These writing assignments are done in-class on a pass/no pass basis. Topics cover reading material, homework or other relevant issues. Generally speaking, you have 10-15 minutes to complete these in-class writings. Please come to class with pen and paper, prepared to write. These assignments will not be announced ahead of time and will be administered either at the beginning or the close of class. If you don't turn the work in, you won't get credit for being in class that day.

Daily Writing Assignments for Fall Semester, 2017

In-class writing, generally taken from homework assignments.

Monday, Sept. 20, 2017

There's a lot happening in the world out there. How much attention to do you pay to the news? Where do you get most of your news? Do you visit any websites specifically for news?

Write about one thing you noticed that happened or is happening, something you can explain with more than a headline. Write about five minutes. You can express your opinion about current events as well as explain what you know.

Monday, August 28, 2017

1) According to the video we watched, attention is limited. Describe at least two different demonstrations the video used as evidence of limited attention.
2) According to the video, what is attention?
3) The video claims none of us are that good at multi-tasking. How good are you? Describe an event from your life that supports your position.
4) What is in-attentional blindness?
5) The video suggested two ways we might improve our attention, what were they?
6) What happened in the news this weekend?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spend about 15 minutes writing about your self.

Tell me:

1) What's important to you
2) Why you're in school at this time in your life
3) What you hope for in your future
4) What kind of obligations and challenges you face outside the classroom
5) How you like to spend free time
6) What you think of yourself as a student
7) Whether you like to write and how you would evaluate your writing ability
8) Anything else you want me to know

Don't forget to put your name on your paper.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

You have 5 minutes to write down 4 agreed upon principles that will guide your group process. This is the group's social contract. Design it and agree to it. You must each sign the document and turn it in at the end of the allotted time.

The group will then move on to solving a larger problem that demonstrates the purpose of a "social contract" in the society at large, and in a democracy in particular.

Should there be a social safety net? What should or shouldn't be part of it? Come to consensus by voting or some other method. Then construct a statement that answers the question about the existence of a social safety net and list 5 statements that support the group position. List any consenting views.

Write an individual evaluation of your group process. How well did your group stick to (live up to) the social contract you designed? How well designed (how functional) was your group contract?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Teen suicide.
Create two columns on your paper, one for ethical considerations, one for legal.
Write the three top issues at play under each column.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In The Book Thief:
  1. Who is Max Vandenburg? What is his story?
  2. What is the history that led to his coming to Hans and Rosa Hubermann's house on Himmel Street?
  3. What are some things that Max and Liesel have in common?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who is the narrator in The Book Thief? Explain what you feel, think and understand about the narrator. Explain how it impacts your sense of the book and what it's going to be about. Do you like the narrator? Why or why not.

Are you a fox or a hedgehog?

  1. (7 points) Give yourself +7 points if you think you are a fox, and -7 if you think you are a hedgehog.
  2. (-3 points) Experts are more likely to exaggerate how complex the world is than to underestimate how complex it is.
  3. (4 points) US politics are more cloudlike than clocklike (“cloudlike” meaning inherently unpredictable; “clocklike” meaning predictable if we have adequate knowledge).
  4. (-5 points) The more common error in decision-making is to abandon good ideas too quickly, not to stick with bad ideas too long.
  5. (-2 points) Having clear rules and order at work or school is essential for success.
  6. (5 points) Even after I have made up my mind about something, I am always willing to consider a different opinion.
  7. (-6 points) I dislike questions that can be answered in many different ways.
  8. (-5 points) I usually make important decisions quickly and confidently.
  9. (5 points) When considering most conflicts, I can usually see how both sides could be right.
  10. (-3 points) It is annoying to listen to someone who cannot seem to make up their mind.
  11. (4 points) I prefer interacting with people whose opinions are different from my own.
  12. (1 point) When trying to solve a problem, I often see so many options that it is confusing.



























