Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts : Structure of the exposition or argument: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.5

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Structure Of The Exposition Or Argument: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.5

Adapted from the First Inaugural Address of Thomas Jefferson (March 4th, 1801)

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety.

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

The author's exposition in the first paragraph ___________.

Possible Answers:

assumes that the reader has prior knowledge of the specifics of the conflicts he references

assumes legal knowledge on the part of the audience

None of these: there is no exposition in the first paragraph

is intended to explain the situation to a listener unfamiliar with the situation being described

Correct answer:

assumes that the reader has prior knowledge of the specifics of the conflicts he references

Explanation:

Since this question is restricted to the exposition found in the first paragraph, we can restrict our attention solely to that paragraph. All exposition that comes after this paragraph is not only not useful for answering this specific question, but may be actively misleading.

The easiest way to examine the detail and extent of exposition is by pretending that you are a reader with absolutely no knowledge of the situation or context of the piece. You don't know who Thomas Jefferson is, you don't know when the speech is happening, and you don't know the historical context in which he was elected. So, having wiped that knowledge from our minds, what do we know from this section of the passage alone? We understand immediately that there has been a "contest of opinions" or dispute, and that the center of this dispute had something to do with the personal freedoms of citizens to "speak and write what they think," and that further, a set of "rules of [a] Constitution" have been set down in response. This knowledge is limited, however, and the exposition does not include the exact particulars of the dispute, which means that knowledge of these particulars is being "assumed" on the part of the audience.

The best way to test the level of assumptions in any exposition is to pretend that you have no knowledge whatsoever!

Example Question #2 : Structure Of The Exposition Or Argument: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.5

Adapted from “Geographical Evolution” by Archibald Geikie (1879)

In the quaint preface to his Navigations and Voyages of the English Nation, Hakluyt calls geography and chronology "the sunne and moone, the right eye and the left of all history." The position thus claimed for geography three hundred years ago by the great English chronicler was not accorded by his successors, and has hardly been admitted even now. The functions of the geographer and the traveller, popularly assumed to be identical, have been supposed to consist in descriptions of foreign countries, their climate, productions, and inhabitants, bristling on the one hand with dry statistics, and relieved on the other by as copious an introduction as may be of stirring adventure and personal anecdote. There has indeed been much to justify this popular assumption. It was not until the key-note of its future progress was struck by Karl Ritter, within the present century, that geography advanced beyond the domain of travellers' tales and desultory observation into that of orderly, methodical, scientific progress. This branch of inquiry, however, is now no longer the pursuit of mere numerical statistics, nor the chronicle of marvelous and often questionable adventures by flood and fell. It seeks to present a luminous picture of the earth's surface, its various forms of configuration, its continents, islands, and oceans, its mountains, valleys, and plains, its rivers and lakes, its climates, plants, and animals. It thus endeavours to produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographical detail. It ever looks for a connection between scattered facts, tries to ascertain the relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe, their reactions on each other and the function of each in the general economy of the whole. Modern geography studies the distribution of vegetable and animal life over the earth's surface, with the action and reaction between it and the surrounding inorganic world. It traces how man, alike unconsciously and knowingly, has changed the face of nature, and how, on the other hand, the conditions of his geographical environment have moulded his own progress.

With these broad aims geography comes frankly for assistance to many different branches of science. It does not, however, claim in any measure to occupy their domain. It brings to the consideration of their problems a central human interest in which these sciences are sometimes apt to be deficient; for it demands first of all to know how the problems to be solved bear upon the position and history of man and of this marvelously-ordered world wherein he finds himself undisputed lord. Geography freely borrows from meteorology, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, and botany; but the debt is not all on one side. Save for the impetus derived from geographical research, many of these sciences would not be in their present advanced condition. They gain in vast augmentation of facts, and may cheerfully lend their aid in correlating these for geographical requirements.

In no respect does modern geography stand out more prominently than in the increased precision and fullness of its work. It has fitted out exploratory expeditions, and in so doing has been careful to see them provided with the instruments and apparatus necessary to enable them to contribute accurate and definite results. It has guided and fostered research, and has been eager to show a generous appreciation of the labours of those by whom our knowledge of the earth has been extended. Human courage and endurance are not less enthusiastically applauded than they once were; but they must be united to no common powers of observation before they will now raise a traveller to the highest rank. When we read a volume of recent travel, while warmly appreciating the spirit of adventure, fertility of resource, presence of mind, and other moral qualities of its author, we instinctively ask ourselves, as we close its pages, what is the sum of its additions to our knowledge of the earth? From the geographical point of view - and it is to this point alone that these remarks apply - we must rank an explorer according to his success in widening our knowledge and enlarging our views regarding the aspects of nature.

