So what can be done? The article “Terror on Twitter: How ISIS is taking war to social media—and social media is fighting back” outlines some ways of mitigating the attraction of terrorist websites and ISIS’s presence on the internet at large, including banning jihadist content and ISIS users, counter-recruiting via target advertising and hackathons, and gathering counter-intelligence from the outside and in.
But that’s just focusing on ISIS. What about local politics? Aren’t issues of race and immigration similarly ramping up in the U.S. (and elsewhere) into intolerant screaming matches? How do you encourage tolerance and open-mindedness while promoting exposure to diversity of opinion? It’s an old question… As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers of 1788, “The differences of opinion, and the jarring of parties...often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority.” Further to that point, from philosopher John Rawls:
In everyday life the exchange of opinion with others checks our partiality and widens our perspective; we are made to see things from their standpoint and the limits of our vision are brought home to us. … The benefits from discussion lie in the fact that even representative legislators are limited in knowledge and the ability to reason. No one of them knows everything the others know, or can make all the same inferences that they can draw in concert. Discussion is a way of combining information and enlarging the range of arguments.
Easy for Hamilton and Rawls to say, and for Sunstein to advise similarly as to group decision making (i.e., allow for dissenting views, limit the power of the leader, etc.). But what about in our day-to-day lives? What about the folks who will never hear that Trump is full of shit when he says he self-finances his campaign? See no evil hear no evil.
I’m probably as guilty as anyone, though I do scan about four to five different news sources during my daily browsing. While none of them are presented to me via a social media feed, the newspapers themselves are skewing more and more towards likable headlines, topics and subjects. Am I then supposed to force myself to read the Post and watch Bill O’Reilly from time to time?
Seriously though, some of those news outlets do skew towards opinions that are not reinforcing my pre-existing beliefs (the Financial Times, for example). So perhaps I have tempered some of my knee jerk reactions in some issues. But still.
I’m going to suggest that cycling or walking around in different neighborhoods gives one a slightly more face-to-face view of the diversity of humanity, especially here in New York. I love writing songs from different characters’ points of view—characters who are often saying things I would never personally say, but whose shoes I can put myself, sometimes.
Like most people, I gravitate to others who probably share many of my viewpoints… but not always. If it’s not already been filtered and combed through, sometimes we discover that friends hold some surprising viewpoints. And because they’re friends—or at least because I respect them—I’ll take those ideas on board, for a little while at least.
New York City
Table of contents for Essay Help:
More to come soon, but here are a few forms which past students have found useful:
Whole Essay Scaffold for Literary Analysis in .doc form. Note: this is a form you type directly into to help you with organizing your essay draft.
General Introduction form (.pdf)
General Conclusion form (.pdf)
Example introduction/conclusion pair (.pdf)
Example "Hooks" for an Introduction:
Imagery, Anecdote or Narrative: People are drawn to stories—consider opening with a descriptive anecdote to draw the reader into the topic. Make sure what you write is relevant to the thesis!
The smell of blood was heavy in the air. In front of Napoleon, a pile of corpses sent a clear statement to the rest of the survivors, who looked on in shock. The rest of the animals vaguely remembered some rule about not killing other animals—but since Napoleon had ordered the killings, the rule must not be what they had remembered.
What NOT to do: Imagine…
Funnel (Generalization to Specificity): Consider a generalization that can be made about your thesis—what universal statement is implied in your thesis? Open with this generalization, then focus in on a specific.
In society, people put trust in leaders and laws. Leaders are trusted to make the best decisions for the group, and laws are turned to as a guide for how to act. However, when leaders are corrupt and laws are manipulated, society suffers.
What NOT to do: Since the dawn of mankind…
Relevant Quotation (rarely done well): Two keys to success with a quotation: (1) choose one that is relevant to your overall point and (2) make sure to transition into your synopsis.
“Man serves the interests of no creature except himself… among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades” (812). These words from Old Major may have inspired the animals to rebel, but by the end of George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm, it was clear that man was not the only animal guilty of such selfishness.
What NOT to do: “Life is a box of chocolates,” –Forrest Gump. The animals on Animal Farm…
Startling Statement:A bold, controversial statement (related to your topic) can draw your reader in, but make sure you aren’t offending your audience or turning them against you immediately.
Being unintelligent dooms a person to slavery. Education and literacy is the key to freedom and happiness because these enable free thinking. This rings very true in George Orwell’s novella…
What NOT to do: Blood! Gore! Throats torn out! …
Rhetorical Question: If done poorly, a question as a hook can ruin a paper. However, it is possible to pose a question that does engage the reader.
- The key: the whole essay should be aimed at developing an answer to that question.
- Never ask a question directly to the reader using “you”!
- Never ask “Have you ever…?”
- Never ask “What if…?”
What NOT to do:
- Have you ever seen a pig walking on two legs?
- What if the animals on a farm overthrew the farmer?
