If you haven't read my previous blog post, go back and read that one before reading this one! Really.
Here’s my answer to the “censorship” prompt in my last blog post:
While I believe “selective censorship,” as stated in Perspective One, is appropriate and necessary to protect children from inappropriate (e.g. explicitly violent or sexual) communications, and to prevent violations of the law or threats to national security, I believe Perspectives Two and Three come closest to my view on free speech and free expression. I believe censorship generally stifles the development of ideas and allows the government, or others in power, to control people’s thoughts, and thus their behavior.
Perspective One states the understandable viewpoint of parents, teachers, and indeed, any responsible adults. Certainly, children should not be allowed to view twisted, perverse pornography, or graphic, stomach-turning violence, or if they must, they should not view those things without the supervision of responsible adults. This is simply common-sense child rearing.
However, as Kurt Vonnegut, a famous and well-respected author whose works have been targeted for removal from school libraries put it, if widespread censorship comes to the United States, it will be “for the children.” We should not, and must not, allow people to censor books, films, radio, the Internet, television, or live speech, simply because some person thinks it’s “dirty,” “blasphemous,” “unpatriotic” or has some other quality of which they don’t approve.
Perspective Two states that censorship interferes with freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which is wrong because people have the right to explore and evaluate ideas without government interference. Certainly, as children grow, they should be given progressively more freedom to decide what information they would like to hear, and should be exposed to more sophisticated ideas, even ideas that may be troubling or disturbing. As adults, we are all required to deal with unpleasant, even shocking truths, or suffer dire, possibly deadly, consequences as the result of ignoring them. For example, not discussing homosexual male sex practices and intravenous drug use would have led to the AIDS epidemic killing even more people than it has, since people would not have been warned to use condoms, not share needles, and so on. Similarly, censorship of speech concerning how AIDS is spread would have seriously slowed, and perhaps even stopped, advances in AIDS treatment and prevention. As AIDS activists put it since the 1980s, “SILENCE = DEATH.” For that reason, adult speech and free expression cannot be censored, except in the obvious case where the speech is itself a crime (e.g., extortionate threats of violence – “Give me your money or I will burn your house down.”) or there are legitimate state secrets (e.g., it would be a bad idea to publish the passwords to access computers that control nuclear missiles).
Perspective Three examines one aspect of Perspective Two, and explains why Perspective Two is important – any government or entity that can control vital information can control the populace. If an AIDS or cancer cure existed, but the information was suppressed, the information could be used to create an elite that is protected from those diseases, and a vast underclass controlled by fear of those diseases.
The AIDS example I have referenced is a common “urban myth” believed by many poor, minority people in the U.S, and while it is a wild, unsubstantiated rumor, it does reflect a probable outcome if such information existed but was censored – the wealthy and “connected” would be able to avoid problems faced by the lower classes and those “out of the loop.” Also, the lack of openness leads to the proliferation of wild rumors and paranoia, which cannot be good for society, since they lead to paranoia and civil unrest. I certainly wouldn’t want to work for people I thought were withholding a cancer or AIDS cure, to continue my example.
The best way to fight destructive and/or incorrect speech is to respond with true and constructive speech. Showing what is being done about AIDS and cancer would be the best way to respond to AIDS and cancer paranoia. The best way to deal with stupid claims made by racists is to point out the achievements of racial minorities.
For the reasons stated above, I agree with Perspectives Two and Three, subject to obvious, common-sense legal limitations. Censorship based on “feelings” or “think of the children” arguments is generally destructive and to be avoided. Censorship, when it is tolerated, must only be to prevent obvious harm to society caused by the speech (e.g., the perpetration of crime or the revelation of military secrets).
The ACT essay changed last fall. Unless you’re working from a brand-new edition of your review book (e.g., the latest Kaplan or Princeton Review book), your book's essay prompts are obsolete and useless.. The new essay will present you with three short statements of perspectives (viewpoints) on an issue, and ask you to analyze them and give your own viewpoint on the issue. You should be able to identify what you see as the weak and strong points of each perspective and state your own perspective. That is, you should explain the viewpoint with which you agree, or explain your own viewpoint, which may combine elements of more than one of the perspectives, or provide a perspective completely different from the three given perspectives.
