Schreibprojekt 4: Meinung zu einem kontroversen Thema

On Friday in class, you will be writing a short essay. Your assignment will be to take a stance (either for or against, or explaining your opinion on) a controversial topic revolving around one of the topics below. The questions you can choose from are the following:

1. die Abtreibung (abortion)
     Soll die Abtreibung illegal oder legal sein -- oder wann soll sie legal sein, und wann nicht?

2. die gleichgeschlechtliche Ehe (same-sex marriage)
     Soll die gleichgeschlechtliche Ehe legal sein? Warum oder warum nicht?

3. der Krieg in Afghanistan
     Was sollen wir jetzt tun? Wenn Osama Bin Laden gefunden wird, was soll mit ihm geschehen? War es richtig, daß wir den Krieg führten?

The following worksheet is designed to guide you in preparing vocabulary (to conserve in-class writing time) and in beginning to think about the topic you’re interested in. Hopefully you have a strong opinion about (at least) one of the topics listed above; as you read through this worksheet, you should make a decision as to which one you would like to write about. Friday in class, you may use this worksheet, your dictionary, and your textbook (if needed, generally most students don’t). Please do fill out this worksheet, at least partially: I’d like to look at it as I grade your essays (although it’s not officially a part of your grade).

I. Structure and Organization of the Essay

I assume that you all know how to write a well-structured expository essay, but I’d like to clarify what I’ll be looking for in your writing tomorrow. Apart from the purely German elements -- yes, grammar and style will be graded, though I’ll be fairly lenient on “nitpicky” grammar -- there are certain elements that your essay should contain. Please read over the following and be aware of these points when you begin to write.

First and foremost, you must state your position and opinion on the issue at hand, and give reasons for your opinion. Generally speaking, you should state your opinion (your thesis statement) early on in the essay, usually in the first few sentences (unless you have a very long introduction!). If possible, a “hook” or other good introductory comment is a nice addition; you could, for example, make a humorous, controversial, or attention-grabbing statement to introduce your opinion. The first paragraph should also provide a context for your discussion by introducing the topic, giving general background information as needed, and/or explaining your terminology and the situation you’re discussing.

The successive paragraphs (probably only 1-2 of them, considering the 50-minute class period) should explain the reasons for your opinion and present supporting arguments that justify your beliefs. Occasionally you may choose to cite counterarguments, i.e. positions opposed to your own, so that you may then dismantle or disprove them. Ideally, your arguments should progress logically from one to the next, so take some time to consider and plan your ideas before you begin writing. Of course this logical progression is harder to plan for when writing under a time deadline, but it’s good practice to see what you can accomplish. The most important thing in these paragraphs is clarity, logic, and reasoning: state your views clearly, define your terms, and beware of getting side-tracked onto tangents.

You should try to leave some time to write a short concluding paragraph (or at least a sentence or two). This conclusion should return you to your thesis (e.g. for or against the topic), but NOT simply leave it there. You can restate your opinion at this point if necessary, but you should also take a sentence or two to explain “who cares?” -- for example, why is this issue important, what impact does it have on the world, and what other issues are related to it.

Thus, the overall structure of your essay will probably look something like this:

(I).Introduction (thesis and context/background)
II.Supporting point / argument
III.Supporting point / argument
(IV).Conclusion (thesis, relevance and importance)

(I realize that essay-writing is a skill that develops over time and with practice, and that individual style is very important. If you consider yourself to be a talented writer and prefer not to follow the structure as outlined here, that’s fine, but please make sure that your essay is effective, convincing, and solid in both content and form.)

II. Vocabulary and Content

You should now consider the type of vocabulary you will need to discuss your topic. There are certain standard words and phrases that are common in writing position statements; for your convenience, I’ve listed a few of them here. If others occur to you (think, perhaps of English essays you’ve written and what common phrases you’ve used), look them up now and add them here. Thus, for the introductory paragraph:

meiner Meinung nachin my opinion
ich bin der Meinung, daß ...I am of the opinion that ...
glaubento believe or think
halten (für)to consider, hold (an opinion about)
    -- ich halte die Familie für wichtig-- I consider the family to be important
ich stimme damit (nicht) übereinI (don’t) agree
ich nehme an, daß ...I assume that ...
der Einwand, -¨eobjection
    -- mein Einwand dagegen ist, daß ...-- my objection to that is that ...
das Thema, die Thementopic
die Frage, -nquestion, issue

There are also specific words and phrases that deal with each of the three topics listed above. Please choose one topic now that you would like to write about, and make a list of words that you consider to be relevant. I’ve included a list here: of course you won’t need to use all of these words. Read through the list, highlighting those you think may be useful, and adding any of your own thoughts where needed.

