Wp #2—mini synthesis

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This assignment will entail more than finding a “common thread” that runs through the following articles and writing an informative synthesis that connects these sources. Instead, you will be expected to think critically about the assigned articles, to discover a topic suggested by the sources, and to develop this topic into a persuasive synthesis, wherein you will support your thesis statement, using the assigned sources, your own knowledge about the topic, and, if you feel they are needed, two or three sources found through individual research.
Getting Started:

First, read the following sources in WRAC (be sure to find the authors’ thesis statements):

  1. “Group Minds,” pp. 306-08

  2. “Opinions and Social Pressure,” pp. 309-15

  3. “The Perils of Obedience,” pp. 316-28

  4. “Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem,” pp. 360-64.

Second, read Chapter 4, pp. 94-124, and Chapter 5, pp. 125-62, in WRAC.

Third, write JE #8-15.

Fourth, completely fill in all questions on the CRE sheets, for all four readings.

Finally, you need to do some thinking to find a “common thread” you’d like to pursue, one that will allow you to fulfill all criteria of the assignment. Consider the following:

  • What do these articles suggest about “mob mentality,” or “mob rule”? Consider game 6 of the NBA finals on June 19, 2000. Played in Los Angeles, the Lakers won, and the “fans” started a mini-riot in the streets, burning trashcans, kicking in windshields of cars and police vehicles, breaking store windows, and looting, all within 12 square blocks of the arena. Even more recently, consider that during these post-9/11 times, the lynch-mob mentality is rearing its ugly face again, using the legitimate war on terrorism as its excuse for bashing and wrongfully arresting innocent Middle Easterners. “Mob mentality” has always existed. Think about the lynch mobs formed in America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Think about the work of the Ku Klux Klan during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, and before. Atrocious deeds often are committed by “decent” people. Perhaps some of you would be interested in reading Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.”

  • Opposed to this “mob mentality,” what do these articles suggest about lone serial killers? What about Ted Bundy, a serial killer who raped and murdered nine young women in Seattle, four in Salt Lake, one in Snowmass, Colorado, and three in Tallahassee, Florida, during the 1970s and 1980s? Or John Wayne Gacy who killed thirty-three boys in Chicago between 1972 and December 1978, and buried most of the dead bodies in the crawlspace under his house. Or Jeffrey Dahmer, arrested on July 23, 1991, and accused of sodomizing, murdering, and cannibalizing at least sixteen young men? Or, more recently, Gary Ridgeway, arrested in Seattle in 2002 as the “Green River Killer,” suspected of committing as many as 59 murders twenty years ago? The list could go on and on.

  • Perhaps your explanation for the atrocities committed by serial killers is that there is something “inherently evil” in them, something lacking in their upbringing and religious training. If so, what about the first Christian Crusade (1095-1099), and the others that followed, wherein Christians, who wore the symbol of the cross, slaughtered and tortured untold numbers of Muslims and others, shedding blood in the name of Christianity?

  • Focusing more closely on Milgram’s obedience to authority findings—that many people will obey authority, even if the consequences are monstrous—can we chalk up the participation of ordinary Germans during the Holocaust to seduction—the seduction of Aryan supremacy, the seduction of Hitler’s charisma, the seduction of overturning the humiliation Germany felt at Versailles? If authorities say you must participate in the persecution of a minority, do you obey? Besides the Germans during WWW II, there have been other destructive groups. What about Lt. William Calley, Jr., who on March 16, 1968, led his platoon into the village of My Lai, a suspected Viet Cong stronghold in Vietnam, and shot and killed at least 100 (some estimates double or triple that amount) unarmed men, women, and children? What about Jim Jones and his followers, members of the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, who, during the latter 1970s, convinced his followers to drink Kool-Aid laced with cyanide to commit mass suicide? About 900 people died—some drank the Kool-Aid while others were shot—but, by all estimates, at least 300 obeyed authority and drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, forcing their children to drink as they kicked and screamed, trying instinctively to survive.

  • It’s easy for us to look at the People’s Temple and the Holocaust and claim that “we” would never sink to that level again. But what about Cambodia of Pol Pot, Rwanda/Burundi of 1994, who combined extremist ideology with ethnic animosity and a diabolical disregard for human life to produce repression, misery, and murder on a massive scale; 700,000 people were murdered while the world looked away?

