The first thing one needs to keep in mind when setting about writing an argumentative essay is the purpose which is to convince people of your opinion and refute all counter arguments that they may throw at you. I suggest you imagine you have an audience waiting to pounce on every word as you write. You want people to put down the essay you have written having completely changed their opinion and come round to yours.
The above being the case, your essay has to include your own arguments and support for them and also the counter arguments and their rebuttal. After all, you don’t want someone to turn round and say “But there is always…” and slap you down with a counter argument. You need to prove that the counter argument doesn’t make sense before anyone else does. With this in mind, how is one to organize such an essay? The answer is as follows: it doesn’t really matter so long as you stick to the basic principle; however, there are two accepted ways of organizing argumentative essays in the US and the UK and they are as follows: the first has an introduction which is followed by two or three paragraphs of supporting arguments. What comes next is the counter argument which is neatly refuted and the whole essay is rounded off with a conclusion. The second starts off with an introduction and is followed by a development in which every paragraph starts with a counter argument which is refuted in the same paragraph. The whole thing is wrapped up in the conclusion. But I would like to reiterate that these are not hard and fast rules and so long as you defend your own point of view and refute counter arguments, i.e. stick to the raison d’être, it doesn’t matter how you organize the essay. The French have a completely different approach to argumentative essays for instance: they have the writer’s main thesis in the first paragraph of the development, the antithesis in the second and a synthesis in the next. What’s more, there are plenty of great French essayists!
The Introduction: one thing you need to remember about essays is that you have to have a rational argument which you follow through to the end. Surprises are a definite no – no; people need to be able to predict what is coming. The introduction which sets the tone of the essay, clearly points out where you stand and what you don’t agree with as well as a hint at the line of argument you are going to take.
The Tone of the Introduction: this type of essay is called an “argumentative essay” not “a civilized discussion”, which means some aggression and a sharper tone is acceptable. Consider the two examples bellow:
Unfortunately, war has been a fact of life since ancient times in human societies, which are the only species along with ants that fight their own species and destroy them. War means weapons and the trained manpower to use them, which brings us to armies; the institution that trains, usually the men, to fight for their country in times of need. The need for an army cannot be denied but should conscription actually exist? The draft is understandable though not acceptable in times of war when the situation is truly desperate but does this have to be done on a regular basis in peacetime also? The answer is no; conscription should leave its place to professional armies.
People need to work to earn a living and maintain a certain quality of life; this is a fact of life in the modern world. Not everyone is fortunate enough to find their dream jobs; a considerable number of people end up in some dead end office job which they dislike while some find their true vocations. These fortunate individuals do a job they love and consider worthwhile and what’s more, get paid for it: doctors for instance. Sportsmen also fall into the latter category but unlike doctors, they contribute nothing to society yet receive exorbitant sums of money throughout their short careers. Should people who kick a ball around a field or hit a ball with a racket for hours get paid millions while researchers can’t find grants to complete valuable studies? Most certainly not.
In both these introductions there is not a shade of doubt concerning where the writer stands. In the first, there is the grudging acceptance of wars as a fact of life but the desire is expressed that civilians should be left out of it all to lead their lives in peace. In the second, disgust for the amount of money professional sportsmen earn is clearly expressed by contrasting them with deserving individuals who need funds but don’t get any.
A Misconception: there is the belief that all the points that are going to be used in the development need to be listed in the introduction. This is just not true. What needs to be made clear is where the writer stands in relation to the argument. So let me reiterate: the points do not need to be listed in the introduction but the writer’s opinion most certainly does.
The Development: the development of the essay is the main body and where you leave no stone unturned to defend your own view and provide a rebuttal for any counter argument. You need to remember that this is the kind of essay where you take sides and have a firmly fixed opinion. Let us consider the example below:
SCHOOL UNIFORMS SHOULD BE OUTLAWED
Uniforms, specialized clothing for various groups of people in life, have been around for hundreds and thousands of years especially in some sectors. Some people wear uniforms for recognition and identification like the army, clerics and the police, some do so for protection like firemen and riot police, others do so for hygiene like doctors and nurses. Yet students in many countries are made to wear uniforms as well and one is at a loss to understand why. It is time for students to shed their uniforms and flourish freely.
Soldiers, clerics, the police and those in the service sector wear uniforms for recognition and it is claimed students would do well to follow their example for identification and to maintain discipline. Yet whereas adults in the said professions do need to be distinguished from other adults, the same can’t be said for children as education is compulsory: children between certain ages are all in school. Why, in that case, do we need to introduce children to the drab trappings of the adult world so early on? Once they have entered the job market they will find their wardrobes confined to suits any way; they should be allowed some freedom and leniency in their formative years. What is more, if discipline cannot be maintained unless children are dressed in identical garb Maoist China fashion, the schools have a much more serious problem.
One of the main arguments in favor of putting children in skirts or trousers, shirts, jackets and ties like miniature white collar workers is price and practicality. Practical for whom one might enquire; certainly not for the children who would be far happier in track suits and sneakers. Then there are those dratted white shirts that are a devil to get clean never mind how funny kids look dolled up in the outfit described above. Life would be a lot easier if children didn’t grow so fast but they do, which means they out-grow uniforms annoyingly fast. Then of course there are the effects of the playground: things get torn and mislaid. The issue of price can be dealt with very easily by not introducing children to designer labels until they can pay for them themselves. In short, uniforms are neither practical nor cheap; in any case, not really much cheaper than an average pair of jeans or track suit. Given the choice, there is very little doubt what the students would prefer.
