Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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.

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