Anda di halaman 1dari 54

Critical Thinking in

Context
A Students Guide to the Video

Lorraine Marshall
John de Reuck
David Lake

with the editorial assistance of


Karen J. Warren
and analysis of student essays by
Sally Knowles and Colin Beasley

This project was funded by the Committee for the Advancement of University
Teaching (CAUT), National Teaching Development Grant

Published by
Murdoch University

© 1997 Lorraine Marshall


ISBN 0 – 86905 – 495 – 3
Contents
1
Introduction
7
Ways to use the video
7
1. Definitions of critical thinking and academic argument: The
first viewing of the video
10
2. Setting ground rules for critical thinking

11
3. Examining different paradigms (world views)

14
4. Presenting opposing arguments

16
5. Essay writing

19
Why critical thinking is important to you
22
Appendices: Aids and materials
22
1. Definitions of critical thinking
25
2. Ground rules for tutorials
26
3. Paradigms or world views
27
4. Critical thinking in the research process
28
5. Kit’s essay
33
6. Analysis of Kit’s essay
39
7. Tutors’ feedback on Kit’s essay
41
8. Rose’s essay
47
9. Analysis of Rose’s essay
51
10. Tutors’ feedback on Rose’s essay
52
References
Introduction
The video, Critical Thinking in Context, is designed to introduce you to critical
thinking at university. The video is made up of a dramatic story line interspersed with
documentary interviews with academics and students.
The video will raise your awareness of the attitudes and skills necessary for critical
thinking in group discussions, research and essay writing. It explores a number of
issues including:
- the nature of critical thinking
- the role of critical thinking in everyday contexts
- the role of emotion and empathy in critical thinking
- the ground rules for community based inquiry
- the recognition and resolution of value conflicts
- the relationship between points of view and academic argument
- critical thinking in research and essay writing
- the transfer of critical thinking skills beyond university study.
By watching the students and teachers in this video, you will be challenged to
integrate critical thinking into your study of subject content. To help you understand
this process, we use a Venn diagram of three intersecting circles, which appears
regularly throughout this video. The circles represent the student, the skills and the
subject content and the point where they intersect is the focus of much of your
university learning and the focus of this video.
Critical Thinking in Context begins by taking everyday notions of critical thinking and
argument, and challenges you to hone in on the critical thinking skills required for
university study. The video is designed to be seen in one sitting, but lends itself to
later being reviewed in segments, possibly by small, interactive groups interested in
discussing and exploring specific critical thinking skills (e.g. recognising an argument,
identifying underlying assumptions, distinguishing facts from values, resolving
conflicts between competing points of view). These are skills required in tutorials,
reading, research and writing.

The story line


The action moves between a student household and the university campus. The
main characters are two first year students, Kit and Rose, who are studying a broad
based course which aims to teach them to use critical thinking skills in their tutorial
discussions and essay writing. They share a house with Jessica and Tan. Kit and
Rose are required to write an essay on a contentious issue and the video explores
the dynamics between the pair as they uncover, reflect on, and examine their
different positions (or, points of view) on the issue. This process is personally and
academically very important to them.
For example, consider a few passages of dialogue between Rose and Kit:
Rose:
‘You know the more I think about this the more I come to realise that how I
feel about things is part of what makes me. It’s scary when you have to really
look at what you believe and say why.'

1
Here Rose is discovering the empowerment and challenge of learning to think
critically about her own views. The video should also help you experience the
challenge and empowerment of coming to terms with the concept of world views and
should help you discover ways in which your views on a given topic fit within
established academic paradigms.
Kit
'Don't get me wrong. We still have our differences, but it just gave me
something to think about.'
Rose:
‘And I've realised that the issue isn't as black and white as I thought it was.'
In this dialogue, Kit and Rose discover that their personal differences are often
connected to a wider intellectual debate. This reflects the experiences of most
people. For example, it is likely that you, like Kit and Rose, will study and live with
people who hold different points of view while respecting each other’s difference.
The video depicts Rose and Kit as hard working, conscientious students, who
explore and enhance their critical thinking and their learning skills as they go about
the day-to-day study activities associated with research and writing. They have
different approaches to essay writing, the use of mind maps in learning and
composing on the computer. They also learn from peers and take advantage of
informal assistance from mentors. For example, Kit and Rose find mentors in the two
more experienced and older students, Tan and Jessica.
In addition to interviews with students, Critical Thinking in Context incorporates
interviews with academics who discuss their definitions of critical thinking. Both the
students and academics emphasise the importance of facilitating critical thinking by
establishing ground rules which include respecting each others' opinions, uncovering
assumptions, avoiding being dogmatic, and being prepared to give reasons for your
point of view.

The Venn diagram

Critical thinking Subject or content

Student
This is the venn diagram used on the cover of the video box and in this guide1. The
venn circles are also used at the end of each of the eight interview sequences as
separating devices to mark off the segments of the video. The meaning of the
diagram is not evident until the first dramatic classroom scene in the video.
In the first classroom scene the venn circles are on the whiteboard behind the tutor.
She says ‘in this course, you are going to learn to think critically.’ The first circle
represents the critical thinking skills, the next the subject content, and the third the

1
The primary colours of red, green and blue have been used deliberately.

2
student. It is the intersection of these three areas, the section in the middle, that is
the concern of this video.
For the teaching of critical thinking to be effective, as the title implies, it must occur
within a meaningful context and you, as student, must be fully involved.

Viewing the video


Seen initially in one sitting, the video’s dramatic story line will be maintained and the
themes and concepts will be allowed to develop. However, once viewed in its
entirety, the video can be reviewed in segments, which lend themselves to follow-up
discussion in related tutorials (and/or lectures) and independent group discussions.
In the following section, ‘Ways to use the video’ you will find suggestions for a one-
hour activity which could follow a first viewing, further activities for subsequent
sessions and work that you can complete in your own time.

3
Video structure
The following outline is included to facilitate use of discrete segments of the video.

Time Scene/Interview Major issues


0 Moving in & unpacking
1.00 Captain Munchies Confrontational argument
Establish conflict between Emotion vs. objectivity
students
Establish topic of dispute
2.24 Classroom scene Myths about critical thinking
Conflict/power struggle Raise issue of power
2.49 Interviews Definitions of critical thinking
3.54 Classroom scene Establishing ground rules in tutorials
Conflict continues
5.23 Interviews Importance of ground rules
7.22 University coffee shop Taking a position in essays
Mentoring
8.09 Front of house: Kit and Rose have Dealing with different positions
to work together
Collaborating with people who hold
different positions
8.37 Lounge room Examining assumptions
Exploring assumptions underlying Emotional investment in positions
positions
Mentoring
Role of background in positions
10.01 Interviews Examining assumptions
11.20 Rose using concept dictionary Defining terms
[11.30– reflection on tutorial groundrules Role of reflection
11.44]
Rose writing at computer Need for non coercive environment
12.00 Swimming pool Language of critical thinking
Defining terms
12.49 Interviews Language of critical thinking

4
Time Scene/Interview Major issues
13.36 Kitchen - reading for essay World views (paradigms)
Delight and empowerment of
validating position
14.07 Interviews What is a world view?
15.25 Rose and Kit writing their essays What is a thesis?
Jessica helps Rose Relationship between thesis an
premises
Composing on the computer
Mentoring, support from others
Use of explosion charts
16.47 Interviews Definition of argument
18.20 Library research - Kit Consideration of alternative views
Testing own position
[18.54– reflection on classroom scene Research process
19.25]

19.33 Interviews Presenting opposing (or alternative)


arguments
Creativity & critical thinking
20.57 Wharf – Kit and Rose Relationship between positions and
actions
Demonstration against live sheep
trade Investigating fully before committing
to a position
22.20 Rose and Kit composing their Nature of being a student
essays on computer
22.57 Interviews Relationship between theory and
action
24.08 Essays returned - Tan reads Mentoring
comments on Kit’s essay
Using feedback on essays to improve
25.30 Captain Munchies Open ended nature of debate
Rose and Kit debate without Critical thinking skills important
confrontation
– for resolution of conflict
– in opening up the debate
– in advancing knowledge
25.30 Credits over harbour scene with
sheep ship in distance
26.55 End

5
Ways to use the video
1. Defining critical thinking: Your first viewing of the
video
At the beginning of your studies it is likely that you know little about critical thinking
and academic argument at university. Everyday conceptions of argument can
confuse understanding of argument in an academic setting. Before you begin to
develop your critical thinking skills, it is important to uncover your notions about
critical thinking and academic argument. Correcting misconceptions is the focus of
this first exercise, and is an appropriate discussion topic for when you first view the
video.

