Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Okay, google sample SAT essay topics so you are now up to speed (or don’t, you can just take my word for it). If your sample is anything like the many I have seen the first problem is that the questions are leading. They tell you, subtly, exactly what to think. Most high school textbooks are written the same way. This bothers me. Our children are learning how to ‘read’ a situation and provide the ‘right’ answer rather than do research and form their own opinion. Sure, it’s faster to just give the teacher what they want, but is it better?
Next, read the ‘perfect 12’ (12 is the top score) essays. I’ll wait. First, they are all written in the same format: introduction, three supporting paragraphs, conclusion. Who writes like that? Good writers most certainly do not. Where is the creativity that makes an author great? It’s not there. I am assuming that there are talented writers coming out of our high schools still, but the grading formulas we use are obviously not going to reward them for their talent. Apply the standard essay grading system (you can google that too) to any great piece of work. Chance are the author would not get an ‘A.’ Good writing uses words in a way that is unique. In a way that captures a reader’s attention and gets the point across. Standard writing formats inhibit that process, so why are we rewarding them?
Next, notice the arguments in the essay. Most of the essays pair a strength of the thing the writer is for, with a weakness of what he is against. This is not a valid argument. This is called ‘stacking the deck.’ No wonder our kids can’t think. We are teaching them to ‘prove their point’ using unfair methods.
Also notice that the instructions tell you to support your position. Home schoolers especially have a hard time with this. Why? Because they are used to talking to moms who frequently play the devil’s advocate. They learn to be honest about the pluses and minuses of both sides and feel free to admit that in some cases changes in the situation will change which method is right for you. They understand that many times, neither side is all good, or all bad, and are willing to admit it. They do not therefore fully support either side. While their essay is ‘flawed,’ their logic and intellectual honesty is not. But isn’t this what we should be striving for?
The next time your child has to write an essay then look at the question. Ask them what they really think about the issue. Point out words that lead them to ‘know’ which side the author of the question wants them to be on so that they are less likely to fall for these tricks as adults so they can think and not be ‘led’ into an opinion. Then ask them to honestly examine both sides of the issue, stating the plusses, and minuses of each side, being sure to honestly examine the negatives of the side you prefer, since that is the one you will be implementing if this were real. Most things in life are not black and white. In feeding the poor, we take the chance of keeping those who are poor because they are lazy in poverty because we just made life too easy on them. (Yes, there are many reasons for poverty, but lazy is one of them.) In providing mosquito control to save people from malaria we introduce chemicals into an environment and change the eco-system. If you do not want to make big mistakes in life you cannot be in the habit of overlooking the downside of the solutions you like.

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