M09 Overview/Task List
• To study compare and contrast arguments of definition and causal
• Read chapters 10.8 and 15.9 about the cause and effect essay in
Writing for Success.
• Read examples of the cause and effect essay listed on the M09
• Compare and contrast the differences between causal arguments and
arguments of definition.
• Respond to the discussion board post for M09.
M09 Learning Objectives
• After completing this module, you will be able to:
• Recognize the strategies specific to causal arguments.
• Evaluate the use of causal arguments and be able to compare them
with definitional arguments.
• Analyze how cause and effect arguments persuade audiences.
M09 Introduction to Readings
• Read Chapters in Writing for Success
• Chapter 10.8
• Chapter 15.9
• Chapter 10.8 focuses on the cause and effect essay. You’ll read about how to develop a causal argument
and what its components are. Chapter 15.9 gives you additional examples of causal essays.
• Read the following two causal essays
• The following two essays are examples of causal essays. The first is a personal account of what caused the
writer to not want to sit somewhere, and the other an account of how language changes in an event such as
war. Consider the logic for the causal arguments in each piece. Do you agree with each author’s causal
argument? Include your insights when you respond to the M09 discussion board prompt.
• The “Black Table” is Still There
• Essay; From Ancient Greece to Iraq, the Power of Words in Wartime
• Select Next to begin reading The “Black Table” is Still There
The “Black Table” is Still There by Lawrence Otis Graham
During a recent visit to my old junior high school in Westchester County, I came upon something that I never expected to see again, something that was a source of fear and dread for
three hours each school morning of my early adolescence: the all-black lunch table in the cafeteria of my predominately white suburban junior high school. As I look back on 27 years
of often being the first and only black person integrating such activities and institutions as the college newspaper, the high school tennis team, summer music camps, our all-white
suburban neighborhood, my eating club at Princeton or my private social club at Harvard Law School, the one scenario that puzzled me the most then and now is the all-black lunch
table. Why was it there? Why did the black kids separate themselves? What did the table say about the integration that was supposedly going on in home rooms and gym classes? What
did it say about the black kids? The white kids? What did it say about me when I refused to sit there, day after day, for three years? If each afternoon, at 12:03 p.m., after the fourth
period ended, I found myself among 600 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds who marched into the brightly lit cafeteria and dashed for a seat at one of the 27 blue formica lunch tables. No
matter who I walked in with – usually a white friend – no matter what mood I was in, there was one thing that was certain: I would not sit at the black table.
I would never consider sitting at the black table.
What was wrong with me? What was I afraid of?
I would like to think that my decision was a heroic one, made in order to express my solidarity with the theories of integration that my community was espousing. But I was just 12 at
the time, and there was nothing heroic in my actions.
I avoided the black table for a very simple reason: I was afraid that by sitting at the black table I’d lose all my white friends. I thought that by sitting there I’d be making a racist, anti-
Is that what the all-black table means? Is it a rejection of white people? I no longer think so.
At the time, I was angry that there was a black lunch table. I believed that the black kids were the reason why other kids didn’t mix more. I was ready to believe that their self-
segregation was the cause of white bigotry.
Ironically I even believed this after my best friend (who was white) told me I probably shouldn’t come to his bar mitzvah because I’d be the only black and people would feel
uncomfortable. I even believed this after my Saturday afternoon visit, at age 10, to a private country club pool prompted incensed white parents to pull their kids from the pool in
In the face of this blatantly racist (anti-black) behavior, I still somehow managed to blame only the black kids for being the barrier to integration in my school and my little world. What
was I thinking?
I realize now how wrong I was. During that same time, there were at least two tables of athletes, an Italian table, a Jewish girl’s table, a Jewish boy’s table (where I usually sat), a table
of kids who were into heavy metal music and smoking pot, a table of middle-class Irish kids. Weren’t these tables just a segregationist as the black table? At the time, no one thought so.
At the time, no one even acknowledged the segregated nature of these other tables.
Maybe it’s the color difference that makes all black tables or all-black groups attract the scrutiny and wrath of so many people. It scares and angers people; it exasperates. It did those
things to me, and I’m black.
As an integrating black person, I know that my decision not to join the black lunch table attracted its own kind of scrutiny and wrath from my classmates. At the same time that I heard
angry words like “Oreo” and “white boy” being hurled at me from the black table, I was also dodging impatient questions from white classmates: “Why do all those black kids sit
together?” or “Why don’t you ever sit with the other blacks?
