Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sample Contrast Paper

Students, please find below a draft of a contrast paper, as discussed during class. As with the earlier sample definition paper, keep in mind that it is a draft and not a finished work. Do also note that the larger group at work is not allowed for student use.

Oh, two other things:
1) This is an example of how to make the argument. It is not necessarily true.
2) The example is the average acceptable length for your own papers, when formatted for class submission.

An antagonist is anything that hinders or prevents a focal figure or focal figures from pursuing an end goal.  The household chores of doing laundry and of washing dishes both perform antagonistic functions.  Of the two, the more antagonistic is the dishwashing.

Laundry is certainly antagonistic to those who have to do it.  For many in New York City and the surrounding urban sprawl, the chore requires an excursion to a laundry facility, which effectively prevents at-home relaxation.  Even if a person lives in a building with its own laundry rooms, as is the case with many college dormitories, that person is obliged to remain with the laundry while it is being done, lest the clothes be stolen or thrown aside in favor of another person's wash.  In addition, then, to hindering many people's at-home relaxation--a goal common to a great many people and almost-universally regarded as a good thing--laundry day invites other persons to act as antagonists, thereby admitting the possibility of its own prevention.  Further, laundry facilities are expensive, taking money away from being spent on more favored pursuits and thereby acting antagonistically financially.

Even for those who are fortunate enough to have washers and dryers in their homes, laundry is antagonistic.  Because the machines are in the home, they intrude upon the home-dweller's awareness to a greater extent than does the laundromat walked by on the way to the bus stop or subway station; that intrusion tends to inhibit enjoyment of other activities, making it antagonistic.  Also, the presence of machinery in the home opens up the possibility of mechanical malfunction in the home.  Specifically, washing machines can flood the rooms in which they sit, and dryers can cause fires.  Both are generally considered to be detrimental to the conduct of other household activities, and since those activities are typically desirable end goals, insofar as the equipment needed to do laundry inhibits them, the task is antagonistic.

Dishwashing is hardly an enjoyable task.  Since dishes become dirty primarily through use, and the use of dishes typically involves foodstuffs, dirty dishes are commonly festooned with unused food and drink.  Being largely organic, that food and drink begins to corrupt soon after it is set aside, and corrupting foodstuffs have an unfortunate tendency to stink.  Bad smells are typically regarded as inhibiting enjoyment, and enjoyment is a prized end-goal of a great many people.  Since dishwashing tends to create a situation in which an end-goal is inhibited, it is necessarily antagonistic.

In addition, dishwashing exerts a number of physical ill-effects upon those who do it.  In many cases, the activity involves sticking one's hands into water through which one cannot see.  Knives, forks, graters, and the occasional broken glass appear among the dishes that are concealed by such water, and so sticking one's hands into it invites cuts, punctures, abrasions, and other injuries.  Even leaving aside such directly concrete instances of harm, washing dishes requires repetitive wrist motions, which common understanding notes leads to carpal tunnel syndrome and in turn prevents people from effectively performing any number of manual tasks.  Since many of the things that are enjoyed are done with the hands--and, as noted before, enjoyment is a common end-goal--that which prevents the use of the hands is necessarily antagonistic.  Similarly, the height of a sink typically requires that the dishwasher either bend over repeatedly or assume a hunched position, both of which tend to cause back pain and thereby inhibit enjoyment in a manner like to wrist injuries.

Worse yet, dishwashing is a frequently-necessary activity, needing to take place daily or more often.  As such, each of the annoyances and inhibitions of enjoyment that it provokes happen every single day in many households.  While it may be argued that the intensity of annoyance and degree of hindrance offered by a single instance of dishwashing is equivalent to that of a single instance of doing the laundry, because dishwashing takes place so much more frequently than doing the laundry--commonly regarded as a weekly occurrence among household chores--the intensity and degree are amplified to a much greater level than is the case for laundry, making dishwashing more antagonistic.

