CEWAC assumes that youths’ public writing is rooted in research and investigations into civic issues. Focusing on the importance of reasoning and evidence builds a bridge between public writing and valued academic argument skills. This attribute analyzes how the writing employs reasoning, interprets and presents evidence, and, when appropriate for purpose and audience, addresses alternate positions or perspectives. But a close look at its dimensions reveals two important additions. First, it emphasizes the role that community and personal values play in developing civic arguments. Second, it highlights the ways in which personal experiences serve as an important and legitimate source of evidence in civic writing.
To analyze students’ advocacy of civic engagement or action, the rubric focuses on reasoning, evidence, and alternative views. (Click image to enlarge.)
Reasoning An effective civic argument uses logical reasoning to develop and support a position on a civic issue. The development of a civic position is guided by explicit or implicit value structures.
Evidence Effective civic arguments also thoughtfully interpret, synthesize, and link appropriate and sufficient evidence to support the argued position. Personal experience often provides evidence that helps frame and develop the argued position. Effectively using evidence requires an inquiry into multiple perspectives and, when appropriate, grapples with evidence that does not support the argued position.
Alternate Views When appropriate for purpose and audience, an effective piece of writing analyzes and counters alternate positions or perspectives, thus strengthening the argued position.
Columbus School’s Auditorium Should Be a Priority In a letter to the local newspaper, two Columbus, MT students argue that building a school auditorium should be a priority for the local school district. The writers use coherent and logical reasoning, specifically a cost-benefit analysis, to demonstrate how a new auditorium would benefit the community. To address their principal’s concerns about cost the writers argue, “While it is true that an auditorium is a costly project, we have an idea to cut the cost tremendously. Instead of building an entirely new foundation, we could repurpose a current structure.” They also draw on a community survey to emphasize the project’s benefits, “Community residents responding to our survey suggested that a new auditorium could be used by many school organizations as well as community organizations.”
Download Annotations (PDF)
I Sued My School for Censorship and Won In this piece published by the ACLU of Northern California, Taylor Victor uses personal narrative to articulate how she won the right to wear a “Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian” t-shirt and argues for the importance of students knowing their rights. As the narrative unfolds the writer effectively integrates pieces of evidence that emerged through the legal proceedings. The inclusion of this evidence takes the narrative beyond her personal experience and supports her argument that students have a right to stand up for their beliefs in school. “At the end of the day, I just want other kids to know that it’s okay to be yourself at school. It’s okay to stand up for what you believe in. Even if what you believe in is controversial. Even if what you believe in makes your teacher or your principal uncomfortable.”
Download Annotations (PDF)
“[S]tudents have learned to argue vigorously and even angrily, but not think about alternatives, or listen to each other, or determine how their position may affect others, or see complexities, or reconsider the position they began with, or even to make new connections across a range of possible disagreements.”Lynch, Dennis A., George, Diana, & Cooper, Marilyn M. (1997). “Moments of Argument: Agnostic Inquiry and Confrontational Cooperation.” College Composition and Communication 48 (1): 61-85.