high school essays

2011 January 31 § Leave a comment

Today was much less time spent ‘tutoring’ and a lot more time spent reading. The kids in my English class were taking an open-book reading quiz on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, so while they were doing that, my teacher asked me to read through three classes of practice essays that were written for the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam).

Easy stuff, right?

Actually, it was hard not to cringe – and not just from the handwriting. Some of the students actually had very nice handwriting, though some others…

I honestly do not remember what my essays were like in high school. If I had to read them again, I would probably cringe, too. But the school being a charter school (and a college preparatory one at that), I had really expected a high level of writing, I suppose.

The question itself wasn’t terribly difficult – “Name one event in history that has had an impact on the world” – and the structure of the essay itself was very basic. Introduction, describe the event, prove your thesis #1, prove your thesis #2, conclusion. When I first got my “assignment”, I thought, how hard could it be?

That was rhetorical, by the way. Apparently, the only historical events that most tenth graders will remember to write about include:

  • Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus
  • Obama being elected president
  • The September 11th terrorist attacks

Not to say that there weren’t some creative answers – I remember one about the printing press that was quite impressive, and a couple of others stood out simply because they weren’t one of the three answers from above. Some of the arguments were a bit of a stretch, but I think that kind of persuasive writing will come with practice.

I’ve been thinking about how to explain why “a lot of people died” is not a reason that an event had a big impact on the world, though, and I’ve been at somewhat at a loss. I’m probably lucky I still have a day to ponder a witty answer to that one.


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