Essay #4 Tip Sheet

Essay #4: Proposal Argument

Begin by reading:

Your writing task:

You have read about Mike Rose being accidentally placed in the vocational track, how his parents were unequipped to help him, and how the school and various teachers treated the students. You have also read the article by Coates, which draws a picture of community life in Baltimore, Maryland, and discusses police responses to violence.

Now select one issue brought up by either the Coates or Rose essay and write a proposal argument to deal with the problem.

Writing schedule:

  1.  Think  Monday, March 14 through Wednesday, March 16
  2.  Gather  Thursday, March 17 through Tuesday, March 22
  3.  Draft  Thursday, March 24 through Tuesday, March 29
  4.  Peer Edit  Wednesday, March 30
  5.  Revise  Thursday, March 31 and Friday, April 1


The Rose essay first appeared in 1989, and it focuses on a very specific place and a very specific kind of school, so one of your first tasks is to ask the question whether the issues he raises are still with us. Is it still possible for a testing mistake to send a kid to an inappropriate educational track? Are working-class parents who are unfamiliar with educational politics still at a disadvantage when something goes wrong with their kid's schooling? And is vocational education still a dead-end for the losers?

The Coates article first appeared in The Atlantic Magazine, which tends to have a liberal, intellectual audience, in 2015. Coates would have been aware of the ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and of the Blue Lives Matter movement, which started in late 2014. The civil unrest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2016), the murder of George Floyd (2020), and the protests in Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Oregon, all of which took place after this was written, were all related in some way to a perception of excessive use of force by police officers, and your essay needs to be aware of these events. The Coates article is, of course, one-sided, and the other side would argue that a strong, forceful response to crime is necessary to preserve civic order. When you write, you should be aware of this opinion.

Hints for success:

A proposal argument is a very specific kind of writing—and it's the sort of writing many of us will do frequently, especially if you are a business major (but sooner or later, you will almost certainly write one of these after you graduate). It's not just arguing a point; it's identifying a problem, making certain that the audience understands the problem, coming up with a possible solution for that problem, and finally, dealing with possible objections. Here is one possible outline for your paper:

  1. Introductory Paragraph
  2. Detailed history/background of the problem
  3. Your proposal in detail
  4. Opposing views
  5. Summary of your proposal

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Revised 7/25/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: