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It was a dark and stormy night. To lighten up my life, I decide to host a dinner party. I invite my two closest friends, Hugh, from England, Clara from the US, and my newest friend, you.

After routine pleasantries, I decide to provoke my guests by telling them a secret.  “Friends,” I confess, “you may not be aware that I have a new hobby.  In my spare time, I have become an accomplished hacker.  Recently, I hacked into the CIA’s ridiculously insecure computer system and discovered that its agents have been engaged in illegal covert surveillance of millions of American citizens. Now, I am thinking about publishing the CIA files on my blog.  What do you think I should do?”

Hugh instantly responds to my question:  “Bloody hell, McAdams, what the devil do you think you’re doing?  What you propose will endanger public safety by revealing investigative techniques and information that are meant to protect all of us. Destroy the files immediately or you will undercut the delicate foundations of liberal democracy!”

Stunned by Hugh’s response, Clara breaks in:  “You’re being completely ridiculous, Hugh.  Don’t you see that McAdams is acting in the best spirit of liberal democracy?  He is doing a public service by revealing that the American government is violating the rights of its citizens.  By all means, McAdams, release the files so that every American can see this offense!”

As Hugh and Clara glare at each other, I fear that my guests will come to blows.  So, I turn to you. “Well, my new friend, should I publicize the files or not?  And no, you may not waffle between their positions. I need a clear answer and I need it now!”



Please respond to this question by taking a firm stand on who is right, Hugh or Clara.  Feel free to use any of your course readings, such as Bradbury, Mill, and Kingdon, to justify your argument.  Do not undertake any additional reading or research.

This assignment is designed to teach you while you are thinking and writing. These skills will arise throughout your college (and life) experience.

First, we are challenging you to make and defend an argument. A persuasive argument always involves two considerations: 1) a clear statement of where you stand and why; and 2) an explanation for why you are taking this stand instead of the rival one. As every good attorney, climatologist, and football coach knows, a successful argument or strategy is always based upon anticipating the counterargument or counterstrategy that will be raised against them.

Second, we are challenging you to drive to the heart of a significant issue and not to drift from one point to another. Thus, it will not be sufficient for you simply to describe what you have read. We are asking you to demonstrate that you truly understand the issues

We will evaluate your essay according to three criteria: the clarity and consistency of your argument; your use of readings, lectures, and discussion sections to back up your points concretely; and, importantly, your demonstrated ability to think for yourself.  Remember:  if you are not sure what you are saying, we will not be sure what you are saying either. Explain yourself and do so in the clearest possible fashion!

When referring to your readings, please use a simple citation form (e.g., author and page). It’s fine to use short quotations, but indicate why you are using them. Quotations do not speak for themselves.

Finally, don’t forget the Shaker hymn: “ ‘Tis a joy to be simple . . .”  State your argument boldly; justify it in a logical fashion; when you are done, stop.

The Honor Code to which you have affixed your signature applies! It’s fine with me if you discuss this assignment with your classmates. However, your essay and argument must be absolutely, completely, and unmistakably your own work.

Some words of advice.

Read this assignment closely the moment you receive it. It may seem complicated at first. But if you allow its elements to percolate in your head, you will find that they all flow together.

Do not put this assignment off until the last moment. If you do so, you will not be a happy camper and neither will we.

Requirements and Deadline
: This essay may be no more than three (3) double-spaced, typed pages (12 point font).  You must send an attachment of your essay to your TA no later than 12:00 noon on Friday, September 22. To give you time to focus on the essay, we will not hold discussion sections on this date.  Your TA’s contact information is on the right-hand column of this page. Late papers will be docked 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are late.

Good luck!


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