Common Core: 9th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze How an Author Structures and Orders Discussion of Events or Ideas: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3

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Example Question #1 : Analyze How An Author Structures And Orders Discussion Of Events Or Ideas: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.9 10.3

Adapted from George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)

[Before this point in the text, Washington has declined to run as a candidate in the next election for President of the United States.]

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.

. . .

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How does the content of the underlined paragraph relate to the content of the paragraph that precedes it?

Possible Answers:

It suggests that the United States can avoid potential problems by modeling its trade practices on those of Europe.

It presents open-ended questions that demonstrate the author sees positives and negatives of isolationism and the making of many international treaties.

It conveys to the audience that while most people know the answers to the questions the author is asking, the author himself does not.

It keeps the reader’s attention on the positive traits of isolationism presented in the previous paragraph.

Correct answer:

It keeps the reader’s attention on the positive traits of isolationism presented in the previous paragraph.

Explanation:

The underlined paragraph, paragraph 7, consists entirely of rhetorical questions:

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

These questions all pertain to the topic of international independence—that is, to Washington's recommendation that the United States not get involved in foreign treaties when it could benefit, in his opinion, from remaining relatively politically isolated on the international stage. The questions are rhetorical because their answers are clearly implied by the preceding two paragraphs' discussion of the negative aspects of getting involved in international politics and the benefits of remaining relatively isolated. According to Washington, there's no good reason to "forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation," etc. 

With that in mind, let's now turn our attention to the answer choices and figure out which one best describes how this paragraph relates to the one that precedes it.

"It conveys to the audience that while most people know the answers to the questions the author is asking, the author himself does not." - This answer choice is incorrect because the paragraph at hand consists of rhetorical questions. The author knows the answer to these questions; he's presented his opinion on the subject in the two preceding paragraphs, so it's not reasonable to assume that he's asking these questions literally, i.e. because he doesn't know the answer. 

"It suggests that the United States can avoid potential problems by modeling its trade practices on those of Europe." - This is the opposite conclusion to the one at which the paragraph arrives. In the preceding two paragraphs, Washington outlines the negative consequences of getting bogged down in international treaties and disputes and, conversely, the positive effects of remaining relatively isolated. He discusses Europe not in terms of its trade practices, but as a separate area of the world that it would be wise (in his opinion) to remain independent of:

Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Thus, it doesn't make sense to say that the rhetorical questions of the indicated paragraph suggest to the reader that the U.S. can avoid problems by modeling its trade practices on Europe's. Specific trade practices are not discussed, and Washington argues that the U.S. ought to remain independent of Europe in general.

"It presents open-ended questions that demonstrate the author sees positives and negatives of making many international treaties." - This answer initially might appear to be correct, as Washington does talk about positive and negative things in the paragraphs preceding the indicated one; however, it's important to keep in mind the subjects he is discussing in each of these paragraphs. He's not considering positive and negative views of one thing; he's considering the negative aspects of getting involved in international politics and the positive aspects of remaining isolated. By presenting a negative view of one thing and a positive view of the opposite thing, he's arguing a single point. This answer choice can't be correct, because it states that the questions are "open-ended" when they are not, and because it states that they demonstrate that "the author sees positives and negatives of making many international treaties," when the passage only presents a negative view of this action.

"It keeps the reader’s attention on the positive traits of isolationism presented in the previous paragraph." - This is the correct answer! The indicated paragraph consists of rhetorical questions that continue to discuss the topic introduced in the preceding paragraph: the positive traits of remaining relatively politically isolated in international politics.

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