1-50 is fox/ -1 to -50 is hedgehog


The Challenges of Philosophical Writing —Harvard Writing Center

"The aim of the assignments in your philosophy classes
is to get you doing philosophy. But what is philosophy,
and how is it to be done? The answer is complicated.
Philosophers are often motivated by one or more of what
we might call the “Big Questions,” such as: How should
we live? Is there free will? How do we know anything?
or, What is truth? While philosophers do not agree among
themselves on either the range of proper philosophical
questions or the proper methods of answering them, they
do agree that merely expressing one’s personal opinions
on controversial topics like these is not doing philosophy.
Rather, philosophers insist on the method of first attaining
clarity about the exact question being asked, and then
providing answers supported by clear, logically structured

Due Monday, October 10, 2016

  1. Summarize pages 94-99 from your text book (or if you prefer, outline it in the Standard Form using premises and conclusions).
  2. Find one example in the media (it can be from your topic or a one off about something else). Analyze the language by marking words, phrases and/or whole sentences. Talk about definitions, implied meanings, hidden and ambiguous assumptions. Focus only on the language.
  3. 3. List your topic for your media portfolio.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

1) Pick any one scene from the documentary on paying attention, describe it and explain why you found it worth writing about. What did it teach you?

2) How good are you at paying attention to the world around you? What's your evidence for the answer you're providing (about yourself).

3) What do you pay the most attention to in your life? Why?

Daily Writing Assignments for Spring Semester, 2016

In-class writing, generally taken from homework assignments.

Monday, April 18, 2016

PART I: Given the fact that marijuana may become legal in California after the November election, imagine you've been invited to serve on a committee establishing campus policy concerning its use. Should there be restrictions on Mendocino's campus? Should teachers be allowed (for example) to come to class stoned? Should students? Should there be areas on campus where smoking is allowed? (Smoke zones). Should childcare workers be restricted? What about security personnel? What about athletes and coaches? What about medical marijuana? Should there be an age limit? There are undoubtedly a host of other questions to ask and answer. You may conclude that marijuana should not be allowed on campus at all. Design a "social contract" for students, faculty, administration and staff. Define the consequences of violating that contract. Make sure your policy is in line with the proposed state law.

PART II: How should the state law read?

Monday March 21

Write a paragraph defending your position on the topic you've chosen. Then write a paragraph refuting the position you just defended. Point out the reasons (premises) for first one side and then the other. Include a sentence or two with each premise, explaining it. In the end, note your position and explain why you hold to it even in the face of those elements that support the other side.

Monday March 14, 2016

Summarize the article from your textbook, pgs. 108-110 (Telling the Brutal Truth). As a group, answer the questions at the end of the article. You'll have to turn in the summary and the answers. All names should be on the papers you turn in. Assign one person to keep the group on track and ask those who aren't participating to do so. Assign one person to write up the answers and a different person to write up the summary. Assign one person to report to the class on your answers to the questions.



Wednesday March 2, 2016

Your text book explains how to write a summary on page 65-66. This is open book, you can refer to your text as much as you want. Your task is to summarize the material we read for today, between page 57-70. You do not need to comment on any of the exercises, just the text that is providing information. If you don't have your textbook, find someone who will share theirs with you.


Each person in the group must contribute to the process. (No one gets to opt out.)

Task one person with the job of making sure everyone speaks up and that you stay focused on the work. The work is to create a Standard Form and Summary for the article. Each must be a consensus answer that everyone has helped create and agreed to. Talk over the article until you agree on the answers.

Choose a different person to record the following:
  1. Build a Standard Form presentation of the news article. It must have three premises and a conclusion. (See pages 51-54 of your text for help.)
  2. Create a summary of the article. It must be 60-75 words in length. (See pages 65-66 of your text for help.)

The last person (or persons) will present the material to the class. If there are four people in your group, one person presents the Standard Form, the other person presents the Summary.

Make sure everyone's name is on the final paper that you turn in!

Monday February 1, 2016

  1. How does your text book explain what a World View is? (Your homework for today covered this.)
  2. Why do you think your text introduces the concept of World View? What is its significance?
  3. Explain the cartoon below? What do you think the word "paradigm" means? How might it be connected to the idea of World View?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Your textbook says "writing is thinking made visible." What do you think that means? Do you agree or disagree? Does writing have impact on your thinking? Explain.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Thought experiment for Ethics: Imagine you're a worker and you see a runaway subway train barreling down the track. There are five workers ahead that will be hit unless you immediately divert the train to another track where there's only one worker. What do you do?

