I helped my daughter the other night writing an essay for her History class. She’s in the 11th grade, the oldest of three kids. It’s not my first time to help a kid write an essay. I know the drill.
Intro, concluding with the thesis statement which clearly states what the rest of the essay will support.
Three supporting paragraphs. Supporting topic #1, #2, and #3.
Conclusion paragraph with the thesis statement again.
BORING. These essay’s are boring as hell.
But I help them anyway. To write it exactly as the teachers expect.
It’s this way for a specific reason:
Someone has to score them and in order to standardized the scoring system the criteria is very precise.
Without meeting the five paragraph essay criteria, a low score is given.
That’s how it is.
And it’s stupid. It’s stupid, stupid, stupid and it makes me want to smack the standardized testing people right in the face.
Because it’s not writing. It’s following a formula.
And who writes in a formula?
No good writer, ever, in the history of the universe.
It doesn’t teach kids to think or to be creative or express their thoughts in an interesting way.
It just teaches them to write like a robot.
This essay, the history one, made me slightly more angry than usual.
Because the teacher had said, “You must have a counter argument in your thesis statement.”
Um, what? What the hell does that mean?
My sweet daughter, growing more impatient with me by the second responded,
“It’s like you say, Many people think this…blah, blah, blah…but actually it’s this and here is why.”
I responded, “why is that a requirement? You are being asked to compare and contrast two time periods. Why do you need a counter argument.”
Poor sweet frustrated daughter, “Because it’s a history essay. All history essays have to have a counter argument. She says if we don’t have one we won’t get a good score. We have to think of a counter argument.”
Oh…it’s a history essay and it’s required. Now I understand.
I don’t. I don’t understand. At all.
It’s not required that she understand the political, social and economic changes that occurred between the late 1700’s and early 1800’s in US History and the death of the federalist party.
It’s not required that she understand how to express herself in written form.
It’s only required that she follow the essay formula which, apparently, includes a counter argument. But only for History, not for English.
Because if she doesn’t, she won’t get a good score based on the formula of a properly written essay.
And she won’t be able to properly follow the formula when it’s time to write her SAT essays.
And that’s all that matters, right?
And to this I say,
Kiss my Ass Standardized tests. For ruining the art of writing for my children.
Kiss my ass.