Archive for the ‘Donna Winchell’ Category

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Assumptions Not Enough

posted: 7.19.13 by Donna Winchell

When the leading attorney charged with representing George Zimmerman spoke to the press shortly after the not-guilty verdict, she said that she was surprised that so many people, including lawyers, formed an opinion about the case without hearing all of the testimony and seeing all of the evidence. There seems to be a lot of that going around.  That means there is a lot to consider here about the warrants underlying these rushes to judgment. [read more]

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Ethos on Trial

posted: 7.10.13 by Donna Winchell

Ethos has been in the news recently. We don’t call it that, of course, but we are certainly considering ethos when we judge Paula Deen, whether we defend her or condemn her. How interesting that such leaders as Jessie Jackson and former President Carter have been called upon to make public statements about whether a cooking celebrity should be forgiven or whether she can be redeemed. [read more]

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At What Price Privacy?

posted: 6.24.13 by Donna Winchell

As is so often true with political controversy, what is at the heart of disagreement over the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Americans is a disagreement over values. That may seem overly obvious, but it is another example that can be used to explain warrants to students. It also reveals why it is so difficult, in some cases, to find middle ground. [read more]

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When the News Was the News

posted: 5.24.13 by Donna Winchell

In my textbook I have mentioned for some time that television news changed drastically when 24-hour news stations were born. Television news used to be an early evening 30-minute local news telecast and a 30-minute telecast from one of the (then) three major networks, with a 30-minute local show at 10 or 11 to catch up with the latest developments. Yes, we had political commentary shows that were the place for just that–Meet the Press has been on the air for 60 years–but the news was essentially the news. As soon as the anchors and reporters had to keep talking 24 hours a day, much of what we started getting was not news but commentary on the news. [read more]

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Loaded Rhetoric

posted: 5.10.13 by Donna Winchell

It seems like every week these days the topic of argument and the headlines brings me back to the controversy over gun control. There is just so much rhetoric out there–both in the objective sense of the term “rhetoric” and in the derogatory sense, as in “empty rhetoric.”  In working on my chapter on logical fallacies, I find a gold mine of examples. I also find frightening examples of the power of rhetoric. [read more]

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Animal-Rights Terrorism

posted: 4.15.13 by Donna Winchell

I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing as animal-rights terrorism until one of my sons read about it for an assignment. In fact, he read a pair of  essays, one on each side of the question Is “Animal Rights” Just Another Excuse for Terrorism? The first, John J. Miller’s “In the Name of the Animals: America Faces a New Kind of Terrorism,” laid out very rationally how far animal rights activists sometimes go in support of their cause. The second author’s subjectivity is apparent from his title: “Dispatches from a Police State: Animal Rights in the Crosshairs of State Repression.”  It was a good exercise in contrasting slanted language and objective language. It was also a good exercise in recognizing warrants.

Miller explains how far animal rights activists have gone in their attacks on one particular company, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), which uses animals in experimentation. Not only did they attack the company, intentionally overloading its server, for example, but workers at home, vandalizing their cars, spray painting their houses, and throwing rocks through their windows. They went further to attack any company that had anything to do with HLS, and employees of those other companies. For example, they smoke-bombed the office of the insurance company that covered HLS, and they harassed people who worked for the insurance company, picketing their homes and making threatening late-night phone calls.  These were people who had nothing to do with  HLS other than working for a company that did business with  HLS. The activists’ basic philosophy when it came to protecting animal rights was anything goes or, more explicitly, the rights of animals to live and not be abused in the name of research overrides the rights of humans to live in peace. [read more]

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What’s Left Unsaid

posted: 3.29.13 by Donna Winchell

In revising Elements of Argument, I was looking at bumper stickers as a form of argument.  I ran across a lot of funny sayings, and a lot that were serious as well. It struck me that I could use some of them as a way to talk to students about context. If you don’t “get” the context of a bumper sticker, you don’t “get” the humor, or even the point. Consider these examples:

  • If the environment were a bank, we would have saved it.
  • Keep your theology off my biology!
  • Why don’t we put a teacher in every gun store?

These and others could lead to a lively discussion of the issues involved.

I started thinking that the bumper stickers could be used to teach the syllogism, or more accurately, the enthymeme. We use the term “enthymeme” today to refer to a syllogism in which one element is not explicitly stated. Aristotle used it instead to refer to the rhetorical syllogism, or the syllogism as it applied to human affairs rather than to the sciences, with their relative certainty.

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Is It Time to Rethink Forbidden Topics?

posted: 3.15.13 by Donna Winchell

Do you have a list of “forbidden” topics? Are there topics that you tell your students not to write about? If you have been around as long as I have, you probably do, or did at some point. Is it because you reached the point where you couldn’t read one more paper about abortion, gun control, euthanasia, the electoral college, legalization of marijuana, or anything about religion? Have I mentioned some of the topics on your “hit list”?

Why do we tell our students not to write on these topics if not to avoid reading one more paper like others we have read before? Are we trying to avoid getting a paper recycled from an earlier semester? Do these topics lead to bad essays?

Think, though, about how much these issues are still in the news. For our traditional students, who have come of age in the early twenty-first century, these are not “old news.” They have not heard all of the old arguments. Rather, they are working their way through the pros and cons of some of these issues as they watch, listen to, or read the news each day. They have grown up in a world where school shootings are more common than we would like to think. Many of them have just graduated from schools that had uniformed school resource officers. It’s not a big step to picture those officers armed, so the recent debates over gun control are real for them in a way they might not be for their parents’ generation.

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The Internet Meme as Argument

posted: 3.1.13 by Donna Winchell

If you spend time on Facebook, you have most likely seen some examples of the Internet meme, one of our newest multimedia genres. One of the best known—and funniest—memes of 2012 featured then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Diana Walker of Time magazine snapped a picture of Clinton on a military plane headed for Libya wearing sunglasses and looking at her Blackberry. Over drinks one night, two friends, Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith, decided to have some fun with the picture, and Texts from Hillary was born. They paired Clinton’s picture with one of President Obama, added some text, and the result looked like this:

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Ethos in Hollywood

posted: 2.15.13 by Donna Winchell

You don’t have to watch much television or be particularly attune to the Hollywood scene to notice that this is awards season. Nominees make the rounds of talk shows and parade the red carpet in high-priced fashion shows. An interesting back story to last week’s Grammy Awards was the publicity surrounding the fact that CBS, the network airing the awards ceremony, sent Grammys contacts a memo from its Standards and Practices division requesting that both those to appear on stage  and those in the audience who would appear on camera avoid clothing that revealed buttocks, bare female breasts, female nipples, or the genital region. It turns out that anyone appearing on CBS receives the same memo, including those appearing in Grammy Awards ceremonies for at least the last decade. So, this year’s participants were not being held to higher ethical standards after all, although all of the publicity gave the impression that the Grammys were being asked to clean up their public image, for one evening at least. [read more]

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