This chapter challenges the popular belief that any opinion is just as good as any other and
that all deserve respectful attention. It treats opinion variety and opinion psychology; its
exercises can be read aloud. By the end of the chapter, students should come to view
opinions—their own and others—with more detachment and base them on clearer
standards. Whether opinions are a subcategory of beliefs or the opposite is a question the
class might consider. One could say beliefs contain stronger feelings as well as
The chapter section on polls and opinion will no doubt become amplified in class
discussion; many may challenge my viewpoint on this subject. For each section, let their
interest and your time limits be your guide in assigning class time for discussion.
The section “Opinions as Claims in Arguments” is worth class time and attention;
it is a significant stage of the progression that teaches argument awareness throughout the
text. After reading this paragraph, studying the diagram of the table, and completing the
discussion questions on the pro and con arguments, students should understand the
nature of a basic argument in terms of claims and support and be ready to write an
argument along the lines of this definition.
Students have three options to choose from under the composition writing
application. If you want to assign the first option, “A short argument supporting an
opinion,” then students may benefit from some practice in class. I would recommend
working with them at the blackboard for 15 minutes to an hour. I ask the class to give me a
claim, any claim, and then together we outline beneath that statement whatever support
could be offered, either in the form of evidence or further claims. Sometimes I write a pro
claim on one side of the board and a con claim on the same topic on the other side, draw a
line down the middle, then have students stand together on one side or the other and
write down their supportive reasons. This can result in some laughter and lively
encounter. (I remember their debate over the superiority of the Harley-Davidson versus
the Honda motorcycle.) The second option, “A short expository essay about an opinion,”
is designed to give students an opportunity to write an objective analysis of one of their
own opinions. The third option for analyzing three opinions is worth class review time
and will elicit a lot of interest and involvement. A variant of this assignment is to assign a
paper analyzing claims and support in a newspaper letter to an editor. I sometimes
photocopy several letters to the editor and distribute them for this exercise in class. You
will probably be surprised, as I was, to find both how challenging this assignment can be
for students and how rewarding.