Political Paralysis

A Model Definition/Categorical Argument

Political Paralysis

How many children will we need to paralyze to eradicate polio forever? Increasingly, as we approach the ultimate goal of eliminating a crippling disease once and for all from the planet, we must confront this grim calculation. Until the turn of this new century, the naturally-occurring—or wild—polio virus was the primary way for the disease to reach its human hosts, causing illness, debilitation, partial or total paralysis, even death, usually of children, almost always in remote villages ill-served by health agencies. But since the certified eradication of Type 2 polio, and the near elimination of Types 1 and 3, the primary way polio infects its hosts is, I hesitate to say it, through our own inoculation campaigns.

The twentieth-century eradication of smallpox must have emboldened us to imagine that ridding the world of polio would be a matter of course. After all, according to Donald Henderson’s “The Eradication of Smallpox—An Overview,” smallpox had killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone, “more than twice the death toll of all the military wars of that century.” Compared to that massive, almost always deadly scourge, polio, which paralyzed children but killed few and was almost never contracted by adults, must have seemed like an easy target for elimination.

But polio turned out to be a different case altogether: less deadly but sneakier, more resistant to both serums and human effort.

First of all, smallpox is easy to spot. As Henderson again notes, this time in “Countering the Posteradication Threat of Smallpox and Polio,” smallpox is readily visible. Sufferers are covered over most of their body with distinctive purulent poxes. Unlike polio, which can hide in the body for years while its bearers infect others, smallpox advertises its presence and makes intervention much more likely. Imagine trying to rid the world of a disease that has more than 200 asymptomatic carriers for every paralyzed patient.

Second, polio vaccines need to be administered several times, on a schedule, to be effective. Whereas for smallpox, again according to Henderson, a single dose of vaccine immunizes nearly 100% effectively, polio requires at least three doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). And fewer than six doses might not achieve a 90% protection against the predominant strains: types I and III. In stable communities with the enthusiastic support of the local population and health agencies, inoculating every child under five with six doses of anything on a scheduled basis would be seemingly indomitable. But, add to that the social and environmental instability of the areas where polio is endemic (Afghanistan, Pakistan, North and West India, and Nigeria), where flood, famine, and warfare shred the social fabric, and the job seems beyond human capability.

Finally, the vaccines themselves can infect patients with the virus. This is the most insidious and infuriating frustration of the fight against polio. What at the start of the campaign was an almost negligible nuisance factor (if lifelong paralysis can be discounted) of 1 case per 3 million doses of vaccine, has become—tragically and ironically—a much more significant drawback of the seemingly endless effort to finally eradicate polio.

Aylward and Tangermann relate the confident enthusiasm of the polio eradication campaign of the early 1980s, fueled by a strong start and rapid success.

By the year 2000, the incidence of polio globally had decreased by 99%. . . . By 2002 . . . the Americas, Western Pacific and European Regions had been certified polio-free. By 2005, . . .  wild poliovirus (WPV) had been interrupted in all but 4 ‘endemic’ countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where eradication efforts effectively stalled.

Momentum is everything in eradication campaigns. The effort is global and requires the cooperation of entire continents. Adversaries in everything else need to put aside their differences—sometimes even calling cease-fires on battlefields—to cooperate in delivering preventive measures to diverse populations regardless of their race or nationality. What had occurred so naturally in the eradication smallpox needed to occur again if polio was to be eliminated. Henderson described it this way:

The scope of the smallpox program was unprecedented. It required the cooperation of all countries throughout the world and the active participation of more than 50. It was a universal effort unlike any that had ever been undertaken. Most countries eventually proved to be readily responsive but strong persuasion was necessary for some. National antipathies were generally set aside.

In both efforts, the vast majority of the population in endemic countries were inoculated in the early years. And in both cases complications of population movement, natural disasters, maddening bureaucracy, and dislocations of regional conflicts and civil wars frustrated the mass inoculations. But the polio campaign has not yet overcome the elemental differences of the two diseases that make the ultimate elimination of polio so much less likely.

Like the smallpox campaign, the effort to eradicate polio scored impressive early successes. According to Aylward and Tangermann, “By the year 2000, the incidence of polio globally had decreased by 99% compared with the estimated number of cases in 1988 . . . and the last case of polio due to wild poliovirus type 2 transmission anywhere in the world was recorded in Uttar Pradesh, India in 1999.” And then the effort stalled.