In truth, it is difficult if not impossible for any one person to fully maintain a household of more than one person, so that the division of chores becomes a necessity in short order.  Certainly, among siblings and among roommates and families, much attention is paid to who does what and how hard each thing is.  Knowing which chores are most onerous, then, has a direct effect on the harmony of many households, and that harmony is a thing which ought well to be protected.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sample Classification Paper, Option 2

Students, please find below a draft of a classification paper that follows Option 2, as discussed during class.  As with the earlier sample definition paper, keep in mind that it is a draft and not a finished work.  Do also note that the classification at work is not allowed for student use.

Oh, two other things:
1) This is an example of how to make the argument.  It is not necessarily true.
2) The example is the minimum acceptable length for your own papers, when formatted for class submission.

An antagonist is anything that hinders or prevents a focal figure or focal figures from pursuing an end goal.  Many people claim that Mr. Elliott keeps his students from effectively pursuing their end goal of getting an education and thus that he is an antagonist.  As it turns out, this is not entirely true.

It is admittedly the case that Mr. Elliott does teach a subject that many people hate: English.  It is also true that he assigns a fair amount of work to the students in his English classes and that he has high standards of performance on the work he assigns; few people earn As from him, and many fail to pass his classes.  But none of this means that students do not receive educations from him.

That a person hates a given thing does not mean that the person will neither have use for the thing nor benefit from understanding it.  In the case of English, students in Mr. Elliott's classes are in a country whose dominant language is English, so that there is a larger social impetus for them to learn the language.  More specifically, English in its various forms remains a worldwide common tongue; scientists and businesspeople across the planet conduct their affairs in the language, so for students to successfully navigate the broader technical and commercial world, thereby earning a living as many of them profess a desire to do, they will need to have a command of the subject matter Mr. Elliott teaches.  His subject, then, is far from antagonistic, but is instead a significant facilitator of student desire, and so in that subject, Mr. Elliott is not an antagonist.

That a thing requires effort, even sustained and at times dull effort, does not necessarily make it a hindrance.  The English language, like all currently spoken human languages, is vast and nuanced, with quirks that have grown up across fifteen centuries and more of use by populations widely disparate in time, geography, cultural heritage, and socioeconomic status.  It is a complex system, and like all complex systems, it is not necessarily easily understood, let alone mastered.  It requires difficult work to achieve competence in English, and Mr. Elliott provides that difficulty for his students both in the amount of work assigned and in the standards of performance he enforces.  Repeated practice is necessary to move practitioners past they point at which they must think about the specifics of the actions they perform and into the area in which they consider when and for what purpose to perform those actions.  Thus, Mr. Elliott assigns much work.  Also, if practitioners are told at the outset that their skills are sufficient, then they have no motivation to improve those skills; it is only by insisting on a higher standard of performance that higher levels of performance are achieved.  As such, Mr. Elliott does not reward lower levels of proficiency, and in the combination of his restriction of reward and expectation of amount of practice, he provides students with the necessary difficulty to improve.  As such, he necessarily helps them to learn what they need to learn, and so is far from hindering them as an antagonist must.

It is unfortunately true that some people have overly inflated opinions of themselves and their abilities.  In such cases, they need to learn the true measure of their skills, and this means that some will not receive high grades and that others will need to repeat courses.  As regards Mr. Elliott's classes, students in both situations are given opportunities to learn about themselves and the system into which they have voluntarily entered by registering for college level coursework.  The lessons thusly offered are not necessarily those that students either expect or desire, but that does not mean that they are not lessons and that being offered them is not concomitantly educational.  Accordingly, even in issuing low grades based on low performance--or, more commonly, a lack of observable performance--Mr. Elliott teaches.  If the point of being a student is to gain an education, any teaching furthers that goal, and so Mr. Elliott serves to facilitate education, denying him status as an antagonist to the students in his classes.

