ENC2106 Advanced Composition and Communication




   Department of English



Topic Statements and Affirmative and Negative Positions



Affirmative Action: Is It Fair?

Does affirmative action foster racial diversity, or does it amount to unfair discrimination?



Supporters say: It is an important means for universities and other organizations to maintain diversity, which helps break down racial barriers and better reflects an integrated world. Affirmative action is also necessary to "level the playing field" for minorities following decades of discrimination.



Critics say: Racial preferences violate the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection for everybody under the law, and also the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race and sex. Also, the existence of such programs fosters the belief that minorities cannot succeed unless they are given a "handout," and casts doubt on all minority achievements.


Censorship: Should Public Libraries Filter Internet Sites?

What effect do filtering programs have on access to Internet content? Do public libraries and schools have a greater obligation to stop smut or to protect free speech?



Supporters contend that filtering software performs the crucial task of protecting children from the most dangerous variety of online smut.



Opponents, on the other hand, argue that Internet filtering in public institutions tramples on the rights to free speech enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Gay Marriages: Should They Be Legalized?

The issue: Should same-sex marriages be legally sanctioned, or should marriage remain an institution restricted only to the union of a man and a woman?



Supporters of same-sex marriage say: Such marriages should be allowed under the law. Barring homosexuals from marrying is a violation of equal rights. By giving same-sex couples the right to marry, the concept of matrimony and family will only be strengthened.



Critics of same-sex marriage say: Marriages between same-sex couples should not be legalized. The marriage of a man and a woman is one of society's fundamental institutions. Allowing gays to marry would mark an unprecedented break with tradition and could harm the institution of marriage as we know it.


Gun Control: Would It Really Help?

In a culture that many people perceive to be excessively violent, do gun controls inhibit citizens' ability to protect themselves or do controls reduce crime by keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals?



The gun-control measures currently under consideration are sensible, moderate changes that will not violate the rights of gun owners, advocates say. Instead, they say, the changes will help make sure that only legitimate purchasers with no criminal records are able to buy guns at shows. Gun-control proponents regard the nation's gun shows as unregulated free-for-alls, at which criminals can easily buy guns and where intermediaries known as "straw buyers" can purchase guns on behalf of teenagers. The shows must be subject to greater regulation, they contend. Also, child-safety measures will help keep guns out of the hands of children--a goal that gun-control supporters call essential.

Yet many advocates say the proposed restrictions do not go far enough. Some want Congress to treat guns like cars, by requiring people to register and obtain licenses for them. Other gun-control supporters argue that Congress should enact a complete ban on the sale of handguns.



Opponents of gun control, including the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), say Congress should not impose any more restrictions on gun owners. New laws would violate Americans' Second Amendment right to bear arms, they say. In addition, passing new restrictions would prove futile, opponents contend, because criminals could easily evade them. Indeed, courts often fail to prosecute criminals under gun laws that are already in place, opponents say.


The Death Penalty: Can It Ever Be Justified? 

Is putting someone to death in a way that is biased and extremely expensive an absurd way to send the message that killing is wrong or is it an appropriate punishment for those who commit the most horrible crimes?




Many opponents of the death penalty argue that the use of capital punishment in the U.S. is discriminatory. Critics contend that three factors, irrelevant to the severity of the crime committed, often affect whether or not a convicted criminal is sentenced to death: race, income and geography. Statistics show that a disproportionate number of black convicts are sentenced to death, perhaps due to racial biases in the criminal justice system. Low-income defendants, who lack the financial resources necessary to hire experienced defense attorneys, are also more likely than higher-income people to receive death sentences. And because states have vastly different rules governing executions and the popularity of the death penalty varies widely from state to state, the chances that a defendant will receive a death sentence are greatly influenced by where his or her case is tried, critics say.



Death penalty supporters, however, contend that concerns about fairness are unfounded. They point out that since states began to restructure their death-penalty laws in 1973, no executed convict has later been proved innocent. In fact, supporters say, the recent spurt of people freed from death row only proves that the system is working correctly. Death-penalty advocates deny claims that the system is discriminatory. They say that supporters of a nationwide moratorium are spreading misleading fears about accuracy in order to advance their true goal--a comprehensive ban on capital punishment.


Drugs: Should Their Sale and Use Be Legalized? 

Is a continuation or intensification of the current law enforcement efforts against drugs the answer to drug-related crime and addiction, or should illicit drugs should legalized in the U.S.



Proponents of legalization argue that huge sums of money have been wasted in a largely futile effort to stem drug use and abuse, and that legalization would allow users better access to treatment options?



Opponents counter that legalization will only provide opportunities for drug use to increase, and will eventually cost billions of dollars in health-care costs as well as devastate many families.


The Just War: What Are the Criteria?

Should the U.S. make preemption an integral feature of U.S. security policy?



The government has said that launching a preemptive war on Iraq to prevent it from developing weapons of mass destruction that it might use against the U.S. would be in keeping with U.S. national security strategy. They argue that the policy sets a dangerous precedent for other countries, possibly inspiring them to use preemption to deal with threats.



Detractors also claim that a policy that calls for preemptive action might actually be more dangerous, spurring Iraq and other hostile nations to hasten their development of weapons of mass destruction.


Privacy: What Are Its Limits?

Do Americans have a Constitutional right to keep many aspects of their personal lives to themselves as a way of ensuring Americans' liberty, or do strict privacy protections run contrary to the interests of businesses and society?



Clearly, analysts say, privacy should not be so closely guarded that people are allowed to operate in near-total secrecy. If that were the case, criminal activities might be off limits to police intervention, they say, and it would be difficult for the government to administer large social programs such as Social Security and Medicare.



The government must have some knowledge of its citizens' lives in order to operate effectively, analysts say.


Sexual Harassment: Is There Any Doubt About What It Is?

 Are regulations needed to protect both men and women from egregious abuses by those in positions of power or a psychologically damaging environment for employees, or have sexual harassment laws transformed what were once considered innocent office banter and flirtation into criminal offenses  that are better regulated by common sense than by the confusing body of sexual harassment law and policies that now exists?



Abuses by those in positions of power or a psychologically damaging environment for employees are not good for employees and employers, and may even contribute to a hostility, low productivity and violations of certain civil rights.



Contradictory court decisions and complicated corporate policies, they say, leave offices sterile and workers unsure of what constitutes appropriate behavior and conversation.


Torture: Is It Ever Justifiable?

The issue: Should the U.S. allow the use of torture against detainees in its efforts to obtain information in the war on terrorism, or should the U.S. continue to uphold its ban on torture?



Supporters say of torture say: U.S. intelligence officials should be allowed to use whatever tactics they see fit, including torture, to gather information from terrorists. In an age when terrorists can strike and kill thousands in one attack, it is crucial that all means available to the U.S. are used to stop terrorist threats.



Critics of torture say: The U.S. should not use torture under any circumstances. Allowing the use of torture would represent a violation of human rights and could lead to the gradual acceptance of torture as a legitimate interrogation tactic.