Polio is not smallpox: obvious, defenseless, stable. It’s nefarious, invisible until it strikes, and mutable. The 1% of cases that persisted after 2005 began to mutate. The world had failed to wipe out the last of the last viruses. Some children had only mucosal immunity while the virus thrived in their intestines. The carriers looked healthy but passed the virus to others undetected, especially in the toughest places, the remote villages and refugee camps where sanitation was crude at best and healthcare nonexistent.

And while the agencies assigned to eradication tried to counter the mutations with customized variations of the Oral Polio Vaccine to meet local conditions, mounting resistance to an intrusive, expensive, and seemingly endless global eradication effort weakened the support needed to force the effort past the last 1%. According to Taylor, Cutts, and Taylor, in the American Journal of Public Health, “Negative effects were greatest in poor countries with many other diseases of public health importance.” It’s not hard to imagine the reluctance of villagers in India, for example, whose children routinely die of diarrhea, objecting to the massive effort to eliminate polio, which many have never seen, and which does not kill.

There was blessed, magnificent, altogether positive enthusiasm at the UN, at the WHO, at Rotary International, in the 1980s, that the world could once again achieve with polio the triumph of man over disease that had been accomplished against smallpox. But similar efforts achieve similar results only when conditions are similar, and smallpox and polio are too different for the same formulas to work.


Aylward, B., & Tangermann, R. (2012, April 06). The global polio eradication initiative: Lessons learned and prospects for success. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X11015994?via%3Dihub

C E Taylor, F Cutts, and M E Taylor. Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA. “Ethical dilemmas in current planning for polio eradication.” American Journal of Public Health 87, no. 6 (June 1, 1997): pp. 922-925.

Henderson, D. A. (2002, January 01). Countering the Posteradication Threat of Smallpox and Polio | Clinical Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/34/1/79/312029

35 Responses to Political Paralysis

  1. chance1117 says:

    I believe that getting rid of polio will be harder because in other countries that have not as good health care systems. It was stated that the disease was sneakier so its harder to detect when it would be coming. The USA has been polio free for a while because they came up with a vaccination for it.

  2. Getting rid of diseases completely is very difficult because a lot of third world countries don’t have the means to get rid of these diseases and/or have bigger problems to deal with. However, in more medically advanced countries it is a lot easier to get rid of because of the mass production of vaccines and treatments. As for polio, it can’t be defined as an eradicable disease because not everyone has access to a vaccine, and even if they did, some people are asymptomatic so they wouldn’t bother getting vaccinated and may spread it.

  3. This essay did help me imagine how I will construct my own categorical claim if gymnastics can be competed be height and weight class, and male and female will compete together. It is a real argument that needs real evidence to back it up. In this essay I was able to see how the two compare and how they differ and be able to get close to answering if polio can be eradicated. It began to get me thinking about our current pandemic situation and if COVID-19 can be eradicated. Just like polio it has a lot of asymptomatic hosts, who will spread the virus like wild fire. Also with vaccinations for polio they must be done by everyone on a certain schedule to be effective. With COVID we need vaccinations multiple, on a certain schedule to be effective and everyone must get the vaccine to attempt to eradicate the virus.

  4. This example gave me a great idea for my arguments that I have to write. I like the idea of getting rid of polio, but there has to be a different way if not it isn’t worth it. There were many shot in covid and it took many steps to become of it, but there are a lot of people that got the vaccination, but still got covid. Covid is something that everyone has to get in order for it to die down. Polio is something different it is a risky thing making a cure, but we need a safer way.

  5. The essay is very straight forward and precise. It provides me with an understanding of how the categorical aspect of the essay should be written. If I’m being completely honest, I believe that I’ll struggle with this even though this step is just laying the foundation for what I’m trying to say. You explaining it makes this so easy. I expected you to define some terms, but instead, as I already said, you got straight to the point while also making a segue into the next part of the essay.

  6. AnonymousStudent says:

    I think this model of a categorical argument does provide insight on how I should structure mine. Instead of being extremely face value and just creating definitions for terms, it rather extends outwards and distinguishes the thing you are talking about as it’s own thing. The emphasis between how polio wasn’t like smallpox creates a large uniqueness of polio. It introduces everything you need about the argument and provides the framework for the other two short argument essays.

  7. gobirds17 says:

    This short essay helped me gather a better understanding of how to write a categorical essay. Rather than simply defining the word or term, in this case polio, three examples can be used to provide the reader with enough information to have a complete understanding of what polio is, how it is spread, and the difficulties to stop it. The essay also helps me understand how to write more directly rather than using filler to hit a word count.

