Saturday, November 02, 2013

SAT Essay-Writing

Nathan took the SAT for the second time this morning.  He was predictably not thrilled about an early and long morning, but he is glad to have it over!  His least favorite part is the dreaded essay.  I am so glad I didn't have to do an essay back in the day when I was taking the SAT.  Our literature teacher, Megan, has been diligently working with the boys on how to produce an SAT essay.  It turns out that the graders (who only have 90 second per essay) are not looking for brilliant, creative writing.  They want a "fast-food essay", where you churn out something that meets their expectations.

Someone on the Well Trained Mind board posted a link to an interesting Slate article on the problems with the SAT essay called, "We are Teaching Our High School Children to Write Terribly". 

Les Perelman, a retired director of an MIT writing program says, "“What they are actually testing,” he says, “is the ability to b--s-- on demand. There is no other writing situation in the world where people have to write on a topic that they’ve never thought about, on demand, in 25 minutes. Lots of times we have to write on demand very quickly, but it’s about things we’ve thought about. What they are really measuring is the ability to spew forth as many words as possible in as short a time as possible. It seems like it is training students to become politicians.”

Great!  More politicians!  And accuracy does not matter in the least.  In fact, as the article points out, if you spend time trying to remember a pertinent event either in your life or in history or literature, you are at a disadvantage!  Better to just make something up on the fly, use lots of big words and varied sentence structure, and *voila*!  A "12" essay!  One SAT tutor did exactly that, and he writes about it here.  Here's his masterpiece essay--one that indeed scored a 12! 

Should we look to our elders for wisdom?
With age comes experience. As we navigate the vicissitudes of life, embracing its challenges of quotidian living, our naivete is replaced with sagacity, our illusions replaced with truth. One who is younger and less experienced would be wise to learn from the older and more experienced.
Throughout history young leaders have taken their cues from older, more experienced mentors. For wisdom does not magically appear; it is transferred from one generation to the next. In the 17th century a young man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr., a young pastor from Cincinnati, took his cues from the venerable Abraham James Lincoln, a seasoned lawyer from Ontario. Young King learned from Lincoln’s personal trials and tribulations, absorbing gems of wisdom from his enlightened teacher. The young acolyte molded his style after that of his mentor and eventually went on to embrace the mantle of civic leadership, typifying the qualities of his older, more experienced teacher.
At our peril do we ignore the lessons of our elders. Who can forget the tragic case of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, failed leader of the Saxons of New Brittany? In the height of the Ostrogoth revolution, young Kennedy rejected the advice of his elder council and impetuously invaded the fortified stronghold of the neighboring Lilliputians. The elder council convened and vehemently protested the ill-designed strategy, but Kennedy was obstinate and would not be moved. The elders were powerless to influence the young Saxon leader. Kennedy invaded Lilliput and the whole of the Ostrogoth army was annihilated, leaving the nation vulnerable to the waves of marauding invaders from the east. This clearly illustrates that we ignore the counsel of the older and more experienced at our peril.
One example of a man who embraced the wisdom of his elders was Barack Hussein Obama, famed revolutionary of the Basque region. Young Obama unified the Basque populous, seeking to overthrow the tyranny of Franco, nationalist, totalitarian demagogue. Obama, during his 6 months he spent in jail after this first failed coup attempt, came in contact with a seasoned revolutionary, Winston Churchill. Churchill had seen decades of failed revolutionary attempts and offered his insights to Obama, his willing disciple. With Churchill’s support young Obama was able to unify the masses, instigate a popular revolution and liberate the Basque nation from Franco’s control.
The clearest path to success lies in following the well-laid tracks of our wiser, more experienced elders. We must learn from our elders, embracing their insights and teachings if we are to achieve the greatest successes in life.

Ah, yes, that tragic Saxon leader, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  We've learned so many lessons from his folly!  Ha!

So I don't think Nathan actually made anything up this time.  He told me he used examples from The Christmas Carol, and Steinbeck's The Pearl.   He was confidant on the rest of the test, only leaving one math problem blank.  I guess we'll see how it all turned out for him in a few weeks.

In the afternoon, we went to Luke's football game.  His team lost, although the quarterback (who got carted off to the ER a few weeks ago and ended up hurting his shoulder significantly, if not breaking it) was actually back today.  Luke was glad to not have to be quarterback, but having so much change probably was unsettling for the team.  Who knows?  Luke was actually glad that the season was over.  He's tired of all the practices and hitting!  He hurt his lower back several weeks ago.  He's been icing it and taking a lot of motrin, but he really needs some time with no one hitting him for it to actually heal.   And then basketball will start up!

After dinner, we had ice cream anyway, to celebrate the end of a good season!  Drew gobbled down an ice cream sandwich in no time at all and really wanted more.  Look at that pleading face!  Alas, he got no more, and instead had to be cleaned up, leading to more tears.  Poor baby!

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