Death Penalty

Argument Response

Directions: If you choose this essay option, your task is to write a response to the following “letter to the editor” (an article in a newspaper or other publication that presents an argument from a reader). Your response must be a minimum of 800 words. In your response you will explain what you take to be the strengths and/or weaknesses of the writer’s argument.
You do not need to do any outside research on the topic of the letter; your focus should be on whether the author provides good reasons for his/her conclusion.

Dear Editor:

We have been hearing a lot lately from bleeding-heart liberals who seem to believe that we should be more tolerant of criminal behaviour, rather than making criminals pay for their crimes. These liberals claim that cold-blooded murderers can be rehabilitated and released, but they are ignoring simple logic: all murderers are criminals, and some criminals will re-offend, so some murderers will obviously re-offend also.
Those who question the ethics of the death penalty should ask themselves one question: what if someone you loved was brutally slain? Could you pick up the pieces of your shattered life? Would those festering wounds ever heal?
When it comes to the death penalty I am a strong believer in what it says in the Bible, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Despite what the liberal media may say, Canada is, and has always been, a Christian nation, and in a Christian nation God’s word should be law. Moreover, in a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Canadians said they wanted tougher sentences for those convicted of serious crimes. Clearly Canadians are tired of coddling criminals. It’s time our leaders listened to the people. In a democratic society, the will of the majority should rule.
The logic is clear: as a society, either we demand the death penalty for convicted murderers or we’ll never feel safe in our homes and on our streets. No one wants to live in fear, so it’s obvious that we need to bring back the death penalty!

I.M. Wright
Deadwood, Ontario.

Essay Writing Checklist

□ Be sure that you have a short, general introduction that contains a thesis: a concise statement of the position you will take in relation to the argument you are addressing.

□ Avoid writing lists of what the author ‘says’ or ‘believes’, and instead make clear reference to how the author structures the argument by means of premises, sub-conclusions and the overall conclusion; use terminology from the course where you can.

□ There may be fallacies in the letter that you can identify by name. However, you do not need to put a fallacy label on everything you criticize. Explaining problems in your own words is the best way to demonstrate your command of the material. You might miss the point of an author’s claims completely by trying too hard to put labels on them; don’t lose sight of the ‘big picture’, and always apply the principle of charity.

□ When evaluating the author’s argument, keep in mind the distinction between style and substance: considerations about the organization of ideas in the essay, how easy or difficult it was to follow, how well you relate to it, are all irrelevant to the cogency of the author’s actual argument.

□ Evaluation is more than a commentary on how the work affected you. Attributing praise like “everything was well-argued”, or “the author is brilliant”, is not very informative. If you disagree with a claim advanced by an author, try to get at the reasoning behind it.

□ In organizing your ideas, try to get away from dividing your paper into a set number of paragraphs. Exploring more than one topic in a paragraph can get confusing, so try to think about the natural breaks in the themes you address and start new paragraphs accordingly. Not every essay you write in your life will fit into the standard, 5-paragraph format you learned in school.

□ You are welcome to discuss your assignment with anyone you choose but be advised that you should not give a copy of your written work to classmates. I have seen papers that end up looking very similar to one

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