Most of what ends up in my essays i only thought of when I sat down to write them. That's why i write them. In the things you write in school you are, in theory, merely explaining yourself to the reader. In a real essay you're writing for yourself. You're thinking out loud. Just as inviting people over forces you to clean up your apartment, writing something that other people will read forces you to think well. So it does matter to have an audience. The things i've written just for myself are no good.
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An essay is something you write to try to figure something out. You don't know how yet. And so you can't begin with a thesis, because you don't have one, and may never have one. An essay doesn't begin with a statement, but with a question. In a real essay, you don't take a position and defend. You notice a door that's ajar, and you open it and walk in to see what's inside. If all you want to do how is figure things out, why do you need to write anything, though? Why not just sit and think? Well, there precisely is Montaigne's great discovery. Expressing ideas helps to form them. Indeed, helps is far too weak a word.
In that case, in the course of the conversation I'll be forced from to come up a with a clearer explanation, which I can just incorporate in the essay. More often than not I have to change what I was saying as well. But the aim is never to be convincing per. As the reader gets smarter, convincing and true become identical, so if I can convince smart readers I must be near the truth. The sort of writing that attempts to persuade may be a valid (or at least inevitable) form, but it's historically inaccurate to call it an essay. An essay is something else. Trying to understand what a real essay is, we have to reach back into history again, though this time not so far. To michel de montaigne, who in 1580 published a book of what he called "essais." he was doing something quite different from what lawyers do, and the difference is embodied in the name. Essayer is the French verb meaning "to try" and an essai is an attempt.
It seemed as if we were just supposed to restate what we said in the first paragraph, but in different enough words that no one could tell. But when you understand the origins of this sort of "essay you can see where the conclusion comes from. It's the concluding remarks to the jury. Good writing should be convincing, certainly, but it should be convincing because you got the right answers, not because you did a summary good job of arguing. When I give a draft of an essay to friends, there are two things I want to know: which parts bore them, and which seem unconvincing. The boring bits can usually be fixed by working cutting. But I don't try to fix the unconvincing bits by arguing more cleverly. I need to talk the matter over. At the very least I must have explained something badly.
The study of rhetoric, the art of arguing persuasively, was a third of the undergraduate curriculum. 5 And after the lecture the most common form of discussion was the disputation. This is at least nominally preserved in our present-day thesis defense: most people treat the words thesis and dissertation as interchangeable, but originally, at least, a thesis was a position one took and the dissertation was the argument by which one defended. Defending a position may be a necessary evil in a legal dispute, but it's not the best way to get at the truth, as I think lawyers would be the first to admit. It's not just that you miss subtleties this way. The real problem is that you can't change the question. And yet this principle is built into the very structure of the things they teach you to write in high school. The topic sentence is your thesis, chosen in advance, the supporting paragraphs the blows you strike in the conflict, and the conclusion- uh, what is the conclusion? I was never sure about that in high school.
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The closest thing seemed to be English literature. 3 And so in the late 19th century the teaching of writing was inherited by English professors. This had two drawbacks: (a) an expert on literature need not bookkeeping himself be a good writer, any more than an art historian has to be a good painter, and (b) the subject of writing now tends to be literature, since that's what the professor. High schools imitate universities. The seeds of our miserable high school experiences were sown in 1892, when the national Education Association "formally recommended that literature and composition be unified in the high school course." 4 The 'riting component of the 3 Rs then morphed into English, with the bizarre.
It's no wonder if this seems to the student a pointless exercise, because we're now three steps removed from real work: the students are imitating English professors, who are imitating classical scholars, who are merely the inheritors of a tradition growing out of what was. No defense The other big difference between a real essay and the things they make you write in school is that a real essay doesn't take a position and then defend. That principle, like the idea that we ought to be writing about literature, turns out to be another intellectual hangover of long forgotten origins. It's often mistakenly believed that medieval universities were mostly seminaries. In fact they were more law schools. And at least in our tradition lawyers are advocates, trained to take either side of an argument and make as good a case for it as they can. Whether cause or effect, this spirit pervaded early universities.
