Problem Problem Statements

Problem statements
Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 20-30 minutes

Distribute some flawed problem statements to the class (the ones below, or ones you've written that relate to your theme, or perhaps some adapted from student writing). Ask the class to identify what's wrong with them, and to rewrite the flawed elements. Share results as a class.
Scroll down for a worksheet and answer key.


Flawed Problem Statements
Read over the problem statements below. What's wrong with them? How can you improve them?
a. Most parents believe that all rock music is angry and violent and really dangerous. Study after study, however, proves that there's no obvious connection between song violence and real violence. As long as we think that violence in music is the cause of crime, we will be unable to focus on the more likely causes, and we won't see the real benefits of angry music. Violence in music is not only not harmful, it's actually helpful.
b. In the past ten years, computer technology has grown enormously, and made it much easier to download music and burn CDs. Many music fans prefer mix CDs to the old mix tapes, because they're easier to make and last longer. But the truth is that mix tapes are superior. As long as people continue to think that CDs are better, they will never be able to recognize that CD technology is soulless, or to experience the joys of the mix tape process. The mix tape rules over the mix CD in every way.
c. Star Wars was incredibly popular in America when it came out in the 1970s, and it has been popular ever since. Many fans see the story as a timeless classic with a universal story about an underdog who wins against all odds. What they fail to realize is that, although the movie seems to be about a universe far away, it's actually about America, especially America in the seventies and its role in the Vietnam War. Until we recognize the real meaning of Star Wars, America will never get any national allies and the United Nations will continue to be a joke. Star Wars reflects a national crisis in identity.
d. We're usually willing to overlook artists if we think that they are talented enough; we don't really care if Picasso cheated on his wife, or if Hemingway was a bad father. But the people who suffer at the hands of artists are real, and their feelings may be more important than art. As long as we focus on art and ignore people, we'll never be able to evaluate artists honestly or totally. Balancing art and human relationships lies at the heart of the movie Big Night, in which the movie's chef is an artist (with food) who treats people badly.
e. At the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, not many hobbits would have thought that Frodo could save the world—not even Frodo thought so. He soon learns, though, that he does have courage and bravery. If Frodo had never figured out that he was capable of more than he originally thought, Middle Earth would have been doomed. Frodo is a hero.
f. In the status quo, a common criticism of television talk shows like Maury and Jerry Springer is that they take advantage of people in trouble, especially poor people. But, to destabilize this criticism, I would like to point out that the people who appear on TV talk shows do so of their own free will. The consequences if we keep feeling bad for talk show guests are that we won't be able to see how talk shows actually provide a rare opportunity for working-class people. The resolution of this paper, then, is that talk shows are one of the few places on television that actually show working-class lie, and let working-class people talk for themselves.

Answer key
a. the status quo isn't true, or at least is highly improbable
b. the destabilizing moment and the resolution are identical
c. takes a conceptual problem and gives it tangible consequences
d. uses a movie to prove a some principle about the real world
e. presents the problems that Frodo and the hobbits face, not that readers/viewers face.
f. uses LRS vocabulary as part of the paragraph: not necessary!