10 Persuasive Writing Tasks and Prompts About Politics and Government
One tough part about teaching English and writing is to actually get kids to write. Once they do, editing, revising, and learning how to improve are easy. But you need to have something to start with.
Persuasive writing can be a good way to get kids interested in writing. They want to argue and make their point of view known. They may not want to write about that novel or play that you read in class. By giving them an authentic task that they are actually concerned about, you'll be able to tap into some genuine emotion and get them to put words on paper.
There are an endless number of questions you could ask. Persuasive writing prompts about school rules (see this hub for examples) are always good, since every kid has an opinion on rules. Politics and government makes another good topic. Many of the big questions in politics rest on common sense arguments and opinions, and everyone has some kind of opinion on them.
So, to get you started, here are ten argumentative prompts that you can use in class relating to issues in politics or government.
List of Persuasive Prompts
- Should ordinary citizens be allowed to own guns? Every year, thousands of people are killed by guns in the U.S. Other countries like England have virtually outlawed guns and eliminated gun deaths. Yet the right to own weapons is one of America's most basic Constitutional rights.
- Should ordinary citizens be allowed to own assault weapons? In recent years, there have been an increasing number of mass killings involving automatic rifles and assault weapons. Is it ok for the government to ban these weapons, or is this stepping on people's right to own weapons?
- Should taxes be flat (everyone pays the same rate) or progressive (richer people pay a higher rate)? Since the 1920s, the United States has had a progressive income tax, where wealthier people pay a higher tax rate. Is this fair, or is this a normal way to fund the government?
- Should the government be focused on cutting spending or raising revenue? The issue of deficit reduction has been big in the last few years. But how should the government do it? Should they cut spending (and thus government programs) or should they raise revenue (and thus taxes)?
- Should Congressmen and Senators have term limits? Presidents can only be elected twice. But many Senators serve 20 or 30 years in their position. Is it ok for the same people to serve in Congress for decades, or should they have to retire after a certain number of years?
- Should Supreme Court Justices be appointed for life? In many states, judges are appointed for limited terms or they need to be re-appointed during their career. At the federal level, Supreme Court Justices are appointed once and they serve on the court for life. Is this fair?
- Should there be strict limits on campaign spending, or should anyone be able to spend whatever they want on political advertisements? Political advertising gives interest groups and third parties a voice in elections. Some people say that this unfairly allows wealthy groups to have a stronger voice than groups with fewer resources. Is it ok for these wealthy groups to dominate political advertising in election season?
- Should people be allowed to vote by email or mail, or should they have to go to a physical polling location? Some states have strict rules about mail in ballots, while some states let anyone mail in a ballot. Is this an important issue in fairness?
- Should we interpret the Constitution the way the founders intended, or should we interpet it in light of changing circumstances? There are two schools of thought about the Constitution - "original intent" and the "living document." Do you think the meaning of the document has changed over time?
- Are the requirements for voting in the United States fair? While many people can vote, felons and restricted from voting in many states and teenagers under the age of 18 can't vote. Should the requirements be left alone, or should changes be made?
Provide Background Information, and Write
In the case of these persuasive writing prompts, it would be very helpful to provide some background information to students. While they are certainly entitled to have their own opinions, part of making an argument about policy in a democracy is making an informed opinion. This would be a good situation in which to make and use a webquest, collecting a series of articles and videos on a website in order to help students write their essay.
Once the students are ready to write, make sure you provide them with some scaffolding to help them. This essay map tool is a nice way to organize the essay. You also want to make sure that they argue for their point as well as making a counter-argument against the points that other people would raise.
Good luck, and enjoy reading all those essays!