The demands of modern geography are thus becoming every year more exacting. It requires more training in its explorers abroad, more knowledge on the part of its readers at home. The days are drawing to a close when one can gain undying geographical renown by struggling against man and beast, fever and hunger and drought, across some savage and previously unknown region, even though little can be shown as the outcome of the journey. All honour to the pioneers by whom this first exploratory work has been so nobly done! They will be succeeded by a race that will find its laurels more difficult to win - a race from which more will be expected, and which will need to make up in the variety, amount, and value of its detail, what it lacks in the freshness of first glimpses into new lands.

In the organization of the passage overall, what function does the final paragraph serve?

Possible Answers:

It summarizes the comparison drawn between modern geographers and their predecessors

It outlines future goals for geographers, based on the principles of modern geography outlined in the preceding paragraphs

It summarizes the comparison made in the passage between geographers and other scientists

It outlines the effects of the progress of geographical study outlined in the preceding paragraphs

Correct answer:

It outlines the effects of the progress of geographical study outlined in the preceding paragraphs

Explanation:

This question asks you to analyze a specific section of the passage's role in the overall organization, thus an understanding of the overall argumentative structure of the argument and a close-analysis of the final paragraph are required to answer the question accurately.

Looking at the actual content of the final paragraph in a vacuum allows us to immediately eliminate half our answer choices, since the comparison between modern geographers and their predecessors occurs in the first two paragraphs, and the final paragraph is exclusively concerned with the requirements of modern geography. This would be a tempting option if you only looked at the earlier context of the passage and (for some reason) ignored the specified paragraph. Similarly, the reckoning of geographers and other scientists occurs in the second paragraph, there is no mention of scientists in the closing paragraph.

So, we now must decide whether we feel that the function of the final paragraph is to outline the effects of the progress described in the field earlier or if we feel that the paragraph outlines future goals. This is a fairly tough call, but ultimately the strongest textual evidence points to this paragraph as outlining the results of the progress of geography. The opening sentence is focused on the "demands" resulting from the increased rigorousness of modern geography. The tone of the passage is too declarative and focused on what "will" happen as a result of the process described earlier, rather than outlining hopeful goals.

Also, in terms of fitting into the argument, an outline of the results of earlier claims fits cleanly.

Example Question #3 : Structure Of The Exposition Or Argument: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.5

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

In this passage, Burke assumes his audience to be which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Revolutionaries

Liberal politicians

French citizens

British citizens

Correct answer:

British citizens

Explanation:

This question interrogates your understanding of the author's assumed audience. Understanding to whom the author feels he is speaking is essential to your understanding of the overall structure of the argument. Rhetorical structures are, after all, intended to convince the reader, so understanding just who that reader is assumed to be contextualizes the overall techniques and structure at play.

In this passage, Burke assumes his audience to be loyal British citizens. To emphasize this, the author uses the first person plural ("our"), making clear the degree to which he assumes the common ground of Britishness (evidenced by his focus on the political and cultural traditions of Britain, like the Magna Carta). Burke's assumes that his audience will share a knowledge of, and investment in, the political, social, and most importantly aristocratic traditions of Britain.

While the political viewpoint Burke supports is certainly conservative, the common ground he assumes with his audience is broader, and is based on an association with the country at large, as opposed to any particular partisan side of the political aisle. There is no indication in the passage that his assumed audience is made up of politicians; it's reasonable to assume that he thinks his audience is politically aware enough to know the broad details of the French revolution, but one hardly needs to be a politician to have that.

Example Question #4 : Structure Of The Exposition Or Argument: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.5

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

Which of the given answer choices best describes the author's rhetorical strategy in the passage?

Possible Answers:

None of these

The author begins by providing a positive example of rights legislation in England, then attempts to ironize his intellectual opponents by imitating the objections to this example that would naturally be generated by their way of thinking

The author begins by providing an example of rights legislation in England then attempts to situate that example as part of an abstract system of traditional inheritance

The author begins by providing an example of rights legislation in England then attempts to situate that example as part of an abstract system of a progressive social movement

Correct answer:

The author begins by providing an example of rights legislation in England then attempts to situate that example as part of an abstract system of traditional inheritance

Explanation:

Here, the author's chooses to open with an example of rights legislation in England ("The Declaration of Right"), and situates that example as part of an abstract system of traditional inheritance. In so doing, the author situates any progress made in England in terms of personal liberty as part of an inherited tradition, a tradition that need be "conserved." 

The example of the Magna Carta isn't intended to be cast in a negative light, nor as regressive; rather, it is called upon as an example of the kind of social reform "progressive" intellectual opponents of Burke have been demanding around the time of the French Revolution.

The author's claims and justifications are genuine; they are not intended to ironically imitate his intellectual opponents.

All Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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