An activity in critical thinking

Learning at Lincoln - Female using Mac book on wooden desk wearing smart watch and rings.

Have a look at the following fictitious letters to newspapers regarding MPs’ expenses.

Think about the arguments the writers are making. Are they credible and if not, why not?

Letter 1

Dear Sir

In the eyes of the law, fraud is a criminal activity. Fiddling expenses is fraud, therefore all MPs are criminals and should be treated as such!

Yours faithfully

Robert Smith

Letter 2

Dear Sir

Clearly MPs regard expenses as a way of topping up their poor salaries. If MPs are to stop claiming for Hob Nobs and bath plugs, we need to pay them a decent salary.

Yours faithfully

Susan Jones

Letter 3

Dear Sir

The expenses fiasco is the fault of this government who should resign at once and let the general public have their say in a General Election. However it is obvious that they won’t resign because they know they will lose!

John Brown

When you have read through the letters and considered them, look at the comments below.

Letter 1 Comments

If MPs were acting within the rules (whether we agree with those rules, or not!) can they be accused of “fiddling expenses”? We need to know what the writer means by “fiddling expenses” to decide whether in all cases, it constitutes fraud. The letter also generalises that all MPs have been “fiddling expenses”. This is not accurate.

This letter is not a credible argument.

Letter 2 Comments

Why is it ‘clear’ that MPs regard expenses as a way of topping up their salaries? This is an example of the use of a persuader word – ‘clearly’. These are words or phrases that are used to persuade readers to accept what has been written when there is no argument presented or evidence. What does the writer consider to be a “poor” salary and a “decent” salary. People will interpret words such as poor and decent differently. Precise figures need to be given. Does it necessarily follow that MPs will stop claiming expenses if they are paid more?

The argument is not credible.

Letter 3 Comments

The writer states that the ‘expenses fiasco’ is the fault of the government. Where is the evidence to support this? It would appear that writer has a particular political point of view which colours his reasoning. The phrase ‘it is obvious’ is used in the last sentence as a persuader where no argument or evidence is presented.

The argument is not credible.

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