The most effective civic writing demonstrates both why grappling with a specific issue matters and why a proposed solution represents the best course of action. However, some genres of civic writing prize brevity (e.g., letters to the editor, petitions) and a writer may give more weight to either engagement or action. This attribute—advocates civic engagement or action—analyzes how well a piece of writing raises awareness or advocates for a specific change, and in many cases, the writing itself can be a civic action.
To analyze students’ advocacy of civic engagement or action, the rubric focuses on public awareness/importance and reasonableness/feasibility. (Click image below to enlarge.)
Public Awareness/Importance To engage the public in an issue, writing makes a case for why an issue matters and seeks to raise its visibility. When writers build on a keen understanding and sense of audience, their advocacy is strengthened. Early twentieth-century muckraking journalism provides a premiere example of effective advocacy.
Reasonableness/Feasibility Civic writing frequently advocates for a desired change or direct civic action. Indeed the raison d’être of some genres of civic writing—petitions, policy briefs and analyses, legislation, speeches—is to propose action. Effectively articulating why a proposed action represents a reasonable and feasible approach for addressing an issue strengthens solution-oriented, public writing.
A Petition to Educate the Community about Oakland’s Dropout Rates (PDF) In a petition to Oakland Unified School District’s school superintendent, ninth-grade students effectively raise awareness about the root causes of the district’s high dropout rate. “Students have been dropping out of high school for all different kinds of reason, yet through research and surveys we have found that the most prominent reasons why students have been dropping out of high school is because of poverty either within their family or neighborhood, violence, and drugs.” Without asking the superintendent to take on these root causes, the petition makes a satisfactory case that increasing the number of counselors represents a reasonable approach to lessening the dropout problem. Hiring more counselors to pay attention to students at risk of dropping out makes logical sense, given the audience.
Download Annotations (PDF)
Advanced Life Support District Colton Cowger, a tenth-grader in Columbus, MT, wrote a letter to the editor of the Stillwater County News, advocating for creating an Advanced Life Support District to serve outlying rural communities. His letter set the wheels in motion for a ballot initiative that passed in May 2017. This letter effectively raises awareness about the precarious state of funding for the rural county’s emergency ambulance services and makes a case that taxpayers should have the opportunity to vote on whether to pay for the district with a slight tax increase. “Taxpayers should have the opportunity to vote for the creation of this ambulance district because the ambulance needs funding to pay for the life-saving level of care it is currently providing by national grant money.”
Download Annotations (PDF)
“We said [to the student] that a solution that wouldn’t work isn’t a solution at all, that there was more to taking a position than constructing a clear thesis and a logically argued paper.”Lynch, Dennis A., George, Diana, & Cooper, Marilyn M. (1997, February). “Moments of Argument: Agnostic Inquiry and Confrontational Cooperation.” College Composition and Communication 48 (1): 61-85.