A. Read the following selections from the Margin Notes by clicking on each link.
B. Watch these presentations. When you click on one of the links below, a new screen will pop up. Use the scrollbar on the side of the new screen to navigate.
You need Adobe Reader to view PDF files.
C. (Optional) Read the following chapters from the textbook.
Chapters 12 - 13
D. The following
Optional Links are designed to help you do better in your course but
they are not required.
E. Critical Thinking Essay (20 points)
A critical thinking essay isn't difficult to write but it is a very structured piece of writing so it’s important that you read and follow the
is Critical Thinking? before you do any work on your essay.
We cannot take the time to fully explore what is meant by
critical thinking. You do, however, need to have some general idea what critical thinking means in order to write a good critical thinking essay.
is A Critical Thinking Essay? before you go any farther.
A critical thinking
essay is very similar to an exploratory essay -- a type of writing with which you may be familiar. It has a specific focus and a specific structure. Don’t try to wing this assignment!
Look at your topic carefully and make sure you understand it. Try rewriting it using your own words but keeping the meaning the same
Although most people associate the term politics
with government and governmental processes, the term is actually much broader. Politics refers to
power relations wherever they exist, including those in one’s own life. Every group is political, for in every group there is a power struggle of some sort. Weber defines power as “the ability to get your own way even over the resistance of others.”
For society to exist there must be a system of leadership and power.
Authority is the legitimate use of power that people accept as just or fair. In contrast,
coercion is the illegitimate use of power that people
do not accept as just. Governments claim a monopoly on the legitimate use of power in a particular territory. Government also claims an exclusive right to punish people for violating its laws. The more its power is seen as legitimate, the more stable a government is. When people reject a government’s claim of power over them, it may result in revolution.
Do you think most power in America is legitimate and used only by those granted the authority to use it?
BASED ON MISTAKES BY PAST STUDENTS, HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU START:
Be careful not to confuse the grant of power with the use of power. The president’s power is legitimate because we recognize it but what if he uses that power illegitimately? Your boss has the right to tell you what to do – that’s a legitimate use of power. But what if he/she requires sexual services of you? That’s
not a legitimate use of power. The question you should ask is not do we recognize the legitimate right of people in certain positions to use power but rather do people in power use their power legitimately.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question posed by your topic.
And I'm more interested in your rationale than I am in your answer. As an example,
let's say you're writing a critical thinking essay on the death penalty. You start out in favor of the death penalty because you believe it has a deterrent effect but all of the research
you find shows there is no deterrent effect. If you end your essay still in favor of the death penalty, that's okay. If you end your essay still in favor of the death penalty because it has a deterrent effect, that's not okay since your rationale is not consistent with factual information.
Look at the information and research
about your topic in the margin notes and presentations from your course and in the links below. Use the information from these sources to write your essay. However, do NOT use any
direct quotes, citations or references from these sources. The essay is too short for direct quotes ... use your own words. As for references, I've given you the sources so I'll know where the information came from. (I've tried to give you a wide range of sources and opinions in the reference list below. Inclusion on the list does not constitute an endorsement of either the sources or the opinions.)
Authority and Coercion (PDF)
A Democratic Conception of Legitimate Political Authority
Liberty vs. Coercion: The Burden of Proof
Power and Democracy
Power, Democracy and Iran
Governing Without Coercion
Democracy: Its Foundations and Modern Challenges
Socratic Ignorance in Democracy
Kishore Mahbubani: The
Sermons of Cowards
Philosophy of Democratic Government
Power: Class, Status
The Original Meaning of "Democracy": Capacity to Do
Democracy is Not Freedom
On Power: The Independent Institute
Fear: The Foundation of Every Government’s Power
free Adobe PDF reader
Online Databases: Some of the links above may take you to an article's abstract rather than the complete article. If you want to see the entire article but the site requires registration and/or payment, try your college library's online database. Almost all articles can be accessed through a database ... that's why colleges purchase databases for student use. Call your college librarian and ask for your username
and password and for directions.
I do not expect you to
use additional sources of information on your topic. If you do, you MUST cite and reference any additional sources
using one of the following formats.
APA (American Psychological Association): regularly used by most social scientists
APSA (American Political Science Association): used (in conjunction with APA) by political science publications
MLA (Modern Language Association): not generally used by social scientists but if you are a humanities major you may be more familiar with this format
CMS (Chicago Manual of Style)
Turabian: a variation of the CMS
You can find style sheets and/or links for each of these styles on the
Writing page, the link for which is at the top of the main
Online Courses page.
You may use any font and line spacing you wish when
formatting your essay but the
content of your essay must be a minimum of 750 words. You must also adequately cover your topic, though, and you may find it difficult to completely cover your topic in 750 words unless you are extremely concise. If you feel you need more length to cover your topic, you are welcome to write a longer essay. However, you are only required to write an essay the content of which is 750 (not 749) words in length. If the content (that does not include your name, type of assignment, citations, etc ... only the content of the paper itself) is not at least 750 words in length I will return your paper to you unread.
Your critical thinking essay should follow a specific outline. Before you begin the writing phase of your essay, read
What Makes A Paper Good? and
Critical Thinking Essay Format. The outline given
in the second link is the one you need to follow in your essay. Too, take your time proofing your essay for spelling and grammar mistakes. If spelling and grammar are not among your talents, ask a friend who is good with spelling and grammar to proof your essay. “A” papers do not have spelling and grammar mistakes!
Optional Links section at the top of this page, I have posted a link
to my grading rubric for the critical thinking essay.