The essay prompt can be found in Test 3 on the College Board's practice test page. (click here).
In the persuasive essay , The Digital Parent Trap, Eliana Dockterman uses ethos (authoritative opinion, facts, and conventional wisdom) in the form of quotations from professors, other educational professionals, and medical associations, as well as survey statistics; pathos (appeals to emotion, strong language and rhetoric) in the form of arguments showing computer usage as practically the best way to help children learn; and logos (logic) based on the idea that two things that are shown to be different, such as passive television watching and active online interactions should not be expected to have the same effects, to support her argument that there are benefits from children’s early exposure to technology.
Among the examples of ethos used in The Digital Parent Trap, we find liberal use of statistical evidence, such as the fact that 80% of U.S. school districts are “on the cusp of incorporating Web-enable tablets into everyday curriculums,” the fact that the majority of children from age 3 to 18 use some sort of electronic device – “27% use tablets, 43% use smartphones, and 52% use laptops.” These statistics would be better if Dockterman actually cited her sources, but they are nonetheless persuasive enough for a Time magazine opinion piece. The editorial also cites research by SRI stating that children who played puzzle games did 12% better on logic tests than those who did not, as well as several studies cited by MIT (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology) that playing the game “Civilization” led to students’ increased interest in history, and that while students remember only 10% of what they read, and 20% of what they hear, and 50% of what is shown to them, they recall 90% of things they do, including what they do in video games and other digital-world exercises. These statistics certainly support the contention that video games and other time spent on computers can and does improve student learning.
Dockterman uses pathos in the form of strong, effective word choice and appeals to emotion in her choice of words to describe the counter-argument against students spending long hours on computers- referring to the “Parental Adage [that] the less time spent with screens, the better,” citing to the problems of “cyberbullying,” children becoming depressed by seeing others who appear happier than they are, and the specter of too much online time having the identical result of excessive television watching – “obesity, violence, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Dockterman notes these fears have led to a “fundamental aversion to [children sitting in front of] screens” among parents.
The author uses similarly strong descriptive language to detail why children’s use of computers, while causing them to spend much time in front of screens, is actually a good thing- citing to U.C. Irvine anthropologist Mimi Ito, who states: “Online, kids can engage with specialized communities of interest. They’re no longer limited by what’s offered in school.” She presents online screen time as “way more brain-stimulating than vegging out in front of the TV.” The use of “brain stimulating” to describe online activity in contrast to the “vegging out” activity of watching television sets up a huge emotional contrast between the two activities, which supports the idea that online time can be far healthier for the brain than TV is.
Finally, she uses the fear of technological ignorance and non-tech-savvy children’s falling behind their technologically-skilled counterparts in the workforce, which increasingly demands familiarity with technology, citing to the principal of Chicago’s Spencer Tech school for the proposition that not only are the good jobs of today and the future tech-related, but even the applications for such jobs must be completed on a computer. All of this language provides emotional and rhetorical support for the idea that technological knowledge obtained by extensive computer use is not only not unhealthy, but actually necessary for children to become part of the workforce of the future.
Of course, these citations to authorities such as professors from the University of California at Irvine, a school professor, and the like are all examples of ethos – information from authoritative sources. Dockterman even cites to ethos in support of the counterargument to her argument – she cites to the American Academy of Pediatrics as the source of the long-established rule that children should spend no more than two hours per day in front of a television screen, but in the same paragraph, explains why computer screen time is much different from, and much more beneficial than, time spent in front of a television screen.
The author also cites to a Los Altos, California Waldorf School official, Lucy Wirtz, for the proposition that online activities are not as useful as students’ making arts and crafts, skills learned in Waldorf schools nationwide, but also rebuts that argument in the rest of the editorial by noting that computer skills are necessary practical skills today, and will be increasingly necessary in the future, as noted above.
The logic (logos) used in Dockterman’s article is simple – if something is pleasurable in limited quantities but possibly harmful in larger quantities, children should not be exposed to it in quantities large enough to cause harm. That logic is the reason pediatricians have strongly recommended limiting television watching by children for decades. She then shows that much larger amounts of computer exposure have been shown not only to be harmless, but actually helpful to children, so the logic used by pediatricians for limiting television watching should not be applied to computer usage.
In the essay The Digital Parent Trap, Elisa Dockterman effectively uses ethos in the form of quotes from authorities along with statistics showing online time actually greatly helps children learn, pathos in the form of effective language and the presentation of scenarios from the present and future with which today’s students have or will have to deal, and finally, logos in the form of showing that digital pursuits are not the same as passive television watching, and cannot be expected to have the same deleterious effects as excessive television watching.