Before you view the video


10 minutes
♦ Reflect on the critical thinking skills and attitudes you believe are required for
university study.
♦ Critical thinking consists in the use of certain skills and attitudes. Included among
those skills are the following:
- recognising and assessing arguments (i.e., reasons for some thesis,
conclusion, or point of view)
- distinguishing between kinds of arguments (e.g., deductive and inductive
arguments)
- distinguishing between facts and values
- Identifying and challenging underlying assumptions
- clarifying the meaning of terms (i.e., giving and assessing definitions)
- recognising and assessing generalisations
- recognising and assessing predictions
- recognising and assessing causal claims
- recognising and assessing alternative points of view
♦ Included among the critical thinking attitudes are the following:
- openmindedness (i.e., a willingness to consider alternative points of view)
- flexibility (i.e., a willingness to change one's view in light of counter evidence)
- persistence (i.e., a willingness to follow a line of reasoning to its conclusion)
- interpersonal sensitivity (i.e., a respect for the opinions of others)
- intercultural sensitivity (i.e., a respect for cultural, geographic, or socio-
economic differences in peoples' points of view).
♦ Remember that critical thinking skills and attitudes are fundamental to all learning
at university. These skills and attitudes are used in tutorials, in research and
essay writing, and in thinking about and reflecting on issues.
5-10 minutes
♦ Now, either individually or as a group, attempt to identify notions of critical
thinking and argument. Brainstorm definitions of the terms ‘critical thinking’ and
‘argument’. Record these definitions in the same way that the tutor does in the

7
video. Do not correct or discuss your definitions, and do not allow others to
challenge or discuss whatever you or anyone says. Put all of the suggestions in a
place where they can be seen clearly for the rest of the exercise.
5 minutes
♦ This is an outline of what you will see. The video is set in a student household and
at university and focuses on two first year students studying the same course.
Each is writing a separate essay but on the same contentious issue. The video
explores the dynamics between the students as they examine their different
positions on the topic and the different values that underlie these positions.
♦ Although the video contains a large amount of information which is relevant to
your learning at university, in this first viewing you should focus on and think about
the following:
- defining the concepts of critical thinking and argument
- seeing the difference between critical thinking and argument in an everyday
setting and in a university setting.
Other issues covered by the video will be developed later in the activities that follow.

View the video


25 minutes

After you have viewed the video


♦ Discuss definitions of critical thinking:
• Pick up and explore some of the definitions of critical thinking presented in
the video.
(Note: these definitions are given in the first segment of the video and transcriptions
of the interviews follow.)
• Compare your original, brainstormed definitions of critical thinking with those
presented by academics in the video.
• Discuss the difference between everyday notions of ‘critical’, ‘criticism’, and
‘argument’ and the academic usage of these terms presented in the video.
(Refer to transcripts from the video.)
• Here are some questions you might like to consider in your session:
- What do you think critical thinking is?
- What do you think is meant by 'argument' in everyday discourse?
- What do you think is meant by 'argument' in an academic context?
- Can a common definition of critical thinking be arrived at?
- Do you think there are any areas of our lives in which critical thinking is
inappropriate?
♦ Discussing definitions of argument
By now you realise that 'academic argument' has a distinctive meaning, one that may
conflict with ordinary usage of the term 'argument'. In an academic or critical thinking
sense, an argument is a set of reasons for some claim. An argument is a set of
claims, one of which (i.e., the conclusion or thesis) is alleged to follow from another
(i.e., the reasons or premises). People offer arguments when they offer reasons for
some claim, position, or point of view. In this respect, an argument involves a search

8
for meaning by individuals, and is an attempt to share meaning between individuals.
It is not an attempt to dominate or control others. It is not a competition designed to
produce winners and losers. Agreement or consensus may sometimes be the
outcome but is not at all a necessary one. A good argument can finish with an
agreement to respectfully differ.
• Refer to and evaluate your own definitions of argument in the light of this
definition of an argument.
• Discussion and thinking questions:
- How is the term ‘argument’ used in the video?
- What other meanings does the term ‘argument’ have?
- Will ‘non-combative argument’ always lead to agreement between
parties?
- What is the role of feelings, emotion, and empathy in argument?
- What is the difference between ‘reasoning’ and ‘critical reasoning’?
- If we do not resolve conflict via reason, what other options do we have?

Aids & materials (See Appendices)


i. Definitions of critical thinking: transcripts of documentary interviews
ii. Dictionary definition of argument

9
2. Setting ground rules
The importance of ground rules is that they help foster the attitudes necessary for
critical thinking. Critical Thinking in Context shows that setting ground rules is one
way to help ensure that one member or section of a group does not dominate or
silence others in the group. The drama in the video models the setting of ground
rules for critical inquiry in a tutorial setting and explores the implications of failure to
set ground rules, especially for those who feel powerless and vulnerable in the
group. The video shows that ground rules have a vital academic purpose as well as
an important social function. They aim to encourage students not only to recognise
different perspectives (including their own), but also to seek and actively try to
understand points of view that are different from their own.

Timing & delivery


This activity can be used to assist in establishing a tutorial group or when a group is
not functioning well. Once ground rules are established, it is important to continue to
refer to and use them in subsequent tutorials.

Activities related to setting ground rules:


♦ In your discussion explore issues of silencing in a group situation.
♦ Discussion questions:
- When have you ever felt powerless or vulnerable in a group setting (e.g., a
tutorial)? Remember a time.
- How would the setting of ground rules have helped you in that situation?
- Which ground rules would you set to help people feel comfortable and heard in
a tutorial setting? List some ground rules.
(Note: the focus here is on enabling different positions and world views to be
expressed and to engender critical thinking in a negotiated, safe learning
environment.)
♦ Collect ground rules from the members of your discussion group and collectively
arrive at an agreed upon list. Have this typed and circulated to all members of the
group at the next tutorial. Ask your tutor and each member of the tutorial to
commit to abiding by these mutually agreed upon ground rules.
(Note: This will be helpful if, later in the semester, individuals break the ground rules.
The tutor can remind the group of the ground rules they mutually agreed upon and
committed to abide by.)

Aids & materials (See Appendices)


iii. Ground rules from the video.
iv. Ground rules for tutorials: quotes from the interviews.

10
3. Examining different paradigms (world views)
Critical Thinking in Context foregrounds the importance for critical thinking about
paradigms (or, world views) and their underlying values and assumptions. The
contentious issue used in the drama allows the two students with their different world
views to come into open conflict on the issue of the export of live sheep from
Australia. In the course of their research the students discover that their world views
are reflected in existing academic paradigms, one which might be called "economic
rationalism" and the other "deep ecology" (a position in environmental ethics).
The video aims to demystify the concept of world views or paradigms for students. It
helps them understand that the arguments writers present in their books and articles
or that lecturers give in their lectures are often based within different paradigms or
world views. This realisation helps students to organise and make sense of the large
amounts of information confronting them in their research. It does so by helping
them see that sometimes the positions people hold reflect or grow out of different,
often competing or conflicting, paradigms or world views.
In the video, the tutor sets up a situation to allow people holding very different world
views to communicate. This challenges students to examine the assumptions behind
the different positions they hold on the issue. The drama script does not model
ground rules for this two-way dialogue but such ground rules would be necessary if
dialogue were to be developed between members of a tutorial.

Timing & delivery


The members of most of your tutorial groups will take different positions on topics.
The aim of this activity is to encourage you to identify and question the assumptions
behind your own position and not to reject out of hand the assumptions involved in
holding different positions. It is important to examine different points of view.
This activity may be of use if a conflict arises in a tutorial, or if students are arguing
from a position without being aware that they have adopted such a position, or failed
to appreciate the assumptions behind their position. The tutor could also deliberately
set up a topic for discussion that would lend itself to the exploration of different world
views and assumptions. It is important, however, that you use ground rules during a
discussion of this type.

Examining assumptions
♦ As the video demonstrates, it is important to identify the underlying assumptions
of a position. Ask another student with different positions on a contentious
discussion topic in your course to meet with you and together you can explore
your positions and the reasons why you hold them. Make sure you both follow
ground rules for this exploration. (You may even need a moderator or facilitator
initially until the idea of ground rules becomes fully understood and accepted.)
♦ If you are working in a group, you could try to identify the different assumptions of
a given position. For example, in a discussion on vegetarianism
- If one student defends vegetarianism, an underlying assumption might be that
animals have a right not to be eaten.
- Another assumption might be that all sentient creatures have inherent worth
(and, hence, that one ought not eat sentient creatures). The argument would
be as follows:
Sentient creatures have worth.
Creatures with worth should not be eaten.

11
This is a sentient creature.
Therefore this creature should not be eaten.
- If another student defends meat-eating, that student might argue as follows:
Non humans have no inherent worth.
Creatures without worth can be eaten.
This is a non human.
Therefore this creature can be eaten.
This student would deny that any beings other than humans have inherent worth
or rights, and, hence, deny that any beings other than humans have claims not to
be eaten.
Share the positive and negative aspects of trying to understand the assumptions
behind all the different positions. Also use discussion to highlight the many different
positions and variations on a position on the topic.
or
• Develop two ‘mind maps’2 (one for Kit and one for Rose) taking ideas from the
people in your group, then add and develop branches.

Questions
- What are the facts of the issue?
- What assumptions are Kit and Rose bringing to the argument?
- What values are Kit and Rose bringing to the argument?
- What reasons do Kit and Rose use to support their positions?
- What types of evidence do Kit and Rose each use to support the positions
they are taking
- Which academic paradigms do Rose and Kit belong to?
A possible starting point for the 'mind map' is shown on the next page.

2
A mind map or explosion chart is a visual representation showing the connections
between ideas or concepts

12
Facts
!• Background Information (eg.,
commercial background, farming
background)
• Use of empirical evidence (eg.,
money from export trade)

Kit Rose
Values
- • Overriding concern about +
cruelty towards animals
- • Importance of animals as pets +
+ • Feelings towards use of animals
-
as commodities

Assumptions

No • Exploitation of animals is wrong Yes


• Economic benefits of exporting
Yes sheep outweigh the costs No

Outcome (Thesis)
Yes • Support live sheep export
trade in Australia
No

Note:
Here two people, Kit and Rose, agree about the facts but disagree about how to
resolve the ethical issue regarding live sheep export from Australia. So, they agree
about the facts but disagree about how to value the facts. This is typical of value
conflicts: a genuine value conflict will never be resolved by appeal to facts alone. In a
value conflict, participants disagree about such things as how to value the facts and
the relevant assumptions underlying an issue. This is what the above 'mind map'
illustrates. These differences in values are manifested here in the different
"outcomes," theses, or positions Kit and Rose hold. In the video, Kit thinks that the
export of live sheep from Australia is justified, whereas Rose does not.

