Essay #1 Tip Sheet

Essay #1: Opening Essay

Begin by reading:

"The Value of a Liberal Arts Education in Today's World"

The writing assignment:

Write a brief essay which responds to the main claim of this article.

Discussion:

I began this course with a challenging article. Yes, it has a point it's selling, and yes it does fly in the face of some traditional ideas.

I have asked a number of my friends what they were thinking when they arrived at college for the first time, and the majority (most of whom are well into their lifetime careers) knew from the beginning what they wanted to do with their professional lives. When my father and his brothers went off to college in the 1930s, the only reasonable option was the Michigan College of Mining and Technology, and the only real curriculum choice was "What kind of engineer do you want to be?" In those days, women were not welcome in engineering colleges, but my grandfather wanted his daughter to be able to support herself too, so he sent her off to another college, where she majored in Home Economics and ended up teaching that subject in two different small colleges. I'm not opposed to the traditional idea of "Go to college so you can get a good job." And some very successful people know from their middle teenage years exactly what they want from life.

So what is going on here? I think it's something more subtle than just an appeal to take a few different kinds of courses. The article appears to be selling the idea of doing something beyond just learning how to accomplish a specific job. When my father was taking college courses in engineering, he spent a lot of effort learning how to produce beautiful technical drawings, but now computer CAD programs make that kind of learning unnecessary. According to the article, the real question for a beginning engineer (or accountant or teacher or nurse) should go deeper than simply knowing how to accomplish a particular function.

Five possible responses:

Your first task after you read the article is to figure out its central point. See if you can write it down as a simple declarative sentence.

Your second task is to decide what you think of that central point. As far as I can see, there are five possible responses (and you will hear me say this repeatedly).

  1. Hooray! Everything this article said was just perfect! I wouldn't change a word of it!
  2. Yes … but. Generally I agree with it, but there were one or two places where I disagree or where it didn't say enough.
  3. Meh! Six of one, half dozen of the other. I really have no opinion.
  4. No … but. The article is generally on the wrong track and I basically disagree with it, but it makes a couple of good points worth thinking about.
  5. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Absolutely everything about this piece stinks! There is no good in it at all.

Of these five, #2 and #4 are probably the most fun and interesting to write and will give you the most to say.

After you have figured out the main point of the article and your basic response, you need to figure out why you think these things. College writing really values objective evidence (fact-based material that's available to other readers and likely to convince them) more than subjective claims (based on the writer's feelings and emotions). Therefore, you should avoid these sorts of support:

You get the idea.


The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 8/1/22 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: callen@ashland.edu.