This page provides a curated collection of possible readings to use in Writing 150. These have been read and annotated in anticipation of a BYU audience. However, you should read them carefully before using these in your own classroom and have careful objectives laid out for assigning these readings.
Please note that you are not limited to these readings in your class; you do not have to choose only from this list. However, as you choose readings to assign, please be conscious of your audience and ensure that materials you assign are consistent with course learning objectives. (You may also consult this document with guidelines from the College of Humanities.)
Note that the first groups of readings are organized by theme while the later groups are organized by genre.
What about Paywalls?
A lot of web sites featuring great mentor texts for our students operate behind paywalls and offer only limited free access to some articles. The BYU Library offers limited access (i.e., a 24-hour pass, but one that can be renewed indefinitely) to some of these sites:
- The New York Times (use a byu.edu or byu.net email address to create a special account and log in from this page)
- The Wall Street Journal (no account needed, but you will need to be logged in to the HBLL site before clicking this link)
- The New Yorker (again, no account needed, but you will need to be logged into the HBLL site before clicking this link)
Please keep copyright laws in mind and do not make copies of these articles for your students to read. The best choice is to place the article/text you need on course reserve, but if you can’t do that, please to give students links to the articles and help them navigate the library resources above if needed.
The readings here treat a similar theme: the potential that today’s large companies (like Amazon or Facebook) are monopolies that exert undue power and influence.
It’s Time to Break Up Facebook (Chris Hughes)
In this op-ed, one of the co-founders of Facebook argues that Mark Zuckerberg has too much power and that Facebook is too big and should be broken up.
Breaking Up Facebook Is Not the Answer (Nick Clegg)
This op-ed is a direct response to the previous piece, written by a Facebook executive. It can provide a nice sense for students of how this genre can be used to initiate discourse.
Facebook Defends Itself (Andre Liptak)
In this piece from tech site The Verge, Liptak provides a summary and some analysis of the back-and-forth in the previous two op-eds.
How Low Prices Could Make for Antitrust Case Against Amazon (Colin Lecher)
This piece of research journalism looks at methods by Amazon that could be labeled as predatory pricing and argues that this could be anti-competitive and drive an anti-monopoly suit against Amazon. A strong example of research-based writing that could be used as a model for the Inquiry Paper.
Privacy in a Digital Age
These readings look at contemporary concerns with privacy in a world of digital devices, social media, and targeted advertisement.
Privacy Should Not Be a Luxury Good (Sundar Pichai)
This op-ed from the CEO of Google makes an argument for strong privacy protections at the same time as it defends Google’s practices of collecting (and protecting) personal data.
For A Longer, Healthier Life, Share Your Data (Luke Miner)
This author makes an argument in favor of easing some privacy restrictions on health data. A good example of navigating a tricky area with a moderate solution.
Why Privacy Is an Antitrust Issue (Dina Srinivasan)
This op-ed connects the issues of antitrust and privacy, making a unique argument about the consequences of a company like Facebook gaining dominance in the market and the ensuing deterioration of product quality.
A collection of some of Brooks’ recent writing. As an op-ed writer for the New York Times and social critic, he offers many models of the genres and ideas we teach in this class.
The Moral Peril of Meritocracy
A longer example of the opinion editorial, this piece draws on many ideas from his newest book, The Second Mountain. An interesting look at what qualifies life as worth living, and one with many debatable claims.
Five Lives Our Culture Tells
This piece talks about crises facing our society (including the young adults we teach) and suggest flawed cultural understandings or truisms that might be contributing to those problems.
What Rural America Has to Teach Us
This op-ed shows a look at one aspect of American society and culture that is often overlooked and the values from that area that might be important more broadly. Could provide a good model for students of how a writer examines something that’s often overlooked.
Yes, I’m An American Nationalist
A more political op-ed but still connected to themes of belonging and identity that often permeate Brooks’ work. Some nice sentences to study here for style and rhetoric.
Brooks also has several books that would provide good material for studying writing and style. These include The Second Mountain and The Road to Character among others. Under Fair Use guidelines you can copy and distribute to students short excerpts (a few pages) of his writing, but be careful about the amount you copy. Also, distribute readings either in print or through Learning Suite where they’re behind password protection.
“Safe” Spaces at the University
The readings listed here are connected to recent discussions in higher ed about the nature of ideas and speech at the university. These could spark interesting discussions with students about the purposes of the university and what they should expect from their experience here.
The Coddling of the American Mind (Greg Lukianogg and Jonathan Haidt)
A much-talked about article (long) arguing that university students’ desires to be protected from potentially offensive or challenging ideas is ultimately going to be bad. It sparked discussion within the pages of the The Atlantic magazine, too, (see here and here) that could provide good material for discussions about how a society engages in discourse about ideas like this, and how individuals add their voice to the conversation.
Campus Protestors Aren’t Reliving the 1960s (Josh Zeitz)
Inspired by several protestors against certain speakers being invited to some campuses as well as other issues that college students have protested. Zeitz looks at these through the lens of students and agency, arguing that earlier protests were about having more independence while more current protests are actually seeking the opposite. A lot of history about the 1960 movements as a way to build the argument.
Feminine Weakness is a Scam (Sophie Mackintosh)
The novelist argues for seeing the power inherent in women and the ways that society tends to disregard those. There isn’t anything necessarily innovative in her argument, but this op-ed is a good example of an argument built largely on personal experience and widely held observations.
Leave Millenials Alone! (Helaine Olen)
This op-ed outlines current “bashing” of millenials and instead traces the “problems” being criticized to economic and other challenges faced by this younger generation. A good example of looking at something from a different angle, and could prompt some ideas about topics that our students know more about than most. Also uses some research to support her claims.
Monuments to White Supremacy (Brent Stephens)
Pulitzer prize-winner Stephens wades into the debate about monuments to Confederate leaders, gathering several pieces of evidence in support of his argument that they are inspired by white supremacy. He does mention rape in the context of lies used to justify lynchings, but this should be fine for a BYU audience.
Republican Climate-Change Deniers Should Study the EU Elections (Jennifer Rubin)
Author warns that changes in European voting patterns in favor of green parties could suggest trouble for Republicans in this country. The use of language in this op-ed could be a good object of study for students in Writing 150.
Want Millenials to get married and have babies? Change the policies that stop us (Elizabeth Bruenig)
The author makes a case for changing some polices about student loan debt and parental leave in respond to hand-wringing about trends that show young people marrying and starting families later than in the past. A simple argument with some researched evidence, could generate strong discussion in class about counter-arguments and strength of evidence.
Is the individual obsolete? (George Will)
George Will, a widely read and respected conservative thinker, argues that progressive policies today act in counter of individualism, which he defines at as the core of the American experiment. This is a longer opinion piece (excerpted from a book) but thoughtful, detailed, and careful in its reasoning. Could provide a strong mentor for clear writing and lots of material for discussion of current political thought.
Why I Have Zero Interest in Cloud Gaming (Jeffrey L. Wilson)
An opinion piece that’s in a different vein from many we feature here, video gaming. Could be used to show students the broad areas in which opinion writing can be found and help them think more broadly about potential topics for their own pieces.