Sample Argument Analysis
Sally A. Student
Sept. 29, 1998
ENG 101-***
Ms. Thompson
 Old-Fashioned Sexist, Racist, and Classist Values:
A Review of Charles Murray's "The Coming White Underclass"
     In a 1993 Wall Street Journal article entitled "The Coming White Underclass," conservative writer Charles Murray foretells a potential doom for American society in the form of widespread high rates of illegitimacy. Using trends in black crime rates and black unemployment as cautionary illustrations, Murray predicts that white culture will be catastrophically affected by the recent increases in illegitimacy rates among poor white women. To combat the rising rates of illegitimacy, Murray proposes that single mothers should no longer receive government support, forcing them to either involve other responsible adults from their families or communities, or else to give up their babies for adoption or to orphanages. In short, Murray sees his proposal as a shift back to the values and social norms of  America's 1950's. Although many of the problems he outlines are indeed pressing and troubling, Murray clearly fails to understand the underlying causes of  illegitimacy, making his attempt to form solutions extremely misguided.

      Murray makes a crucial error in logic when he attributes a variety of social ills to illegitimacy. He argues the "trend lines on black crime, dropout from the the labor force, and illegitimacy all shifted sharply upward as the overall black illegitimacy rate passed 25 percent" (Ramage and Bean 28). Murray probably has his causality backwards. As he himself points out, white college-educated women and women with incomes of over $75,000 account for a minute portion of illegitimate babies (Ramage and Bean 28) which clearly suggests that poverty and ignorance are as much causes of illegitimacy as effects of it. Murray admits that "white illegitimacy is overwhelming a lower-class phenomenon" (Ramage and Bean 28) without stopping to consider that whatever measures he suggests for eradicating illegitimacy must take into consideration the causes of  illegitimacy  in order to work effectively.

     When Murray does attempt to identify the root causes of illegitimacy, he comes up with a simplified and sexist version of puppy love. "In the calculus of illegitimacy," he says, "the constants are that boys like to sleep with girls and that girls think babies are endearing" (Ramage and Bean 28). Surely the situation is much more complex than Murray calculates here. If this statement were true, then all races and economic classes of American society would suffer equally the plague of illegitimacy. The reality of  illegitimacy, however, is much more more complex and includes such variables as race, education, and poverty. Additionally, Murray provides no evidence that "girls think babies are endearing." His proposal to end government support is aimed at making girls realize how difficult it is to independently raise a child after the baby is already born.  Murray, however, assumes that girls are asexual beings, giving in to sex in order to have living dolls to love. If the real reason girls ended up with babies is because they like to sleep with boys (to continue in Murray's "cutesy" rhetoric), then a real solution would focus, say, on birth control methods to prevent the babies in the first place.

     Also troubling in Murray's essay is his repeated targeting of black America as an example of what could happen to white America. What happens within the black community whose ancestors were the legal property of white slave-owners, who were granted civil rights barely a generation ago, and who face current and continual discrimination to this date, can hardly form an appropriate analogy to the white situation. Too many variables are unique to the black situation for anyone derive sweeping conclusions applicable to the entire white culture. Murray has essentially divided America into a white us versus a black them, and he cautions "us" against ending up like "them."  He seems to have given up on blacks: "the brutal truth is that American society as a whole could survive when illegitimacy became epidemic within a comparably small ethnic minority. It cannot survive the same epidemic among whites" (Ramage and Bean 31). Disguised as a gritty utilitarian philosophy of the greatest good for the greatest number, Murray's "brutal truth" is little more than racist self-interest shrugging off  the plight of millions of black Americans.

     Very little in Murray's essay is worth salvaging. He identifies a pressing issue in our culture and earnestly attempts to present a solution for it, but he lacks a fundamental understanding of the real causes of illegitimacy among the poor, and, even more damning, makes no real attempt to uncover them. Instead, he reduces the problem to simply: "boys like to sleep with girls." Murray truly does think in terms of 1950's values: he's sexist, racist, and elitist and his thinking represents decades of social regression on a number of levels. His out-dated solutions won't solve our modern problems as we face the new millennium.



Discussion of the Sample Argument Analysis:

This is an excellent argument analysis. From the title to the conclusion, the analysis has been constructed as a unified whole. The summary is objective and accurate, the thesis clearly stated at the end of the first paragraph, the body supports the claim made in the thesis, the student uses evidence to support her points, and the analysis thoughtfully examines essential (rather than trivial) components of the original argument.

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