I. What is the nature of this assignment? Your Civic Engagement project is a semester long project design to help you become engaged (actively, publicly involved) with the current politics of a topic (of your choice) that is important to you personally.
II. What, am I expected to turn in for my project, and how? Each student will submit a written, typed paper (6 to 8 pages in length) documenting your research (and engagement experiences) relevant to the topic that you have chosen. In order to gain insight on the general expectations for formatting and/or presenting a college-level paper like this one, please refer to the resources provided in this assignment’s widget on our iCollege homepage. Also, GPC’s library is an excellent resource for these kinds of assignments: http://www.gpc.edu/library/distance.htm.
III. What am I supposed to write my paper about? The student is encouraged to link his or her individual, personal interests, or life circumstances, to the content of American politics. Having reflected on your own interests, and those things that are important to you personally, you should take time to scan local & national newspapers, the Internet (* http://civicleagueatlanta.org/index.php; http://botw.org/top/Society/Politics/; politicsnationwide.com; yahoo.com/politics; msnbc.com; CNN; you-tube, politics1.com or http://votesmart.org/interest-groups/NA/#.VGP5vCyUMUs) looking for stories, groups or general topics that are interesting and relevant to you. Toward the end of the semester, Each student will submit a paper to www.turnitin.com, and it should also be posted on our designated iCollege discussion board (accessible by the whole class) as a final presentation.
A significant aspect of this assignment will be for you to show some imagination and creativity in linking your chosen topic to our course content, as well as finding opportunities to PUBLICLY express your concerns, preferences and/or ideas about—your chosen community, state, national, or global topic. In other words, become ENGAGED with the current politics of your topic! If you begin to consider a topic for which there is no current public interest with which to become engaged, that should be a good hint that you need to keep thinking. So, you may ask, “What kinds of things would count as becoming involved (click here!)?”
SOME POSSIBLE SUGGESTED TOPIC OPTIONS: *Please feel free to think outside this limited set of possibilities!*
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Art, dance or writing— government censorship of…; the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) budget
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Music– copyright law; the internet, international relations and trade…
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The Internet (freedom of the press, expression?)—does the US government have legal jurisdiction to regulate the Internet?
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Free Trade v. Protectionism—NAFTA, GATT, trade barriers and export controls…
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>FDA inspection of food products (foodborne diseases, food products imported from other countries…)
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Counter-terrorism—the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security…
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The war on drugs– the DEA, Coast Guard, and local law enforcement; or the legalization of medical marijuana
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>State or local criminal justice topics
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>local city, County or State conflicts over zoning, traffic, or other political topics specific to the local community of a student
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Prison construction and overcrowding—cities, states, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Labor laws and economic competition between cities, states and/or internationally
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The protection of minority Civil Rights (African American, Latin American, Asian American, Muslim American, Native American and/or Homosexuals?)
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Affirmative Action in education or employment
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Education policy—no child left behind, school choice, charter schools…
Foreign-policy and national security policy—the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, with North Korea, Iran, Syria…
The use of unmanned drones during global military operations, or domestically in the United States
Health care and/or care for the elderly—Social Security, Medicare, regulation of hospitals and nursing homes…
States requiring cervical cancer immunization for teenage girls
Government regulation of private businesses—antitrust law, consumer-safety regulations, environmental regulations…
US Energy security—Middle East foreign-policy, alternative fuels, exploiting domestic resources, mass transit…
Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
off-shore drilling in US waters
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Environmental regulation, clean air, clean water…
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Conservation (land, habitat, natural resources…)
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Domestic animal and wildlife safety/well-being (hunting and fishing regulations, cruelty to animals, regulations of exotic animals, zoos and animal shelters…)
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Space exploration—federal budget spending for NASA, the International Space Station…
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Federal funding for Stem-Cell Research
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>National emergency response— hurricanes [KATRINA], tornadoes, flooding, wildfires, FEMA & Department of Homeland Security
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Identity theft, fraud…
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>International human trafficking
Right to life v. reproductive rights of women
Once you have considered your possible options, and arrived at your chosen topic (for students in the Atlanta area: http://civicleagueatlanta.org/index.php), please find some time to discuss your initial thoughts with me—either in on-line office hours or simply using the iCollege drop-box prior to the end of the first test. This will be the topic for your project.
