Unit Three: Understanding and Presenting Controversy

In Unit Two, we discovered how ideologies and practices shift over time. In Unit Three, our final unit, we will explore what happens when thorny issues emerge and endure; when ideologies, values, and rights sometimes come–and stay–in contest. We’ll tell the story of a controversy for this assignment, explaining how it came about, how it’s endured, what’s at stake, and what questions it continues to ask of our civic life.

History of a Public Controversy Video Project

Working in small groups, students will create a 7-10-minute video that explores, depicts, and makes an argument about the history of a controversy. The video could be created using iMovie or another video production medium. This should be accompanied by at least some audio narration, although visual narration also may be used. Use of music and other sound is encouraged where appropriate.

The objectives of this assignment are to integrate the rhetorical skills you have been developing thus far in the course, especially with regard to the variety of rhetorical modes available in a digital context. You will also learn how to work as a team researching, designing, and presenting an informative text to the class.

The main goal of the project is to enrich your viewers’ understanding of a controversy by presenting new information about it in a lively, compelling, and well-organized way by asking and addressing compelling “framing questions” that give this issue enduring heft and dimension (we will discuss framing questions in class).

In deciding on your topic, consider an issue where there’s some healthy, engaging public discourse—and where more needs to be said. For example: prenatal genetic screening, Marcellus shale (fracking) debate, Mexican drug cartels, US policy toward Iran, genetically modified foods, the purpose of taxes, whether the US government should fund space research, education as a product, drone surveillance of US citizens, textbook prices.

General Requirements

  • Select an interesting, focused issue.
  • Find a way to distribute the work fairly. Keep in mind that editing/compiling the final product is very time intensive.
  • Consider which aspects of the project would benefit from collaborative effort/feedback, and which would be better completed individually.
  • Cite sources in the video to enhance the message’s ethos/credibility.
  • Maintain a list of content sources used and provide complete bibliographic entries at the end of the video. Be sure to include video and music sources here as well.
  • Cite the source for your images at the end of the video in a separate list. Web links are fine—complete bibliographic entries are not needed. Do use complete citations for videos or content sources, though (again, at the end of the video).

Visuals Guidelines

  • Select visuals to augment your textual components—whether oral or written. The two (visuals and language) should mutually support one another, not work at odds.
  • Get your script written early so you have lots of time to develop good supporting images.
  • Be sure to provide on-screen attribution of video used from other sources (“Source: 60 Minutes” or “Video: Al Jazeera” or “YouTube User: LukeWitmer” or similar).
  • Locate the original source whenever possible.
  • Choose high-quality images, not unclear, blurry, or distant ones. Crop images when necessary.
  • Avoid images with watermarks.
  • Consider creating your own visuals if appropriate (simple charts, models, or animations, for instance).

Grades will be influenced by self and peer evaluation of intellectual, research, technological, and interpersonal contributions.

History of Public Controversy Rubric