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Analyzing Rogerian Arguments Written by Students

There are two student papers presented at the end of Chapter 9. For the first student paper, “Genetic Engineering: Risks and Rewards” (276-277) the editors have provided annotations to show how the author addresses the requirements of Rogerian argument within the essay.  Read this model first, and then, using the “Evaluation Sheet for Rogerian Argument Paper” that appears on page 278, evaluate the second student paper, “Dear Boss” (pages 278-280). Does the author use Rogerian strategy effectively?  Why or why not?


Student Paper #1

Allison Simmons
Professor Miller
English 101
15 March 2016

Genetic Engineering: Risks and Rewards*

*“Genetic Engineering: Risks and Rewards” by Allison Simmons.

Introduction to issue and summary of ­rhetorical situation.

Over the last decade, research into genetic screening has been unfolding at an increasingly rapid pace. And at the same time, so too have debates over the ethical questions this work raises. With the successful mapping of the human genome, more and more scientists have begun to focus on the ways genetic information can be used to address potential diseases and disabilities in babies yet to be born (Bailey). But just as many professionals have begun to wonder whether all of this genetic information is a good thing, worrying that it may lead to a growing desire to create “designer babies.”

Explanation of first position and context in which this position is valid.

Those in favor of genetic research justify their support by emphasizing the medical benefits it can bring. In their view, parents now have a powerful new tool they can use to gain more information about the medical risks a newborn baby might face. This kind of information, they contend, can help parents make more responsible, better informed decisions about the kind of care their child might require. Parents, for example, who learn through such testing that their child carries a marker for a particular genetic defect are in a much better position to take necessary steps to deal with it (Darnovsky). Genetic screening, they argue, gives parents in this position more information, and hence, more options.

Explanation of ­opposing position to create common ground.

Critics of genetic testing, on the other hand, argue that the kind of information this technology makes available poses too great a temptation for parents who want to create “designer babies” (Buchanan). The very same techniques that can help spot genetic defects or the likelihood of a particular disease, they note, can also be used to genetically engineer a baby with a particular eye or hair color. For such critics, the possibility that parents might use such screening to genetically engineer the “perfect” baby makes this technology too risky to support.

Supporters of genetic testing believe that these kinds of worries are overblown and largely hypothetical. By worrying that doctors or patients might abuse this technology, they maintain, critics of genetic testing miss the point. What is dangerous is not the technology itself, but rather the ways people might be tempted to misuse it. While concerns over “designer babies” are valid, it would be misguided to ban the practice of genetic testing altogether.

Finding the common ground between the two positions.

Significantly, those on both sides of this debate agree that the most important priority when it comes to genetic testing should be on the welfare of the unborn child. Supporters focus on the importance of identifying the potential for disease and disability, while critics stress the need to ensure that an unborn baby’s genetic makeup is not artificially manipulated. The fact that both sides share this common concern could form the basis for a compromise position in which the practice of genetic screening is closely monitored and regulated rather than prohibited outright.

I agree that we should do everything in our power to improve the chances that newborn babies will grow up to lead healthy, productive lives.

Transition to author’s view.

Explanation of author’s view.

The key to ensuring this is the case, I believe, lies in understanding the immense power of genetic research, and creating the kind of ethical guidelines that will guarantee we use this science responsibly. As Ronald Bailey notes, researchers now have the ability “to edit genes and genomes virtually at will.” But this kind of ability can be exercised for the benefit of mankind if we recognize and respect certain limits.

Those of us in favor of genetic screening and genetic research have a responsibility to take seriously the objections raised by the other side. The concerns, for example, that this technology might foster unrealistic expectations among parents for “perfect” children, leading them to reject any child who fails to conform to some ideal standard, are real. The danger that breakthroughs in genetic science could create an “arms race” among parents to engineer the genetically “perfect” offspring is too great to ignore.

Personal example to introduce idea of ­reconciliation of the two opposing positions.

I am fortunate to be the child of two loving supportive parents. And I fully expect that one day I will become a mother myself. When that day comes, I am certain I would not elect to genetically engineer a change to make my child more “perfect.” I have no doubt that I would turn to genetic screening to identify the risk of disability or life-threatening disease, and would not hesitate to utilize any medical technology that might help address these challenges. In my view, it is not a contradiction to hold both of these views.

Reconciliation of positions.

If we can agree that every human life is precious, we can create a foundation for reconciling the two positions on this issue. Genetic research should not be used to pick and choose the type of people who are allowed to exist, but we should explore the medical benefits this research makes possible. We must never succumb to the idea that there is such a thing as a “perfect” baby because this notion can blind us to the fact that all human beings, in all their difference and diversity, have value.

For Discussion:

Describe a rhetorical situation in which it would be better to write this paper using Rogerian strategy than it would be to write it as a position paper using traditional argument. Describe the readers, constraints, and, in particular, the exigence as you imagine the rhetorical situation for this paper.