Your Paper Should Consist of Three Parts:
1) a Policy Exploration section in which you explain the topic of your choice, how it is relevant in the context of our course content, as well as the recent political events/ controversies relevant to your topic. Please explore major, current questions or controversies related to your chosen topic, the current status of politics dealing with your topic. Does this topic primarily concern the politics of issues at the global, national, or state/local level? This is the section most like a conventional college ‘research’ paper, in which the student is expected to use well researched, quality sources in order to present an informative overview of their chosen topic. Well-documented, extensive reading of valid information in reliable sources is a priority in this section.
2) Personal Interest, Connections to your topic: Explain why you have chosen this particular topic, question or controversy. Why is it personally compelling for you, and relevant to your life? Feel free to reflect on, and explore how you think that the implications of your topic may impact your life, family/friends, career, future…
2) The Civic Engagement section of the paper is where you will explain/ describe the various options you have pursued for publicly expressing your own preferences, concerns or ideas on the topic of your choice by means of civic engagement. In fact, civic engagement should be more ‘public’ than the simple act of expressing one’s own, individual political preferences in a single act, on one isolated day. It should involve organized participation with other (like- minded) people in efforts to make a positive contribution to dealing with an important political problem.
So, what is the “Civic” nature of this assignment? The public nature of civic engagement should imply the necessity for you to become proactive in expressing your concerns, preferences or opinions in a public manner. Please don’t infer that this assignment will require you to paint some radical poster-board, go to a local street corner in your community, and scream your ideological worldview at innocent passerbys.
Rather, this project should give the student insight that individual ideas, concerns and preferences are much more likely to be influential in American politics when expressed publicly, preferably in coordination with a network of other people who share common interest in the topic. Does this mean that I have to join an interest group? — Not Necessarily. –NO– As long as you find a way to express your preferences, concerns or ideas on your chosen topic “publicly” you will meet the “civic engagement” requirement for this project. (Ex: 1. create a Facebook page; 2) write letters or e-mails to influential government officials with authority regarding your topic; 3) contact influential public figures, newspapers, or influential groups with similar concerns as yours regarding your topic; 4) attend public rallies, hearings, protests or seminars dealing with the topic of your choice…
* Please see the following feedback I recently provided on a student’s paper for this project: “Civic engagement is about more than simply talking to your mother and someone at your church about your political views once or twice. I WAS pleased to read of your efforts to distribute informational flyers on the topic to some of your peers at school– that earned some credit.
Civic engagement should involve organizing, or engaging in an organization, with other people who share your opinion about a specific topic for the purpose of publicly expressing that opinion in a political context.”
3) The Critical Reflection section of your paper will conclude the paper. Here, it is appropriate for the student to write in the first-person, personal tone– as allowed in the “engagement” section of your paper (using I, me, mine…). I will be interested in observing your critical assessments of the nature of politics that are ongoing relevant to your topic, as well as the potential biases or objectivity of information learned from various perspectives on your topic. I also want the student to discuss in this section their critical observations of their own personal engagement experiences with the politics of the topic. Did you, individually, make a difference? Did the experience of political engagement on an important personal topic impact you personally? Did this assignment have any influence at all on your personal views regarding the topic? As far as the public nature of this assignment, did your engagement have any effect on other people regarding this topic? Please critically evaluate the relative influence of other people, groups or organizations involved in the politics of your topic.
IV. Okay, so what is this guy looking for in a perfect paper?
The entire paper is expected to be a minimum of six typed pages (target length = 8 pages), double-spaced, with 12 point-font & one-inch margins. Please use a title page. You are expected to list at least 8-10 good, reliable sources on a reference page correctly formatted according to the APA citation style (please refer to http://www.gpc.edu/library/citations.html). An internet homepage and any hyperlinks accessible from that same homepage cannot be countered as separate, distinct sources. For example, if you obtain useful information from the FBI’s Office of Counterterrorism link, you may legitimately cite this as only one source, not 1) the FBI homepage, and 2) the FBI Office of Counterterrorism. It is the student’s responsibility to be proactive in getting out there and finding/ reading good, reliable, legitimate sources to enhance their knowledge of their selected topic.
