I. Writing to Solve Problems
A. We are faced with problems on a grand scale and on a personal scale everyday.
1. College students taking to the streets last week protesting the rising cost of tuition: how do you pay for school?
2. How do we solve the problem of global warming?
3. Do we spend the money Mayor Mike McGinn wants to spend to repair the Sea Wall? Will this repair divert attention away from building the tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct?
4. How do we protest a strip club planned for our neighborhood?
5. How does one write a grant proposal for low income youth?
B. Write a letter to solve a problem that exists in your personal life; “for this scenario, assume that there is a problem that you need to have solved and that you want to write to someone who can help solve the problem” (Roen, Glau, and Maid 536-37):
1. Your child or younger sibling is being taunted mercilessly by a group of students in his or her classroom.
2. The trash disposal unit for your building is inadequate.
3. You recently encountered a problem with a defective product that is not easy to return to a store, such as a sprinkler system or wall-to-wall carpet.
4. A waiter at a local restaurant was rude to you and your guests.
5. You have noisy neighbors who shout and laugh at 3:00 a.m. When you complained to the police, they told you it was an issue for your homeowner’s association (also, apartment landlord or college authorities).
C. The qualities of effective proposals: writing to take a particular course of action.
1. A clearly defined problem: “An effective proposal first establishes the existence of a problem that is both understandable and manageable within the scope of the assignment” (538).
2. An awareness of the audience: “For your proposal to be effective with an audience, your readers need to believe that the problem you are writing about actually exists and that your proposed solution will work” (538).
3. A well-explained solution: “Your readers need both to understand your solution and to find it reasonable. One way to help any audience understand your proposal is to use language that the audience understands and to provide definitions of unfamiliar terms” (539).
4. Convincing evidence for the effectiveness of the solution: “You will need to prove that your solution is viable and the best answer to the problem by supporting assertions with evidence such as expert testimony, case studies, experimental studies, and example of similar solutions to similar problems” (539).
5. A well documented review of alternative solutions: Your solution should stand on its own merits, but to gain credibility to convince skeptical readers it is helpful to consider alternative pathways to your solution.
6. A call to action: “There is little point to proposing a solution to a problem unless someone actually implements that solution” (539); urge your audience to take action in some way.
7. Let’s consider the problem of rising tuition costs and what to do about it in Washington State.
b. Read: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2011260737_studentstrike05m.html?syndication=rss&prmid=obinsite;
c. Write: define the problem and what you think are possible solutions.
II. “Policy propositions focus arguments around specific choices and actions. Each claim asks the recipient to behave or cooperate in certain ways and, presumably, if the arguments supporting the claims are sufficient, then the recipient will fulfill the expected action” (Inch and Warnick 266).
A. Policy arguments are future-bound: inevitably we are trying to gain cooperation from an audience to take a particular course of action in the future.
B. Policy arguments function as a part of a system, which means that if we change one part of the system, we change the overall nature of the system (267-68).
1. “A systems perspective recognizes that the world is a complex and interconnected set of relationships between and among component parts that compose a whole and that one change in any part of the system changes the other elements of the system” (268).
2. First, systems possess objects or parts (268).
3. Second, each object or part in the system has attributes.
4. Third, the objects within a system are interrelated.
5. Fourth, systems operate within an environment.
6. Fifth, systems have boundaries: a definitional line that separates the system from its environment (268).
C. Stock Issues are therefore helpful in defining the parts of the policy system we’re working with: ill, blame, cure, cost.
1. Ill: problem defined in terms of quantity and quality.
a. Quantitative significance: “related to the scope of the effects claimed; how many people will be affected and how frequently” (271)?
b. Qualitative significance: “related to the intensity of the effect; we assess something as significant to the extent that it strengthens or diminishes life” (271).
2. Blame: who is to blame?
3. Cure: solution: how do you propose to solve the problem?
a. “A plan of action is the specific program advocated in support of the proposition” (273).
b. Question: what impact will your solution have on the ill?
4. Cost/Benefits: advantages and disadvantages for following particular courses of action.
D. There are three different types of cases we can consider when arguing to solve problems.
1. The most common case is called needs-analysis: “claims that the ill existing in the current system cannot be corrected within the present system but can be cured by the advocate’s policy proposal” (275).
2. The way to develop this case is through three clusters of arguments:
a. The first cluster of arguments develops a significant ill and blame.
b. The second cluster of arguments proposes a plan of action and proves that the proposed plan can cure the ill presented.
c. The third cluster of arguments focus on the benefits of the plan (275).
3. Comparative-advantages: “develops the position that in comparison with the current system, the proposed system has more benefits” (280).
a. Instead of isolating a problem and offering a cure, the focus of this kind of case is to argue for a plan that will work better in relation to the current system.
b. Essentially, in this type of case you are comparing two different plans.
4. Goals case: “presents a significant goal and the case revolves around a comparison of systems attempting to achieve a goal” (283).
a. Identify and defend a specific goal that should be the focus of a particular system (e.g., educational opportunity).
b. The structure of this case follows four steps: (1) an important goal exists, (2) flaws in the present system are to blame for its inability to achieve its goal, (3) there is a plan of action that will better achieve the goal, and (4) the proposed plan of action will better meet the goal.
E. Strategies for refuting/opposing policy arguments.
1. The status quo is working: “Defense of the present policy system rests on a comparison of the proposal and the present system and argues that the present system is superior” (286).
2. Strategy of Defense of the Present Policy System with Minor Repairs: “offers small changes to existing policies to improve their effectiveness and efficiency in meeting the needs” (286).
3. Strategy of Counterproposals: “an alternative plan of action presented by the policy opponent that is different from both the present policy and the plan proposed by opponents” (287).
F. Write a letter to your representative regarding the increase in student tuition and the proposed cuts in the legislature: define the problem and what you think is the best possible solution to the problem.
1. District 43: Senator Ed Murray: http://www.leg.wa.gov/senate/senators/Pages/murray.aspx
2. Jamie Pedersen: http://www.leg.wa.gov/house/representatives/Pages/pedersen.aspx
3. Frank Chopp http://www.leg.wa.gov/house/representatives/Pages/chopp.aspx