The essay prompt can be found here. Scroll down to the end of the practice test in this booklet .pdf file.
The issue of the cultural trend of adults playing with children’s toys, reading children’s books, and otherwise consuming cultural products intended for children has caused quite a debate in today’s society. One perspective is that when adults consume cultural materials intended for children, they gain an insight into today’s children they would otherwise lack, giving them empathy for, and insight into the minds, of these children. The second perspective is that adults are meant to be “models of maturity and responsibility,” to quote the essay prompt, and that when adults use media resources, toys, and other materials meant to children, they behave immaturely and deprive actual children of adult role models. The third perspective is that children need their own “cultural space” with toys, movies, books, websites, music, etc. that adults do not use, and when adults infringe upon children’s cultural space, the children “lose out.” All three perspectives make valid points, but all three have their limitations. The best approach to this “problem” is simply for adults to balance their consumption of children’s media, physical products, and the like with adult media (no, I do not mean pornography), physical products, and the like.
The first perspective is correct in that watching movies and reading books, or otherwise using media products aimed at youth gives adults insight into the concerns of today’s children, as well as possibly greater empathy for those children. Certainly movies, music, and young adult or children’s books can give grownups a view into the minds of teenagers and children, to the extent the movies, music, and books realistically represent today’s children. However, this is only in addition to whatever adults remember of their own childhoods, and usually isn’t going to be very different from what they learned and experienced in their own youth, except for trends in clothing, music, etc. Sometimes values actually do change radically, as in the “generation gap” between the World War II “greatest generation” and the “Baby boomers” born from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. This perspective is lacking for the reasons listed in the second and third perspectives, discussed below, and also because it does not account for the need to actually engage in discussions with today’s children to find out what their concerns are, and what, if anything, adults should do to help them.
The second perspective is that using children’s products, whether physical toys, dolls, etc., or media products such as music, movies, and books, is simply acting immaturely and depriving children of role models. This perspective is lacking in that is fails to account for who produces children’s toys and media, namely, grownups. Cartoons such as Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob SquarePants, while firmly aimed at children, have many, many references and jokes made by adults for adults. The same applies to books such as the Harry Potter series, and movies such as The Lego Movie. These cultural products allow for adults and children to bond over the same media, since there are elements both children and adults can enjoy. Furthermore, some cartoons and comic books are really made for adults, and probably should be kept away from young children. South Park cartoons on Comedy Central’s cable network and The Dark Knight Batman comic book series spring to mind, as well as graphic novels such as The Watchmen and Ghost World, both of which were used to make R-rated movies. Obviously, the adult references, profanity, graphic violence, and the like found in those media should NOT be viewed by children.
However, the second perspective is correct in that adults who consume mostly or only children’s media, play with toys, wear adult-sized children’s clothing, or always wear T-shirts with cartoon characters on them, and the like, will be seen as immature people whose development was arrested at some point. So there is a value to this perspective.
The third perspective, that children must have a cultural space to call their own, with ideas that belong only to them, is valid, and has existed since the beginning of humanity. The interests of children are different from those of teenagers, which are different from those of adults. However, the concern is not particularly pressing, as children are fantastically creative, and can skip from on cultural product to another at the drop of a metaphorical hat. Something that’s “cool” today can be “lame” or “sucky” or whatever the slang for “bad” is, tomorrow, and the fastest way to make something “lame” is for all the adults to proclaim their love for it. Cultural products such as “Pogs” (based on the bottoms of fruit juice container caps from Hawai’i), Cabbage Patch dolls, and even Internet platforms (MySpace, Facebook, Instagram) wax and wane in popularity – they “come and go.” While adults still use Facebook, teenager and children have moved to Instagram, Snapchat, and many other new phone applications and websites, in an attempt to maintain their own cultural space away from adults’ prying eyes.
My perspective balances these three previous perspectives. While I see nothing wrong with adults using children’s products (after all, adults made them, and often include references in children’s media that only adults would understand), it’s never “cool” to be the kind of adult who’s obsessed with children’s media or toys. Most people smirk at “the weird guy who has a room filled with Batman stuff,” or the real-life analogues of “Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons. And children do need their own “cultural space,” as the third perspective states, but the same “Comic Book Guy”-type person isn’t really going to dominate children’s spaces, for the same reason that most people, children or adults, wouldn’t want to be friends with the Comic Book Guy. He’s immature and vaguely disturbing or “creepy” to children and adults alike. And that’s how children find their own cultural space – they use materials provided to them by the culture, their parents, the schools, etc., but then they add to their own culture by creating their own subculture of slang, games, uses of the media provided to them, and so on, in such a way to create their own space in society. So I see nothing wrong with adults’ use of children’s products as long as the adults limit their own products for their own sake. The children will be fine. To quote the Who, “The Kids are Alright.”
