English 100 Essay #3 Tipsheet

Critical Thinking

Your writing task:

Notice that you have two different options, drawing upon two different of readings. Do not mix and match! After you choose a topic, stick to the two readings.


Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said that our task is to "comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." That explains a lot of what is going on in our country at the moment. If you have been part of the comfortable majority (who are now experiencing some discomfort) or if you are part of the afflicted minority, you need to understand how people who are unlike yourself think. That's a basic idea behind the readings in this unit and the next.

Hints for success:

  1. You will notice, if you choose the "Identity politics" topic, that the writing assignment is phrased as a set of questions. This is a fairly standard strategy for college-level assignments. You are not done with the essay when you have answered all the questions—at most you have done your pre-writing. You need to look at your answers to those questions (some of which may overlap) and craft a thesis which will cover an essay which will answer those questions. (And no, those questions are not the outline for your paper. Do not assume you will write a paragraph in response to each one.)
  2. The "Race" topic draws upon another typical college essay strategy: getting two authors to talk to one another. In this case, you and Annette Gordon-Reed are talking to Destry Adams and dealing with a particular point Adams has made. This is not the moment for you to wander off into another topic and discuss why your uncle thinks that affirmative action means too many unqualified people are being hired by the State of Ohio. Your topic is fairly narrow, and you need to stick to it.
  3. Also in reference to the "Race" topic, the assignment says, "explain why this fear is valid." If you think Adams is wrong and that there's no reason for anyone to fear that affirmative action will work against the interests of disenfranchised groups of people who want to be admitted into college, this is not the topic for you. You were not invited to tell us that Adams is wrong. (And you certainly were not invited to tell us that those fears are "stupid" or that the people who have those fears are "idiots.")

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Revised 7/27/20 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: callen@ashland.edu.