This Explains Everything

Sometimes FB is hugely helpful. I just read there that English teachers teach 7th-graders that, in an essay, a thesis is a sentence with three topics in it.

This finally explains the greatest mystery of life for me. For years I’ve been clamoring to the skies, “Why, why is this happening to me?” And now I know.

Another pet peeve is a thesis that starts with an inane quote. Or a dictionary definition. Or a generalization about what “everybody feels.” But I already know that these are taught by the cruel teachers in high school who want to make me suffer.

I keep wondering what it is that they do at school. It’s not reading books or learning information, that’s for sure. But they’ve got to do something. Now I know, though. It’s how to write in a way that will torture the college professors in exquisite ways.

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “This Explains Everything”

    1. ” I hate the five paragraph essay”

      It has its uses. For those who come from non-bookish families it can be a fallback tool on how to get started (as long as its not too formulaic). And of course the better a student gets at the structure the less they need to overtly follow it.

      But I suspect that teacher training turns it into a step-by-step procedure to be followed in painstaking detail no matter how little sense it makes or how little a particular student needs it. Combined with the longstanding tradition of lying to students about why they’re doing what they’re doing…. it turns into a weird Frankenstein abomination that will! not! die!

      Like

  1. It’s been so long since I had to write an “essay” in English class that all I remember were the physical writing tools required. You had to write the essay in class, in ink, and you had to use a fountain pen — ballpoint pens weren’t allowed.

    And you certainly couldn’t write in block letters.

    Like

    1. “You had to write the essay in class, in ink, and you had to use a fountain pen — ballpoint pens weren’t allowed.”

      -All I can think when I read that is that it must have really sucked being left-handed and having to write all your essays in fountain pen. Ignoring the “let’s retrain all the lefties” thing.

      Like

      1. “All I can think when I read that is that it must have really sucked being left-handed and having to write all your essays in fountain pen.”

        Yep. It’s amazing how many languages are written from right to left (Chinese and Korean and Arabic, among others), perfect for left-handers, yet written in cultures where writing with the left hand is forbidden.

        English, written from left to right, is no problem for right-handed people, who pull the pen after their fingers. Lefties push the pen or pencil in front of their hand, and it was a real pain to avoid smearing your writing.

        I finally got past all that by becoming a doctor, where no one dared to criticize my handwriting.

        Like

        1. “A fountain pen can be used with either hand.”

          -From personal experience, it is much harder to use a fountain pen as a left-handed person than it is if you’re right-handed.

          This has to do with how the pen moves across the page. A right-handed person will drag the pen across behind their hand. A left-handed person will tend to push the pen along the page, which can cause a lot of catches and tears and blots. Let alone the smearing caused by dragging your hand behind the pen, which obviously going to be worse when the ink is wet.

          There are ways for lefties to use fountain pens. But it’t not intuitive, and if you do it the wrong way you can cause cramping and issues with your wrist. When you do find a comfortable position, it’s difficult to write quickly because of the way you need to hold your hand to prevent tears and blots (it’s far, far easier to prevent smearing–but you’re still writing left-to-right, and that means you’re essentially pushing the pen across the page). There are a lot of hand-lettering tutorials out there now specifically for left-handed people, but again, those take a lot of time and effort. And when schools still used fountain pens on a regular basis, left-handed kids were most often “retrained” to be right-handed. Which for a lot of people meant really messing up their left wrist in making it seem like they were doing their homework with their right hand.

          Like

  2. I was never taught the five paragraph essay. I learned about it when I taught English comp and a student remarked that it was a relief not to have to write to this formula (that I wouldn’t have known to assign).

    Nonetheless I do notice that a lot of things I write, like letters of recommendation and proposals for internal grants, end up having five paragraphs. It’s: intro that foreshadows your argument; then 3 paragraphs making the argument (e.g . on research, teaching and service), then a concluding one that looks back and sums up, and adds something more.

    Like

    1. “a lot of things I write, like letters of recommendation and proposals for internal grants, end up having five paragraphs”

      Yes, that’s a very normal way for Americans to write. It’s a format that young writers in the US have to know (if they haven’t absorbed it naturally). The problem is when it becomes a goal in and of itself, and the only format allowed, rather than a heuristic for learning how to produce arguments in a culturally appropriate way.

      Some years ago I had to write a letter in Polish requesting an informal change in policy (pretty normal thing to do here). My first version introduced the topic and made the request, then I provided the rational reasons why I was making the request and why it should not be a problem and then a conclusion summing them up and thanking him for his consideration.
      I looked at and thought “This will never work…” and rewrote it: I started with some polite expressions about how important the person I was writing to was and then expressed how grateful I’d be if the exception was made and finished with some more polite expressions. It worked.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.