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Also posted on IdeaStormz- The Requirement to Fail, a review on essays.

By Caleb
Fri Oct 3 2014 2:46 pm

The Requirement to fail
Caleb Woodman, Rampart High School
The world has many faults, but the greatest is the essay. Some time ago, I considered the worst thing in the world to be the short constructed response. Now the glaring truth is fully evident. The essay is a writing format, usually with a time limit attached, that teachers are forced to assign to students, who in turn are forced to do them. An of this type has three major problems attached; A time limit, a controlled prompt, and specific things that must be mentioned.This is not how you get creativity or even an honest answer. The possibilities are endless only for those whose limits aren’t.

First, let us take a look at the accursed time limit. This thing is required so that children can’t postpone to the end of time as we know it, or work our entire lives on the same useless drivel. However, putting a limit on a child is akin to putting a low budget on a world-changing project. Yes, the results are still legitimate, though rushed, but there is still a limit on the creativity and ability, and that means one cannot work up to one’s total potential. Instead, I propose that we have a chance at our work in a business fashion. We should have time to examine facts, draft, redraft, edit, etcetera. We should not have to experience that stressing feeling of rush that comes with a time limit on things. Instead, we should work like we do in a real-life situation, with a deadline not so imminent that we cannot even work properly. Note that I do not propose longer time per se, I propose that we as students are given flexible time and above all, no requirement to do everything simultaneously. Let them breathe between paragraphs for their own sake and yours as someone required to measure achievement!

A controlled prompt has long been considered by students and their mentors alike a necessary evil, but some disagree. Yes, it is indeed evil, but in no way or means is it truly a necessity. A controlled prompt is a further barrier, even worse than a limit on time, because you are not only controlling how long your students have to prove their ability to learn and create, you are prohibiting creativity to an amazing degree! I could write about billions of things, from personal experiences to scientific studies to things that are pleasing in life. With a limit on what I can produce, there is a limit on what I can prove. Say, for example’s sake, that you have a child who knows more than any child about physics. Now say that he doesn’t know very much about waterfowl. If you tell him to tell you about waterfowl, no matter how much he knows about anything else or how creative he is in any field, the failing score on his test will prove to the teacher, principal, superintendent, and to the board of education that this boy is not capable of writing skills or formulating good ideas. Say another child hates anatomy, but loves geometry. Her mind is oriented in a way that makes her “care”, as it were, for anatomy and therefore her scope of thinking in that subject far lower than for geometry, which she is “open” to. Test her on anatomy and coming up with ideas and having a broad scope of ideas and facts in that area, and you will find that she is a terrible writer. At least that is what it is in our current setup in our educational system.

The third topic of interest here is ‘what must be mentioned’. For example, for the prompt I am writing for, (meta writing,) I am required to give three examples for why I think the world would be a better place with my idea in effect, changing the way we write. Then I must have specific details, and include certain things in my writing. Granted, having these things is not a “big deal”, but it is still a pain in the neck. If you have to mention certain things, you can’t mention the things that prove you a good writer or things that you feel need to be stated. Therefore the only children who can actually prove they aren’t little mindless controlled creatures bound with a thousand requirements to the face of bad education are those who make rebellious essays, and insult or criticize the system that binds them. Teachers find such things amusing, but now there is psychological work to be done and questions to be asked. If you let the students choose their own details, you let them choose how they learn. It is a proven fact that people who are given freedom are the smartest and the most able of the lot.

The time limit, the prescribed topic, and the necessary detail. Three things that I find abhorrent in our culture. We so often speak of being Americans, with free will and personalized education. How lucky we are! And yet we are limited in our education with things like prompts. I write this very paragraph with the knowledge that it must be mostly commentary, with no new facts, and cannot include certain over-cliched phrases, as well as having some required ones. If this is how we write, how do we prove that we are actually capable writers? One does not tell your everyday writer to write a novel about a certain thing, within a certain time, including a certain detail or five. We cannot adequately prove our ability to be worthwhile in this world if we couldn’t care less about the subject matter, can’t work within the limits, can’t include these things that we need to prove we know. Education itself is perverted in this matter by a flurry of limits that one can’t dig out of with a shovel. Remove these, let us work at our own pace, on our own ideas, with our own details. Freedom for the smart makes them the wise.


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