A5 - Writing 140 Spring 2011 (PHIL 140 affiliation)...

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Writing 140 Spring 2011 (PHIL 140 affiliation) Assignment 5: Responding to Reasoning Gone Adrift Purpose This semester you have been encouraged to practice the principles of sound critical reasoning, which include exercising intellectual skepticism and honesty, using validity claims, identifying logical fallacies, addressing counterarguments, and balancing rhetorical appeals (see pages 1-14 in the Writing 140 Course Book ). This final assignment will provide you with an opportunity to showcase what you have learned by demonstrating these sound critical reasoning skills in your own writing while critiquing the critical reasoning of others on the sorts of issues you have studied this semester in your Social Issues affiliation. Topic When surveyed about the current state of teaching and learning in our universities, f aculties rank critical reasoning as the primary goal of a college education. Accordingly, efforts are being made to determine whether or not students actually gain proficiency in critical reasoning over the course of their academic careers. One such study is being conducted here at the University of Southern California, where preliminary data indicates that students’ critical reasoning abilities do significantly improve between their freshman and junior years of college. Though the population is limited to USC and the findings are tentative, this study suggests that students are indeed learning, thinking, and writing competently about the complex issues facing our world. Other studies suggest, however, that improvements in collegiate critical reasoning may be minimal or even nonexistent. Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University, claims that “ many seniors graduate without being able to write well enough to satisfy their employers. Many cannot reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, non-technical problems” (8). A recent study corroborating Bok’s claims, conducted by sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, concludes that, in fact, “higher-education institutions are currently academically adrift .” Based on the data, Arum and Roksa believe that there is “barely” improvement in students’ “complex reasoning and writing during their first two years of college,” with almost half “demonstrating no appreciable gain in these skills” (54). In any case, the fact that critical reasoning is being called into question within academia—a purported bastion of reasoning—raises larger concerns about the quality of critical reasoning in our culture as a whole. If critical reasoning practices are under question in an academic context, where they are explicitly taught and supremely valued, then they are even more suspect in lay contexts (e.g. the media, social networks, political organizations), where social issues are discussed or debated with a much less pronounced commitment to critical reasoning. Task
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A5 - Writing 140 Spring 2011 (PHIL 140 affiliation)...

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