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One of my former students submitted the following poem in lieu of a reflective essay during the spring term of 2002 at the University of Oregon. She has given me permission to reproduce it anonymously here. What did this student discover about herself as she engaged in argumentation? Is her poem itself an argument? Why or why not?

 

Mr. Wheeler,

I am writing this letter as a preface to my reflective essay. I realize that I have not followed the traditional essay form, and because of this I may face subsequent consequences. However, I ask you to remember, as you read my reflection, that "everything is an argument." When I think of this class, that is one of the first things that comes to mind. And so, I present my reflection, my argument, in a form that feels natural to me, and I ask you to read with an open mind, and try to understand why I chose to do what I did. I hope you can see that the form of the argument is part of the argument itself.

Sincerely,

Sara Carson [Student's name changed]

An Argument

"EVERYTHING

is an argument."

Or so the teacher says

as he stands before a sea of eager

or blank faces.

He is not quite sure.

And as I sit in the very back row,

I wonder if I really know what he means when he says

such a thing.

And now it is the end of the term

when all of the papers are written and done.

And now it is time to collect my work

and all of my thoughts into

one notebook

and 500 words.

Now, I reflect on my writing,

and on my ARGUMENT.

I peer back; from beginning to end,

to examine my ARGUMENT,

and I look to see if it has changed,

and what it has become.

 

PASSIVE

It is a word that describes me.

It is a word with no place in an argument,

except for an argument lost.

In the beginning (for that is where we start),

I chose to follow my PASSIVITY as I wrote.

I could approach PATHOS

as a means of communication,

weaving my words into a reader's mind,

drawing them in with a story,

gently asking for their attention. Yet, once I had their eyes

their ears,

I had little LOGOS to win their hearts.

Counter-arguments, not addressed,

and opinions unsupported,

ARGUMENT

lost.

 

Writing 121, required course,

introduced me to the finer details of developing

An ARGUMENT.

Topics were chosen

for me.

I developed the ability to

logically approach a subject

logically structure an essay

logically present information.

To PRESENT:

"introduce formally; show; give, offer; point, aim" (Webster's Dictionary).

PASSIVE

I was not developing ARGUMENTS.

I was failing my primary purpose.

My essays

would suffice, to satisfy the word-count requirements

and grammatical demands of a required writing course.

How many poorly written papers does it take

to numb a teacher, and make her easy to impress?

 

Writing 122, required course,

presented me with a challenge:

make an ARGUMENT.

PATHOS + LOGOS + ETHOS:

Approach your readers in an interesting and unassuming way, sooth the ego, make them trust you, present your evidence, state your purpose, CONVINCE your readers, ARGUE your point, make them believe you, beyond questioning, using evidence you both believe.

To ARGUE:

"quarrel, dispute; prove; offer reasons -Vt. prove by reasoning; discuss."

AGGRESSIVE?

No.

I realized the purpose of an ARGUMENT

was to CONVINCE.

It was something,

so simple,

right in front of me,

always there,

yet, never noticed.

So, I wrote,

and revised,

and I wrote,

and was told:

"Do BETTER."

So I did.

 

And I learned.

I learned from my mistakes,

and I learned from the mistakes

of others.

Peer evaluations, taught me about myself.

I began to learn to see my mistakes through the mistakes of others.

I stumbled, as I do now,

and I was not "saved" as a writer.

I am,

by no means,

a fabulous writer.

I am,

by no means,

perfected in this craft.

My writing has many places yet to go.

So you ask: "What is my ARGUMENT?"

And I will tell you:

I AM GROWING.

I argue that I am growing,

As a writer,

and as a person.

 

I write,

to receive a grade,

to express a point,

to express myself,

to write.

 

And as I write, I grow.

 

--March, 1999

 

 

 
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