Evaluation Sheet for Rogerian Argument Paper (pg.278)

Requirements of Rogerian Argument What the Author did
Introduce the issue and state the opposing position to show that you understand it. Introduced the issue in paragraph 1 and presented the opposing view accompanied by good reasons in paragraphs 2 and 3.
Show how the opposition might be right. Showed the contexts in which the other position might be valid in paragraph 4.
Write a clear transition from the opposing position to your position. Wrote a transition in the first sentence of paragraph 5 to move from opposing to own position.
Give your position and show how you might be right. Presented own position in paragraphs 5, 6, and 7.
Reconcile the two positions. Reconciled the two views in paragraphs 8, 9, and 10.

Example 2 (Option 2). “Dear Boss” was written by a student who worked part-time while going to college and needed to change her working hours and some of her responsibilities. She had already spoken to her boss about making some changes but ended up with more responsibility instead of less. She was worried that her boss might think she was selfish and unconcerned about the welfare of the company. She was also worried that working too many hours would endanger her scholarship. It was very important to her that she reach a resolution to her problem. She decided to use Rogerian strategy to come to a better resolution of her dilemma with her boss. (After reading “Dear Boss,” complete an evaluation using the sheet on page 278.)


Student Paper #2

Elizabeth Nabhan
Professor Wood
English 1302
30 April 2016

Dear Boss*

*“Dear Boss” by Elizabeth Nabhan.

Dear Boss,

I am writing to you in response to our recent conversation regarding my responsibilities as an employee of Smith and Smith. You indicated to me that you felt I had a surplus of free time at work and suggested that I was obviously capable of handling a greater workload. Shortly thereafter, you delegated to me several new tasks that are to be performed on a regular basis. I understand that you believe I should pick up the additional workload to ensure that I am performing at a maximum level of output on a day-to-day basis. Also, you think I would complete the tasks more effectively than the individuals previously assigned to them.

I understand your reasoning that I should maintain a high level of output on a daily basis. As an employee of the company, it is my obligation to be productive for the duration of my workday. Not producing enough work results in idle time that, in turn, results in a loss to the company. It is intrinsic to the very nature of my role as a corporate auditor to ensure that the company does not engage in wasteful expenditures. If I worked nonstop every workday I would maximize my rate of efficiency and save the company the cost of hiring an additional employee. Furthermore, I accept your opinion that I am the employee who could most efficiently handle the new tasks you would like me to take on. My knowledge and experience with the required tasks puts me at an advantage over the employees previously delegated to do this work. Because of this, I would be able to complete the tasks much more quickly than other employees who would likely require more research time. Your perspective is fundamentally valid. However, I would like to introduce several factors that I believe may also bear consideration. In doing so, I believe it will be possible to reach a satisfactory conclusion regarding the issue of my workload and responsibilities.

According to the terms of my employment, I am required to complete a minimum of twenty hours per week. It was mutually agreed that any time I am not enrolled in school, I am free to work up to forty hours per week. The period during which I had an unusually ample amount of “down time” occurred during the summer months when I was not enrolled in school. As a result, I did briefly have an increased number of work hours. During this interim period I could have easily increased my workload, but I was not assigned any new tasks. In fact, additional duties were not assigned to me until after I commenced the fall semester. My hours are now reduced by nearly one-half, and, as a result, my idle time has diminished significantly. An increased workload now will limit the time I spend on each project and could result in a decrease in the quality of the work I complete.

I do not think there is any great concern as to whether the employees originally assigned to my newest tasks are able to complete them satisfactorily. These employees were hired based on their skills for completing the tasks at hand, and none of these tasks could be considered as falling outside of the scope of their regular duties. Furthermore, I believe it would be counterproductive to reassign their tasks to me, as it would essentially undermine these other employees’ expertise. This type of situation can often lead to a decrease in morale, which would in turn affect each employee’s total output. Finally, I would like to reconsider the belief that idle time on my part results in decreased productivity. During my free time I am in a position to assist other staff members as necessary. I also utilize this time to observe subordinate employees, which is consistent with my role as the corporate auditor.

Our individual points of view share the common purpose of doing what is best for the company as a whole. Therefore, I believe it is possible to accomplish this goal via compromise. According to your perspective, I should take on additional responsibilities to fill gaps in my productivity while relieving less-qualified employees. From my point of view, I feel that my time is already effectively spent. I suggest the following steps be taken in order to ensure that each of our needs are met: First, my reduced hours must be taken into consideration when assigning me work. When I am in a position to take on additional duties, I feel I should be assigned those most compatible with my job description. More general tasks should be delegated to other employees. To alleviate your hesitation regarding their ability to perform these, I accept the responsibility of overseer and will offer them any help they may need. In doing so, I will apply my own expertise to more specific tasks without overburdening myself in such a way as to reduce my overall efficiency. Additionally, this will allow other employees the opportunity to sharpen their skills, while remaining under my observation. I propose this delegation of duties be put into effect under a probationary period, during which time we can observe the success of the program, and, if needed, redelegate tasks. Thank you for your consideration.


Elizabeth Nabhan

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