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Lovenheim Essay

“The people Lovenheim meets have great backstories, and his life is enriched by his efforts. It’s impossible to read this book without feeling the urge to knock on neighbors’ doors.”
Chicago Sun-Times

“A disarmingly straightforward approach to its subject…Lovenheim does his modest best to create neighborly bonds where none existed, with quiet but real results.”
-Washington Post Book World

“It is hard to read this book and not think of your own neighborhood, your own street. Who do you know? Everyone? Anyone? No one at all?”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“This book, so gentle and unassuming on the surface, is in fact deeply radical. If we all took its lessons to heart, our world would be a different, and better, place.”
-Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Air We Breathe

“The appeal of In the Neighborhood is hard to resist, and Lovenheim’s interactions with his own neighbours are always interesting….”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Lovenheim advances ideas about isolation in the modern world, and why a welcoming front porch is needed now more than ever.”

“Mr. Lovenheim’s ‘neighborhood’ is a place where no one knows anyone else-like so many neighborhoods today. In this warm and intimate book, he gets to know the strangers who are his neighbors and shows how a community can be transformed by the power of human connections.”
-Marc Silver, author of Breast Cancer Husband

In the Neighborhood is a big book in sheep’s clothing: it insists on posing the boldest questions about our everyday American lives, but does so personably and mildly. We accompany this insistently wide-eyed author on a series of neighborhood sleepovers, and come face to face with our own insularity.”
-Mark Kramer, co-editor of Telling True Stories and former director of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University

“This book will awaken your inner sociologist. In the Neighborhood is an inspirational reminder that for all our collective bemoaning about the loss of community, the solution is only a knock on the door away.”
-Prof. Keith N Hampton, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

 "The Flight from Conversation" by Sherry Turkle 

“There’s No Place Like Home” by Joe Kotkin

One. Is the “new localism” really new?

There are old hangouts in Redondo Beach where generations of the same people frequent the same eating establishments. This isn’t new but it is localism.

It appears the author’s observation is somewhat obvious and self-evident: “the longer people stay in their homes and communities, the more they identify with those places, and the greater their commitment to helping local businesses and institutions thrive, even in a downturn.”

Less obvious is Kotkin’s observation that Americans are less nomadic (moving from one part of the country to another, sometimes for climbing the professional ladder) and are staying in one place. As Kotkin writes, “In 2008, the total number of people changing residences was less than those who did so in 1962, when the country had 120 million fewer people.”

If you settle into a community with good schools, for example, there is little motivation to move.

Two. How is the essay a defense of social media and the Digital Age?

Because of online work, people can work at home, which allows for more geographic choice.

We’re also saving on transportation costs, which translates into greater productivity.

These home-based workers will be a large part of localism.

Sample Refutation Thesis

While I concede that there is convincing research about the way social media can have a "zombie effect" on those who overuse it, social media produces advantages for champion human culture that outweigh its dangers evidenced by _____________, _________________, _______________, ____________________, and ___________________. 

Sample Thesis That Disagrees with Above

While I concede that social media champions human culture in many amazing ways, its dangerous far outweigh its advantages when we consider __________________, _________________, _________________, and ___________________. 

Thesis That Disagrees with Both Thesis Statements Above

It's lame to argue for or against social media. It's here to stay. The real question is are there safeguards we can implement to minimize the very real dangers of social media, and the answer is no because ___________________, _______________, _______________, and __________________. 

"Won't You Be My Neighbor" by Peter Lovenheim

One. How does Lovenheim introduce his essay and how effective is his introduction? Explain. 

He writes about sleeping over at an 81-year-old widower's house and how his daughter thins he's crazy. Later in the essay, we learn that Lovenheim knocked on random neighbors' doors and requested to sleepover. More than half of the 18 neighbors he approached said yes to his request. 

Most likely, I would have said no. I don't know what this says about me, but I tend to prefer my privacy in these matters. 

Then he describes the tragedy of a husband who killed his wife while the two middle-school age kids ran into the street screaming. The impact of the loss was minimal because the neighbors didn't have strong bonds. 

I found myself not caring that much about how neighborhoods don't have strong bonds and maybe I should care. 

Many of us perhaps associate "bonds" with time commitments and many of us, myself included, feel we don't have time for neighborly socializing, which creates social capital. 

We read that from 1974-1998 neighborly social interactions defined by a shared evening fell by one-third. He then points out that Robert Putman, author of Bowling Alone, observes that neighborly ties today are less than half of what they were 50 years ago. 

