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Here's the essay I wrote in the video:
In the speech “Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break Silence,” Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. makes a compelling case for the proposition that the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War is unjust using ethos (facts and commonly accepted values or ethics), pathos (appeals to emotion through powerful descriptive language), and logos (logic). Dr. King’s speech makes a powerful moral argument for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and a renewed American commitment to the War on Poverty in the U.S. itself.
The first element with which Dr. King strikes the reader is pathos. In the first paragraph, King refers to his being a “preacher by calling,” which in addition to giving him some moral authority, or ethos, brings the reader into a frame of mind where he or she can contemplate ethics – good and evil. King then describes “the poverty program,” commonly referred to as the “War on Poverty,” as a “shining moment in that struggle,” namely the battle for civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities in the U.S. He references “experiments, hopes, and new beginnings,” all of which have positive connotations, especially when placed together. This happy juxtaposition of positive terms, however, immediately contrasts with King’s next statement. “Then came the buildup in Vietnam.” Even without more, that statement immediately brings to mind negative connotations. The Vietnam War was the first U.S. war where images of death and destruction, including the deaths of U.S. troops, were televised nightly on news broadcasts. King then mentions that the war caused “this program” to be “broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war.”
Obviously, the image of American society as some kind of psychopathic child destroying important social programs as some unwanted toy in order to pursue its new “play” at war is incredibly powerful emotional language. “Eviscerated” literally means a person or being’s internal organs (or “viscera”) being torn out. King mentions that the war on poverty could not be fought effectively if “men and skills” were drawn into “adventures like Vietnam” “like some demonic destructive suction tube.” King then concludes that the Vietnam War is “an enemy of the poor,” which requires him to “attack it as such.”
In the second paragraph, King noted that the Vietnam War was not only “devastating the poor at home,” but “sending their sons and brothers to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.” He also cites the “cruel irony” of watching “black young men” fight “to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia” which they had been denied at home in America. He succinctly sums up the sadly ironic situation by stating “[W]e have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.” King cites to similar segregation in housing to emphasize his point – that blacks dying for “freedom” denied to them at home was not only the most savage form of injustice and hypocrisy, but also unacceptable under any worthwhile system of morality, which leads him to the conclusion “I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.” King’s citation to the facts of school and housing segregation and the fact that these things are wrong and hypocritical in a “free” society are splendid examples of the effective use of ethos in a speech.
In the third paragraph, King describes his efforts to encourage African-Americans to shun violent protests, stating “I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems,” while facing the counterargument that the U.S. government itself was using violence to solve it problems in Vietnam. King then states “I knew I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed [e.g., African Americans] without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” King uses his moral authority as a non-violent preacher and advocate of non-violence to address why he feels the need to address violence on the global scale, such as war, and not just violence in the U.S. His use of repetition with the repeated phrase, “For the sake of…” emphasizes his belief that non-violence is the solution and only salvation of the poor, of minorities, of the U.S. government, and the people of Vietnam who were being killed in the Vietnam War.
King uses this emotional argument, layered upon the ethos of common Judeo-Christian morality, to lead into the fourth paragraph, where he answers the question “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” with his stated mission “[t]o save the soul of America” from the corrupt use of unjust violence in any form against any person or group, and that the mission could not be limited to obtaining “certain rights for black people.” King forcefully compares the U.S. government and society to a human body, stating “If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned [like the corpse of a poisoning victim], part of the autopsy must read : Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes or men the world over.” King finally concludes that those who would improve America and save it from its darkest impulses must head “down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.”
King thus compares the struggle for civil rights to a journey down a strenuous and demanding hiking path, where those who wish to work for justice must “work for the health of our land” by struggling against the injustice wreaked by the powerful in the U.S. government, not only against African Americans in the U.S., but against Vietnamese nationals in Vietnam.
King’s use of ethos is detailed above, in that he cites to the fact of Vietnam war scenes being broadcast on television every night, the irony of black soldiers purportedly fighting for freedom they did not fully possess at home, and the facts of educational and housing segregation. King also relies on the obvious ideas that unjust death, torture, poverty, and social segregation based on race are wrong. King also cites to the obvious fact that money spent on warfare cannot be spent on social programs to help the poor.
King’s use of logos is very simple. Since he relies on the basic notions that no one deserves to suffer for no other reason than his or her race, it makes no sense to fight for racial equality for one group (black Americans), but not another (the Vietnamese). Since the Vietnam War not only oppressed the Vietnamese, but drew much-needed money away from social programs intended to help the poor and minorities in the U.S., King’s inexorable logic leads him to oppose the Vietnam War.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech uses ethos in the form of commonly-accepted Judeo-Christian morality, pathos in the vibrant description of racial injustice and intolerable violence, and logos in the form of the compelling conclusion that any civil rights movement must aim for peach and justice for all people worldwide, not just some in the U.S. It is a classic example of a persuasive moral argument against war and for racial and civil justice.