So how do you prepare for the ACT essay? First of all, you should think about issues facing society. As I’ve stated in other posts, you should really look at the editorial page of various newspapers, either online or in print. The same goes for reading news magazines, especially the opinion essays. Watching YouTube videos on politics and philosophy will also help – take a look at the suggestions YouTube makes. You could start with the Young Turks, Thomas Hartmann, the Joe Rogan Podcast, Serial, and the like. Political magazines such The Nation, The Progressive, National Review, and other magazines (Time, Newsweek, etc.) may also give you opinions and ideas to consider.
However, if you’re taking the next ACT, which is coming up very soon, you should concentrate on a format you can use for any answer, so you don’t have to “re-invent the wheel” in order to answer the question. Here’s my suggested format:
First of all, leave enough space for your opening paragraph, but actually START with your second paragraph, in which you analyze the first perspective. Restate the first perspective “in your own words” I know, if they were really “your own words,” no one else would understand them, you wiseacre, you. ;-) I mean restate them in different words from the ones used in the prompt, so they know you actually understand the perspective. It’s a great idea to provide examples of what the perspective means, so the grader can really see that you have some insight into the perspective. Using reasonably accurate quotes from literary, historical, or current political figures is also a wonderful idea, as long as they’re accurate. What do I mean by “reasonably accurate?” I mean that no grader is likely to get that upset if you get a quote slightly wrong, as long as you preserve the quote’s meaning. However, attributing something that supports a viewpoint to a person who never said or wrote it just makes you look ignorant, desperate for examples, or both, so don’t do that!] Then state if you agree, disagree, or partially agree and partially disagree.
Then, in your third paragraph, explain why you agree, disagree, or partially agree or disagree, giving examples that support your case. You can also give possible counter-examples that go against your argument, and explain why you don’t find them convincing, if you have the time to do so. If you don’t have time, don’t bother with the counterexample.
In the fourth paragraph, paraphrase the second perspective, using your own words. Compare it with the first perspective if you like, and explain whether you agree, disagree, or partially agree and disagree. Then support your position with examples in the fifth paragraph.
In the sixth paragraph, restate the third perspective in different words, compare it to the first two perspectives if you wish, and whether you agree, disagree, etc. Then explain, in the seventh paragraph, why you agree, disagree, or partially agree or disagree, giving examples that support your case.
In the eighth paragraph, state and explain your position, synthesizing (i.e., putting together) your opinions from the previous paragraphs into something coherent (i.e., makes sense). Then write a quick conclusion, such as “For the reasons I have stated above, I believe that while each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses.” Then list each perspective and its major strength and major weakness. Then write something like “Having evaluated these perspectives, I believe,” then restate your position.
After you’re done with all that, FINALLY write your introduction in the space you’ve left for it, stating, very briefly, each perspective. Then state something such as “I believe” or “My position is” or “My point of view is,” then state your point of view, then add “for the reasons I state below.” Alternately, you can list the reasons in a very shortened form and say “as I will discuss further below [or “in this essay,” or whatever you think is appropriate].”
I can’t guarantee you a perfect score, but I can guarantee that if you practice this method a few times before taking the ACT, you’ll be better prepared, less likely to panic, and more likely to get a high score on the essay than if you don’t. If you’re not worrying about what format to use, or blanking out by trying to come up with a theme before you’ve thought of examples, or having to scramble to edit your thesis when your examples don’t really fit your perspective, you’ll do better. I promise.
Here’s one sample prompt from the ACT:
Here’s another (got to page 54 of this document):
Here’s a practice essay topic, brought to you by the nice people at Magoosh Test Prep, that I will answer in my next post:
See my next post, and compare your answer to mine. Yours might well be better than mine.
Which one do you like better, and why?
