Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy:

The Critical Citizen’s Guide 

to Argumentative Rhetoric

Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy

Table of Contents

Donald P. Lazere


Table of Contents

Part One: Introductory

Preface to Teachers

 Chapter 1: An Appeal to Students

I. English as a Survival Skill

Politics Is Interested in You

Who Makes the Rules?

Go to the Mall Instead?

The Role of English Studies

Avoiding Political Correctness

II. Critical Education in Historical Perspective: Intellectuals as Dissenters

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Mario Savio, “An End to History”

Adolph L. Reed, Jr. “Majoring in Debt”

David Moberg, “Students Stand Up for Workers Rights”

Henry A. Giroux, “The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear”

Young America’s Foundation, “About YAFoundation”

Topics for Discussion and Writing


III. A Preview Case: September 11, 2001


David Gates, “The Voices of Dissent”

Susan Sontag, “Thoughts on September 11”

William J. Bennett, “Faced With Evil on a Grand Scale, Nothing Is Relative”          

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 2: What Is an Argument?  What Is a Good Argument?

What Is an Argument?

What Is a Good Argument?

Reading: Michael Kinsley, “The Intellectual Free Lunch”

Analysis, Synthesis, and Judgments

Style and Tone. Eloquence and Moral Force


Rhetoric: A Checklist for Analyzing Your Own and Others’ Arguments

Topics for Discussion and Writing

“A Historical-Causal Analysis of ‘The White Problem’”


Chapter 3: Definitions and Criteria of Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking and Cultural Literacy

Making Connections

Dialogue in Critical Thinking and Literature

Recursiveness, Cumulativeness, and Levels of Meaning

Drawing the Line and Establishing Proportion

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “The American Scholar”

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Walt Whitman, “A Noiseless Patient Spider”

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Martha Nussbaum, “Can Patriotism Be Compassionate”

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Diane Ravitch, “Multiculturalism”

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 4: Writing Argumentative Papers

I. Pre-Writing

Rhetoric: A Checklist for Analyzing Your Own and Others’ Arguments

II. Writing


                Drafting and Revising

                Attributing Opinions to Sources

                Continuity, Transitions, Connections

                More About Introductions and Conclusions

III. Post-Writing

                Proofreading and Polishing

Reading Outloud 

IV. Locating and Evaluating Sources

                Levels of Education of Audiences and Credibility in Sources

                Political Viewpoints in Sources

A Model of the Writing Process in a Student Paper

                “Make-Up Veils” by Susan Brooks

                Class Discussion

                Susan’s Outline for Revision

                “Make-Up Veils” Revision

A Guide to Peer Editing


Naomi Wolf, from The Beauty Myth

Christina Hoff Sommers, from Who Stole Feminism?


Part Two: 

Attaining an Open Mind: Psychological, Social and Semantic Dimensions of Critical Thinking

 Chapter 5: Viewpoint, Bias, and Fairness: From Cocksure Ignorance to Thoughtful Uncertainty

Reading: Plato, from The Apology

Relativism and Commitment

Biased and Unbiased Viewpoints:The ESBYODS Principle

Acknowledge Your Own and Opposing Viewpoints

Rogerian Argument, Believers and Doubters

A Semantic Calculator for Bias in Rhetoric

Topics for Discussion and Writing

A Case Study: Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas

Rush Limbaugh, “The Attempt to Destroy Clarence Thomas”

June Jordan, “Can I Get A Witness?”             

Topics for Discussion and Writing

                Thomas vs. Hill: Postscript One

                Thomas vs. Hill: Postscript Two

David Brock, “Strange Lies”

Topics for Discussion and Writing 


Chapter 6: Questioning Culturally Conditioned Assumptions and Ethnocentrism

Totems and Taboos 


American Ethnocentrism

Reading: Larry Rohter, “Battle Over Patriotism Curriculum”

Questioning Capitalism


Other –centrisms


Virginia Woolf, from “A Room of One’s Own”

Maureen Dowd, “Rescue Me, Please”

Mary Field Belenky et al., from Women’s Ways of Knowing

Richard Applebaum and Peter Dreier, “The Campus Anti-Sweatshop Movement”

David Henderson, “In Defense of Sweatshops”

Benjamin Franklin, “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America”


Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 7: Overgeneralization, Stereotyping and Prejudice


Class Prejudice

Reverse Prejudice



Becky Wildman-Tobriner,  Will Sex Stereotypes Never End?”

