What’s the purpose of this course

What’s the purpose of this course, and what’s the overall theme?

2.  Why should I use Modules every week to help me to stay focused in this class: know what assignments are due when?  And what due date do assignments have: the date posted in Modules–which is usually the end of the week–or another due date?

3.  How will I know what to read for this course–and when to read it?

4.  How many times can I submit the Logical Fallacies & Critical Thinking quiz–and is it timed?

5.  Is it acceptable to use the first person–I, me, my, mine–in an essay?  And are we writing the Five-Paragraph Essay in this class?

7.  Do I understand that I am enrolled in a five-week course, not a 16-week course–but that I will be writing 10,000+ words, as much as I would write in a 16-week course?  Am I prepared to accept this workload?

Q1: What’s the purpose of this course; how will it benefit me in other courses and outside the classroom?  And … is there an overall theme–topic or idea–that we will be writing about?

A1:  The purpose of this English 103, Composition and Critical Thinking, class is to teach not what to think, but how to think.  You will learn to ask questions in a focused, persistent manner, and in so doing, learn to differentiate between fact and opinion, become aware of your


, and understand when people make

pathetic appeals 

in order to stop you from thinking clearly.  Thus, you will come closer to discovering “the truth” about people, places and things, both concrete (able to be perceived by the senses, technology, and/or mathematics) and abstract (able to be perceived only through the mind).  And … as a result, you will be better able to make smart, logical choices in regard to the truths you uncover.  In other words, you will learn to think critically.  You will truly SEE.  However, you will learn that critical thinking is not easy; it requires great effort.  But most of all, critical thinking seems to require courage.  The repercussions for daring to think critically are not always positive, as thinking critically can sometimes put us in opposition to the

status quo 

, as it did in the



Jim Crow 

eras in the American South and during the


era in Europe.

To help us sharpen our critical thinking skills, I think I’ve chosen a timely class topic: What flaws in the critical thinking process do individuals, groups, politicians, and entire governments make so that


are able to rise to power?  Well, this topic is always timely, isn’t it?  There’s never been a human era in which a tyrant or tyrants did not oppress human beings.  To help us explore our class topic about how tyrants come to rule because of flaws in the collective critical thinking process of humankind, we’re going to use Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) as a vehicle–a way–of understanding how tyrants rise to power. We will begin exploring our topic by gaining a clear understanding, first, of how Hitler rose to power.  Then, we’ll explore possible flaws in people’s critical thinking abilities that made Hitler’s rise to power possible.  All of this study will prepare us to write our term paper, in which we will provide convincing support for our answers to these two questions, which will require you to make

value judgments 

: Is a person obligated to think critically–and is a critical thinker obligated to act “ethically”?  

Why am I using Hitler as a vehicle to help you understand what critical thinking is?  I believe that you need a real-world scenario presented to you in order to understand what critical thinking is–by realizing what has happened to human beings when we failed to think critically. Hm.  Who knows?  Maybe this topic will help you recognize–and be able to help prevent–the rise of a tyrant in our society.

Q2:  How will I know what’s due when? Do you have a detailed list of all assignments?  

A2:  I do! Click on Modules (left menu); you will find weekly “to do” lists for every week of the semester, and links to all assignments that are due or will be due. You should consult Modules frequently, every week of the semester, so you are always aware of what is due each week and what will be due next week—and what will be due in weeks to come. Click on the links to upcoming assignments, and read the assignment directions weeks before assignments are due, so you are focused and can plan ahead regarding what work you need to complete. 

And … please pay close attention to the “Timeline” in each assignment, as it indicates when the different parts of the assignment are due.  There’s one overall due date listed below assignments in Modules, which is usually the end of the week, Sunday–as the Canvas software allows the instructor to post only one due date.  However, there are different parts of assignments–usually a writing and peer evaluations–and they have DIFFERENT due dates than the due date listed in Modules. In the “Timeline” example below from Week 1, the work (a writing) is due by 11:59 PM on Saturday of Week 1, and students will “respond” to two other students’ work by performing peer evaluations, which are due by 11:59 PM on Sunday of Week 1.


TIMELINE:  Post your work by 11:59 PM on  Saturday, and respond to two peers’ postings by 11:59 PM on Sunday. 

Please make sure to read all information about an assignment from beginning to end so you will know when the different parts of assignments are due.  And each week, please begin working on assignments immediately; do NOT wait until the end of the week!  If you do so, then you will not have sufficient time to complete the assignment appropriately.

Q3: How will I know what to read for assignments?

A3: In assignment directions, there will be links to what you need to read in Pages (left menu) or instructions regarding how to access readings.

Q4:  Do you have high-stakes assignments, make-or-break assignments that are worth a lot of points and can cause me to fail this class?  And–do you offer extra credit assignments?

A4:  I don’t include high-stakes assignments, which I think are unnecessary obstacles to student success.  Failing a single assignment will not cause you to fail the class.

Q5: I’ve heard that I should never use the first person–I, me, my, mine–in an essay, and that all my paragraphs should be about a half-page in length.  Is this information correct?

A5: No, it is not correct.  You may use the first person in an essay; click


for a more detailed explanation regarding when you may use the first person.  And … the length of a paragraph depends on its purpose.  Longer paragraphs are usually introductory and conclusion paragraphs–and paragraphs in which you support the thesis or another contention (claim) you make in an essay.  Shorter paragraphs of one sentence or a few sentences are usually transitional paragraphs, and they are acceptable–desirable!–in an essay.  See the Chapter 1 essay and the Chapter 3 essays in our textbook THIS LITTLE BOOK About How to Write a College-Level Essay; these chapters will teach you how to write short transitional paragraphs.  And … do NOT write the Five-Paragraph Essay in this class; it’s not college-level writing; it’s a writing exercise designed to prepare you for college-level writing.  However, I never have students write the Five-Paragraph Essay; I think you should engage in college-level writing, learn to write a variety of paragraphs, as soon as you begin writing essays.  

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