One of my students let me know, today, that she scored a 2030 on the last “old” SAT. That’s in the 93rd to 95th percentile. Oh, frabjous day! Callou! Callay!
That’s got me all “Jabberwocky.” Hopefully, she’ll do as well or better on the ACT in a couple of weeks!
First of all, please review my previous blog entries for math tips and reading tips. There won’t be sentence completion questions on the new SAT, but you should still practice your vocabulary (e.g., using the yellow flash cards in the Barron’s SAT book).
Most importantly, you should practice the new SAT essay if you plan to take the essay portion. You should, since UC schools will require you to take the SAT essay. You don’t have to take my word for it – here’s the information, straight from UC: http://universityofcalifornia.edu/news/five-things-you-should-know-about-new-sat
So, PLEASE review the essay chapter in the “new SAT” review book of your choice (e.g., Barron’s New SAT, similar books from Kaplan, Princeton Review, McGraw-Hill, Gruber, or the official College Board guide). If you don’t have access to a “new SAT” review book (the older books won’t help) – try these online resources.
In this case, there’s no better source for practice material and advice than the College Board (maker of the SAT) itself:
This site will tell you exactly how the essays are scored, what they seek in an answer, and provides sample essays from worst (scoring 1 in reading, writing, and analysis, for 3 out of 12) to best (scoreing 4 in all three categories for a total of 12).
Basically, you don’t want to tell the grader what you think of the author’s position, although you should mention that others might have obvious counter-arguments to his or her position, and what they are. The main point of your answer should be to show the grader you know what rhetorical devices. For example, it’s good to use terms such as “allusion,” “assertions supported by evidence,” “question followed by debate pro and con,” “rhetorical questions,
“pathos/appeals to emotion,” “ad hominem attack,” “straw man,” “slippery-slope argument.” If you don’t know these terms, look them up. It’s also a good idea to look up “logical fallacies” or “fallacious arguments” using Google, Bing, or whatever search engine. If, on test day, you don’t know or recall the terms, just do your best to describe what the writer does in each paragraph, how they techniques are meant to support the argument, and, if you like, comment on if they succeed in doing so.
In my opinion, DON’T follow the advice used in here :
It’s a good idea to come prepared to write basically the same essay analyzing whatever piece of writing you read as part of the prompt, but I don’t find this template, mentioned in the article above, particularly useful:
“In [Article Title], [Author Name] synthesizes a compelling dissertation that [Passage’s Key Point]. Although some detractors may believe [What Detractors Believe], the arguments set forth in the article dismiss such romantic critics as excessively dogmatic in their provincial ideology. One of the broader notions presented in the essay is that [Major Idea in Article]. [Author’s Last Name] deftly delivers a cogent argument to sway his/her readers by [3 CREW SAID Tools]”
While this introduction sounds “smart,” using words and phrases such as “compelling dissertation” and “excessively provincial in their dogmatic ideology,” the overuse of such phrases would indicate to me that the student is trying to impress me, and quite possibly does not understand their meaning. Also, how the heck would you know the critics of the person’s point of view are “romantic,” meaning excessively emotional, led by sentimental or wishful thinking, etc.
Just as with the old SAT essays, it’s a bad idea to memorize an essay and then try to “cut and paste” it to fit the prompt. For example, what if the writer’s arguments actually do not “dismiss [the argument’s] critics as excessively dogmatic in their provincial ideology?” You’re going to look stupid to the grader, and your grade will suffer. The extra minute or so it takes actually to review the prompt and judge it on its own merits will help you score better than kids who were taught to memorize such insipid, pretentious pseudo-intellectual drivel and regurgitate it on the SAT, especially if the grader’s already seen a few essays that all start with this prefabricated opening paragraph.
And no, I don’t care that the founder of this company won a “Shark Tank” prize to found his company. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/02/29/taking-the-new-sat-five-tips-from-an-expert-who-won-a-shark-tank-deal-for-test-prep/
With that, I’m done for now – good luck on the new SAT!
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.