- What would you do if you noticed rules were changed?
General Introduction Help
Remember that you must always consider your reader. The introduction is a critical place to remember this. The jobs of an introduction include (but are not limited to):
- Engaging the reader by using a relevant "hook"
- Offering necessary context to establish your ethos as a speaker on the topic
- Establishing a clear sense of purpose, usually through a concise thesis statement
For some ideas about hooks, click here.
The middle part of the introduction helps to establish your ethos as a writer. (In this case, ethos refers to your credibility, character, or reliability as a speaker about your topic.) In this middle section of your introduction, your job is to provide context or background that your reader will need to be ready to consider your thesis. By providing this context, you make yourself look more intelligent and credible as a speaker on the topic.
- In a literary analysis, this usually means you offer a brief synopsis of the work of literature you are analyzing.
- In a persuasive research essay, this usually means defining the "problem" or the social context of the problem your thesis proposes a solution to.
- In a historical analysis, this means establishing the political, social, or economic context that your reader needs to know in order to be ready for your thesis proposition.
- In an expository or narrative, it is even more vague (if that is possible), but your task is to get your reader "on the same page" as you before you begin your argument or explanation.
Next, you'll move on to your thesis statement, the core proposition of your argument.
Basic Thesis Statement Help
A very basic but effective thesis statement is the "three prong" thesis. For most high school writing, it will suffice, though more sophisticated writers learn to transcend this. You might remember it's ancestor: "My paper will be about puppies, kittens, and hotpockets…" where the thesis hints that paragraph one will be about puppies, paragraph two will be about kittens, and paragraph three, for some reason, will be about hotpockets.
This essential structure is fine, but you have to get away from the "my paper will be about" inclination.
Consider the thesis has being a fork: it has a handle and three prongs. (There is nothing magical about the number three, but it is considered a rhetorically "beautiful" number which offers a well structured argument.)
The HANDLE contains the root assertion or proposition, while the PRONGS establish the supporting propositions.
NOTE: Check the prongs closely: each prong must start with the same grammatical part of speech in order to maintain parallel construction and sound grammar in the final thesis. In the example above, focus, talk, and struggle are all verbs. This leads to strong parallel construction in a thesis.
A complete thesis can then be composed through a little math: H + P1, + P2 + and P3. Voila, a functional thesis.
Blood imagery in Macbeth most vividly symbolizes the effect guilt can have on a psyche when the main characters focus on the bloody daggers, talk of wading through blood, and struggle to remove the sight and smell of blood.
The same pattern can apply to any essay which seeks to establish and prove a proposition:
In this case, the first words of each prong are each adjectives. The completed thesis would therefore read as follows:
The American government should increase funding for cancer research because increasing numbers of Americans are affected by cancer each year, innovative technologies require funding support and better understanding of cancer will lead to better preventive care.
The result is a clear proposition and a succinct preview of what the argument will discuss.
General Conclusions Help
What does the word "conclusion" really mean? What does it mean "to conclude"? Too often we think that it just means "to finish" or "to bring to a close." However:
TO CONCLUDE also means to use the given evidence to make a statement or make an inference based upon logic and reason.
A conclusion, therefore, is not merely a summary of what you just wrote in your essay. A conclusion is a summary of what you just wrote in your essay AND a broader statement or inference based on the evidence and logic you've just provided.
I particularly like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's resource page about conclusions… read it!
I have found that this pattern seems to help construct conclusions which go beyond simply "summarizing":
- REVIEW: Briefly summarize the evidence you've provided to illustrate your point. What key ideas or observations have you presented?
- CONNECT: Consider the ideas or observations you just reviewed… what do these have in common? In the most basic sense, this is a more articulate rewording of the handle of your thesis–but go further…what does all your evidence have in common? What is the common thread?
- EXTEND: Considering the common thread you just identified, so what? Why is this common thread, this core idea, significant to the broader context? If you are writing about literature, why is this idea significant to the work as a whole, and further, why is it significant to human experience? If you are persuading, why is this common thread important enough to your audience or to society in general to be persuasive?
- ECHO: Look back at the rhetorical device you used in your hook. Echo key phrases from your hook, and consider concluding with a complementary rhetorical device: if you open with an anecdote, close with the conclusion of that anecdote; if you open with a question, offer the concise answer to that question or pose a follow-up question; if you open with a quotation, comment on the critical idea or point of that quotation. This "echo" gives your reader a sense of closure.
Here is a document which shows a side-by-side literature based introduction and conclusion.
If you do your own online searches for "essay help," be very careful that you don't drift into a "paper mill," where students buy and sell essays. Using an essay from the internet and passing it off as your own work is plagiarism, will be caught, and will be punished severely. As a reminder, my class policy on plagiarism is articulated in my syllabus (see tab above). If you're just looking for help, consider checking out the sites below:
If you find a link that you think is a great resource and which you find useful, email it to me!