The black lunch table, like those other segregated tables, is a comment on the superficial inroads that integration has made in society. Perhaps I should be happy that even this is a long
way from where we started. Yet, I can’t get over the fact that the 27th table in my junior high school cafeteria is still known as the “black table”—14 years after my adolescence.
Essay; From Ancient Greece to Iraq, the Power of Words in Wartime
From Ancient Greece to Iraq: The Power of Words in Wartime
By Robin Tolmach Lakoff
An American soldier refers to an Iraqi prisoner as ”it.” A general speaks not of ”Iraqi fighters” but of ”the enemy.” A weapons manufacturer doesn’t talk about people but about ”targets.”
Bullets and bombs are not the only tools of war. Words, too, play their part.
Human beings are social animals, genetically hard-wired to feel compassion toward others. Under normal conditions, most people find it very difficult to kill.
But in war, military recruits must be persuaded that killing other people is not only acceptable but even honorable.
The language of war is intended to bring about that change, and not only for soldiers in the field. In wartime, language must be created to enable combatants and noncombatants alike to see the other
side as killable, to overcome the innate queasiness over the taking of human life. Soldiers, and those who remain at home, learn to call their enemies by names that make them seem not quite human —
inferior, contemptible and not like ”us.”
The specific words change from culture to culture and war to war. The names need not be obviously demeaning. Just the fact that we can name them gives us a sense of superiority and control. If, in
addition, we give them nicknames, we can see them as smaller, weaker and childlike — not worth taking seriously as fully human.
The Greeks and Romans referred to everyone else as ”barbarians” — etymologically those who only babble, only go ”bar-bar.” During the American Revolution, the British called the colonists ”Yankees,” a
term with a history that is still in dispute. While the British intended it disparagingly, the Americans, in perhaps the first historical instance of reclamation, made the word their own and gave it a positive
spin, turning the derisive song ”Yankee Doodle” into our first, if unofficial, national anthem.
In World War I, the British gave the Germans the nickname ”Jerries,” from the first syllable of German. In World War II, Americans referred to the Japanese as ”Japs.”
The names may refer to real or imagined cultural and physical differences that emphasize the ridiculous or the repugnant. So in various wars, the British called the French ”Frogs.” Germans have been
called ”Krauts,” a reference to weird and smelly food. The Vietnamese were called ”slopes” and ”slants.” The Koreans were referred to simply as ”gooks.”
The war in Iraq has added new examples. Some American soldiers refer to the Iraqis as ”hadjis,” used in a derogatory way, apparently unaware that the word, which comes from the Arabic term for a
pilgrimage to Mecca, is used as a term of respect for older Muslim men.
The Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz suggested that the more clearly we see other members of our own species as individuals, the harder we find it to kill them.
So some terms of war are collective nouns, encouraging us to see the enemy as an undifferentiated mass, rather than as individuals capable of suffering. Crusaders called their enemy ”the Saracen,” and
in World War I, the British called Germans ”the Hun.”
American soldiers are trained to call those they are fighting against ”the enemy.” It is easier to kill an enemy than an Iraqi.
The word ”enemy” itself provides the facelessness of a collective noun. Its non-specificity also has a fear-inducing connotation; enemy means simply ”those we are fighting,” without reference to their
The terrors and uncertainties of war make learning this kind of language especially compelling for soldiers on the front. But civilians back home also need to believe that what their country is doing is just
and necessary, and that the killing they are supporting is in some way different from the killing in civilian life that is rightly punished by the criminal justice system. The use of the language developed for
military purposes by civilians reassures them that war is not murder.
M09 Causal Arguments: Discussion
• What to Do:
• After completing the assigned readings, evaluate and respond to the
two sample causal essays located on the links in M09. Pay careful
attention to the similarities or differences between the causal essays
and the definitional essay examples in M08. Reflect on both types of
essays, using examples from the assigned readings.
10.6 and 15.7 in Writing for Success
Additional links to examples of essays that are Arguments of Definition
Chapter 10.6 focuses on the definition essay. You’ll be learning about how
the definition explores and defines a term or concept in an argument.
Chapter 15.7 includes several examples of well written definition essays.
The following essays are examples of the definition essay. They each argue
for a kind of extended, personal definition for each of the terms: a wife and
work. Note that both essays are in an unconventional format. Does the
different format change the effect of the argument for you as a reader?
What is your response to these definitions? You can consider answers to
these questions as you read the essays and include your insights when
responding to the M08 discussion board prompt.
What Work Is
• By Philip Levine (Links to an external site.)
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is–if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.