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Have Students Create a Good Argument


Professor Chip Rogers suggested this great assignment:


My favorite assignment asks students to argue this question:


Who suffers more, men or women, from the cultural expectations stereotypes impose upon them: in other words, who has it worse? Men or women?  


Of course there is no right answer, so it requires that students present careful argument for their viewpoint.  They have to:


  1. identify and illustrate the stereotypes or gender norms
  2. explain how they cause suffering
  3. make their case for one gender's greater suffering. 
  4. students must present both sides of the issue, dealing with both sexes
  5. they support their claims on both sides with quotations from readings we've done on gender, research they pursue, or gender-centered poetry we've read.

Students tend to engage with the assignment immediately, and the discussions leading up to writing always get great response--partly because the issues are so pertinent in their lives (especially for traditional-aged students), and also because I think it's intrinsically interesting to anyone living in our culture as we see gender "norms" expressed everywhere we look, from advertising, to literature, TV, and film, and to our families and various peer groups.


Students do often struggle in presenting the other side of their argument, and it can be tougher than seems at first to elaborate actual suffering for some stereotypes they bring in.


Not infrequently students end up changing sides in the argument once they get thoroughly into it--which I like!

The assignment is effective because it engages their critical thinking with each major point on both sides of the question and in bringing in sources or quotations; plus it requires real rhetorical skill to make a convincing case that one sex suffers more than the other.


Thanks to Professor Chip Rogers of Middle Georgia State University for sharing his favorite assignment! Professor Rogers has made the most recent version of this assignment available online here.