Stephanie Salter,  “An Unexpected Education at St. Anthony’s”

Donald Barlett and James Steele, “Life on the Expense Account”

James Patterson and Peter Kim, “Beverly Hills Versus the South Bronx”

Stephen Moore, “How to Slash Corporate Welfare”

Russell Mokhiber, “Corporations: Underworld, U.S.A.”

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 8: Questioning “-Centrisms,” Authoritarianism, Rationalization, Compartmentalization


Other “-Centrisms”

Authoritarianism and Conformity

Rationalization, Compartmentalized Thinking, and Double Standards

Defense Mechanisms



George Orwell, from 1984

Paddy Chayevsky, from Network

Adrienne Rich, from “An Interview With Adrienne Rich”

Katha Pollitt, “On the Merits”

Jeff Jacoby, “Are Environmentalists Responsible for the Unabomber?”

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 9: Semantics in Rhetoric and Critical Thinking


Definition and Denotation in Argument

Connotation in Argument: “Cleans” and “Dirties”

                Reading: GOPAC, “Language as a Key Mechanism of Control”


Abstract and Concrete Language

Unconcretized Abstractions

Literal and Figurative Language

Literal and Figurative Language in Literature

A Semantic Analysis of Rush Limbaugh

Summary: Applying Semantic Analysis



Henry David Thoreau, from “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”        

Mary Ann Glendon, “When Words Cheapen Life”

George Lakoff, “Framing the Issues”

Thomas Sowell, “Look Behind Statistics for Changing Definitions”

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 10: Avoiding Oversimplification and Recognizing Complexity

 Recognizing Complexity

Reading Between the Lines


Verbal Irony         

Appearance versus Reality, Words versus Deeds

Extremes Meet

Intention versus Outcome

Historical Irony


Reading: James Baldwin, from The Fire Next Time

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Part Three: Elements of Argumentative Rhetoric

 Chapter 11: Some Key Terms in Logic and Argumentation

Deductive and Inductive Arguments

Varieties of Induction

Varieties of Deduction

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Implications and Inferences

Setting the Agenda

Tone and Style


Ground Rules for Polemicists


Deroy Murdock, “Vouchers, Choice: Opposing Views”

Thomas Sowell, “Chicken Little Calling Out, ‘Global Warning’”

Charles Krauthammer, “Lies, Damn Lies, and Racial Statistics”

Robert Weissberg, “White Racism: The Seductive Lure of an Unproven Theory”

P. J. O’Rourke, “Closing the Wealth Gap”

Topics for Discussion and Writings


Chapter 12: Logical and Rhetorical Fallacies

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 13: Causal Analysis

Common Causal Fallacies


Meredith Willson, “Ya Got Trouble.”

Jonathan Kozol, “Other People’s Children: Lawndale and the South Side of Chicago”

William J. Bennett, “Crisis in American Education”

Susan Douglas, “Post-Feminist Swill Redux”

Thomas Sowell, “Equality: A Grand Fallacy”

Topics for Discussion and Writing



Chapter 14: Uses and Misuses of Emotional Appeal

Appeals to “Cleans” and “Dirties”  

Puff Pieces and Hatchet Jobs

Predictable Patterns of Wartime Rhetoric: Appeals to Fear and Pity


Holly Miller, “Bunker Hunt’s Greatest Investment”

Mark Twain, “The War Prayer”

Paul Fussell, from The Real War 1939-1945

“War Is the Ultimate Drug.”  Interview with Author Chris Hedges

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Part Four: Thinking Critically About the Rhetoric of Politics and Mass Media

 Chapter 15: Thinking Critically About Political Rhetoric

Pre-Study Exercises

Political Semantics

Liberalism, Conservatism, Democrat, Republican

Socialism, Communism, Marxism

The World Political Spectrum

The American Political Spectrum

A Guide to Political Terms and Positions

Notes on Guide to Political Terms and Positions

Predictable Patterns of Political Rhetoric

Political Viewpoints in Sources


California Voter Information Booklet, “Political Party Statements of Purpose”

Steve Brouwer, “If We Decided to Tax the Rich”

David Horowitz, “The Intellectual Class War”

James Pinkerton, “Ventura: Act Got Old, but Message Remains”

Lawrence Britt, “Fascism Anyone?”