  • What do you think of the latest claim that “Johnny [not only] cannot read . . . he also cannot disobey,” with “Johnny” being the average college student? Some believe that today, both Osama bin Laden and President George W. Bush have used the notion of “good versus evil” to frame the present conflict—that both are calling for “collective violence.” How does this fit the concept of obedience to authority? What do you think of the following quote by Ness Mountain, a counselor and urban shaman, in an article entitled “Leaving Home: Obedience to Authority/War in Iraq,” published in the winter 02-03 issue of Alternatives for Cultural Creativity: “Today, we are all subjects in an obedience experiment. As in Milgram’s last variation, the victims are far away, and all that is required of us is that we go along with the punishment. But this time, the person is really dying. We will be dropping real bombs. There will be no relief at the end, when we find that we haven’t really killed anyone: only the crowing of the killers, the nervous laughter, the extra drink in the evening. I’m speaking, of course, of our attack on Iraq, planned for the spring”?

Drafting the Synthesis:

Because I am asking you to critically think about these articles, and to write a critical synthesis on a fitting topic of your choice, there is no “cookbook recipe” for how to organize the paper. Your organization will be determined by where your thinking takes you. You will need to remember, however, the following points:

  • You need an interesting introduction, one that will draw the readers’ interest. At the end of the introduction, you need a persuasive thesis statement, one that takes a position.

  • Throughout this paper, you must support your persuasive thesis statement, using concrete examples to reinforce your generalizations.

  • You must use at least one quote/summary/paraphrase from each of the four sources, with correct MLA parenthetical documentation. Yes—paraphrases, summaries, even authors’ ideas must be parenthetically documented. Avoid over-quoting; use summary/paraphrase unless the author says it so well that you cannot say it better.

  • You must always make it clear which source you are citing. If the author is not introduced textually, then you must use the author’s last name in the parenthetical documentation, i.e., (Lessing 307). Note that there is not a comma between the author’s name and the page number; there is merely a space. Also, there is not a p. to represent “page.”

  • If you use researched sources, they, too, must be correctly parenthetically documented within your text and correctly listed on your Works Cited page.

  • If you use researched sources, it is your responsibility to go to the ENG 102 web page, print a copy of the CRE, complete the CRE for the source, and include it in your stapled packet on the due date.

  • If you use sources found on the Internet, there is a “special” way to document them, both parenthetically and on your Works Cited page. Be sure to read and study the information on pp. 210-13 in your text.

  • In your conclusion, recap your argument and end with a call to action, or other effective rhetorical device.

  • Your paper should be approximately 4 pages long—no shorter—and certainly no longer than 4 ½ pages.

  • Your Works Cited page will be typed as a separate page; it should be paginated as page 5 or page 6, depending upon the length of your synthesis.

  • The four required articles must be cited as works from an anthology because that is where you read them; see p. 206 of your text.

  • If you use other sources to write your synthesis, you are responsible for correctly citing them, both parenthetically and on your Works Cited page. Study pp. 202-13 in WRAC.

  • All sources parenthetically documented within your text must be listed on your Works Cited page; all articles listed on your Works Cited page must be parenthetically documented within your text. This is NOT a Works Consulted page!

  • In MLA, Works Cited listings are alphabetized by authors’ last names. If you use an anonymous article, it must be alphabetized by title, excluding the articles a, an, and the.

  • On the due date, staple all pages together, including all four—or more—completed CREs.

Again, the emphasis of this assignment is to critically read and critically write a persuasive synthesis paper, to determine an appropriate topic and to support that topic with the assigned sources. Superficial thinking and writing will not fulfill the criteria of the assignment. This synthesis will be more complicated than writing an informative synthesis. Thus, please begin this assignment early. This is a college course, so do some reading and some thinking. Discuss possible topics and your selected topic with your group peers and with your friends. How you approach the topic of obedience/disobedience to authority is your own choice; however, it is not a paper you will be able to write the night before it is due. Keep up with the syllabus, participate in class discussions and peer reviews, and do some critical thinking!


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