Aids & materials (See Appendices)


v. Quotes from interviews

13
4. Presenting opposing arguments
Critical Thinking in Context deals with developing and defending arguments
concerning export of live sheep from Australia, i.e., reasons on behalf of various
claims for or against this practice. Fundamentally, this involves "advancing a thesis."
To advance a thesis is to take a position that we feel or think can be defended, and
then enter into the process of defending it. This is done by stating the thesis, and
then beginning to develop and marshal the reasons why that position was one
worthy of being adopted. In the video Kit and Rose do this when they gather
research material on the export of live sheep from Australia. Jessica uses a mind
map to show Rose how to organise her material into a thesis and supporting
premises.
Many students do well in presenting a thesis and supporting premises but they do
not take the next step which is the process of defending their position by considering
both reasons for and reasons against it which is what we call ‘advancing a thesis’.
This thesis then becomes the conclusion of the argument.
In the research process it is important to look for reasons which challenge your own
thesis. The video shows this in both the verbal debates and essay writing. These are
the reasons other thoughtful people have who don't hold your position. The video
provides both a rationale and a strategy to show how to incorporate alternate or
opposing reasons into our own thinking. It is also important at the same time to show
why we do not think these particular reasons are persuasive enough to make us
change our opinion. In the video, Kit and Rose are confronted with alternative
reasons when they conduct a dialogue with animal rights protesters who are holding
up placards and handing out leaflets on the wharf.
Kit's conclusion is about the economic desirability of the live sheep export trade,
whereas Rose's conclusion is that the live sheep trade lacks moral necessity and
desirability due to its violation of animal rights.
In advancing a thesis, the first thing that must be done is to research the topic. That
will involve talking to friends and tutors and reading articles and books to gather
information from as many perspectives as possible. Once that information is at hand,
next comes the moment of reflection. That is the process of standing back from that
information, and thinking about what we believe is the case in light of the research.
We must also reflect on what arguments have been influential in leading us to
accept that position. It is also important to seek out other perspectives that are
relevant to the topic. In the video, Kit's research on the topic makes him realise that
he had not previously considered religious perspectives on the live sheep trade
issue.

Suggested activities
♦ Write up a list of reasons for and against a particular position relevant to a
university course you are taking. For example, generate a list of reasons for and
against the following:
• censorship of information in modern technology systems;
• proposed scientific solutions to a selected environmental problem (e.g., global
warming or ozone depletion);
• a particular ethical position on pollution and resource depletion;
• possible directions of development for Australian culture;
• proposed definitions of reality.

14
♦ Give the sort of arguments you might expect Kit and Rose to give concerning the
export of live sheep from Australia. Be sure to identify (a) your main conclusions,
(b) your main reasons, and (c) any underlying assumptions used to support your
main conclusion and reasons. Then construct a role-play: have another student
present and defend Kit's position; have others present and defend Rose's
position. Which position seems most compelling to you? Why does it seem
compelling?
(Note: See examples of the student-written essays in Section 3.)
♦ Take a contemporary issue, e.g., funding of higher education in Australia. Try to
present the best argument you can for and against a given position on funding of
higher education in Australia.
♦ Consider a particular position on an issue that arises in your university studies.
Consider the arguments you can give for and against your answers to the
following questions.
• What sorts of legal controls are justified for information technology systems?
• What policies are morally justified for creating a sustainable future?
• What is the role of humans in the ecosystem? Which rights do Aborigines
have, and how does one resolve conflicts of rights between Aboriginal
cultures and the dominant culture?
• What is meant by 'the individual' and 'the society'?
• Is truth socially constructed?

15
5. Essay writing
The appropriate segments of the video can be used to help you develop your essay
writing at various stages in the essay writing process. The video focuses on essay
writing and Kit and Rose are seen in the following processes:
• thinking through their positions on the question (See ‘Examining different
world views’)
• researching and reflecting on the question (see below)
• organising their ideas
• writing the essay
• accounting for different perspectives in their essays, and
• responding to the teacher’s grade and comments.
In addition, this guide provides samples of students’ essays on the topic of the video,
the live sheep trade. These essays are included here as a learning resource and
have been annotated for our use.
Following are some other suggestions of how to use the video and the
accompanying materials to help you write argumentative essays.
Examining essay questions
The question used in the video on which Kit and Rose write their essays is:
Critically discuss the live sheep trade.
♦ Think about how you would write an essay on this topic.
♦ From a list of essay questions identify which questions require you to write an
argumentative essay.

Using critical thinking in your research process


♦ Take a particular problem from your university studies, (see suggested topics
directly above) and use the circular diagram below to lay out how you would
research the problem. (See Appendices, ‘Aids and materials’, F for an enlarged
version of this diagram.)
♦ When discussing or planning the research process use the circular diagram to
show the role of critical thinking in your research process. Discuss the role of
reflection in research.
♦ Use the appropriate segments of the video to help you understand the
relationship between a thesis and supporting evidence.

16
Question
Essay

research
contemporary
establish present debate
opposing
premises
arguments Research
consider relevant
arguments
determine
thesis

tentatively
commit to a position

Organising your argumentative essay


♦ There are eight steps you can use to organise your thoughts in a written essay.
• First, motivate the topic with a quote or an anecdote.
• Second, state what your thesis is (i.e., what claim or position you will be
defining in your essay).
• Third, state the scope of your thesis (i.e., identify what related claims or
positions you will not be defending).

• Fourth, state any relevant background information (i.e., relevant facts).


• Fifth, give your argument (i.e., your reasons for your thesis or conclusion).
• Sixth, state some possible objections to your argument (i.e., reasons
someone who disagrees with you might give to the premises you offer).
• Seventh, try to defeat those objections (i.e., show why they are false or do not
apply in your case).
• Lastly, summarise your position (argument) and try to give some "food for
thought" (i.e., state some of the implications of your position for other issues).
Note that this strategy for the written presentation of arguments can also be used
in oral presentations.
♦ Consider some general discussion questions about the video which bear on the
oral presentations of arguments:
• What part did Jessica and Tan play in the conflict between Rose and Kit?
• What part did Jessica and Tan play in helping Rose and Kit write their
essays?
• What helped Rose and Kit come to a closer understanding of their different
perspectives?

17
Analysing an argumentative essay
Two essays, ostensibly written by Rose and Kit, have been written by University
students for these materials. These essays and an analysis of them according to
their functional stages are included in Appendices ‘Aids and materials’.
♦ Read the essays, and evaluate each essay by asking questions about each
section. Use the following steps in analysing essays to assist in this process.
• Analyse the introduction by asking the following questions.
- Does the introduction introduce the question?
- Is there a clear statement of the thesis? Locate this statement.
- Is the scope of the thesis stated? (Is there a statement of the related
claims or positions that are not defended?)
- Is the relevant background information given?
- Is there a statement of the argument, that is a statement of the reasons
for the thesis?
• Analyse the body of the essay by asking the following questions.
- Are the reasons used to support the thesis fully and adequately
presented?
- Does the essay explore objections to the argument?
- Does the essay show why these objections are false or do not apply in
this case?
• Analyse the conclusion.
- Does the conclusion summarise the argument?
- Does the conclusion restate the thesis
- Does the conclusion mention the wider implications of the question or
give future direction?
- What is the relationship between the introduction and the conclusion?
♦ Discuss with the different paradigms that form the basis of each essay with
someone else or with your group.
♦ Consider each essay in terms of the different academic disciplines used in each
argument presented.

Aids and materials (See appendices)


vi. Critical thinking in the research process
vii. Kit's essay
viii. Analysis of Kit's essay
ix. Tutor's feedback on Kit's essay
x. Rose's essay
xi. Analysis of Rose’s essay

18
Why critical thinking is important to
you
Critical thinking at University
While universities are far from idealised sites of rational thought, they are sites where
critical thinking is valued; an emphasis on critical thinking may not be present in other
activities in which you engage. The university setting is a place where time and
space are created for thinking of, for, and about thinking.
Critical thinking, while valued and used throughout the university culture, is seldom
made explicit to students at a disciplinary level. Most university teachers are experts
in their areas of speciality, but few are taught to develop their students’ thinking and
learning skills. So, most of your tutors and lecturers will employ critical thinking
terminology, using words like ‘criticism’, ‘argument’, ‘logic’, ‘support’ and ‘critical’, but
few will specifically instruct you in the deliberate and systematic development of your
critical thinking skills.
Therefore, you may find it difficult at first to understand what is expected of you in
terms of critical thinking, and many of you may be hampered by transferring
everyday notions of argument and criticism into your academic debates. Correcting
misconceptions and clarifying notions of what comprises a critical approach is an
important first step in beginning to develop your critical thinking skills.
Also, everyday notions of critical thinking and argument are many and varied, but
often include negative associations suggesting dispute, open conflict and personal
attack. The terminology itself is frequently linked to confrontational terms such as
‘adversary’, ‘defence’, ‘argument’ (as a heated debate) and ‘opposition’, fuelling
misconceptions of the nature of critical thinking in a university. This video addresses
these misconceptions, and in doing so seeks to demystify the process and skills of
critical thinking for you. At the same time, the video seeks to narrow the gap between
notions of criticism in everyday life and notions of criticism in university.