For all three topics: 
die Gesellschaftsociety
gesellschaftlichsocietal, cultural
die Werte (pl.)values
heutzutagetoday, these days
aktuellcurrent, ‘hot’
die Religionreligion
die BibelBible
die ChristenheitChristianity
das JudentumJudaism
der IslamIslam
die Meinungsfreiheitfreedom of thought/belief
der Grund, -¨ereason
aus politischen/medizinischen Gründenfor political/medical reasons
legal / gesetzlichlegal, lawful
illegal / ungesetzlichillegal, against the law
das Lebenlife
die Freiheitliberty, freedom
das Streben nach Glückthe pursuit of happiness
die Folge, -nconsequence, result
unschuldig / schuldlosinnocent
er hat die Schuld daran, daß’s his fault that ...
der Mißbrauch (von Kindern )(child) abuse

die Abtreibung, enabortion
die Teilgeburtsabtreibungpartial-birth abortion
das Trimestertrimester
die Schwangerschaftpregnancy
beenden / abbrechenterminate, end
ehelichmarital, in marriage
die Vergewaltigungrape
vergewaltigt werdento be raped
sorgen fürto care for, take care of
das Sorgerechtcustody (of child)
für Adoption abgebento give up for adoption
der Kondom, -econdom
die Geburtenkontrollebirth control
die Pille, -nthe pill
ein Kind haben / gebärento have / to bear a child
fähig / unfähigable / unable
unterstützento support
die Gefahr / gefährlichdanger / dangerous
der Fötus / der Embryofetus / embryo
die Entwicklung, -endevelopment
entwickeln (hat / ist entwickelt)to develop
die Gebärmutterwomb, uterus
überlebento survive
der Mensch, -enperson, human being
die Geburt, -enbirth
lebendig / am Lebenalive, living
tot / gestorbendead, deceased
Sex habento have sex
Geschlechtsverkehr habento have intercourse
der Mordmurder
erlauben (erlaubt)to allow
verbieten (verboten)to ban, forbid
pro-life (gegen das Abtreibungsrecht)pro-life
pro-choice (für das Abtreibungsrecht)pro-choice

Same-Sex Marriage: 
die Ehe, -nmarriage
heiratento marry
das Paar, -ecouple, pair
der Schwule, -n / der Homosexuelle, -na gay man
die Lesbe, -na lesbian
erziehento bring up, raise (kids)
die Erziehung, -enupbringing
das Vorbildrole model
ledig / unverheiratetsingle, unmarried
männlichmale, masculine
weiblichfemale, feminine
der Einflußinfluence
das Recht, -e (etwas zu tun)the right (to do sth)
gleichequal, the same
die Gleichberechtigung (sing.)equal rights
gleichstellen (gleichgestellt)to equate, make equal
anerkennen (hat anerkannt)to recognize
das Gesetz, -ethe law
ein Gesetz verabschiedento pass a law
die Beziehung, -enrelationship
die Partnerschaft, -enpartnership
auf Lebenszeit / lebenslanglifelong
der Partner, -partner, spouse
beständigcommitted, long-term
wählento choose
die Wahlchoice
attraktiv / reizendattractive
die Fortpflanzungreproduction, procreation
sich fortpflanzento reproduce, procreate
das Geschlecht, -ersex, gender
sich scheidento divorce
die Scheidungsratedivorce rate
die Institutioninstitution
freiwilligconsensual, voluntary