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SAT Scandals and Stupidity:
I’m sure you’ve heard of Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin’s attempt to use “ringers” to take the SAT, alleged bribery of exam proctors to allow the “ringers” access to the test, and bizarre fake sports photos. In case you haven’t, here’s a news article from NBC News. Here are a couple of YouTube videos. from YouTubers I like, addressing this issue: Here’s one from Toronto gamer and cultural critic Liana K, https://youtu.be/C5Egg18A7o8 , and another from Michigan attorney Steve Lehto: https://youtu.be/7pcSZtzQ1S4 .
Personally, while I’m surprised the FBI actually ran this sting operation, I’m not surprised this was happening. SAT cheating through sketchy “tutors” and “admissions consultants” has been a huge plot point in several Jonathan Kellerman mystery/detective/police procedural novels. The only thing that surprises me is that famous Hollywood people would try something so vulgar and stupid as actually hiring a “ringer.”
Colleges often seek “diversity” based on students’ backgrounds. I recall being asked on the applications to elite colleges, the “cities and countries in which” I had lived – I’d only ever lived in one nice, but not very interesting, town all my life. It would seem the child of a star could answer “Oh, you know, Manhattan, Los Angeles, a little while in several European and Asian cities while my mother was on location for several blockbuster films in which she starred. Probably some other places that don’t spring to mind at the moment.” Furthermore, people with industry connections (especially politics or “the Industry” – i.e. show business) are always going to be courted by schools with undergraduate departments and/or graduate schools that seek to place their graduates in high-paying and influential positions. So, for example, colleges and universities with large political science departments, law schools, and theater departments will be more than happy to admit students whose parents just happen to be influential lawyers, judges, actors, producers, and directors. An oil tycoon might well “grease the skids” for his children’s college admissions by pointing out his or her oil company hires MANY geologists, and note that the university his or her children would like to attend has a nice geology department, and hey, couldn’t it use a new endowment?
Of course, while donating to a college or university isn’t a guarantee of admissions for your children, it can’t hurt (and probably will help). Neither of those things is at all dishonest or illegal, and if your kid can’t get into an elite college with those advantages you really need to let the kid go somewhere that meets his or her abilities and motivation. The old parental lecture springs to mind “What are you going to do when you’re out of college? Cheat in the workplace?” All right, some people probably can and will, but most of them will get caught eventually.
Now, while I’m not a huge fan of the SAT and ACT, none of the scandal can be laid at their feet. Bribing exam proctors wouldn’t seem like something I’d expect if I were running the College Board or American College Testing, and presumably their system of cross-checking scores with high school grades, etc. for outlier scores that might indicate cheating would catch most, if not all, cheaters. That’s why the College Board makes you agree that they can make you retake the test or go to arbitration with you if they think your score doesn’t reflect your ability, etc.
However, at the same time, there was a really stupid decision by the College Board for which only they can be responsible. Two of my students who took the SAT (yes, they took it themselves; no ringers involved 😉 ) They were told, on the day of the test, that there would be a 5th, experimental, section, before the essay. It wasn’t a full-length section, and at least one of my students heard an announcement that the section was experimental, some would get a math section, others would get a writing section, and others would get a reading section. Experimental sections aren’t new to the SAT, but in previous years they didn’t TELL STUDENTS which section it was, and obviously everyone got the same kind of section as an experimental section.
Why would that matter, you ask? It’s simple – once the students knew that section didn’t count, they didn’t try, for the most part. Many suddenly “needed to use the restroom.” My one student who went into detail about his experience said he genuinely tried, but noted many others decided to use the restrooms, nap, etc., then simply guess at the end. Since the intention of having an experimental section is to test possible new SAT questions under real-life conditions, the method used on Saturday defeated the purpose, since many students didn’t take that section seriously. Additionally, the students were all annoyed at having to spend an extra hour or more at the test site for this. It would have been a really good idea to let students know in advance that there would be an extra experimental section on the test.
In the end, it looks like the College Board needs to spruce up its security and product testing – they’re not going to be influential for very long if people think people can get away with cheating and the College Board doesn’t care about wasting the honest students’ time. That’s my two cents on these issues- what are yours? Feel free to comment below.
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Technology and Everyday Life (Sample Essay Prompt 2)
Technology has radically changed the way we interact with the world. Not long ago, individuals who wanted to get in touch had to do so either by meeting in person or sending messages through postal mail. In order to perform most types of research, people were forced to visit physical libraries, bookstores or archives. Over the past two decades, technology has rendered many of these time-consuming tasks obsolete. Messages can be sent anywhere in the world via email in only a matter of seconds. All sorts of information is available with the click of a smart phone button. People can not only call individuals anytime, but they can also access their geolocation on demand. It seems like everyone is on his or her smart phone every waking minute. Has this increase in the power and reach of technology bettered out lives?
Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the presence of technology in our lives.
Today’s technology has greatly bettered our lives. Individuals are more connected to the information and people they want to connect with, and the result is smarter, happier and more fulfilled human beings.
Technology promises to “connect” us with one another. But look around and you’ll see how disconnected it’s made us—individuals no longer interact with one another because they’ve become so consumed by their phones and devices.
Technology may have made the world a better place for those who have access to it, but its prohibitive costs have made it inaccessible, and consequently unhelpful, to too many people.
Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the impact of technology on our lives. In your essay, be sure to:
Here’s the essay:
Technology has made previously cumbersome and inconvenient tasks much easier. One such task is research, which used to have to be done at physical libraries using physical books, microfilm, recordings, etc. Another is telecommunications, which used to be expensive and rather limited (e.g., telephone calls could be made only to wired phones with some rare exceptions until the 1990s, and even then, it was not until the late 1990s or early 2000s that cell phone technology became cheap enough for widespread use). Now, research is available from almost any location on Earth, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, on computers, tablets, cell phones, and other devices through the World Wide Web. No longer is research limited to the hours physical libraries are open. No longer are we limited to calling people overseas or even in different states or cities to “when the rates are cheap.” No longer must we wait days or weeks to send postal mail, when email will reach virtually anywhere on this planet within milliseconds. However, this vast increase in communications and information technology leads to, but does not answer the question “Has this increase in the power and reach of technology bettered our lives?”, as asked in the essay prompt. There are three perspectives provided in the essay prompt, which I will discuss below, along with my own perspective.
The first perspective given is “Today’s technology has greatly bettered our lives. Individuals are more connected to the information and people they want to connect with, and the result is smarter, happier, and more fulfilled human beings.” This perspective is very optimistic. While the Internet and similar information and communication technology has allowed people to seek out and connect with like-minded people around the world, it also has allowed people to create ideological or intellectual “echo chambers” where people can seal out ideas with which they do not agree and simply see and hear only opinions that match or complement their own. Since a robust exchange of ideas, and competition between ideas is crucial to the development of the moral and intellectual development of individuals, as well as that of society at large, it is crucial that people occasionally be confronted with ideas that challenge their already-held beliefs. Without such exchanges, slavery, Jim Crow laws, overt and outrageous sexism, and the like would still be acceptable in our society.
Similarly, while the Internet is a wonderful place to obtain information quickly, even information that might have taken hours of book research to obtain before the advent of the Internet, it is also a source of false information, whether simply mistaken information posted in good faith, or deliberate disinformation. For that reason, while people may often be “happier” when they encounter websites that validate their perspectives, they are not “smarter” if that information is not actually correct. Therefore, Perspective One is correct only to the extent that people can weed out disinformation and misinformation, and use only credible sources when doing research.
Finally, people’s ability to reach people they want to connect with is countered by the ability for people they do not wish to connect with to contact them. Because of technological advances, automated “robo-calls” are incredibly cheap, and allow for scammers and con artists to defraud the naïve and gullible in our society. More regulation, both legal and technological, is needed to correct this problem. These calls should be illegal and phone companies should be required to stop them.
The second perspective, that while technology promises to connect us, but actually isolates us because we are often too engrossed in our phones and computers to interact with people around us, is somewhat accurate, but a bit too pessimistic. Yes, many people, especially teenagers, will choose the “company” of online friends over people who actually live near them, in search of people whose interests, ideas, and personalities match their own. However is not necessarily bad. A theater buff who lives in a neighborhood dominated mostly by hockey and monster truck rally fans may find solace in reaching out to other theater buffs on the Internet. People who are isolated by disabilities, or unusual personality traits, such as an odd sense of humor, may also find kindred spirits online. The same can be said for lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual youth, and so on. Therefore, the idea that finding friends and following interests online is always worse than participating in the life of the physical community in which a person lives is not completely correct.
Perspective Three states that technology can only help those who can afford it, and that high costs of technology (e.g., expensive phones, computers, access) make it inaccessible to at least some people who need it desperately. While it is true that an iPhone X, the latest Samsung Galaxy, or the like is very expensive, some smartphones can be had for cheap or for free. Free “Obama phones” given to the indigent will access the Web as well as make and receive phone calls. Many people will give away perfectly good smartphones because they’re not the latest technology. Many municipalities offer free WiFi access, as do many colleges, businesses, and the like. As such, cost is not such a burdensome issue that many people are left out of the information revolution.
My perspective is a synthesis of all three perspectives. The Internet and other communications technology are wonderful tools when used wisely. People must learn to use discretion in determining what sources of information are good, and what ones aren’t. The access is very cheap, but we must always make sure the poor can use the Internet. Finally, we should not neglect our own physical communities while we pursue our online interests. I see no reason why we cannot reach a healthy balance here. As such, this technology is a net gain for society.
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