Transferring of critical thinking skills and attitudes


The video depicts the transfer of skills from the everyday world into university, and
then the transfer of skills and attitudes learned at university back into everyday life. It
acknowledges the skills that you may bring with you to university life as a basis for
developing the specific critical thinking skills required for university study.
Critical Thinking in Context also shows how university critical thinking can be more
reflective, more formalised, and more rigorous. Reflection and thinking about thinking
(metacognition) are crucial for the transfer of skills from one context to another.
Reflection is foregrounded in the flashback sequences when Kit and Rose reflect on
the critical thinking skills learned in the classroom and then, on the basis of this
reflection, they are shown transfering these skills into their studies and personal
interactions.
The video also shows the transfer of skills learned at university into life beyond the
university. For example, if you learn how to give reasons for claims or to identify
underlying assumptions in a university setting, you can use these same skills in
responding to media information, having discussions with family and friends, deciding
how to solve life problems. In the video, we see Kit and Rose debating with animal
rights protesters. They are called upon to use their research material and
argumentation skills to decide how to respond to the protesters.

19
The communal nature of critical thinking
The video goes beyond the notion of critical thinking as a private reflective activity
and is supported by the ideas of such thinkers as Habermas and D’Agostino. In their
view, critical thinking is no longer a purely private activity. According to D’Agostino
(1989), the development of a critical thinking approach requires that all participants in
a dialogue should be committed to three basic principles: realism (or, that which is
affirmed cannot be simultaneously denied), fallibilism (or, an acceptance that any of
our beliefs may be false) and rationalism (or, a desire to form beliefs that are based
on the best available reasons). These three principles require that participants in a
debate actively seek out information on the issue under consideration that may affect
their current position. In order to do this, the participant must take the role of an
investigator, seeking to draw out information for further evaluation, rather than a
prosecutor who seeks to destroy all opposing points of view.
It can be argued that the change to the communal nature of critical thinking has
resulted from the loss of notions of certainty in the Western world, which in turn has
forced us to acknowledge we are all fallible. It is this fallibility that has led to a
community-based search for solutions to the problems that concern us.
Tutorials are the formalised communal settings in university where you have the
opportunity to participate in discussion and debates that presuppose specific critical
thinking skills and attitudes. The same critical thinking skills and attitudes are also
important in writing. So, the tutorial provides an educational space for tutors to help
students like you develop the skills and attitudes that enable critical thinking to occur
in a group. This makes the tutorial an ideal training ground for the more public arena
where ‘real’ judgments are made.
From a starting point of illuminating the nature of critical thinking, the video moves
into critical thinking as a communal activity, one in which participants collectively
share information and knowledge and engage in interdisciplinary dialogue. Tutorials
are viewed as the ideal site for this. In fact, the video goes further, implying that if the
communal nature of critical thinking is acknowledged and dealt with, then students
will seek to access more content in more depth, and enjoy it more.
The video recognises that critical thinking skills are crucial in the public discussion,
negotiation and decision-making process for the many problems and concerns
confronting us today. It demonstrates that critical thinking is essential to the very
learning process itself.

Ground rules for critical thinking in groups


When we try to think our way through problems in a community, the realisation of our
own fallibility encourages us to consider the standing of the other participants in the
debate and to take their positions seriously. This concept of examining alternative or
opposing points of view while seeking the best possible judgment pervades the
discussion and implies that we must recognise and negate the factors which might
silence members of the community. In order to remove coercive practices it is
important to understand and be aware of the ways that power can operate in human
intercourse, power relations such as those related to gender, race, ethnicity or social
class.
This video illustrates a movement towards what Habermas (Brand, 1990; Cooke,
1994) and others (e.g., postmodernists, feminists) call uncoerced space , i.e., a
space that isn’t structured by domination and submission. It is a place that will not
silence people or give certain voices more authority than others. Only when we have
created this uncoerced space can we aim to be influenced only by the force of the

20
better argument. To create an uncoerced space requires the formulation of ground
rules for debate within the group.
This is one reason why the establishment of ground rules is encouraged, to enable
critical thinking to occur in tutorials. Ground rules are one way to foster the attitudes
that are necessary for critical thinking. (See Section 1 for a list of these attitudes.) In
the drama, the tutor asks the students in a tutorial to consider which groups of people
might be silenced in a group discussion, and what ground rules they would like to
establish for the group if they were one of these people. In this way the video links
considerations of equity with critical thinking for the conduct of tutorials, and is
related to Rawls’ (1971) theory of justice.

Accounting for different perspectives


Consistent with the notion of not silencing others is allowing alternative or opposing
points of view a voice. The video allows for this in both spoken and written
communication. In their personal interactions Kit and Rose learn to ‘allow’ each other
their different assumptions and world views. In their written work they also come to
understand that the skills of argumentation require that in defending their position
they present other perspectives on the topic and show why their position is stronger.

What this video does not do


A thirty minute video and booklet cannot be expected to develop all or even most of
the critical thinking skills you will require at university. For example, this video does
not discuss the concept of validity as a formal, structural property of arguments. Nor
does it show how one can test arguments for validity. Furthermore, this video does
not distinguish the order of presentation from the logic of the argument.
Rather, this video aims to provide a starting point for you to develop specific critical
thinking skills for use in tutorials and writing tasks. Its challenge is to help you as a
student to integrate the teaching of critical thinking into your subject areas. Stated
simply, the video invites you to infuse critical thinking into your academic and
everyday learning experiences.

21
Appendices: Aids and materials3
1. Definitions of critical thinking:

What is critical thinking?


transcripts from documentary
Bev:
You’re not born a critical thinker. Critical thinking is a skill that you learn.
Ann:
Critical thinking is something you do, not something you are.
David:
Critical thinking is a mixture of attitudes and skills.

Patsy:
Critical thinking is really self reflective thinking, where you reflect on who you
are and where you're going and what you want to do.
Lee:
To me being critical is adopting a posture of always questioning; ‘interrogating’
is the word I would like to use.

Bev:
Critical thinking is about being a scholar, it is about being engaged with the
works of others, with the way people think about ideas.

Ann:
...it's a way of setting out ideas, it's a formula or template, a set of rules, and
they are quite strongly codified at University...

John:
So critical reasoning is all of this; it is a movement into reflectivity; it’s a
communal movement; its a socially negotiated activity.

Everyday argument and academic argument


Ann:
The everyday use of argument has a sort of confrontational meaning, and
sometimes a negative meaning. To have an argument is perhaps something
negative. At university it’s very positive. I like to think of it as a very positive
thing, and it’s a way of setting out in a particular form, specific to a culture,
what you think.

4
Dictionary definition of argument
3
The aids and materials in this section may be photocopied for teaching purposes.

22
argument / arguments. 1 An argument is a set of statements in support of an
opinion or proposed course of action. It is expressed in an orderly way, and is used
to try to convince someone that the opinion or course of action is correct. EG Do you
accept this argument?... There are strong arguments against these measures...
Perhaps more common is the argument that disarmament agreements cannot work.
2 An argument is also a disagreement over a particular matter between two or more
people, sometimes resulting in them shouting angrily at each other. EG He and
David had been drawn into a ferocious argument about their jointly owned car... I
said no and we got into a big argument over it.
3 Argument is the act of disagreeing with something or questioning whether it is
correct. EG We accepted it without argument... The belief is open to argument.

General discussion questions:


• How is this definition like or unlike the definition of an academic argument
given before (ie., as the providing of reasons for some conclusion)?
• What role do you think emotions can or might play in the giving of academic
arguments?
• Give your own examples of academic arguments. Say why your examples
count as examples of academic argument.
• Give some examples of arguments in an ordinary, non-academic sense. Say
how these examples are like or unlike the examples you gave of an argument
in an academic sense.

4 Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, 1987, Harper Collins

23
2. Ground rules for tutorials
transcripts of the interviews (Second documentary segment)
Julia:
The kind of ground rules that I encourage in tutorial situations are that we
always listen to each other. If you've got the willingness to listen, then you've
got a possibility for real communication to occur.
Bea:
I come in there with the notion of respecting the other person’s point of view
because if I respect that other person’s point of view that immediately is going
to bring harmony between us two which will flow to the rest of the room.
Patsy:
People first of all have to feel welcomed and they have to feel acknowledged
that they really do have something unique and important to contribute; and they
have to really feel secure; they have to feel emotionally secure so you have to
develop trust within a group.
John:
We’ve moved away from the time when reasoning was seen as a private
activity. It is now for all sorts of reasons: semantic reasons, epistemological
reasons, arguments have persuaded us that reasoning is an activity that is
best conducted in a public arena, largely because we have lost the notion of
certainty. We don’t have foundational truths; we don’t have indubitable truths,
and this makes us recognise that we are fallible.
Patsy:
...and that being wrong isn’t a limitation. In fact, it’s a strength because it is a
pathway towards learning.
Christy:
The most productive tutorials are those which are conducted so that people
can get really enthusiastic about ideas. They can debate. They can argue –
you know, really think through the ideas, but there's no sort of personal attack
involved.

