Turning Cheat Sheets Into Real Knowledge
A great deal of students around the world now use “essay templates” (pre-packaged essays with fill-in-the-blank entries) for their English essay needs.
It is sometimes said that a machine could write an A+ essay. Namely:
It just came to me how dumb those essay assignments actually are in terms of the absence of the creativity they require. A machine could write an A+ essay. – Andre Klein
Essay templates just prove his point.
In a country like China, where the government is requiring passing English tests at a certain level to graduate from public universities, with the level required varying somewhat with the difficulty of whatever the non-English components involve (i.e. Masters’ degrees, etc.), vast quantities of students are using English essay templates to hand in essays that are “correct English” only because they are 98% plagiarism and 2% fill-in-the-blanks.
Of course, when thousands of these are passed in, it’s hard to do much about it without causing a lot of trouble.
I was asked a few days ago by a college age student in China about whether to use essay templates or not.
Here is the example he used: http://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2008/12/04/english-essay-templates
Now, I am both a realist and an idealist.
As a realist, I must accept that a desperate student must use an essay template or see years of effort foiled by a bad grade in this area. I wouldn’t ask people to throw away their lives on behalf of purity.
As an idealist, I must counsel that anyone not this desperate should, well, you know, learn the right way and develop actual English skills in the hope that the person will use English in the larger world post-graduation, and that essay writing (i.e. written argument presentation) skills will be very good to have. In the real world, writing something that prepackaged will be seen as what it is: prepackaged, stale, past its due date.
So, here is what I came up with.
Take That Essay Template And… Rewrite It
That’s right. Take an essay template and rewrite it… IN ENGLISH.
After all, you already know what it means. You already know what it’s meant to express. You aren’t being asked to write at random; you’re being asked to write about something specific, something that you understand in your own native language.
Pick a template, any template. Rewrite it.
As a result:
- You will be forced to THINK about the words and sentences.
- You will gain EXPERIENCE doing English writing.
- You will gain PERSPECTIVE by seeing from different angles.
- You will gain CONFIDENCE through depth of knowledge.
- You will take a step closer to MASTERY of essay writing.
Through this process, you will take a template which 99.99% of other students spend no thought about whatsoever (I mean, that’s why people use them, so that they won’t have to think about the content…) and use it to expand your English knowledge in specific, valuable ways. You will make yourself learn, step by step, how variety is used in the English language to seem creative, but focused.
You will probably not succeed at first. You will probably write things that will later horrify you. Don’t quit. The more you see with your own eyes how the essay structure works, the more you absorb and learn the “feel” of the English essay, and gain precious, priceless knowledge regarding what works, and what does not, in an essay.
This will hone your instincts. The more you can trust your instincts, the closer you get to mastering the Art of the English Essay.
Speaking Of The Art of English Essays…
Andre’s greatly simplified the download procedure for an old, completely free eBook on essay writing that I created a while back.
Enjoy, and good luck!