detailed discussion of it, including evidence that it exists, reasons why it is a problem, and references to relevant research that establishes and supports the problem. Like most persuasive writing, it is important that proposals present support for the argument that is being made (or rather, the idea that is being proposed), and furthermore, persuade the reader to take action.
After the issue or problem has been discussed, the proposal then lays out the suggested plan of action or the solution. This section may be divided into several subsections depending on how complex the solution is and how long the document is. The proposed plan of action should be comprehensive so that the reader(s) can fully understand what is being proposed, how it might work, and what might be involved. This section might also explain why the plan of action or solution that has been proposed will be more effective than other alternatives. Since this is the final opportunity to persuade them, the proposal should leave them with something that makes them seriously consider the benefits of enacting whatever has been proposed.
Here are a few process genres that might help you develop ideas for the persuasive essay:
A list of issues. Come up with a list of issues that you or your peers see as problematic at your institution.
Stasis theory/questions. Conduct a critical analysis of the policy by answering questions that will help you discover important facts and meanings behind the policy, as well as the quality of it and what improvements might be made.
Figure out who you are trying to persuade. As previously mentioned, the main goal of a persuasive essay is to convince your audience to adopt your point of view or agree with you on a particular subject. The best way to do this is to know who your audience is and figure out which strategies will be most effective in persuading them. Once you have decided on a topic,
Free write. Write continuously for 5-10 minutes, using that time to state your case. In other words, what reasons do you have for your stance? Why should your audience listen to you? Better yet, why should they agree with you? Write down every single reason that you can think of and then go back and read your list and decide which reasons are strong enough to support your argument.
List of potential audience members. Make a list of people (or administrators) who you might need to target with your proposal.
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Think about an issue that you or your peers recognize as problematic at your institution and examine it in-depth by asking yourself questions such as: What is the issue? Why is it an issue? Who is affected? How might the issue be solved? Who might be involved in coming up with, or implementing, a solution? Is there a policy at your institution that currently addresses this issue? If so, what is it? If not, do you think there is a need for one?