Papers must be submitted as MS-Word docs by noon, on the due date listed on your syllabus (and our iCollege class calendar) using Turn-It-In (class id & password will be provided in the assignment widget). Late paper will lose 10 points for each class day late—up to three class days. Beyond that is a 0. Papers that include citation mistakes (missing citations, wrong format, not according to an accepted citation style…) will lose 5 points for each such mistake. However, the line between simple mistakes described above and plagiarism is quite thin, & subjective in many cases. I will use my discretion to determine if the case is plagiarism or not, and I tend to be quite strict. If a paper includes plagiarism (intentionally presenting someone else’s work as your own, or failing to credit a quote or specific data/information to its original source within the text), the student will get an F for the assignment. Don’t even think about it!!! I do use software to help detect plagiarism. I strongly recommend that students seek the assistance of one of GPC’s writing tutors: http://depts.gpc.edu/~gpcltc/onlinetutoring.htm
V. * Finally, be aware that your project should be posted in an iCollege class discussion board– as a Final Class Presentation– toward the end of the semester. Good luck, and enjoy this!
Before writing an academic paper, you should:
Formulate a clear, concise question, problem or topic about which you are concerned and write it down.
Systematically describe, politically engage, and then propose a solution for your topic’s main concern. Formulate some clear, straightforward plan that directly engages your chosen topic. A good rule of thumb: if you can’t make a simple diagram of your thesis, you probably can’t explain it clearly either.
Edit your informal notes for the project, producing a 5–10 page, crisply written paper. Outline your argument. Rearrange your outline to increase its coherence. Rearrange it again.
Strive for strong opening and concluding paragraphs that clearly state your thesis. Try to grab the reader’s attention and explain why he/she should care about your topic. Aim for specificity in your main point, and make sure it’s an argument and not just a description. Underline, italicize, or bold your thesis statement. Use the first paragraph to lead up to your thesis statement. This paragraph is your chance to convey the payoff of your paper. It should explain why your thesis is interesting and why it makes sense.
Tightly organize the structure of your paper. Divide the paper into sections, each of which should elaborate part of the argument you outlined in the first paragraph. Within each section, each paragraph should build off the previous paragraph leading the reader to the main point of the section. Within each paragraph, each sentence should logically lead to the next. I strongly recommend generating a sentence-level outline of the paper, paragraph by paragraph.
End the paper with a convincing conclusion. The paragraphs should recap your argument. This may seem repetitive to you. Do it anyway!
*This is an academic paper. You therefore need to engage the academic literature on your topic in the first part of the paper. You will need to find, read, and cite the relevant academic literature.*
You must use evidence in your paper for every major point you make. Avoid unsubstantiated assertions of fact. When you make a claim, provide evidence to persuade your reader that your claim is true. Often, this only requires a single citation.
Do not ignore contrary evidence. Either acknowledge that such contrary evidence limits the generality of your argument or show why it is not actually contrary to your argument.
Draw on the most potentially relevant, reputable sources of information.
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Check your spelling and punctuation.
Avoid awkward sentences. To help check for awkward sentences, read them aloud to yourself or to a friend.
Use active, not passive verbs.
Tighten every sentence by cutting unnecessary words.
Break up long paragraphs by topic. Make sure each paragraph completes a point/subpoint that supports your argument/thesis. Paragraphs should usually begin with an introductory sentence and end with a concluding sentence.
Consultant standard reference on grammar and language use (C. W. Strunk and E. B. White’s Elements of Style, Diana Hacker’s A Pocket Style Manual, or Joseph M. Williams’ Style: Toward Clarity and Grace).
Do not protect your writing from your editing. Take it for granted that you will delete sentences or even whole paragraphs as you edit. The most important aspect of editing is not to correct individual sentences (though you should do this too), but to ensure that each paragraph makes a clear and distinct point, and the paper makes a tight, coherent argument!
Use a proper citation format in your bibliography (e.g. APA).
Do not use impersonal pronouns (e.g., it) when the referent is unclear or nowhere in sight. The “it” should refer clearly to a specific noun used in the preceding clause, not to a general concept contained in the previous clause, nor to a specific noun two or more clauses away. Similarly, avoid using “this” and “that” as subjects or direct objects.
Thus, you would not write: “Dahl and other scholars have advanced the argument that democratization depends little on international influence. But this ignores important exceptions, such as Greece, Argentina, Taiwan, and the Eastern Europe.” Instead, write: “Dahl and other scholars have advanced the argument that democratization depends little on international influence. But this argument ignores important exceptions, such as Greece, Argentina, Taiwan, and the Eastern Europe.”
In formal writing, never use the second person as a substitute for impersonal or general references. Thus you should not write: “living in a democracy makes you less likely to be arrested for political reasons.” You might write instead: “Citizens in democratic societies are less likely to be arrested for political reasons.”
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