24
Ground rules from the video
The tutorial class depicted in the video arrived at the following ground rules.

Ground rules for critical thinking


• Avoid being dogmatic.
• We are all fallible. We can all make mistakes.
• Don’t silence others.
• Don’t be racist or sexist or ethnocentrist. (This applies to people
from a different class or group, people with different abilities
etc.).
• Don’t use coercive methods to dominate and thus silence
others.
• Respect everybody’s opinion.
• Explain assumptions.
• All claims can be challenged and they must be defended with
reasons that are themselves subject to further challenge.
• Establish the relevance of your evidence to your thesis.
• Treat the offerings of others seriously.
• Clarify your meaning – define your terms.
• Be prepared to explain your assumptions.

25
3. Paradigms or world views:
transcripts from the interviews
Ann:
A world view is a way of structuring reality, and it varies from person to person.
Julia:
A world view is a paradigm. Its all of the assumptions that you hold that all build
up and its like a framework that we have in our heads, and then whatever we
see out there we filter through that framework.
Ann:
And this is one of the most exciting aspects of critical thinking and it is where it
strays beyond the narrow bounds of university culture and it’s a very personal
thing.
Bev:
When we locate ourselves within a particular paradigm or a particular
discipline, or we see ourselves as being sociologists, historians or whatever,
what we have is an emotional investment in that position.
Patsy:
And the benefit of critical thinking is that it makes us humble about our own
perspective and makes us recognise that in fact, things are not only more
complex than we know but things are more complex than we can know....
Unless you are self-reflective you don't recognise that no matter who you are,
you're operating within a particular conceptual framework; a particular way of
seeing and way of doing.

26
4. Critical thinking in the research process

Question
Essay

research
contemporary
debate
establish present
premises opposing
arguments Research
consider relevant
arguments

determine
thesis

tentatively
commit to a position

27
5. Kit’s essay

Question: Critically discuss the live sheep trade

Some moral & pragmatic arguments relating


to the live sheep trade

1 The live sheep trade has existed in Australia in some form since the 1830’s,
however it was not until after the 1960's when sheep started to be shipped to
the Islamic nations of the Persian Gulf (Senate Select Committee, 1985) that
opposition to the trade became newsworthy. It is of importance to note that this
opposition was largely divorced from the wider issue of the ethics of animal
slaughter for food (indeed, the union representing abattoir workers was an
important political lobby group trying to ban the trade). The proposal to ship
processed carcass meat as an alternative to the live sheep trade would
support this claim (PACAT, 1996). Opposition appeared to stem from two main
features of the trade: the transport of the animals by ship to the Middle East,
and the ritualistic method of slaughter used in these Islamic countries. This
essay will focus on these two issues in order to evaluate the moral
acceptability of the live sheep trade.

2 The essay will take a utilitarian approach in examining these issues; that is,
where alternative actions are compared by examining the relative balance of
happiness for the greatest number resulting from each (Bullock, Stallybrass &
Trombley, 1988). This can be considered both from moral and pragmatic
perspectives. At the same time the paper will consider the origins of some
opposition to transport and slaughter techniques in the light of ethnocentrism
and Said’s (1985) concept of Orientalism which suggests that Australians tend
to look at non-Australians as an inferior out-group.

Morals & Values


3 The major ethical argument against the live sheep trade to the Middle East
centres on the premise that it involves cruelty. Singer (1975) suggests that the
ultimate criterion for determination of the animal’s interests is the existence of
suffering that outweighs either the suffering that failure to kill the animal would
cause or the total benefit that results from the death of the animal. Since this
essay (like the bulk of the live sheep trade debate) is not concerned with
general issues of vegetarianism, Singer’s argument would lead us to suggest
that the more morally acceptable practice would be determined by two
considerations: firstly, which practice involved greater suffering, and secondly,
which practice produced the greater benefit.

4 Suffering would seem to arise under two conditions. Firstly, there is the
situation where suffering can arise from physical conditions and mediated
neuro-physiologically. Secondly, suffering can originate from the violation of
natural dignity of the animal. The latter form of suffering is more problematic
since it implies not only the existence of fundamental rights, but also the need
to take intent as well as consequences into consideration. For the purposes of
this essay both will be assumed.

28
5 A little reflection will suggest that there is some inconsistency in arguments
based on the relative physical cruelty involved with live sheep trade
transportation. Conditions for the animals are undoubtedly crowded on board
ship. At the same time it should be remembered that it is not in the economic
interests of the transporters to allow physical cruelty that may result in injury to
livestock. By comparison, conditions are no less crowded in road transport,
indeed many conditions of road transport are considerably less hospitable than
conditions on the sheep ships.
This inconsistency has not been recognised in the anti-sheep trade literature
(for example, anon, 1991). The short duration of road transport allows greater
levels of discomfort without mortality prior to slaughter than is possible with
ship transport. Losses during the sheep trade are well monitored; physical
injury inflicted during road transport is less well researched. It is interesting to
speculate why so much attention might be paid to transport outside Australia
and so little to transport within Australia.

6 Similar reservations about physical cruelty arise when the relative merits of
Australian and Islamic slaughter methods are considered. In Australia the most
common form of slaughter is electrocution. The traditional Islamic halal
slaughter method involves bleeding the animals to death by slitting their
throats. If we are to assume that animals are capable of feeling pain then, in
the absence of some relevant neuro-physiological difference, it seems
reasonable to assume that similar actions will result in similar types of pain
sensation. Electrocution is rapid, but extremely painful since pain receptors,
like all other nerve cells, are activated by electricity (Guyton, 1971). On the
other hand, being bled to death is relatively painless, hence its use by suicide
victims. The painless descent into unconscious oblivion by this method was
unnoticed by its victims when it was used by government medical officers
during the civil war in Bangladesh (Aziz, 1974). It seems that the Western
abhorrence of the halal may be based less on the physical pain of the victim,
and more on the physical appearance of the site after the slaughter.

7 Similar considerations arise when comparing the relative violation of the


animal’s dignity in the two methods of slaughter. During Islamic slaughter the
dignity of life is a guiding tenet for all participants. The beast is seen as a gift
from Allah, and its slaughter is a form of communication with Allah. In this
manner, the dignity of the animal is recognised and respected. By
comparison, the slaughter methods in Western abattoirs degrade the animal by
their indifference. As opposed to the secularity of the Islamic tradition, the
abattoir slaughter is an act of profanity where throughput and economic
efficiency are the overriding concern. For this reason western society generally
uses palliative care rather than euthanasia to maintain the dignity of its dying
population.
By analogy, opposition to the Islamic halal in favour of the Western abattoir
would seem to be an instance of what Singer (1975) would term speciesism:
the unjustified discrimination on the grounds of species.

8 The calculation of relative ‘rightness’ from a utilitarian point of view involves a


comparing the benefits as well as the costs of alternative actions. The benefits
of animal slaughter are related to the nutrition of the recipient and the
economic viability of the provider.

29
9 The Islamic halal tradition serves the eco-cultural needs of the Middle Eastern
population. The wealthy urban dwellers have access to refrigeration, but not all
citizens of this region fall into this category. As is common with nations outside
the first world, it is the rural poor who suffer kwashiorkor and other dietary
deficiencies. The halal tradition does not exist in isolation but forms part of an
integrated pattern of cultural traditions, such as food preparation techniques
and fasting regimes that help to ensure a sustainable pattern of life in a
specific environment (Berry 1993). These patterns also reflect the values of the
culture (Triandis, 1995). The climatic and geographical limitations of the area
mean that the Middle East must rely on external protein sources. The limitation
of meat exports to carcass meat would deprive this culture of its ability to
function effectively in its environment: it would also inflict a set of cultural
values and practices on it thereby depriving its people of cultural
independence. To inflict suffering on others through malnutrition without valid
grounds is morally indefensible, to destroy a culture in this manner would be a
form of cultural imperialism (Said, 1985).

10 So it can be argued that the technologies used in the transportation and


slaughter in the live sheep trade are superior to the accepted Western norms
with regard to both the costs and benefits that are achieved. It becomes
important then to consider why the live sheep trade may evoke such a hostile
reaction from some Australians. One possible cause might be an underlying
cultural ethnocentrism that is unrelated to the core ethical issues in the case.
Cultural ethnocentrism is the uncritical presupposition by one cultural group of
its own superiority or its tendency to evaluate other cultural behaviours by
assuming their own behaviours as the norm (Bullock, A. & Stallybrass, O.
1988).

11 The arguments relating to cruelty and presented by opponents of the live


sheep trade would seem to fall within the ambit of cultural ethnocentrism since
cruelty is viewed in terms of features of the trade that are not in keeping with a
range of Western values that are not relevant to notions of cruelty. Three
features are particularly common in the demonisation of the live sheep trade by
its opponents. Firstly, the association of blood and dirt with cruelty and the
implication that sterility and cleanliness imply a lack of cruelty. The gas ovens
of Nazi Germany performed their grizzly task regardless of their impeccable
condition. Secondly, there is evidence of a Western obsession with automation
as an indicator of efficiency and progress over manual methods; yet the
automation of warfare has done nothing to remove its cruelty. Finally, the
objections display the Western aversion to the sight of death that has been so
well described by Mitford (1965). This contrasts with the shared, personalised
experience of death that is common in other cultures.

12 Pragmatics & Economics


Apart from the moral arguments discussed above, there is a second group of
pragmatic arguments based on economic imperatives that is sometimes used
against the continuation of the live sheep. In 1983 the Senate Select
Committee (1985 p.9) ascertained its worth at $A208 million, and by 1996 this
had grown to $A500 million in Western Australia alone (anon, 1996). Despite
the obvious value of the existing trade to Australia, opponents of the live sheep
trade point to the potential for additional benefits that could arise from value-
adding if the sheep were slaughtered in Australia (PACAT, 1996).

