EGL 220: Critical Thinking

Jan van Grevenbroeck (1731-1807). Alternatively Grevenbroeck, Jan the Younger (fl. 17th cent.) / Public domain

As of 3/14, this course has been converted to an online-based method of instruction.

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  • 4/29/2020

    Final exam analysis posted. Grades to follow!


    You can’t make this stuff up: someone did a rhetorical analysis of President Trump in the NYT: It’s a fascinating and fitting–albeit hair-raising–way to end our class. I think of you a lot these days: you’ve experienced a campus-clearing fire in November and Covid-19 in the spring. This is not normal! I honestly hope that you get to experience a better residential college experience next year–if we’re allowed to come back. You deserve it! I will be grading for the next 72 hours, and will email you your grade before I enter it into PeopleSoft. Thanks for being such a great class.

    Dr. C.


    Hi Everyone,

    The final exam article will be “I Hate Doing my Tax Return–but I Still Love Tax,” by Frances Ryan, in The Guardian.

    It’s also in your packet.  As I said in conference, I expect at least two full pages of analysis on this.  It’s due Sunday, 4/26 @ 10 pm at the latest.  Please attach a final draft of your compare and contrast paper, if you are doing this, and any late work, along with your exam.  Email me with any questions or issues.

    It’s been a pleasure being your teacher this semester.  You are a great class!

    Dr. C.


    Here’s the pep talk!


    Hi everyone.

    First of all, my comments on in-class essay #5 are here. There is LOTS of irony, and it can be confusing to deconstruct.

    Second of all, I’d like to meet with each of you for 20 minutes over the next two days. Sign up here for a slot. I will go over both of your recent in-class writings and give you your grade up until this point. I will also give you a little pep-talk about what you should think about going into the final exam.

    Finally, the final exam is scheduled for this Friday (4/24) at 3 pm, but I will release the topic on Friday morning and give you the weekend to work on it (if you need it). You can also use the weekend to finish up any revisions of your compare and contrast paper, if needed. Flexibility is the name of the game these days! I will need all of your work by Sunday (4/26) if you want to receive a grade by the end of the semester. Anyone requesting an incomplete for the semester needs to email me now. It’s not a problem.

    I look forward to speaking with you and seeing your faces on Zoom tomorrow and Thursday! (I’ll send the Zoom link via email, so look for it there.) I hope you are all healthy and happy!

  • 4/9/20

    Hi Everyone! I’ve begun conferencing with you on your compare and contrast paper. If you haven’t turned it in, please email me and let me know when to expect it. I’m flexible with this due date, but need to know what your situation is, so please reach out if you haven’t already.

    The last in-class writing will be due on Friday, April 17. It is “Don’t Call Howard Schultz a Billionaire. He’s a ‘Person of Means,'” on page 27 of your packet. You can also access it here.

  • 3/30/20

    Hi everyone! I just did my analysis of in-class writing #4. Wow. I’ll make a whole new page to talk about it so I don’t waste a lot of space here. Here you go.

    Your paper is due in a week, so I’ve set up a sign-up sheet for individual conferences with me here. We’ll do these on Zoom. I’ll send you the link to our Zoom “room” via email.

    Have a great spring break! I’ll hold some office hours next week for anyone who needs help. Good luck!

    P.S. I’m having trouble with the gradebook software. Hope to resolve it soon. Thanks for your patience.

  • 3/26

    I’ve had a few glitches over the past 48 hours, but I think I will have your grades posted tonight. Please don’t freak out when you see the scores, since remember, the in-class writings don’t “count” beyond participation, and only the final draft of the compare/contrast paper is counted.

    Let’s review what will constitute your final grade:

    Completion of in-class essays + attendance = 40%

    Rhetorical terms quiz (29 pts. total) = 10%

    Final draft, compare & contrast paper = 20%

    Ad presentation = 10%

    Final exam = 20%

    **We will still have a final exam. You will do it at home, on the honor system. I’m planning to administer it on the same day at time, which is Friday, April 24 @ 3:30 p.m.**

    **We will still hold individual conferences to discuss your essay draft. We’ll do this on Zoom, the week of April 6-10.**

    **Discussion board participation is considered when figuring your participation grade. I will post guidelines for this after I post grades.**

    I’ve made a page of rhetorical analysis tips for you here. I’ll keep adding to it as I grade.