If now the poor can get into college with SAT's new "adversity score," and the rich can use money, what can the middle class do to get into a good college?
John Linneball, Sole Proprietor at John Linneball Tutoring (2014-present)
No one gets into a selective, or “good,” college simply by virtue of being poor, a minority, or otherwise disadvantaged. The student has to be qualified to do the work, and likely to succeed in life. Similarly, having relatives who can literally buy your way into the school, while probably more likely to work than being disadvantaged, won’t work if you’re obviously unable to do the work and probably won’t get far in life. Why, you ask? It’s simple - students are not just the customers of these businesses called “colleges;” they are the product.
Businesses donate money to colleges that produce people they’re likely to hire. Government grants go to colleges with good faculty and (usually graduate) student assistants. People are more likely to apply, and will pay more to attend, schools that produce people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Bonnie Raitt, and the like. That is one reason why Harvard University, the alma mater of all three of those people, as well as politicians, celebrities, scientists, businesspeople, etc. that we all know, can charge much more than a decent local college.
Your question is basically a twist on the question about financing college. The extremely poor basically pay nothing other than student loans (which used to be capped, but now students can take out private loans, but SHOULDN’T!) and work-study jobs. The wealthy can simply pay the tuition and fees. The middle class family has to pay as much of its income as it can, gets SOME grants, and the rest must be paid through the student’s loans and/or work-study job.
That leaves the middle class family feeling a bit sore, since they feel like they’re being penalized for working hard and saving, whereas the poor family might be poor because they were irresponsible with their money, the wealthy family may have simply inherited the wealth, etc. The problem with that attitude is most poor people usually are poor for reasons they don’t control (e.g., factory closings, poor educational opportunities, etc), and most wealthy people were originally poor and/or middle class, and worked hard to become wealthy. But I digress.
Colleges, certainly elite colleges, recognize talent, regardless of the students’ backgrounds. I knew two students from much (economically and socially) worse backgrounds than mine, who performed better than I did at the same college. I also knew students whose families probably had net worths of millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars. Similarly, they worked very hard, and succeeded in college and in life. Most students I met were from socioeconomic backgrounds similar to mine, worked hard, and also “made it” in college and in life.
If you work really hard, you’ll get admitted to a good enough college, get enough financial aid, and you’ll make it. I promise that. I can’t promise you Harvard, or whatever your dream college is, but I can guarantee you that your background won’t hold you back if you’re academically qualified to attend an elite college, and even if you’re just average academically, hard work will get you a degree from a good college, a good career, etc.
Here's my answer to a question on Quora regarding this issue:
I couldn’t read the whole WSJ article, but I did find and read CBS News’ summary of it. The index is based upon socioeconomic factors that glaringly do not include race. Here’s a link to the CBS article:
SAT exam reportedly to give students "adversity score" in bid to level playing field
Here’s the relevant (to me) part of the CBS article:
Each of the three categories has five sub-indicators that are indexed in calculating each student's adversity score. Neighborhood environment will take into account crime rate, poverty rate, housing values and vacancy rate. Family environment will assess what the median income is of where the student's family is from; whether the student is from a single parent household; the educational level of the parents; and whether English is a second language. High school environment will look at factors such as curriculum rigor, free-lunch rate and AP class opportunities. Together these factors will calculate an individual's adversity score on a scale of one to 100.
According to the Journal, a score of 50 is considered "average." Anything above 50 proves "hardship" while anything below 50 is considered "privilege." The College Board did not immediately respond to a CBS News request for more information about the methodology behind its calculation of the adversity score and if other factors are considered.
The Journal reported that this new score will appear alongside a student's SAT score and will be featured in a section labeled the "Environmental Context Dashboard." The adversity score's formal name on the dashboard is "Overall Disadvantage Level," but it has been colloquially called the "adversity score" by college admissions officers, per The Journal's article.