30
13 However, the argument is based on the assumption that Middle Eastern
countries will be both able and prepared to accept processed meat, and as has
already been pointed out, the insistence on the live trade is the result of eco-
cultural and religious needs. So, the abolition of the live sheep trade would
result in human hardship and cultural domination for the citizens of the Middle
East. More realistically, the nations of the Middle East would turn to other
countries to satisfy their legitimate needs.

14 The live sheep trade is not employment neutral. Apart from the producers
themselves, there are many jobs on the wharves, and in transportation that
rely on the trade. As with other sections of the economy, the income generated
by these workers cycles through the population creating benefits for the wider
community (Jackson & McConnell, 1986, pp. 33-40). Loss of the sheep trade
would create no new jobs and lose the existing jobs.

15 Of course, this assumes that the countries of the Middle East could obtain live
sheep (or other acceptable protein source) from another supplier. However,
agricultural products such as lamb meat are considered to be type examples of
pure competition on a micro-economic level (Jackson & McConnell, 1986, pp.
436-460). As such sheep farmers can expect to be price-takers rather than
price-makers, and are limited to low profit margins in the long run meaning that
‘product price will be exactly equal to, and production will occur at, each firm’s
point of minimum average total cost’ (Jackson & McConnell, 1986, p.449). As
such, individual farmers cannot accommodate any fall in prices since this
would put them below production costs.

16 However, on a macro-economic level, Australia is a major player in the world


export meat market making the market more of an oligopoly with mutual
interdependence between producers (Jackson & McConnell, 1986, pp. 491-
501). Banning the live sheep trade in Australia would release an additional 7.3
million carcasses per year onto the processed meat market (Senate Select
Committee, 1985), depressing prices on the world market in the process. Since
the producers at the micro-economic level are price-takers working at break-
even point already, any drop in world prices would result in losses and
eventual collapse of one of Australia’s largest industries unless new markets
could be found. Apart from the economic consequences, the social
consequences of the ensuing massive rise in unemployment combined with a
decreased government income for social services should be of major concern
to all Australians.

Conclusion
17 This essay has argued that some of the moral arguments favouring the
abolition of the live sheep trade lack underlying worth and may be based on
Western ethnocentric prejudices. Furthermore, powerful ethical arguments can
be raised in favour of the live sheep trade. Compounding the ethical argument
are economic arguments based on pragmatism. Economic arguments for
replacing the live trade with a value-added carcass trade are unsustainable
while the prospect of major economic and social upheaval in Australia is
unconscionable. The analysis has however raised some important questions
about how Australian pressure groups can act as unwitting agents of cultural
imperialism. It might also be argued that the economic perspective presented
here shares this cultural myopia and the economic impact of Australia’s actions
on the Middle Eastern economies should also be considered.

31
References
(1991) ‘A long cruel road.’ Animal liberation magazine July-Sept: 14-15
(1996) A.M. 4, Sept ABC Radio National, (Radio) Perth.
Aziz, Q. (1974) Blood and tears. United Press of Pakistan, Karachi.
Berry, J. (1993) Indigenous psychologies: research and experience in cultural
context. Sage, Newbury Park.
Bullock, A., Stallybrass, O. & Trombley, S. (1988) The Fontana dictionary of
modern thought. 2nd edn. Fontana, London.
Guyton, A.C. (1971) Basic human physiology. Saunders, London.
Jackson, J. & McConnell C. (1986) Economics. 2nd Australian edn McGraw-
Hill, Roseville.
Mitford, J. (1965) The American way of death. Penguin, Harmondsworth.
PACAT (People against cruelty in animal transport) (1996) Fact sheet: Live
sheep trade. PACAT, Fremantle.
Said, E.W. (1985) Orientalism. Penguin, Harmondsworth.
Senate select committee on animal welfare (1985) Export of live sheep from
Australia. AGPS, Canberra.
Singer, P. (1975) Animal liberation: a new ethics for our treatment of animals.
Avon, New York.
Triandis, H. (1995) Individualism and collectivism. Westview, Boulder.

32
6. Analysis of Kit’s essay
Essay outline: functional stages5
Question:
Critically discuss the live sheep trade
Title:
Some moral and pragmatic arguments relating to the Australian
Sheep Trade.
(No. of words = 2,150)

Para Functional stage Content Macro-topic


1 Orientate to topic Australia involved in live sheep Introduction
trade since 1830’s - opposition
to the trade attracts media
Present relevant attention in 1960s
background initially arguments against trade
information ignore wider issue of ethics of
animal slaughter for food
bans proposed by abattoir
workers' union - supported
proposal to ship processed
carcass meat as an alternative
two main oppositions to trade:
-transport & slaughter
State outline &
purpose focus on two issues to evaluate
the moral acceptability of live
sheep trade

5 This analysis was done by Sally Knowles & Colin Beasley based on the
framework developed by Carolyn Webb, (ed.), 1991, Writing an essay in the
Humanities and Social Sciences, Learning Assistance Centre, University of
Sydney. The functional stages employ some of the terms used by Karen J.
Warren for the Marshall, L., de Reuck, J. & Lake, D. 1996, Critical Thinking in
Context: A Teacher’s Guide to the Video, Murdoch University, p. 28.

33
Para Functional stage Content Macro-topic
2 State theoretical analysis to use a utilitarian
approach approach:
to consider moral and pragmatic
Present perspectives
arguments to
support implied reasons considered for some
thesis opposition to transport and
slaughter techniques in the light
of ethnocentrism and Said’s
concept of Orientalism

3 State objection cruelty used as major ethical Morals &


Define concept argument against trade Values2
how suffering is determined

4 Establish how suffering is determined:


Critical
conditions for analysis of essay assumes discussion
argument suffering arises in two of moral &
conditions ethical
arguments
5 Defeat objections arguments not consistent with
(transport) relative physical cruelty involved
with transport
transport conditions compared:
• equal physical cruelty in
western transport methods
• more attention paid to
transport outside of Australia
than inside

2 Headings in italics indicate sub-sections in the student's essay.

34
Para
Functional stage Content Macro-topic
6 Defeat objections arguments also not consistent Critical
(slaughter) with physical cruelty involved in discussion
slaughter of moral &
slaughter methods compared: ethical
• Islamic - no pain - not cruel
arguments
continued
• Western - may inflict pain -
may be cruel
Western abhorrence of halal
based less on the physical pain
of the victim and more on the
physical appearance of the site
after the slaughter

7 Defeat objections arguments inconsistent in terms


(animal dignity) of violation of animal’s dignity
two methods of slaughter
compared:
• Islamic slaughter methods
recognise and respect dignity
of animal
• Western slaughter methods
degrade the animal
opposition to halal is an
example of speciesism

8 Establish calculation of relative ‘rightness’ Critical


conditions for from a utilitarian point of view discussion
thesis involves comparing the benefits of moral &
Present argument & costs of alternative actions ethical
to support thesis arguments
benefits of animal slaughter continued
related to:
• the nutrition of the recipient
and
• the economic viability of the
provider

35
9 Present evidence Islamic halal tradition serves the
to support eco-cultural needs of the Middle
argument Eastern population - ensures a
(defeat objection) sustainable pattern of life
chilled carcass alternative
inappropriate
to inflict suffering is morally
indefensible - a form of cultural
imperialism

10 Present evidence transportation and slaughter


to support technologies superior to
argument (defeat accepted Western norms -
objection) costs and benefits
underlying cultural
ethnocentrism - unrelated to
ethical issues

11 Restate argument arguments by opponents are Critical


(defeat objection) ethnocentric - unrelated to cruelty discussion
of moral &
ethical
arguments

State objection opponents use three common


features to vilify trade:
• cleanliness does not imply lack
Defeat objection of cruelty
• automated is no less cruel
than manual
• sight of death not offensive in
other cultures

12 State objection Pragmatics & Economics Critical


second group of pragmatic discussion
arguments based on economic of pragmatic
imperatives sometimes used to & economic
argue for ban arguments
show statistics on export
earning from trade
opponents of trade argue for
value-adding if the sheep were
slaughtered in Australia

36
Para Functional stage Content Macro-topic
13 Defeat objection argument assumes that Middle
Eastern countries can accept
processed meat
ban would result in human
hardship and cultural
domination for the citizens of
the Middle East

14 Present evidence workers who rely on trade Critical


to support income generated provides discussion
argument benefits for the wider of pragmatic
Defeat objection community & economic
ban would create no new jobs
arguments
and lose the existing jobs continued

15 Defeat objection assumes availability of live


sheep (or other acceptable
protein source) from other
supplier
economic consequences of ban
on individuals and community
(micro-economic level)

16 Defeat objection economic consequences of ban


on national economy (macro-
economic level) - reduce profits
social consequences also -
massive rise in unemployment
and decreased government
income for social services

37
Para Functional stage Content Macro-topic
17 State thesis some of the moral arguments Conclusion
for ban of trade lack worth and
are based on ethnocentricism
Restate
arguments & powerful ethical and economic
evidence arguments in favour of the live
sheep trade
ban of trade morally
indefensible - uneconomic and
unsustainable
Qualify thesis Australian pressure groups can
act as unwitting agents of
cultural imperialism
economic perspective may
share this cultural myopia and
the economic impact of
Australia’s actions on the
Middle Eastern economies
should also be considered

38
7. Tutors’ feedback on Kit’s essay
Tutor 1
This is a very good paper. It is well structured, takes an original approach and
develops through the ordered presentation of a series of relevant main points. Your
writing style is mature and, for the most part, demonstrates the required degree of
formality for a student essay.
I am emotionally opposed to the live sheep trade but this does not prevent me from
recognising the cogency of your argument or the way that you have developed it.
Your mark in a student essay reflects the degree to which you have satisfied the
requirements of the assignment not whether your tutor agrees with everything you
have said. You can still gain excellent marks, as this paper demonstrates, while
presenting a view that differs from that of your tutor.
Some more particular comments.
1. A good introduction. You use a historical perspective to orientate the reader to
the present problem. This is often a useful way to introduce a topic or issue to your
reader. In addition, you indicate clearly what the essay will attempt and the approach
which will be employed. Perhaps you could consider including a more explicit
statement of your own position. What do you intend to argue in the paper?
2 You relate specific issues to more general concepts or theoretical debates, which
is an important part of learning at university.
3. You are dealing here with complex ideas.
4. A good conclusion, which reiterates the main points. Your conclusion is however,
rather list like. This tendency could have been avoided if you had articulated a thesis
in the introduction. The conclusion could then have restated the thesis and allowed
you to distinguish and stress the most important points of your argument.