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 16: Thinking Critically About Mass Media

 Do the Media Give People What They Want?

Reading: Gabriela Montell, “A Professor Challenges the Press”

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Are News Media Objective?  What Are Their Biases?
Topics for Discussion and Writing

The Debate Over Political Bias in Media

Topics for Discussion and Writing



Edward Herman, “The Illiberal Media”

Bernard Goldberg, from Bias

Fred Barnes, “My Sports Right or Left”

Susan Gerhard, “Outfoxed Tweaks Rupert Murdoch’s Mayhemosphere”

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Assignment for a Paper


Part Five: Deception Detection

 Chapter 17: Special Interests, Conflict of Interest, Special Pleading


Allan B. Hubbard, “‘Iron Triangle’ Would Quash Competitiveness”

Henry A. Waxman,  “Quayle Group Meddles With Our Safeguards”

Edward M. Kennedy, John D. Dingell, and Henry A. Waxman, “Letter to Dr. David Kessler”

Topics for Discussion and Writing



Jim Mann, “Corporate Funding Taints Public Debate”

Bruce J. Schulman, “The Historic Power of Special Interests”

John Brain, “When Money Talks”

Mildred K Cho, “Secrecy and Financial Conflicts in University-Industry Research Must Get Closer Scrutiny”

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, “Fat and Happy in D.C.”

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 18: Varieties of Propaganda

Invective, Smearing, Disinformation

Lobbying and Public Relations

Government Public Relations; The Military-Industrial Complex


Aldous Huxley, “Propaganda Under a Dictatorship”

Bret Watson, “How to Watch the Next War”

Joel Bleifuss, “Flack Attack”

Sixty Minutes, “Confessions of a Tobacco Lobbyist”

Manohla Dargiss, “Truth, Moore or Less: Fahrenheit 9/11

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 19: Advertising and Hype

Are You Taken In By Ads?

Advertising Sells More Than Products



Daniel J. Boorstin, “Extravagant Expectations”

Center for Science In The Public Interest, “10 Food Secrets You Should Know”

Joan Ryan, “Children Now Facing Adult Heath Issues”

Robin Andersen, “Road to Ruin: Sport Utility Vehicles and the Greening of Environmental Destruction”

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Part Six: Putting It All Together in a Long Paper

 Chapter 20: A Case Study: Analyzing Arguments About the Rich, the Poor and the Middle Class

Dueling Statistics


Holly Sklar, “Let Them Eat Cake”

John C. Weicher, “Wealth-Gap Claptrap”

Hinteraker and Johnson versus Barlett and Steele

Reading: John H. Hinderaker and Scott W. Johnson, “George Bush’s Tax Return”

Applications in Student Papers



David R. Francis, “The CEO Makes What?  Return of a Fair-Pay Debate”

Elizabeth Carnell, “Why Try Holly Sklar’s Socialist Plans for Economy When United States is Doing

                Just Fine?”

George Will, “What’s Behind Income Disparity?”

An Outline of Conservative and Leftist Arguments on the Rich, the Poor, and the Middle Class

Topics for Discussion and Writing


Chapter 21: Collecting and Evaluating Opposing Sources. Writing the Research Paper

Sample Working Outline, Annotated Bibliography Entry

Sample Research Paper: Peter Hammond, “Reaganomics Rides Yet Again”


Part Seven: Documentation and Research Resources

 Chapter 22: Documentation

Chapter 23: Research Resources


Glossary of Rhetorical and Critical Thinking Terms