der Terrorismusterrorism
der Terrorist, -enterrorist
der Moslem, -eMuslim
der Krieg, -ewar
einen Krieg führento wage a war
der Friedenpeace
angreifen (griff an, hat angegriffen)to attack
der Angriffan attack
entführento hijack
die Sicherheitsecurity
bombadierento bomb
der Führer, -leader, head
die Taliban (pl.)the Taliban
die Racherevenge
die Justizjustice
der Haßhatred
die Gehirnwäschebrainwashing
ihm / ihnen wurde Gehirnwäsche vorgenommenhe has / they have been brainwashed
das Regimeregime
die Regierunggovernment
die Übergangsregierungtransitional government
oppressiv / unterdruckendrepressive
unterdrückt werdento be oppressed / repressed
das (Militär-)Tribunala (military) tribunal
das Gerichta court (of law)
vor Gericht bringento take to court
die Höhle, -ncave
die Geheimdienste (pl.)secret service
die Atomwaffe, -nnuclear weapon
die Lebensweiseway of life
die Truppen (pl.)troops
die Armee / das Militärarmy / military
die Spezialeinheiten (pl.)special forces
kämpfen (gegen)to fight (against)
die Spurtrace, track
fangen (gefangen)to catch, capture
der Gefangene, -nprisoner
sich versteckento hide
der Verstecka hideout
finanzierento fund, finance
der Widerstandresistance

Your additional vocabulary:

When considering the type of arguments you could use in your essay, you can prepare by thinking about the following questions. The following sections may help you come up with arguments and supporting statements for your stance, but be aware that you certainly don’t need to have ALL of these categories: two or three is plenty. I would like to see at least two separate “reasons” or “arguments” discussed in your essay -- one is not really enough to prove your point. More than two is great, but make sure that you devote enough time to at least two main points. Read through the sections below, and take some notes (in English or German) if any important thoughts occur to you.

Some arguments and reasons stem from personal experience. For example, in regard to the topics above: do you have gay or lesbian friends or relatives? Have you or your friends/relatives dealt with unwanted pregnancies or similar situations? Were you personally affected by the World Trade Center tragedy, or do you have friends/family in the Armed Forces? Think about the topic you’ve chosen, and write down any major personal experiences and/or vocabulary that you think may be useful.

Another important supporting point is factual information, such as current reports, statistics, laws, or evidence. Although you don’t need to research the current abortion rate in the U.S. or anything so detailed, do take a moment to write down some obvious factual information about your topic, such as common knowledge about the current situation, laws, or basic scientific research. For instance, is abortion legal in Wisconsin, or in your home state? Or: what is the current situation in Afghanistan? (On that note, I should mention that if there’s any late-breaking developments Friday morning, I certainly don’t expect you to try to incorporate them into your essay, although you can of course do so if you choose.)

Obviously, some of the reasons for your opinion may be based on philosophical or ideological beliefs. Consider questions like the following: are you religious? if so, what does your religion have to say about your topic? Are there political factors motivating your decision -- do you think of yourself as liberal, conservative, moderate, or neutral? Write down anything here that you believe falls into this category and is relevant.

Finally, don’t forget the possibility of counterarguments -- positions opposing your own. If you’d like to draw these into your essay, then write some information and vocabulary here. For instance, why are some people opposed to abortion or gay marriage, or what reasons do others have for wanting it prohibited? What would you say to these people? Why don’t you agree with them?

If you are up to it after all of that, here is a further list of miscellaneous vocabulary that may be used throughout your essay to tie your arguments together and to present your conclusions. Using this type of vocabulary to make your transitions and reasoning easier to follow can add a very nice “feel” or style to your writing, but is not 100% necessary. I would love to see some of these transitions in your writing on Friday, but again, I do know what it’s like to write under time pressure and would never require that you incorporate these rather advanced stylistic elements. But try, if you can! :) Feel free to add your own words here as well.

alsothus, so
daherhence, therefore
deshalbtherefore, for that reason
zum Schlußin conclusion
zuerst (or) zunächstfirst of all
zweitens, drittenssecondly, thirdly
auf der einen Seiteon the one hand
auf der anderen Seiteon the other hand
auf jeden Fallin any case
selbstverständlichof course
insofern, daßto the extent that
in der Tatin fact, indeed
überhauptat all

Congratulations! You should now be well-prepared for tomorrow’s essay. Don’t forget to bring this worksheet, your dictionary, and a clear head! (I’ll provide paper.) Viel Glück!