Today we want to draw your attention to writing anchor standard one:
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
This standard has generated some of the most important discussions regarding writing instruction in a Common Core world: Argument vs. Persuasion. In the Common Core, argument holds a “special place” as it is seen as the force for making a writer “evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of multiple perspectives.” The authors of the Common Core assume that such consideration requires more than a cursory understanding of the issues related to the writing topic. In order to make these comparisons, a person must think critically and deeply. (Appendix A, p. 24)
The Common Core takes special care to distinguish between argument and persuasion pointing out that persuasion relies on a variety of strategies, including establishing credibility as an authority on the topic and appealing to the audience’s interest, emotion, or identity as methods for swaying a person’s position. Argument, on the other hand, stands on its own merits wielding power to convince based solely upon the soundness of the claim and the proof offered to support the claim. (Appendix A, p. 24)
According to the authors of the Common Core, argument is “critical to college and career readiness,” as “the university is largely an argument culture.”
Did you catch that? The UNIVERSITY is largely an argument culture. But “university” only represents one half of the central goal of the Common Core, the other is career readiness which begs the question, do most work environments thrive in an “argument culture?”
In the spirit of reading anchor standard four which expects readers to consider the connotative meanings of words and phrases, we pause here to consider the word “argument.” In our minds, argument conjures up contentious images. Argument is the word we use when we’re in a fight with someone. It feels caustic, heated. In spite of Appendix A’s citation of Williams and McEnerney’s attempt to define argument “not as wrangling but as serious and focused conversation among people who are intensely interested in getting to the bottom of things cooperatively,” argument is a word charged with negativity.
Given the context of such negativity, when we return to our original question of whether most work environments thrive in an “argument culture,” we tend to feel that they don’t. Most people feel more productive in a collaborative environment where people discuss, converse, and debate as a means of “getting to the bottom of things” which makes us call into question argument’s “special place” in the Common Core. Do we believe in the larger goal of thinking deeply and critically? Yes. Will solid argumentative writing skills serve students well in college? Yes. Is argument what will nurture innovation and success in the workplace? We tend to feel that persuasion, creativity, and collaboration might play a more important role in making that happen.