This sounds like a reasonably well-thought-out attempt to help colleges make decisions about what students would benefit from, and also “deserve affirmative action” as some people might put it. It addresses the obvious counter-argument to race-based affirmative action or other special admission programs - “What if a minority applicant is from a super-wealthy background, with loving parents, an excellent high school, and so on? How is it fair to give that applicant preference over a white kid from Detroit whose single mother often didn’t receive child support, went to a horrid inner-city public high school where most kids learned only to ‘shoot dope and shoot each other (Jello Biafra quote)’?”
I attended Williams College with at least two students (one of whom may have influenced this policy) who were from disadvantaged backgrounds. One was African-American; the other was white and looked like he was from a privileged background. The rumor about the white one was “his parents are ambassadors!” No, his dad worked for an axle factory in Detroit and ran a restaurant for a while. His mother was similarly situated.
He went on to be a Rhodes scholar and met the current president of the College Board while at Oxford on his Rhodes scholarship. It would not surprise me if this decision was influenced by that man’s conversations with my college classmate.
My experience of knowing this man was that his story serves as a Rorschach inkblot test. A conservative could point to his story as evidence of “See? This kid got ZERO affirmative action points and made it! I don’t want to hear it about ‘disadvantaged backgrounds!’” A liberal would then counter with “That’s interesting that you’ve completely glossed over the fact that minority students are much more likely to be from disadvantaged backgrounds like the background of this kid you’re holding up as your golden boy!” And they could argue back and forth until they finally get angry and storm off.
The man himself wrote an article for a college newspaper that basically stated people who didn’t have to overcome adversity should be quiet, since they’re obviously trying to talk about something they haven’t experienced, and that affirmative action opponents from disadvantaged backgrounds should have empathy for others, since they know how hard it was for them to make it. But I digress.
Regardless of who influenced the decision, this is just a more formalized, and dare I say, “standardized,” version of what selective colleges have done in admissions decisions for the past 50 years, if not longer. The Bakke case, mentioned by another answerer of this question, established that crude racial quotas cannot be used in admissions. So colleges look for other factors that indicate an applicant may have had more adversity to overcome, which should work in that applicant’s favor. A child who grew up poor with a single mother and not much access to educational materials wealthier children took for granted, with little guidance on how to get into college, let alone a selective college, shows more initiative, drive, organization, and persistence than an applicant who has had access to better opportunities.
While this may “be another Bakke case waiting to happen,” as that poster put it, I think a lawsuit wouldn’t find this index to be discriminatory. It’s literally based on statistics from government agencies and whoever else tracks such things - property values and vacancies, crime rates, free-lunch-recipient rates, etc, none of which is open to serious dispute. Even if crime rate reporting is racially biased (e.g., police in minority areas are more likely to arrest people for minor violations than those in majority white areas), that would HELP people from “bad” neighborhoods, who are disproportionately minorities. I don’t see any court, even the craziest conservative judges, stating that people who almost literally “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps” (that’s actually physically impossible), don’t deserve special consideration, since conservatives argue for the “bootstraps” approach all day, every day, except when they need special favors [*cough* 2008 bank bailout *cough*].
Did my two college classmates deserve more consideration than I received in admissions because I came from a nicer background than they did? Yes, since they did better than I did when we were in college together. People from “bad” backgrounds often do better in impersonal college environments than people from warn, nurturing backgrounds where they received personal attention and assistance frequently. The kid from the bad neighborhood learns “You’d better hustle and take care of yourself, because those who care about you can’t help you, and those who can help you don’t care about you - they care about what you can do for them!”
Will this index be perfect? Of course not. The SATs aren’t perfect tests; they’re computer-scored standardized tests that can be affected by factors such as test prep and tutoring (which kids from wealthy families are more likely to receive), how the kid was feeling the day he or she took the test, etc. So of course it’s limited, as is any statistic or standardized test.
This index can’t measure for the “poor little rich kid” effect - the trope from thousands of novels, TV shows, and movies where a kid from a privileged background grows up with emotionally distant, neglectful, or outright abusive parents (e.g., the movie Mommie Dearest), but that’s what application essays are for, I suppose.
A kid who’s got Jerry Springer or Oprah points should emphasize what adversity he or she had to overcome in his or her essays. Even kids from nice, supportive backgrounds are asked to, and should, write about academic challenges they’ve overcome. I’ve helped high school students apply to college write such essays by helping edit them, making suggestions about what colleges would like to see, etc. Schools that want deep insight into applicants’ characters will continue to ask for such essays. Those that don’t, or those that would like some assistance, will rely on the index provided by the College Board. And some will reject that index outright in favor of their own essays and application/interview process. This is really nothing worth getting upset over - it should help much more than it hurts.
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