  8. hollyp715 says:

    This model helped me get a better understanding of what information I will need to provide, as well as how to structure it. I am also glad that we went over the quote blocking because I tend to stick the longer quotes right in to the paragraphs, especially because I did not know how to block it.

    I liked this essay because of the information it provides as well. Polio is not something I am educated on because it does not affect my area, so it was nice to learn something other than just how to format my definition/categorical essay.

  9. This model definitely helped me because at first glance I would think that the definition/ argument claim was simply defining your terms and defining your argument and that was it. After the sample, however, I realize that defining although important isn’t the entirety of the claim. The definition is important in regard to the key terms in your argument but beyond that doesn’t need to take up too much space in your 1000 words. It should define what is important to the argument and then allow you space to not only introduce your argument but even to argue it more in-depth with the newly defined terms. If I were to compare this to something I would say this is like an open statement in a courtroom. Not exactly your entire argument per se but the main driving the points of it and defining points of it.

  10. beforeverge says:

    Yes, I assumed a Definitional Argument would look something like that. I didn’t understand the Categorical side of it before, but now I do. It will help a lot to have a reference to structure our essays and see what is expected in our writing.

  11. gymrat230 says:

    This model wasn’t what I expected, but it’s what I would expect out of this class. We’re taking a subject that we would typically write about in a simple taught-to-millions type of way, but now we’re writing it through a somewhat counterintuitive lens. We are making the same argument that we would, but instead of saying this is what polio is, we’re defining it with solid and concise claims. It’s easier to read an essay that states, “The twentieth-century eradication of smallpox must have emboldened us to imagine that ridding the world of polio would be a matter of course.”, than an essay that states, “Polio should be easy to eradicate since smallpox was.”

  12. xephos1 says:

    I think this paper was a good outline that can be used for inspiration for our papers. I definitely have a better understanding of a categorical paper from this example. One thing that stood out to me about this paper were hinge paragraphs. It is something I’ve really never seen before in previous writing courses, but it is still really effective at steering a paper.

  13. This model helped show me how exactly to construct my definition/categorial argument. When I read definition argument, I assumed we would be explicitly giving a definition for the terms we were going to use. I have now discovered this is not the case and the definition of terms will be done more loosely and not be mentioned word for word how we intend to use them. The polio example gave me a good idea as to how to describe the terms I plan to use that may be unfamiliar, without giving an exact definition. The polio terms were worked into the argument and gave a good idea as to what was trying to be said.

  14. alwaystired247 says:

    The Model Definition Essay is what I expected a definition argument to look like. It named all of the reasons polio would be hard to eradicate, bringing up many debates one may have. It explained these situations in detail with quotes to support what was said.
    This essay also helped me understand how to better define words in my essay in ways that would prevent the reader from being confused by their own interpretation of the word. For example, the paper described what it meant by claiming polio was “easy to spot,” detailing the way the virus looks and comparing it to polio.

  15. giantsfan224 says:

    The model of this short essay was helpful in guiding my understanding of how I should go about writing my own definition/categorical argument. It provides specifics on what is being discussed without being too vague or straight forward. Instead of having blunt definitions, this essay draws parallels from other topics, and also uses analogies to further their point and tighten their argument.

  16. fatboy489zt says:

    This model did help me understand what a definition essay is supposed to look like and helped me clearly see what it is about. It gave the explanation of both small pox and polio while also describing how and why they are different. It doesn’t just begin saying how this is why and this is how. It actually goes into detail to describe why they are different and answers the question that the essay is all about.

  17. mochaatrain says:

    I wasn’t expecting the argument to be a lot of comparisons between two things. It definitely helps form the argument, especially in this model. Shows how persuasive one can be by relating polio to a similar disease and then differentiating polio until they aren’t so similar. The model also helps visualize how well small paragraphs can succeed in a thousand-word essay.

  18. This example gives me great ideas for my own argumentative and categorical writing. I believe that the polio and smallpox argument is a very sophisticated one, but it was a helpful take away to see and read Professor Hodges examples. It really shows me a foundation and what Professor Hodges is looking for in his essay’s. Polio is a deadly disease and for the benefit of the population everybody should be vaccinated for polio, but can we say the same for Covid.

  19. shxrkbait says:

    After looking at this model essay, I feel that I know have a better understanding of a definition essay. Before reading this I thought it would simply just be stating a term and defining it. This model does a lot of comparing and contrasting which I did not expect. To make my essay successful, I must use the definition essay to define my information how I want my readers to perceive it. This ensure that the context of my essay is read how I intend it to be.

