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.

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