Should Congress Pass the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize marijuana for medical use at the federal level?

Should Congress Pass the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize marijuana for medical use at the federal level?

Should Congress Pass the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize marijuana for medical use at the federal level?

Controversial Issue Paper (CIP)

Dr. Andrew Pieper

One primary goal of an education, specifically an education in the social sciences, is to develop the ability to think critically. This is often difficult to do, especially surrounding political issues, because so much of our political ideas and positions are derived from media accounts, family, friends, and are intricately tied to our social, religious, or economic identities.

Critical thinking does not come naturally…it must be cultivated through practice. In this course, you will practice critical thinking by writing a paper about a controversial issue related to Congress. You will first form a question, then research and write about the positions one could have about that question. At the end, you will answer the question based on the knowledge and critical thinking you have done about the issue.


This paper is due on July 25, 2018 at 10:00pm

This paper will be submitted to directly (not through D2L).

Class ID: 18138189

Enrollment Password: Pieper123

Any papers turned within 48 hours after the due date will be accepted and graded with a one full letter grade penalty. NO PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED AFTER THE 48 HOUR GRACE PERIOD.

June 22, 2018-Controversial Issues Paper Topic Due (five point deduction if late)

June 29, 2018-Controversial Issues Paper Topic final question approved (five point deduction if late)

July 25, 2018-Controversial Issue Paper Due (one full grade penalty if late)

Note: Please submit your initial paper topic proposal to (using a regular email address, not D2L email) with your name, email address, and specific question. This must be done by June 22, 2018 at 10:00pm. Over the course of the next week the instructor will provide feedback, and you must ensure that you have communicated and corrected any required changes by June 29, 2018, at 10:00pm.

Any papers found to have been plagiarized (see Student Code of Conduct) will receive an automatic “zero”.

Grading Criteria

Style 20%

Content-YES 20%

Content-NO 20%

Grammar 20%

Citations 20%


Times New Roman 12 point font

1 title page

8-12 pages of double-spaced text (I will not read past the 12th page of text)

Number all pages

I am not a stickler for citation formatting, though I find that endnotes work best.


Title Page (Title/The Question, Your Name, my name, Date, Course, your contact info)

Introduction/The Question: 1-2 pages (background, current status, why it is important, etc.)

Yes: 3-4 pages

No: 3-4 pages

Your answer: 1-2 pages

Bibliography/Works Cited/Endnotes

Appendices (charts, tables, figures, etc.)


One important element of critical thinking is that you should use sources that think as critically as possible too. This doesn’t mean you ignore those who are simply spouting uninformed opinions. But the higher quality of your sources, the better your informed position will be. In other words….garbage in, garbage out. I suggest at least one intelligent book on each side of your issue, as well as good magazine, journals, and newspaper articles. Internet sources are fine, but remember that some internet sites are simply filled with rubbish. Part of being a critical thinker is to critically examine a source and determine whether it adds or subtracts from you becoming more informed. This is true for both the side of the issue to which you are sympathetic, and the side towards which you are skeptical. I recommend at least 8-10 sources. Of particular value are those sources which may provide multiple perspectives…in other words, sources that are trying to do the same thing you are, which is to think critically.

The Question

You will submit to me a question related to Congress, shaped in the form of a yes/no question. In almost all instances this will begin with the words “Should Congress…”. So, many of these could be policy-related. “Should Congress pass a flat tax?” “Should Congress ratify the XXXX Treaty?” You might also ask a question about how another political actor or the public might decide something related to Congress. “Should we pursue a Constitutional amendment enacting Congressional term limits?” “Should the Supreme Court limit Congressional gerrymandering?” It will be important to be specific (I won’t approve incredibly broad questions like “Should Congress act on climate change?”) and also to make sure it is yes/no question. Finally, make sure it is somewhat realistic…actually a topic of debate that reasonable people are actually having. “Should Congress ban cotton socks?” or “Should Congress lock up all Buddhists?” will not be accepted. This question should be submitted to me at by June 22, 2018, and any changes must be approved by the instructor by June 29, 2018.

NOTE: No topics related to abortion, gun control, or immigration will be accepted.

Introduction (1-2 pages)

The section should describe your topic and the contemporary debate around it, explaining why it is actually worth exploring. What are the origins of the dilemma? What major changes have occurred in recent years (new laws, court cases, social changes, etc.). Are there partisan divisions that are important to know? This is a very brief introduction that allows you to tell the reader the basics of the dilemma and justify why they should care about the answer.

Yes/No Sections (3-4 pages each)

These are the core of the paper, where you describe and justify the “yes” and “no” answers to your questions. You must take both sides seriously. This means using serious sources, respectfully discussing their assumptions, and not consistently undermining their argument (you can do that in the other section!). So, in these sections you should consider: 1) discussing the philosophical/ideological assumptions of those who support the positions; 2) presenting data that would support their position; 3) describe variations in those positions (you might, for instance, describe how some pro-life supporters would allow abortion in cases of rape/incest, while others would not…if abortion were an acceptable topic 😉 ; and 4) describe the counterarguments to the other side (for instance, how does each side respond to the positions/assertions made by one another). This is an important part of critical thinking…taking your opponent’s position seriously and describing intellectually why you disagree (hint…calling them fascists, socialists, poopyheads, corporate stooges, or libtards, isn’t a critical response). It might be that they simply have different values, or embrace different facts, or different interpretations of the same facts. In any event, describing them seriously and responding is one hallmark of critical thinking.

Your position (1-2 pages)

Here is your chance to summarize where, after careful research and consideration, you find yourself on this particular issue. You might discuss where you were before your research, what you learned, what you re-assessed, and where you ended up. Describe what you found compelling about the evidence and arguments provided by each side. What specifically led you to your position? Evidence? Ideology? Values? Please try to avoid at all costs coming down directly in the middle. Feel free to say “Yes, but…” or “No, but…” However, given the evidence, values, and arguments at sta ke, summarize what your position is, and why you take that position over the other.

The material below is taken from the Foundation for Critical Thinking. I encourage you to visit its website for more information. The material in italics are my commentary for how its comments can be incorporated into the CIP.

Why Critical Thinking?

The Problem

Everyone thinks. It is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. Yet, the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.

A Definition

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

This means that the goal of the CIP is not “to finish the paper and get a passing grade.” It is to develop the research, thinking, and writing skills that can help us understand and analyze any topic. We are trying to take our current thinking, which is biased by our own socialization, experience, and partisanship, and enhance it through careful research, logical analysis, and detailed writing.

To Analyze Thinking

Identify its purpose, and question at issue, as well as its information, inferences(s), assumptions, implications, main concept(s), and point of view.

This is why it is important to accurately reflect the positions held by different actors. Refrain from choosing the sloppiest, most offensive and ill-informed sources. Choose those sources that are serious and informed. We are all biased by something, so do not take shortcuts when doing research. You will find morons and geniuses that hold the same positions…I encourage you to stick with the geniuses. You will learn more from them.

To Assess Thinking

Check it for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance, logic, and fairness.

These are some of the criteria I’ll use to grade your papers.

The Result

A well-cultivated critical thinker:

*Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely

*Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively

*Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards

*Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences

*Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

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