Hint: Make sure the subject you choose is an issue that you truly care about and can argue about all semester long with your heart as well as with your brain.


Instructions: Choose a group subject that you and your group can stick with, think about, research in depth and argue about during the whole semester.

EIGHT OPTIONS (choose only one per group for the semester).

  1. Either strongly defend or strongly attack the idea that since we know that biologically there is no such thing as "race" (we all belong to the same human race) every individual has the perfect right to freely choose what so-called "race" or ethnic group (Black, White, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native American, etc.) he or she wants to belong to for purposes of jobs, scholarships, public presence and personal identity, etc. 

  2. Strongly defend or strongly deny the idea that every working person should always join or try to form a labor union or protective association in his or her place of work, in order to defend his or her right to make a living.

  3. Either strongly defend or strongly attack Pope Francis' words (July 9, 2015 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia) that today's economic system stinks like "the dung of the devil," that "once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, sister and mother earth."

  4. Either strongly defend or strongly attack the idea that when a police officer feels uneasy or threatened he or she always has the right and duty to shoot first in self-defense before anyone who might pose a surprise threat has a chance to pull out a hidden weapon, go for the officer's gun or get into the officer's "safety zone."

  5. Either strongly defend or strongly attack the idea that children born in the USA of undocumented parents should be denied birth certificates and citizenship in the United States.

  6. Either strongly defend or strongly attack the idea that no matter what their physical body shape,  genetic makeup or upbringing may be, each adult has the perfect right to freely decide what gender they are at any given time and everyone else needs to respect that choice. 

  7. Either strongly defend or strongly attack the idea that America should return to the gold standard, that is, that the dollar should be once again be given real value legally defined in terms of a fixed amount of gold, that fixed-denomination gold coins should be returned to real public circulation, that at least some U.S. paper money should once again be guaranteed payable on demand in a fixed amount of actual gold coin, and that Americans should once again be entitled to make legally-enforceable contracts payable in gold or demand wages and salaries be payable in a given amount of gold, just as was done before 1933.

  8. Either strongly defend or strongly attack the idea that human rights, properly defined, begin at the moment of birth and not before.

    9. Or, pick some other serious, controversial current public issue of your choice (subject to instructor approval) that  that has two or more real sides to it and that your group can enthusiastically argue about for the entire semester.  No arguments allowed about gun control, red light cameras, helmet laws or speed limits, taxes or tax policies, climate change or global warming, fracking, fluoridation or water management, smoking, drug and substance laws, substance legalization, drug cartels and drug smuggling, euthanasia and mercy-killing, the death penalty, prison reform, 9/11, or current political campaigns and campaign issues (The Benghazi incident, Hillary Clinton's e-mails, border fences, etc.), about specific political parties, elections,  candidates or private individuals, about subjects that are already settled (e.g., secession, slavery, prohibition, same-sex marriage, the 14th Amendment), about sports, games or gaming, fashion, music, movies or entertainment, or about subjects not happening in or directly involving the United States. No racist, sexist, homophobic, discriminatory, hate-based or war-promoting arguments allowed.

    General rules: 

A. Try to connect your subject and arguments to your own lives, interests and majors, and those of others in class. Be sure you CARE about your subject, because you'll be arguing about it all semester!

B. Avoid complex standpoints (e.g., "War is murder except when the President, acting as Commander in Chief determines it is in the national interest, because the President is the decider and knows more about the situation than we do." Or, "Everyone, male or female, should remain a virgin until marriage except if they are truly in love and make sure to use reliable protection, or unless both partners are consenting adults of the same gender who don't want to wait."

C. You will need to invent creative and original standpoints, arguments and refutationsDo not just echo the same old off-the-shelf standpoints and arguments you've heard a hundred times before, and that don't convince those who disagree.

D. In your argumentation you may not use the infantile argument that "It's a free country and everyone has the right to believe and do anything they want," or any form of that childish argument.

E. Your goal is to convince your classmates (or some other chosen audience) to agree with your standpoint.

OW 8/14

Owen M. Williamson - Education Bldg 211E - phone: (915) 747 7625 - fax: (915) 747 5655
The University of Texas at El Paso - 500 W. University Ave. - El Paso, TX 79968
Important Disclaimer

Creative Commons License
Open Courseware | OCW |This work is dedicated to the Public Domain..