I don't give final exams too often, preferring portfolios or other types of final projects that are cumulative and/or the culmination of a sequence of assignments. This morning I handed out to students a take-home exam. I rarely do this, but a take-home exam seemed like the best way to bring together the course's threads (their service learning projects, their entrances in the "public sphere," their analyses of political rhetoric in venues ranging from the op-ed page to youtube, their study of Don Lazere's Civic Literacy text, etc.). I'm anxious to read the responses next week. Here's the exam.
Take-Home Final Exam
1) What claims/assertions does Michael Kinsley make in “The Intellectual Free Lunch” (see Chapter 2)? What types of evidence does he provide? (1-2 academic paragraphs)
2) Write a short argument in favor of or in opposition to giving “critical thinking” curricula (see Chapter 3) a more prominent place in K-12 education in Michigan. Keep your argument “clean” and follow the Ground Rules for Polemicists, especially those guidelines which demand you consider and respond to other perspectives. (2-3 academic paragraphs)
3) Offer your own evaluation of Martha Nussbaum’s argument in “Can Patriotism Be Compasionate” (see Chapter 3). How effective do you find her use of techniques like allusion and analogy? (1-2 academic paragraphs)
4) During the semester we looked at several examples of invective and emotional appeal on youtube. In what ways are these kinds of expression in opposition to the Ground Rules for Polemicists (see Chapter 9)? What do these types of “rants” contribute to public discourse? Can you think of any ways that the Ground Rules are short-sighted? Do they fail to account for legitimate roles that invective and emotion play in the public sphere? (3-4 academic paragraphs)
5) Given what you know about the predictable patterns of political rhetoric (see Chapter 13), how might a “leftist” professor and a “rightist” professor each use service learning to push his or her own political agenda? We discussed how good models of service learning use real-world work to help students learn subject matter. Could you imagine professors with political biases pushing an agenda as opposed to focusing on student learning? Explain your response using careful reasoning. (3-4 academic paragraphs)