  • 3/24 (more)

    Some thoughts while reading your in-class essay #3: “Are You a Chump if You Pay Your Taxes”: some of you quite brilliantly argued that the author is trying to dissuade the TA from offshoring money because offshoring money for the 1% is his livelihood and he doesn’t want the secret to get out. Wow! That may explain why he is so gentle with his chiding. You are a “chump,” not a “dastardly foe.” He makes the practice seem like such a pain in the butt, and so risky…why do it?? I love that you’re thinking of the author’s motive for writing the piece in the first place: that’s critical thinking right there.

  • 3/24/20

    Greetings, students. I’m finally getting on top of this WordPress thing, and am entering your grades into a gradebook widget. You should have them in the next 24 hours. We are going to continue with in-class writing #4: which is on page 20 of your tax evasion packet: “Do Global Businesses Have Too Much Power?” A link to the Financial Times article is here, if you don’t have your packet: Spend one hour marking up the text and making your “good guy/bad guy” list, then one more hour writing your analysis. This time, don’t send me your list, just your analysis, via Dropbox, here:

    I would like to get these by Friday, March 24. 10:00 p.m. at the latest. I’ll grade them over the weekend and give you a breakdown of the article next week. Good luck!

    If you haven’t looked at the discussion board, please do!

  • 3/20

    Hi everyone. Yesterday, I think, was the first full day where I struggled to comprehend this new reality. How many of you are experiencing stress and general instability right now? I get it, and hope that you have someone trusted to talk to and are staying on top of it. Moving forward, I have a few updates: First, I will spend today putting all of your grades thus far online, and in a format that you can access. I will also create a grading rationale for the next month, which will comprise the rest of the semester. Then, I will start working on the lessons for each module.

    Also, given current events, I’m having a hard time remaining interested in the topic of tax evasion, especially since there is SO MUCH GOOD (AND AWFUL) RHETORIC FLOATING AROUND right now.

    I have created a discussion board–see the “Forum” link on the left menu–and posted two questions for you to consider and attempt to answer. Try it out!

    I’ll be talking about this in my first lecture. Stay tuned.

  • 3/16

    Happy Monday! Looks like most of you have found this page. I’ll reach out to the stragglers and herd them over. Please see the new Handouts & Readings & Video Lectures page, where all of the things you’ll need for the rest of the semester live.

    Some questions: is the paper still due? YES, same date. Look at the big clock above this text block. It will always be there to remind you. If your articles aren’t approved, let me know NOW!

    Are we meeting face-to-face anymore? NO. Use this page as your lifeline to critical thinking. I will be here to help you, all the way.

    If you’re sheltering in place, finish the rest of Thank You for Smoking, or watch it again! I’ve seen it many times and find new things to notice about rhetoric each time. I’ll be in touch again soon. Dr. C.

  • 3/15

    Hey everyone, thanks for subscribing! Could you take this quick survey?

    Thanks so much. I’ll be on campus tomorrow making scans of and posting all of our handouts. They will appear here very soon. Stay healthy! Dr. C.

  • Welcome to the new world order!


    What a time to be taking a critical thinking class! And in your first year of college, too. I’m so sorry that we are having to move this course online, but it’s for the best.

    Right now, I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to move forward, and my first step has been setting up this website. You should subscribe to this page now:

    Join 236 other subscribers

    This way, whenever I update it, you will know. I will post videos, readings and assignments here. Also, you should download the Zoom app on your phone or computer (it seems to work the best on Iphones), because we will be videoconferencing in the future.

    Hold tight, brave students! We will get through this. Take care of yourself, and make sure you check your email often. I’ll be in touch very soon.