Version two: you're a worker on the track and if you push the big fat guy who's with you in front of the train, it will save the five guys down the track. What do you do?

Three Questions:

  1. What's the difference between these two situations?

  2. Is inaction an option? Why or why not?

  3. Do things change if the person working alone is family?

Monday, October 12, 2025

  1. Read article with pen in hand. Underline main and important points.

  2. Turn the information into the "Standard Form," (premises and conclusion). This is explained on page 53-57 in your text.

  3. Write a summary of the article. (About a paragraph.) This is explained on page 65-66 in your text.

  4. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Monday, October 5, 2025

Your reading (pg 94-99) discussed the significance of words and their changing definitions. Explain in your own words what the text was trying to communicate. Give at least one example from your reading.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Working with media: Seven Steps.

  1. Find the Facts

  2. Find the Opinions

  3. Find the Arguments

  4. Find Any Hidden Assumptions

  5. What is the ultimate (main) message of the article

  6. Where do you stand on the subject

  7. Did the article persuade you? Why or Why not?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Describe how you go about writing a paper for any class. What is your process? Where do you start? Is it hard for you or easy? Why? What do you think makes it hard or easy (or somewhere in between). Do you think in terms of metaphors or analogies or storytelling or detail or description? How good of a writer do you think you are.?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The video, Test Your Brain, (today's homework) starts with a card trick. What is it and how does it work? Did it fool you or did you succeed in seeing what was going on? Tell me one other thing about the video.

Monday, August 31, 2015

  1. Inside the outer box, list the dominant values that you see expressed in your culture as a whole. Include as part of your cultural picture any religious training you may have received, and, if appropriate, the influence of your ethnic community.
  2. Think about the significant personal experiences of your life, and how they have shaped your values, attitudes and beliefs. Consider the influence of your parents, siblings, and close friends; consider also major life events, like traveling or living overseas, or suffering a significant illness or loss. Write these personal values and beliefs, and the experiences that helped shape them, inside in the smaller box surrounding your “head.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Using the information you got from your homework, describe critical thinking and explain why it's important. Give an example of a situation when you either used critical thinking (or didn't, but should have) and describe why critical thinking served (or would have served) the situation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Are there things you know to be true?
What are they and how do you know them?
How do you learn new things?
Is freedom an illusion? Why or why not?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tell me any one thing that you learned from the video that was assigned for today's homework.

February 25, 2015

How much do you pay attention to the world and what is happening? Do you watch or listen to or read the news? How often? Why or why not? That is why do you pay attention, or if you don't, why not?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Identifying images through questions.

The picture you're trying to identify might be a photograph, a cartoon or a piece of art. It might be of nature, of machines and technology, of people or some object. It might have action in it or be posed (still). These are things you want to find out. It may be contemporary or historical. It may be real or fantasy. Think of the broad categories that will help you focus in on the image and give you the most information. Those are the questions to ask first.

The person looking at the image can ONLY answer (no clues, no extra chatter):

  • Yes.

  • No.

  • I don’t know.

  • That’s irrelevant.

  • There’s more. (If they guessed part, but not all of the picture.)

Wednesday Feb 4, 2015

What was your homework assignment? Describe the PBS video presentation you were asked to watch. What information did you find the most interesting in the program? If you didn't watch it, tell me why (better have a good excuse).

Extra Credit: What else was on the wiki page assigned as homework for today? Describe the content of any of the other videos or text on the page.

Monday, February 2, 2015


  1. Are issues usually black and white for you or do you see them as having gray areas? For example, is lying to a friend always wrong? Are some lies less bad because they are intended to prevent your friend from feeling bad about something or being disillusioned?

  2. Do you prefer things to be unchanging and stable? Do you like to do things the same traditional way every time? In contrast, do you prefer to do things in new ways, and do you enjoy having a changing and unpredictable life?

  3. Do you like to take unnecessary personal physical risks or not? For example, do you enjoy rock climbing, surfing big waves, or other sports that inherently involve a high risk for your safety? At which end of this scale are you the happiest? Does security mean boredom for you or comfort?

