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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy See All Teacher Resources



Grade 11-12

Reading RH.11-12.8

RH.11-12.8. Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

The Blind Side

There are millions of decisions a person has to make in a lifetime. Sometimes you even have to take sides, like Coke vs. Pepsi, Apple vs. Microsoft, religion vs. science. Often the decisions can get heated and serious, as in the cases of sci-fi vs. fantasy, pirates vs. ninjas, or even Team Edward vs. Team Jacob (barf). When you take a side like this, you defend your thoughts with every bit of information you can think of and argue against the opposing side with just as much fervor. This is true in anything you take a stance on but should be especially true when facing an argument by an author. As with any worldly decisions, beware the turncoat, the flip-flopper, the spineless deserter who swaps to the opposing argument when information is scarce. Don’t be a sell-out.


The Longest Explanation

So this is like someone making a controversial statement, such as your friend saying, “New Green Day is way better than old Green Day,” and you either back them up with more info (corroborating), or tell them why they are wrong (challenging). It starts with understanding the author’s original argument:

  • The three amigos: The author’s premise, claims, and evidence. These three guys are best friends, they go way back. Allow us to break it down:
    • Claim: This is the central point in an argument or central idea in writing. This would be the meat of the burger.
    • Premises: These are the logical sub-points or reasons leading to the central claim. In certain modes of argumentation (inductive and deductive reasoning), there is a classic line-up of two premises and a conclusion (aka central claim). However, in an extended argument, there is no “limit” to the number of premises or logical statements supporting the conclusion. This would be the extra stuff in the burger that makes it a legit burger and not just two buns with meat.
    • Evidence: Strictly speaking, a premise is a type of evidence, but this term is generally accepted as additional information like text or multimedia sources referenced in writing. Consider this the condiments; burgers always taste better if you add in some condiments.
  • If you think the author is full of crap: If you DISAGREE with the argument being made by the author, then hit the research and challenge it. This should include your own counter-claim with supporting evidence.
  • If you think they are preaching to the choir: If you AGREE with the argument you have read, then hit the research and corroborate it. This isn’t the easy way out of an assignment either chief; you have to create an additional claim that supports the author’s point with your own premises and additional evidence.


Read the following argument and use the information to either corroborate or challenge the central assertion. Complete the questions and tasks that follow.


When asked if marijuana should be legalized, 18 year old Zack reportedly said, “That would be dope.” This controversial topic has been debated for decades with strong arguments on either side. However, the fact remains: the legalization of cannabis, or marijuana, would benefit the US economy in many ways, as well as reduce crime. There is no doubt that millions of tax dollars are allocated towards the war on drugs in America. It is also true that most states are struggling with million dollar deficits. Therefore it makes economic sense that the legalization and taxing of marijuana would boost revenue for individual states and alleviate the financial problems.

There are many naysayers in the debate of legalization claiming that there are harsh addictive properties with cannabis and that legalization would encourage teens to use the drug. These antiquated arguments are weak and unstable at best. Doctor Jan Gumbiner1, a psychologist and professor at the University of California, explains that, “Compared to other substances, marijuana is not very addicting” (2010). She lists the percentages for addiction with users of other drugs, concluding that, “It is much harder to quit smoking cigarettes than it is to quit smoking pot” (2010), cigarettes being one of four actually harmful substances listed. It is also no secret that almost every high school student tries it (and some keep trying it well into adulthood), so the regulation of the drug would actually benefit the underage use cause.

According to Norm Stamper2, a previous Seattle Police Officer, this would also, “free that state’s police officers to concentrate on crimes that inflict the deepest fear, pain, and loss” (2010). Stamper, a keen advocate for the legalization of cannabis, also acknowledges in his article the economic benefits, stating that it is “the biggest cash crop” in twelve different states, and America as a whole generates a reported “$36 billion annually” (2010). The newest legislation in Washington also focuses on the legalization issue. Adam Cohen3, a professor at Yale’s School of Law, wrote, “Washington’s referendum would treat pot much like alcohol, so the sale of marijuana would be restricted to people over 21” (2012). It is a chronic misconception that weed is harmful, and we must hash out a joint agreement to see it legalized. With the country in financial crisis and the current criminalization of marijuana not able to dissuade young users, the benefits of legalization far outweigh the costs.

Fun and Games

1. Complete the following chart for the text: [Easy]

Criteria Evidence
Central Claim:

2. Make a general statement to substantiate or contest the claims presented in the article. [Medium]

3. Identify at least three statements in the article that may be construed as fallacious and explain why or how. [Medium]

4. Using at least two valid sources, write an article of comparable length that either corroborates or refutes the information presented. Your claim should be consistent with your response for #2. Cite sources when applicable. [Hard]

5. List each major premise given in the argument presented. Construct a response consistent with your previous mode of evaluation in which you reference at least one researched source. Cite your sources where applicable. The information used in question #3 may guide this point-for-point response. [Hard]


1. Gumbiner, J. (2010). “Is Marijuana Addictive,” in The Teenage Mind. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-teenage-mind/201012/is-marijuana-addictive  

2. Stamper, N. (2010). “Legalization Will Reduce Crime, Free Up Police Resources,” in Marijuana and Money: CNBC Special Report. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://www.cnbc.com/id/36201668/Legalization_-Will_Reduce_Crime_Free_Up_Police_Resources

3. Cohen, A. (2012). "Legal Recreational Marijuana: Not So Far Out,” in Time Ideas: Essential Insights. Great Debates. Informed Opinions. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://ideas.time.com/2012/02/06/legal-recreational-marijuana-not-so-far-out/ . 

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