    Remember this scene in Thank You for Smoking? I’m interested in knowing what you think Nick means when he says, “I’m after them” at the end. Who is he talking about? Leave a comment in the box at the bottom of this page.

10 thoughts on “EGL 220: Critical Thinking

  1. He’s talking about the fencesitters, the people who haven’t decided yet how they feel about the issue, and also the people who didn’t even know they were supposed to feel strongly about it.

  2. He’s talking about the people that are on the fence about a topic and cannot think for themselves. He’s not trying to sway the person he’s arguing with, but rather the people on the sidelines that stand in the middle of the topic. If the people are on the fence about it, then all he has to do is prove that the argument that the opposing side is making is wrong and he is automatically right and people will join his side.

  3. He is talking about convincing the people who are not yet decided on an issue yet to believe his side of the argument and by finding faults in his opposing teams position, he doesn’t even have to argue his side. If the opposition is wrong then the audience will automatically think he is right.

  4. I think Jaydean hit the nail on the head. Joey is not the targeted audience, even though he is on the other side of the table. He has no idea that his “opponent” has no interest in changing HIS mind: rather, Joey’s being used as a puppet to convince a third group = the “them” = a larger, more “mushy middle,” more passive group. Nick is teaching Joey that even earnest, critical thinkers like Joey can be co-opted in order to make a buck.

    Think of the presidential debates going on. Everyone is ranting and raving at each other, but they know they aren’t going to change each other’s minds. It’s a kind of theatre, where catching an opponent in a flub (say, with a begged question) scores just as many–if not more–points than being “logical.”

    Remember when Nick says, “I’m never wrong”? It means that his job is to wipe the floor with those he argues with, not be honest or accurate. It’s also a kind of boast: Nick is really good at his job.

    Honestly, this movie hurts my head with its rhetorical complexity. I hope you all liked it!

  5. When Nick says “I’m after them,” I think he is talking about the target audience, the people that don’t know if cigarettes are a good thing or a bad thing. The target audience is not the people on the other side that is why Nick said “I’m not after you” (the other side), “I’m after them,” the target audience is the spectators’ people that don’t know what side to choose. He’s trying to prove the other side wrong so they think he’s right. Since he’s always “right” he finds a way either by proving why his point is right or by arguing why the other side is wrong.

  6. When he tells the kid that he is not after him it reminds me of all the people on the far right or on the far left not just in the political spectrum but in any subject. The people on the extremes have already made up their minds and will be extremely difficult to change their minds so it wouldn’t even be worth his time changing these people’s minds. Instead, he will target those people that don’t have strong preferences and can easily change their minds. I also believe that when he targets a bigger size people will appeal to the masses so if he convinces a couple of people in the middle many people will than follow. This is also called an appeal to the masses.

  7. I believe he is speaking about the target audience/ the “them” in his argument. When arguing to convince a crowd and not the opponent speaker, I believe he is teaching his son, to argue to prove the other person wrong rather than focusing on proving himself right. For arguments of opinion, like the one in the clip, it is easier to prove that you are “right” by proving that the other person is wrong, even when you are wrong as well.

  8. In the clip the father shows his son that if a person or an audience is not convinced by either sides of an argument in order for him to win the argument he does not have to persuade them to favor his opinion more. He simply shows the audience that the other people he opposes is he wrong choice and he automatically wins them over.

  9. When Nick says “I’m after them” he is talking about the audience he is trying to target. Most of them don’t know what side they are on yet, or which side to pick and he is saying that we just have to convince people that their thoughts or ideas on cigarettes are wrong, if you prove the other person to be wrong you are proving yourself to be right, and that is an important lesson he is trying to teach his son.

  10. I think that when he says that he is “after them” I think that he is saying that he is just after everyone. No matter what side they are on of what their options are that he is going to prove them wrong. He is saying that everyone is his target audience. I agree with Suvachira when she said that, “I believe he is teaching his son, to argue to prove the other person wrong rather than focusing on proving himself right.”

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