  20. Caravan says:

    Overall, this example gave me a decent idea of how to do my own definitional/categorical argument. If nothing else, the one-sentence paragraph about how polio wound up being “a different case altogether” was a very helpful example of making a paragraph that is short and sweet.

  21. redbird1123 says:

    After going over and looking at this essay I feel that I have better undertaking on a deffiniton essay.I never really knew what definition essay was until reading this example .

  22. After looking at the model essay professor provided, I have a better understanding of what is required by us writers. Throughout the definition essay, you will be completing a lot of comparing and contrasting. You will define the words you will be using in your own terms. You will define what is fair and unfair. While professor presented his polio/small box definition argument, I realized that the definition essay was nothing like I thought it would be. I initially thought we would be picking words to define. Well, we are focusing on that but we aren’t pulling the definitions out of Webster’s dictionary. Goes into detail about how polio and small pox are different.

  23. green0728 says:

    This is not exactly I imagined a definitional argument to be however the format is similar to what I envisioned. The argument defines a concept and discusses the nature of it in a factual manner, rather than simply defining a concept and saying whether it’s good or bad.

  24. I thought that this model essay was a great example to help you further understand how to construct a definition/categorical argument. Before reading this model, I was fuzzy on getting started with this kind of argument but I feel that it presented a lot of key points to putting together a definition/categorical argument.

  25. rubes1256 says:

    I didn’t think that this is what a definitional essay looked like. I will definitely be referencing this, while writing my essay. It has given me good ideas regarding my own works, and, overall, I believe it will help.

  26. tacotyphoon says:

    I definitely did not expect a categorical argument to look like this. However, after reading this essay I am better informed on what I need to do when I write my paper. I have a better understanding of what I need to do better to make my 1000 words as meaningful as the ones in this essay. Now I have a resource I can use to compare my essay to and make corrections.

  27. Gir says:

    This Model provides exquisite insight on the structure of definition essays. The model does a wonderful job of just stating a definition but of comparing two things and using them to improve the argument. With a total of thousand words [to find out edit ur post and look at the top left for details] this model shows how to categorize your claims and further your point. This model is not what I expected for I’ve been told my essays are unorganized this will surely be used to my advantage.

  28. Before leaning about a definitional essay it did not know this is how they were formatted and looked but after reading this example I have a pretty good idea on how I should write my essay. I will also be sure to use the example essay as reference when construction my own definitional essay.

  29. I thought the model essay was able to model a definition argument well. Before reading I understood what the essay needed to do, but not sure how it would be written. The way it is centered in answering a specific definition based question makes it more understandable, in this case if polio should be in the category of an eradicable disease.

  30. This Definition/ Categorical argument helped me understand better what is being asked for and how to correctly structure your writing. It Also gave me clear examples on how to properly compare and contrast, cause and effect and quoting from authors.

  31. powerranger says:

    This model gives me great ideas of how to write a categorical essay. It gives a good outline to improve your papers. In this case, polio – models can be utilized to furnish the enough data to readers to have an understanding about the information of polio. What is polio ?, where did it occur from, how many types of polio disease, is it dangerous or critical to health ? and how to prevent the effect of polio. This helped me reflecting on how to write including all the information.

  32. spatel8267 says:

    With the help of this example I learned what a definition essay looks like. It gave explanation for both smallpox and polio. I believe that it is difficult to get rid of polio completely because vaccines are not totally helpful. Like if after having the vaccine for covid people still suffer from covid .

  33. oni says:

    This example essay helps me get a better understand of what a categorical essay needs to achieve. It gives a smallpox a clear category, and then states why polio is its own separate (and more dangerous) thing. The comparison of both helps the understanding of the seriousness of Polio. This essay shows me the type of structure a categorical essay needs, and how to follow it. I had an alright understanding of how to do a categorical essay before, but with this example I feel I can do much better.

  34. duck says:

    This essay gave me a very solid example of good definition and categorical claims, as it did a good job not only creating its own argument, but also rebutting any obvious counterarguments at the same time. It also gave good examples of decent sized paragraphs, which is helpful for me because mine tend to be long and wordy.

  35. bitagaming says:

    Through this essay, I have gained a better understanding of smallpox as one of the hazardous illnesses, similar to COVID-19. Although there are occasionally methods of prevention, such as vaccination, they are not always effective because new cases of the disease occur often.

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