That Mr. Elliott does not necessarily follow the easygoing model of a great many other instructors does not make him an antagonist.  Rather, it offers a divergent opinion and a specific set of challenges to students that they are not likely to find in a classroom elsewhere--although they will face harder tasks yet when the worst consequence is, instead of the poor grade Mr. Elliott can assign, unemployment, homelessness, injury, or death.  His classroom, then, is potentially a place well worth seeking.

Sample Classification Paper, Option 1

Students, please find below a draft of a classification paper that follows Option 1, as discussed during class.  As with the earlier sample definition paper, keep in mind that it is a draft and not a finished work.  Do also note that the classification at work is not allowed for student use.

Oh, two other things:
1) This is an example of how to make the argument.  It is not necessarily true.
2) The example is the minimum acceptable length for your own papers, when formatted for class submission.

An antagonist is anything that hinders or prevents a focal figure or focal figures from pursuing an end goal.  As a teacher, someone whose ostensible purpose is to aid students in pursuing their educations, Geoffrey B. Elliott should be far removed from being an antagonist.  All too often, however, the reverse is true, and Mr. Elliott is very much an antagonist.

By some accounts, such formal education as takes place in a classroom is exactly that: formal.  It is old-fashioned, ritualized, and more or less removed from the day-to-day practical realities of contemporary life.  This is particularly true in studying the fine arts and humanities (under which heading the study of English, and therefore Mr. Elliott's teaching, falls), in which the focus is commonly on people and works that, however interesting and/or relevant they may have been when they were created, are now so old as to be fully disjunct from what is going on now.  Less commonly, the fine arts and humanities turn their attentions to constructions so strange that they defy common sense and the typical aesthetics of the population at large, and so do not even have the claim of the older stuff to have been relevant once; they are the "never-was" to the commonly-studied "has-been."  In either case, they do not bear in on what people need to know now to get ahead now, and their study takes up time that could be devoted instead to finding ways to do things and make money.  As such, in the very subject Mr. Elliott teaches, he serves as a hindrance to student success, making him antagonistic.

His antagonism becomes more overt and direct than the simple fact of his subject area, though.  In the classroom, Mr. Elliott is known as a tyrant.  Most of his students seek to have high grade point averages (GPA), rightly thinking that to have a 3.5 or better GPA will lead them to institutional honors and to improved abilities to find employment after graduation.  Getting such a GPA requires that the grades assigned in coursework be high, the traditional B or better.  Mr. Elliott, however, rarely offers that level of grade to his students; typically, students will make the so-called average C, and a high number of students fail his class for one reason or another.  Both sets of students do not receive the high grades that mark successful experiences in formal education, making it more difficult for them to secure a good overall GPA and therefore limiting their abilities to attain institutional honors and after-graduation employment.  His grading, then, marks Mr. Elliott as a direct antagonist to the students who are, after all, the focus of school.

Other classroom conduct displays Mr. Elliott's antagonistic tendencies.  The low grades he hands out are, at least in theory, based on a number of assignments, including long readings and pages-long papers.  Completing the assignments takes time, and students typically do not have time outside of class to devote to performing the kinds of mental labor that Mr. Elliott unmercifully demands of them.  They do not have the time or energy to spend poring over pages of a textbook they purchased as cheaply as possible and are not going to keep past the end of the semester or to sit and type out two or three pages of text about a subject nobody cares about and only one person--and that a person who, following an old adage, teaches because he cannot get a real job--is going to read with anything approaching interest.  But students are expected to do so, rather than going out and actually enjoying themselves, and they are punished if they fail to meet Mr. Elliott's demands.  That punishment takes the form of low grades, with the consequences outlined above, and so in assigning the work he requires of his students, Mr. Elliott presents himself as an antagonist towards them.

It is expected of teachers that they facilitate learning and help their students to set and achieve goals.  At the college level, the end goal is already in place, so that all a teacher need really do is facilitate learning so as to help students get where they want to be.  Mr. Elliott does not do this, but rather performs the opposite function, getting in the way of students making good grades and doing the things that they actually need to do by forcing them to do things of minimal or zero importance.  He is an antagonist, and like all antagonists, he is to be avoided or defeated.