  4. Do you prefer competition or cooperation? For example, do you like games and sports in which there are clear winners and losers or do you prefer non-competitive activities, like art or making music, in which winning is not the goal?

Monday, January 26, 2015

  1. Detail your understanding of critical thinking.
  2. What are some of the elements that define critical thinking, analysis, for example.
  3. What is analysis?
  4. What is the purpose of thinking critically?
  5. Do you agree that most people don't think that much of the time, but rather react? Explain your answer.
  6. What role do you think emotion should play in thinking?
  7. How good are you at thinking? Why? What is your evidence?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Many questions are easy to understand but difficult to answer. Thinking about them systematically and clearly may improve our critical thinking. Here are a few to ponder.

  1. Why is there something rather than nothing?

  2. Does every event have a cause?

  3. What is time? Is time travel possible?

  4. What is a person? Is it the mind, or the body?

  5. What is consciousness?

  6. What is an emotion? Are emotions irrational?

  7. Is love just a feeling?

  8. Does freewill really exist?

  9. Can we be certain of anything?

  10. Can there be two different theories of the world, both true and complete?

  11. What is the meaning of life?

  12. Is happiness the most important purpose in life?

Socratic Circle/Fishbowl Process


1. Immigration
2. Climate Change Protest

Observation Questions:

  • What kinds of questions generated the most interesting and useful discussion?
  • What other questions might have been asked?
  • What kinds of interventions and approaches to discussion took the debate forward most constructively?



1) The video, Digital Nation, talked about some of the ways technology is changing how the military operates. Talk about those changes and what questions they bring up. Where do you stand on these issues?

2) Digital Nation also discussed the way technology is changing students and young people. Again, what are the changes the video discussed and what is the impact on most students? Are you impacted by technology? How?

Extra Credit: The video made a specific reference to how our use of technology has changed the way many students write essays. Explain what that is and whether you are one of the many students who write this way.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Make a list of five possible principles/values/ethical constructs that could guide the human race.
Is it possible for these constructs to be applied across the entire planet? Why or why not?
Defend one of your ideas. Shoot down one of your ideas.
Are human beings basically good (and corrupted by civilization) or basically "bad" as in the fallen Adam?
How does your idea of basic human behavior change the way you think about over-arching ethical constructs?

Monday, March 31, 2014

GrottoEntrance.jpg Plato’s goal was to prove that justice is worthwhile independent of the advantages it confers, do you think he is correct in this belief? What advantages does justice confer? What disadvantages?


In the Allegory of the Cave what is the symbolic meaning of the following:

  1. The shackles, bonds and fetters
  2. The shadows
  3. The fire
  4. The artifacts held up to make the shadows
  5. The cave
  6. The world outside the cave
  7. The light above (the sun)
  8. Persons who view the shadows (the prisoners)
  9. Person who leaves the cave (the freed prisoner)
  10. Person who returns to the cave

Wednesday, March 19

1) How do you decide what is right or wrong? What are the standards—are there standards—by which you determine what is the right thing to do in any given situation?

2) Does this standard change based on the situation or is it absolute and consistent?

Monday, February 3, 2014



Sexual Orientation




Economic Status



Cultural Preferences (Music, Art, Entertainment, Sports)



Religion/Belief Systems

Health/Physical Orientation towards the world

Monday, January 27, 2014

Part I:

The Home page attempted to give a lot of defining information about critical thinking.
Answer of the following question in short paragraph answers (make sure you say enough to make your point).
  1. Define Critical Thinking.

Answer Three (3) of the following questions in short paragraph answers (make sure you say enough to make your point).
  1. What is a premise and/or a claim?

  2. What constitutes good evidence?

  3. What is a conclusion?

  4. What is reason, and what is its value?

  5. Why is Critical Thinking important?

  6. Why doesn't "black and white" thinking work?

Part II:

On the Modern Education page both Steve Jobs and JK Rowling delivered commencement speeches to graduating students at Stanford and Harvard. They spoke about a range of things, one of which stood out because they both addressed it.
Answer all of the following:
  1. Who is Steve Jobs? Name one thing that you learned about him.

  2. Who is JK Rowling? Name one thing that you learned about her.

  3. What was the common theme they both addressed? What did they each say about it?

Link to English 200 Daily Writing