Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy : The Critical Citizen's Guide to Argumentative Rhetoric, Brief Edition book cover
3rd Edition

Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy
The Critical Citizen's Guide to Argumentative Rhetoric, Brief Edition

ISBN 9780415793667
Published October 7, 2020 by Routledge
338 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This rhetoric-and-reader textbook teaches college students to develop critical reading, writing, and thinking skills for self-defense in the contentious arena of American civic rhetoric. This edition is substantially updated for an era of renewed tensions over race, gender, and economic inequality—all compounded by the escalating decibel level and polarization of public rhetoric.

Readings include civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander on "the new Jim Crow," recent reconsiderations of socialism versus capitalism, Naomi Wolf’s and Christine Hoff Sommers’ opposing views on "the beauty myth," a section on the rhetoric of war, and debates on identity politics, abortion, and student debt.

Designed for first-year or more advanced composition and critical thinking courses, the book trains students in a wealth of techniques to locate fallacies and other weaknesses in argumentation in their prose and the writings of others. Exercises also help students understand the ideological positions and rhetorical patterns that underlie opposing views, from Ann Coulter to Bernie Sanders. Widely debated issues of whether objectivity is possible and whether there is a liberal or conservative bias in news and entertainment media, as well as in education itself, are foregrounded as topics for rhetorical analysis.

Table of Contents


Preface to Teachers and Students  


Part I: Introduction

Chapter 1: An Appeal to Students  

English as a Survival Skill   

The Tradition of Education for Critical Citizenship   

Mario Savio, "An End to History" / Young America Foundation Website

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 2: Good Arguments

A Good Argument is Well-Supported

A Good Argument Verifies Facts and Expresses Informed Opinions

A Good Argument Questions Hidden Premises

A Good Argument is Relevant, Consistent, and Avoids Fallacies

A Good Argument Effectively Refutes Opposing Arguments but is Fair-Minded and Qualified

Analysis, Synthesis, and Judgments  

Style and Tone, Eloquence and Moral Force  


Argument Analysis Checklist

Bryan W. Van Nord, "The Ignorant Do Not Have a Right to an Audience"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 3: Definitions and Criteria of Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking and Cultural Literacy 

Making Connections and Creating Dialogue in Critical Thinking and Literature

Walt Whitman, "A Noiseless, Patient Spider."  

Recursion, Cumulation, and Levels of Meaning  

Drawing the Line and Establishing Proportion  

Recognizing Complexity and Reading Between the Lines

Irony and Paradox

James Baldwin, "My Dungeon Shook"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 4: Semantics in Rhetoric and Critical Thinking

Denotation and Connotation

Definition and Denotation in Argument  

Connotation in Argument: "Cleans" And "Dirties"


Abstract and Concrete Language  

Unconcretized Abstractions  

Literal and Figurative Language  

Summary: Applying Semantic Analysis

A Semantic Calculator for Bias in Rhetoric

George Lakoff, "Framing the Issues." Mary Ann Glendon, "When Words Cheapen Life."

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 5: Writing Argumentative Papers  




Locating and Evaluating Sources  

A Model of The Writing Process In A Student Paper  

Naomi Wolf, from The Beauty Myth / Christina Hoff Sommers, "The Backlash Myth"

Part II: Attaining an Open Mind: Overcoming Psychological Blocks to Critical Thinking

Chapter 6: From Cocksure Ignorance to Thoughtful Uncertainty: Viewpoint, Bias, and Culturally Conditioned Assumptions

Relativism and Commitment

Biased and Unbiased Viewpoints

Acknowledge Your Own and Opposing Viewpoints

Rogerian Argument, Believers and Doubters

Culturally Conditioned Assumptions and Centrisms

Totems and Taboos


American Ethnocentrism



Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One’s Own, Pamela Druckerman "The Perpetual Panic of American Parenthood" / Rebecca Traister, "Fury is a Political Weapon. And Women Need to Wield It"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 7: Overgeneralization, Stereotyping, and Prejudice  


Class Prejudice  

The Role of Corporations

Reverse Prejudice  

Stephanie Salter, "An Unexpected Education at St. Anthony’s" / Michelle Alexander, "Introduction to The New Jim Crow" / Donald Barlett and James Steele, "Life on the Expense Account"/Robert Jensen, "Anti-Capitalism in Five Minutes"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 8: Authoritarianism and Conformity, Rationalization

and Compartmentalization

Paddy Chayevsky, from Network

Rationalization and Compartmentalized Thinking

Double Standards and Selective Vision

Other Defense Mechanisms

George Orwell, from 1984 / Katha Pollitt, "On the Merits"/ David French, "End the Double Standards in Reporting Political Violence"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Part III: Elements of Argumentative Rhetoric

Chapter 9: Some Key Terms in Logic and Argumentation

Deductive and Inductive Arguments

Implications and Inferences

Setting the Agenda

Tone and Style


Ground Rules for Polemicists

P. J. O’Rourke, "Closing the Wealth Gap" / "Opposing Arguments on Abortion"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 10: Fallacies  

Glossary of Fallacies  

Mark Lilla, Interviewed by Sean Illing. ‘This Professor Set Off a War of Words over ‘Identity Politics.’ We Debated Him.