Sample Thesis

We can glean from both Kotkin's and Lovenheim's essays that social media is not the culprit of the various social pathologies McMahon has discussed in class. In fact, the real culprits of these pathologies are ________________, _________________, _______________, ___________________, and ____________________. 


Types of Arguments

(I've adapted these ideas from Chapter 3 of How to Write Anything by John J. Ruszkiewicz.) 

Know what kind of argument you are writing:

Argument to advance a thesis:

You argue for a thesis as you champion an idea or a cause.

For example, you might argue for eating steamed vegetables three times a day and provide the many benefits of employing such a practice. 

Another example would be a writer who argues that the Paleo diet is the most effective way to maintain lean muscle mass. 

Another example would be for a writer to argue for water rationing and triple water bills for homeowners who go over their water threshold. 

Refutation argument:

You refute an already existing argument or practice, showing point by point why the argument is weak, precarious, or even fallacious (fallacy-laden).

For example, you might refute Civil War reenactments on the grounds that they are white male fantasies based on the infantile hunger for nostalgia, the toxic Kool-Aid of White Supremacy, and the denial of moral accountability for the evils of slavery.

In your refutation, you paint Civil War reenactments as a grotesque pageantry akin to a racist Disneyworld where are all the actors are white and black history has been erased because "it would be too disturbing" to the bogus, idealized world inhabited by the emotionally-arrested aspirants of "the good old Confederate days" and their other shameless displays of morally-bankrupt tomfoolery.  

Once you decide on your argument or claim, you must consider finding compelling reasons to support your claim. 

Support Your Claim

Without support consisting of data, statistics, reasoning, logic, and refutations to counterarguments, your opinion exists in an abyss or a vacuum. You must develop a considered or educated opinion, which is the result of fearlessly studying the pros and cons of your subject in which you try to minimize your prejudices, biases, and other emotional baggage that might blind you from the truth. 

Understand Opposing Claims and Points of View

You don't have an educated or considered opinion until you have been tested by your opponents' strongest arguments. If you can refute those arguments, then you can continue with your claim. 

You will also gain credibility with your readers for showing your understanding of your opponents' views. 

You will gain even more credibility when you can refute your opponents with assured insouciance rather than infantile hostility. Also choose polite insouciance over hostility as the former is a sign of intellectual superiority; the latter is a sign of juvenile fear and inexperience. 

Give Appropriate Sartorial Splendor (Writing Style) to Your Arguments

Your argument is the "body" of the essay. Your writing style is the fashion or sartorial choice you make in order to "dress up" your argument and give it power, moxie, and elan. In other words, you infuse the spirit of passion into the style of language you use. 

Here is the same claim dressed up differently in the following two thesis statements:


Civil War reenactments are racist gibberish that need to go once and for all.

More Dressed Up

Our moral offense to civil war reenactments rests on our understanding that the participants are engaging in nostalgia for the days when the toxic religion of white supremacy ruled the day, that the participants gleefully and childishly erase black history to the detriment of truth, and that on a larger scale, they engage in the mythical revisionism of the Confederacy narratives, hiding its barbaric practices by esteeming racist thugs as if they were innocent and venerable Disney heroes. Their sham is so morally egregious and spiritually bankrupt that to examine its folly in all its shameless variations compels us to abolish the sordid practice without equivocation.  


We need to stop blaming the poor for their poverty.

More Dressed Up

The idea that the rich are wealthy because of their superior moral character and that the poor live in poverty because of their inferior moral character is a glaring absurdity rooted in willful ignorance, the blind worship of money, and an irrational fear of poverty as if it were some kind of contagious disease. 

Qualify Your Thesis to Make It More Persuasive and Reasonable

Qualifiers such as the following will make your thesis more bullet-proof from your opponents:



a few


under certain conditions

when necessary



Under most conditions, narcotics should be legalized in order to decrease crime, increase rehabilitation, and decrease unnecessary incarceration. 

Examine Your Core Assumptions

Assumptions are the principles and values upon which we base our beliefs and actions. 


Under most conditions, narcotics should be legalized in order to decrease crime, increase rehabilitation, and decrease unnecessary incarceration. 


Treating drug use as a medical problem that requires rehabilitation is morally superior to relying on incarceration. Some may disagree with this assumption, so the writer will have to defend her assumption at some point in her essay. 

Here's a link (with grammar errors) for writing counterarguments and refutations in your essay.

Notice the link, which is from a community college, is riddled with grammar errors. We all make mistakes from time to time, especially on the Internet, but a pattern of errors is disturbing indeed. 








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