Tutor 2
A good essay with an interesting slant. I do think that the selection of a single moral
theoretic forecloses too rapidly on the arguments standardly mounted by the
‘abolitionists’.

Tutor 3
Dear Student,
Your paper adopts a very ambitious approach to the topic - you have
attempted to analyse/discuss the issue of the live sheep trade in a broad
ethical and cultural context. Although I do not believe that you have been
completely successful in this attempt, I would not like to discourage you from
considering issues in this broad and comprehensive fashion. I would agree
that a broad ethical and cultural context is certainly relevant to the issue of the
live sheep trade. However, in this paper your discussion would have
benefited from some narrowing of your focus. Partly because there is a limit
to what you can discuss in 2000 words. Your paper is focussed more upon
the ethical behaviour of human beings rather than the implications for animal
welfare. In other words, your focus is human centred, and this is a valid
approach to discussing the live sheep trade.
I am concerned about your focus. There appear to be in several of your arguments
a conceptual 'slippage' between, or conflation of the animal's experience of its own

39
welfare (which one could summarise as minimal suffering, i.e. we could use
minimisation of suffering as 'shorthand' for animal welfare) and the ethical behaviour
of humans towards animals. For example your arguments concerning the dignity of
the animal are concerned with our (i.e. humans) conception of the animal's dignity,
and not the animal's (which we can never know nor understand). Similarly, cruelty is
what we do to animals, suffering is what they experience - and they are not the same
thing. It's a question of focus i.e. who are we (you) focussing upon - the animal
(animal welfare, suffering) or humans (cruelty)? I acknowledge that it's quite a
fine/subtle distinction and so if I have not explained my concerns adequately, we
could discuss it further in person.

40
8. Rose’s essay

The Export of Live Sheep6

or

Is Animal Welfare as Important as Jobs?

Essay question:
Critically discuss the live sheep trade

6 Written by Louise Lundberg for this guide.

41
1 Introduction
The export of live sheep from Australia to the Middle East has been debated at
least since the early eighties. Animal welfare groups are against it because of
the cruelty that the sheep are subjected to when they are transported as far as
10 000 km to the place of slaughter. Despite the fact that protests have been
going on for years, the trade still continues, with over 5 million sheep exported
from Australia last year. 7 The main argument for continuing to export sheep live
is that it is an important income that Australia can not do without. In 1985 the
Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare8 published a report on the live
sheep export. The report concluded that 'if a decision were to be made on the
future of the trade purely on animal welfare grounds, there is enough evidence
to stop the trade.' However, after taking into account some economical aspects,
the report also concluded that the trade could not be immediately banned, but
the Committee 'insists that significant improvements be made to animal
welfare." Yet, years after the publishing of the report, few improvements have
been made. 9 Some of the recommendations for alleged improvements have
been made, but the mortality rates have not decreased. 10

2 Although employment and the income of export are important issues, I do not
consider them so important that they overrule all other considerations. Many
would agree with me that there is a limit somewhere to what is accepted to do
for profit, and what is not. The question is where that limit is to be drawn. In this
essay, I take the standpoint that the export of live sheep has crossed that limit,
and is too cruel to be justified by economic interests. Also, I will question the
assumption that banning the live sheep trade will be an economic loss for
Australia.

7 People Against Cruelty in Animal Transport, PACAT, Fact sheet - Live sheep
trade, 26/2/96.
8 Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare, Export of live sheep from Australia,
pp 185-186.
9 Animal Liberation magazine NR 37, July - September 1991, p12.
10 Australian and New Zealand Federation of Animal Societies Inc. (ANZFAS), Fact
sheet Live sheep export August 1995.

42
3 Different views
The cruelty aspect is all the reason I need to oppose the live sheep trade.
However, the fact that there are people who do not share my view, indeed who
have the opposite view, has to act as a reminder for me. Few issues are so
simple that only one solution is right. How can I be sure that I am right, before I
have thoroughly listened to people with other views?
What are the main interests in the live sheep trade?
- The sheep. Primarily, perhaps, their interests need consideration, although
some people would argue that sheep do not have interests, or that those
interests are subordinate to human interests.
- The importers. The Middle Eastern Muslims, who need to import the sheep
alive, in order to follow the laws of their religion.
- The sheep producers and other people involved in the business of exporting
and transporting the sheep. These are the ones whose income could be at
stake if the trade was to be stopped.
- The workers who would be directly or indirectly economically benefited by a
ban of the live sheep trade, such as local abattoirs and skin workers.
- The people who are opposed to the trade and the treatment of the sheep for
ethical reasons.
- People who are concerned about the global environment and a sustainable
future.
So let us have a closer look at the arguments and the assumptions of the
different positions, regarding economy, religion and animal welfare.

4 Economy
The argument that Australia would lose jobs and an important income. Met by:
There are alternatives - the chilled carcasses trade. Other jobs would in fact
increase. The Australian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) estimate
that around 2 000 Australian meat workers have lost their jobs due to the sheep
being exported alive, rather than slaughtering them here, in addition to that,
they estimate that around 10 000 supporting workers have also lost their jobs. 11

5 The jobs and the income that Australia get from exporting sheep live could
be supplied by the alternative chilled carcass trade. This income may even
be greater than that of the live sheep trade today. Many Muslim countries
are ready to substitute the import of live sheep by importing chilled
carcasses of sheep that have been slaughtered closer to the place of
production, using the halal methods, but where the sheep have been
stunned prior to bleeding them to death. 12 The Senate Select Committee also
recommended the gradual transition to exporting chilled carcasses as a long
term solution towards abandoning the live sheep trade.

11 The Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, In PACAT, Fact sheet - Live
sheep trade, 26/2/96.
12 The West Australian, p5 30/9/94. In PACAT, Fact sheet - Live sheep trade,
26/2/96.

43
6 Also, when the economical argument is seen beyond the short term
perspective of economic growth, the sheep trade appears in a different light.
The energy input into the production and transport of the sheep far exceeds
the energy in the food it provides.13 This practice is clearly uneconomical if
we aim for long term, global sustainability.

7 I realise that if unemployment really would be the consequence of banning the


live sheep trade, then that is of great importance. If Australian unemployment
and poverty will be the result of banning the trade, then that is not the right
climate for a growing consciousness to improve the conditions for animals. The
people who fight for animal rights therefore have a common interest with the
economic rationalists in securing jobs for the people. But their idea of what
those jobs may be will differ.

3 Religion
Refusing to export live sheep to Muslim countries may be considered
discriminating. Australia should not try to impose its cultural values on others,
and deny them the right to practice their religion.
The tradition and laws of Halal slaughter were founded in a time when that
practice ensured people that the food they ate was fresh, in order to keep
people healthy.

9 Although it may be argued that the tradition is not necessary today, when
modern refrigeration can guarantee the freshness anyway, I am reluctant to
do so. An ancient tradition, deeply ingrained in the Muslim people cannot
simply be brushed away by us as obsolete. If they consider it as
disobedience to God to slaughter in any other way, I can understand that it
makes it hard to break the tradition. However, I do believe that we are also
entitled to disagree with the Muslim manner of slaughter. It would not be
considered acceptable in Australian abattoirs, since it involves slitting of the
animals throat while it is still conscious. Without condemning their beliefs,
we can live according to our beliefs, we don't have to export sheep if we
consider it a cruel trade.

10 Animal Welfare
The sheep are worthy of respect, and our handling of them should aim at
minimising the suffering they have to endure before they become food for
humans. I hold the view that animals have a value of their own, regardless of
their use to humans, and deserve to be treated respectfully. The live sheep
trade is, in my view, a serious violation of the rights of these animals.

13 Patsy Hallen, The Fremantle Gazette, 25 June 1980.

44
11 The sheep to be exported are transported from the farms to the ports by
trucks. There they are placed in crowded feedlots together with sheep from
other herds. They are there expected to get accustomed to feeding on
pellets instead of their natural grass diet. The longer time the sheep spend
there determines how many of them that will have time to get used to the
new diet, and therefore have a chance to survive the trip, but there is a
balance between the cost of keeping them there and the cost of the sheep
that die during the transport on board. As long as the mortality rate is
'reasonable', it pays to let some die. The sheep spend two to three weeks
on board the ships, suffering from being crowded up to four sheep per
square metre, seasickness, extreme temperature variations and extreme
stress. They often suffer from injuries contracted during loading and
unloading. The sheep are all given antibiotics to withstand infections they
may get due to the crowding and the transport. Mortality rates during the
fare on board were on average 2% in 1994. 14 After unloading at the
destination and before the sheep are taken to slaughter, the mortality is
estimated to increase to about two to three times higher than on the ships.