Children are very likely going to be wearing uniforms of one sort or another when they establish themselves on their individual hamster wheels so it would be much kinder to allow them develop freely and not don the shackles so early in life. Adults of my generation will retort that uniforms never did them any discernible harm but are they really in a position to know? After all they have never known anything else. Personality development requires freedom so let us give it to our kids.
On reading this introduction and development, it is easy to see that the one and only rule of defending your own point of view and refuting counter arguments has been adhered to. Notice also that whereas the counter argument is presented at the beginning of paragraphs two and three it comes in the middle of the next paragraph; this is fine and perfectly alright. You will find a complete version of the essay task above under “Writing Exercises” where uniforms are defended.
The Conclusion: the conclusion to an argumentative essay should be obvious from a mile away; surprises are for detective stories not for essays. But there is one very important point that needs to be mentioned: the conclusion should never be a repetition of the introduction where all the points are listed once again; it should be a restatement. A restatement covers the main ideas that have been mentioned and in this case, has a tone of “you see, I told you so” about it. However, the language is different and there is no repetition of any other part of the essay. Let us consider the following example:
UNIFORMS MAKE PERFECT SENSE
Uniforms, specialized clothing for various groups of people in life, have been around for hundreds and thousands of years especially in some sectors. Some people wear uniforms for recognition and identification like the army, clerics and the police, some do so for protection like firemen and riot police, others do so for hygiene like doctors and nurses. Yet students in many countries are made to wear uniforms as well and with good reason. Some may wonder why but school uniforms should be the norm in developing and underdeveloped countries.
First developmental paragraph: Financial arguments
· Poverty and limited means: one uniform cheaper than lots of regular clothes
· Equality: the distinctions between more well to do less well-off students blurred
Second developmental paragraph: Practical arguments
· Identification: young people identified as students
· Discipline: uniforms, due to their connotations, make keeping order easier
· Pride: a sense of pride due to being a student at a certain school
Third developmental paragraph: Individuality versus the system
· Counter argument: uniforms restrict personality development
· Rebuttal: generations of people have grown up with school uniforms; no data to link lack of individuality to uniforms
In conclusion, uniforms have done hundreds and thousands of people of past generations no discernible harm and in no way prevented them from flourishing. This being the case, burdening overstretched parents with the added expense of a wardrobe for their offspring seems illogical. The alternative, a uniform and a spare, is both cheaper and more practical. This does not mean to say uniforms can’t be more child-friendly and comfortable. In fact efforts should be made to achieve this to put a stop to the argument for once and for all.
If the introduction and the conclusion are studied carefully, it will become obvious that there is no repetition but the ideas covered in the essay have all been touched upon. Let us look at one more complete example where there is one basic supporting argument which is carried on to the end with no repetition:
12 YEARS OF BASIC EDUCATION: AN IMPOSSIBLE DREAM
The importance given to education has risen in tandem with development. Whereas schooling was not considered such a priority in the 19th century now it is compulsory for children up to a certain age. This is 16 in the UK and 14 currently in Turkey. Ideally, the period of compulsory education should include college as well; obviously the better educated the youth are, the better prepared for life they are and the more useful they are for society. Yet is Turkey ready for such an undertaking? The answer is most certainly not. Therefore, the idea of extending compulsory education to include high school as well should be postponed to a later date due mainly to practical considerations.
Politicians who are concerned with votes and winning elections are trying to push through legislation with complete disregard for the fact that the infrastructure is not in place. 12 years compulsory education looks good on paper but what about school buildings? Let us imagine for the sake of argument that some businessman built the school; things don’t stop there: what about white boards, computers, modern facilities, furniture? In a poor country with a soaring budget deficit, can the ministry of education really claim to be able to provide all this by September in every village? It doesn’t seem likely.
Secondly, assuming that all the practical requirements have been met, there is the small problem of teaching staff. Teachers don’t grow on trees; what is more Turkey refuses to employ existing graduates of teacher training colleges. How does the government propose to man schools under these circumstances? Obviously, no one wants a mediocre teacher or teachers fresh out of college; they want the good ones. Under these conditions how can equality be provided? Some people will get a good education while others may not even be able to read properly.
Thirdly, in a developing country where the pressure to enter the job market is high do we need to keep everyone in school until they are 18? Most people would prefer to learn job skills or go to a vocational school; they may think trigonometry and modern physics are unnecessary for them and they can’t really be blamed. 14 is a much more realistic stopping place; besides, we haven’ managed to apply this rule properly yet.
Some may claim that keeping children in school until they are 18 might enable the government to instill good moral values and sound general principles. Reaching for the stars is all very well but one has to be realistic: Turkey is unable to deal with the existing inequalities in opportunity; would it be wise to increase the problem ten-fold? At the end of Ibsen’s play, The Doll’s House, the young hero looks longingly out of the window and tells his horrified mother he wants the sun. It would be wise to remember this and other similar examples.
In conclusion, Turkey is not ready to extend schooling to include high school and they will not be ready for a long time. Progress should come step by step the current one being providing students in every part of the country with equal opportunities for a first class modern education. That alone is a formidable feet so as Jesus so aptly said “Sufficient the problems of today”.