There was a good deal of resistance at first. The first courses in English literature seem to have been offered by the newer colleges, particularly American ones. Dartmouth, the University of Vermont, Amherst, and University college, london taught English literature in the 1820s. But Harvard didn't have a professor of English literature until 1876, and Oxford not till 1885. (Oxford had a chair of Chinese before it had one of English.) 2 What tipped the scales, at least in the us, seems to have been the idea that professors should do research as well as teach.
This idea (along with the PhD, the department, and indeed the whole concept of the modern university) was imported from Germany in the late 19th century. Beginning at Johns Hopkins in 1876, the new model spread rapidly. Writing was one of the casualties. Colleges had long taught English composition. But how do you do research on composition? The professors who taught math could be required to do original math, the professors who taught history could be required to write scholarly articles about history, but what about the professors who taught rhetoric or composition? What should they do research on?
My, favorite, memory, essay
But schools change slower essay than scholarship. In the 19th century the study of ancient texts was still the backbone of the curriculum. The time was then ripe for the question: if the study of ancient texts is a valid field for scholarship, why not modern texts? The answer, of course, is that the original raison d'etre of classical scholarship was a kind of intellectual archaeology that does not need to be done in the case of contemporary authors. But for obvious reasons no one wanted to give that answer. The archaeological work being mostly done, it implied that those studying the classics were, if not wasting their time, at least working on problems of minor importance. And so began the study of modern literature.
To answer that we have to go back almost a thousand years. Around 1100, europe at last began to catch its breath after centuries of chaos, and once they had the luxury of curiosity they rediscovered what we call "the classics." The effect was rather as if we were visited by beings from another solar system. These earlier civilizations were so much more sophisticated that for the next several centuries the main work. European scholars, in almost every field, was to assimilate what they knew. During this period the study of ancient texts acquired great prestige. It seemed the essence of what scholars did. European scholarship gained momentum it became less and less important; by 1350 someone who wanted to learn about science could find better teachers than Aristotle in his own era.
one has to write in school is that real essays are not exclusively about English literature. Certainly schools should teach students how to write. But due to a series of historical accidents the teaching of writing has gotten mixed together with the study of literature. And so all over the country students are writing not about how a baseball team with a small budget might compete with the yankees, or the role of color in fashion, or what constitutes a good dessert, but about symbolism in Dickens. With the result that writing is made to seem boring and pointless. Who cares about symbolism in Dickens? Dickens himself would be more interested in an essay about color or baseball. How did things get this way?
This 45 minute (or 1 hour) jazz history program was developed to educate children about the origins and early stages of book jazz and dance history. jazz is defined as improvisation, syncopation and swing, accompanied by dances such as the Charleston, balboa, lindy hop and Collegiate Shag. Through songs representing the jazz era, the relationship of jazz and dance development are tied to major events in American History during the first half of the twentieth century: such things as early days in New Orleans, wwi, the first jazz recording, prohibition, major migration. Schools interested in this free program may contact Helen Daley at (480)620-3941 for details. Arizona Classic jazz society. September 2004, remember the essays you had to write in high school? Topic sentence, introductory paragraph, supporting paragraphs, conclusion. The conclusion being, say, that Ahab in, moby dick was a christ-like figure.
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The Arizona Classic jazz society has been sponsoring in-school programs for several years. . The programs this year were co-funded by a matching grant from the national Endowment for the Arts. . Students from weinberg Elementary School thoroughly paradise enjoyed the jazz history show presented by 52nd Street jazz band and two professional dancers, karen and Dabney hopkins. Andrea huelsenbeck, teacher of General Music at weinberg, had this to say about the presentation: "Weinberg Elementary has been a beneficiary of the Arizona Classic jazz society sponsored concerts for many years, and they are consistently excellent. This years addition of professional dancers to the 52 Street Band, demonstrating the Charleston, lindy hop and other dances, created another layer of experience for our students, many of whom might never have an opportunity to hear jazz music performed live. To see the delight on the faces of the students and teachers alike brings joy to my heart. Thank you so much for coming.".