12 When trying to estimate the suffering that the sheep must endure, mortality
rates tells only part of the story. The ones that survive have suffered the same
trauma that killed so many, however, the state the survivors are in, mentally
and physically is not such an easily quantifiable fact, and is maybe overlooked.
The fact that most of the deaths are due to starvation, although there is enough
food on board gives an indication of the magnitude of the stress and the poor
conditions of the sheep on board. There must be an end to this awful trade!

13 Conclusion
All too often, the economic argument is used to justify an unethical or
unsustainable business, be it the emissions of greenhouse gasses, oppression
of poor people in the third world or cruelty to animals. How long shall we let
ourselves be convinced by arguments that stem ultimately from the greed of
large companies? Is it really right to 'save jobs', when those jobs are unethical
to the very core?

14 Examining some of the other viewpoints in this issue has not made me change
my first opinion that the live sheep trade is wrong. Instead it has made me
convinced that this question is of even greater importance than I thought in the
beginning. The wider context of the trade, the unsustainability of it, and the
exploitative attitude it is a reflection of, are issues of major importance to the
global environment.

15 After considering the cruelty of the live sheep trade, and after viewing the
economic argument from more than one side, I conclude that the trade ought
to be discontinued both on animal welfare grounds, and for the poor
economics of it.

14 Compassion in world farming, The export of live sheep from Australia and New
Zealand to the Middle East, October 1995.

45
References
People Against Cruelty in Animal Transport, PACAT, Fact sheet - Live sheep
trade, 26/2/96.
Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare, Export of live sheep from
Australia, pp 185-186.
Animal Liberation magazine NR 37, July - September 1991, p12.
Australian and New Zealand Federation of Animal Societies Inc. (ANZFAS),
Fact sheet Live sheep export August 1995.
The Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, In PACAT, Fact sheet - Live
sheep trade, 26/2/96.
The West Australian, p5 30/9/94. In PACAT, Fact sheet - Live seep trade,
26/2/96.
Hallen, Patsy, The Fremantle Gazette, 25 June 1980.
Compassion in world farming, The export of live sheep from Australia and New
Zealand to the Middle East, October 1995.

46
9. Analysis of Rose’s essay
Essay outline: functional stages15
Question:
Critically discuss the live sheep trade
Title:
The export of live sheep or - Is animal welfare as important as jobs?
(No. of words = 1,650)

Para Functional stage Content Macro-topic


export of live sheep debated since
1 Orientate to topic early 80's Introduction

(Present relevant opposition by animal welfare


groups because of cruelty in
background transportation
information) number of sheep exported
main argument in favour is
economic
discontinuation and improvements
recommended on animal welfare
grounds by Senate Select
Committee
other considerations are just as
2 Establish important as jobs and export gains Introduction
conditions for
where can an acceptable limit be continued
thesis
drawn
State thesis export of live sheep - is too cruel to
be justified by economic interests
to question assumption that
State purpose banning trade will result in
economic loss

15 This analysis was done by Sally Knowles & Colin Beasley based on the
framework developed by Carolyn Webb, (ed.), 1991, Writing an essay in the
Humanities and Social Sciences, Learning Assistance Centre, University of
Sydney. The functional stages employ some of the terms used in this booklet.

47
Para Functional stage Content Macro-topic

3 Different views 2
cruelty aspect is sufficient to justify
State argument
opposition
important to consider opposite
views/stakeholders in trade
Outline range of
examination to include arguments
interests
and assumptions of the different
positions regarding :
State outline &
scope economy (1)
religion (2)
animal welfare (3)

4 Economy (1) Critical


discussion of
argument for continuing trade is
State objection to economic
that Australia would lose jobs and
argument arguments
income
Defeat objection slaughtering sheep before export
would increase jobs for meat &
supporting workers
chilled carcasses trade alternative
5 Present evidence to may generate more income Critical
support argument discussion of
Muslim countries ready to accept
economic
(defeat objection) this alternative, using halal3
arguments
methods
continued
this measure was recommended
by Senate Select Committee
economic argument only focuses
6 Defeat objection on short-term economic growth
energy put into production and
transport of sheep far exceeds
energy in food it provides:
uneconomical practice
Present argument need to aim for long-term global
to support thesis sustainability

2 Headings in italics indicate sub-sections in the student's essay.

3 Halal refers to religious rules which dictate the manner in which the slaughter is to
be carried out.

48
Para Functional stage Content Macro-topic
banning the trade and resulting
7 Concede objection unemployment & poverty would not
advance the cause to improve
conditions for animals
animal rights proponents share a
common interest with economic
rationalists, but have different
views on the nature of jobs

8 State objection & Religion (2) Critical


reasons discussion of
refusal to export live sheep to
religious
Muslim countries may be
arguments
considered discriminatory - as an
imposition of our cultural values on
others
origins of halal slaughter
reasons for halal tradition -
9 Defeat objection religious beliefs
cruelty of method of slaughter
justifies disagreement from a
Western perspective

10 Present argument Animal welfare (3) Critical


supporting thesis discussion of
sheep worthy of respect - suffering
animal welfare
should be minimised before they arguments
become food for humans
live sheep trade violates rights of
sheep
how methods of transport cause
11 Present evidence to suffering
support argument
statistics to show mortality rates
other factors which are hard to
12 Present evidence to quantify not considered when Critical
support argument estimating suffering discussion of
animal welfare
Restate thesis most deaths occur during
arguments
transportation
continued
trade must be stopped
economic argument is used to
13 Summarise justify an unethical/unsustainable Conclusion
position business

Present arguments arguments motivated by greed of


to support thesis large companies
unjustifiable to save jobs when
those jobs are unethical

49
Para Functional stage Content Macro-topic
examination of some of the other
14 Restate position viewpoints re-affirms importance of
this question
wider context of the trade, the
Summarise unsustainability of it, and the
evidence exploitative attitude it reflects are
issues of major importance to the
global environment
cruelty of the live sheep trade
15 Summarise outline considered and economic
argument viewed from more than
Restate thesis & one side
argument
trade ought to be discontinued
both on animal welfare grounds,
and for the poor economics of it

50
10. Tutors’ feedback on Rose’s essay
Tutor 1
You have some problems with structure. Your material in the introduction is too
specific. It belongs in the body of the essay where you can present opposing
arguments and evaluate them. You also need to exercise more discrimination when
looking at the range of opinions - some may be based on self-interest, tradition,
prejudice or accident of history . It is preferable to concentrate on arguments which
have some basis in research (economic data) or scholarly endeavour (cultural
investigation, application of philosophical principles).
Try to avoid paragraphs which take the form of outlining what one side says than
doing the same for the opposing side and then saying what you think. You need to
take each argument, connect it to current research and then evaluate it. You could
have added weight to your argument about animal rights by drawing on recognised
scholarship in this area or by situating your discussion within a theoretical framework
which deals with the relationship of humans to the non human world. You might like
to examine a deep ecology perspective or what some of the eco feminists have to
say about the relationships of humans to the natural world.
Although writing at university usually employs a formal tone, I have no problem with
your more informal style. You must be careful, however, of relying on emotive
language as it can be perceived as a point of weakness in your writing.
In conclusion, you are a committed writer who writes from conviction, which is also
important, and you have an interesting style which I would like to see you develop.

Tutor 2
It is generally expected in an essay that the way you structure your sentences will
provide the emphasis , so there is no need to italicise words. Some of your points are
well supported, and you have gathered your information and ideas into a logical
structure which addresses the title of the essay; however, your style is not entirely
appropriate for this topic. Rhetorical questions can be a problem as the essay is
meant to answer questions rather than ask them, and there is some unnecessary
use of the first person.

Tutor 3
You stated your thesis clearly in the second paragraph which was good, and your list
of stakeholders was well thought out and presented, but you have some problems in
this essay. For example, you tend to make sweeping statements (e.g.. Australian
unemployment and poverty), and there is some confusion of terms as you slip
between animal welfare to cruelty.
You definitely need to proofread more carefully as there are a number of examples of
poor expression, faulty punctuation and inappropriate style. Development of the
issues for the moral stakeholders would have given the essay more substance and
your referencing needs revising.

51
References
Brand, Arie. 1990. The Force of Reason: An Introduction to Habermas’ Theory of
Communicative Action. Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
Cooke, Maeve. 1994. Language and Reason: A Study of Habermas’s Pragmatics.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.
D’Agostino, Fred. 1989. ‘Adjudication as an Epistemological Concept’. Synthese, 79,
(May, 1989) 231-256.
Ennis, Robert H., 1985. ‘A Logical Basis for Measuring Critical Thinking Skills’.
Educational Leadership, 43, (October, 1985) 44-48.
Fischer, Alec. 1988. The Logic of Real Arguments. Cambridge University Press,
England.
Jewell, P.D. 1989. ‘The Hidden Premise’ in Jewell, P.D. (ed) 1989. Immediate
Conclusions: Proceedings of the National Conference on Reasoning. Flinders
University, South Australia.
Rawls, John. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Belknap Press of Harvard, UP.
Scriven, Michael. 1976. Reasoning. McGraw Hill, United States.

52