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 11: Causal Analysis  

Causal Fallacies

What’s the Matter with Higher Education?

Wayne Davis, "UT Knoxville’s $1.7 Billion Impact Only a Fraction of Our Contribution"/Laurence Biemiller, "Over 20 years, State Support for Public Higher Education Fell More than 25 Percent"/ Adolph Reed, Jr., From "Majoring in Debt"/ Joseph Palermo, "Starving the Beast: The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Public Universities. A Film Written and Directed by Steve Mims"/ Rick Lowry, "Where’s the Misery?"/ Richard Vedder, "Student Loan Debt: Time for Radical Reform"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 12: Uses and Misuses of Emotional Appeal  

Appeals to "Cleans" and "Dirties"

Puff Pieces and Hatchet Jobs

Predictable Patterns of Wartime Rhetoric: Appeals to Fear and Pity

Mark Twain, "The War Prayer" / Paul Fussell, "The Real War 1939–1945"/ Nora Okja Keller, From "Comfort Women"/ "War Is the Supreme Drug," An Interview with Author Chris Hedges

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Part IV: Thinking Critically about the Rhetoric of Politics and Mass Media

Chapter 13: Thinking Critically about Political Rhetoric

Prestudy Exercises

Political Semantics

Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, Republican 

Left Wing, Right Wing

Political Versus Economic Systems; Capitalism, Socialism



Social Class and Political Attitudes

Rhetoric in The Culture Wars: Think Tanks Versus Universities

Beverley Gage, "Americans Can Never Sort Out Whether ‘Socialism’ is Marginal or Rising"/ Michael Schuman, "Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle is Shaping the World"/ Lawrence Britt, "Fascism Anyone?"/ Lewis F. Powell, "Attack on American Free Enterprise System"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 14: Thinking Critically about Mass Media 

Objectivity and Bias in the Media

The Debate Over Political Bias in Media

Who’s Where in American Media: The Spectrum of Viewpoints, Left to Right

Matt Wilstein, "Ann Coulter Smears Immigrant Children as ‘Child Actors’"/ Bernie Sanders, "How Corporate Media Threatens Our Democracy"/ Ben Shapiro, "Media Dishonesty on Immigration Contributes to Gridlock"/ David Swanson, "PR Firm Says it Ghost-Wrote Thousands of Op-Eds in Major US Papers"/

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 15: Deception Detection: Varieties of Special Interests and Propaganda

Special Interests, Conflict of Interest, and Special Pleading

Lobbying and Public Relations

Varieties of Propaganda

Invective and Smearing

Government Public Relations; The Military-Industrial-Media Complex

Bruce J. Schulman, "The Historic Power of Special Interests"/ Sixty Minutes, "Ex-DEA Agent: Opioid Crisis Fueled by Drug Industry and Congress"/ Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., "Elon Musk and the Corporate Controlled Media"

Topics for Discussion and Writing

Chapter 16: From Reaganomics to Trumponomics: Opposing Views on Taxation and the Wealth Gap

Buzzflash Versus National Review on the Wealth Gap

Mike Mozart, "Walmart Heir Does Not Deserve Assets It Would Take a Worker a Million Years to Earn"/ Kevin D. Williamson, "The Happiest Census: What the Forbes Billionaires List Tells Us about How to Get Rich in America

Goldberg Versus Chait on Taxes

Jonah Goldberg, "The Rich Aren’t Made of Money"/ Jonathan Chait, "A Very Special Kind of Math"

Summary of Specious Statistical Arguments  

An Outline of Conservative and Leftist Arguments on the Rich, the Poor, and the Middle Class  

Topics for Discussion and Writing (further topics at www.routledge/cw/lazere)


Works Cited


Additional Rhetorical Analyses by Donald Lazere

Chapter 1: Analysis of Savio and YAF

Chapter 2: Historical-Causal Analysis of "The White Problem"

Chapter 11: Analysis of Readings on College Costs

Chapter 13: Analysis of The Powell Memo

Chapter 16: Analysis of Goldberg and Chait

Appendix to Chapter 16: Analyzing Arguments about Reaganomics and the Wealth Gap, after President Trump’s Tax Reform Act of 2017

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Donald Lazere is Professor Emeritus of English at Cal Poly State U, San Luis Obispo. He has written or edited six other scholarly and text books on argumentative rhetoric and the politics of education, media, and literature. He has also published widely on these topics in scholarly journals as well as in opinion columns and book reviews for journalistic periodicals such as the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times.

Anne-Marie Womack is a Professor of Practice and former Director of Writing at Tulane University. She’s the creator of the award-winning, a guide to universally designing educational documents. Her articles appear in College Composition and Communication, Composition Forum, Pedagogy, and Hybrid Pedagogy, among others. Currently, she is co-authoring a book on inclusive college classrooms with Lauren Cardon.