essays on this page, written by CUNY students who participated in a
pilot study, are printed with permission. Their purpose is to give you
a sampling of student essays that demonstrate varying levels of writing
computers as comparisons to the human mind, Lewis Thomas' "To Err
is Human" stresses the importance of mistakes as a tool for action.
He states that to err is what separates the human mind and superhuman,
electronic minds. While computers have the capacity to produce an infinite
amount of precise calculations, glitches and errors will still be made,
and the corrections made by humans. He mentions that the knack of being
wrong is "a uniquely human gift" and that it should be used
as "a guide for action." Thomas stresses the significance
of error as a motivation to illicit the appropriate response ‑
correction ‑ in order to know.
are necessary and Thomas points out that if we were completely free
of making them, "we could never get anything useful done."
He mentions that "wrong choices have to be made as frequently as
the right ones" for the human mind thinks and makes decisions based
on right and wrong alternatives.
is the idea that ties in with Howard Gardener's "The Difficulties
Posed by Schools." Gardener makes the point that school fail to
stress the importance of understanding over the ability to "memorize
and feed back definitions upon request." He adds that teachers
do not challenge their students by asking questions "that will
force their students to stretch in new ways which will risk failures."
maintains that genuine understanding is a low priority in scholastic
education, and becomes lost when teachers and students revel only in
the regurgitation of memorized facts and concepts. This poses somewhat
of a competition between those "text‑friendly" students
who have that ability, with students whose intellectual strengths lie
in other areas.
connection to Thomas' notion of "error as important," Gardener
upholds the same idea by stating that students and teachers together
must be willing to "undertake risks for understanding" if
success is to follow. This cannot be achieved if the only response desired
are "ritualized, note, or conventionalized performances."
a coincidence to be writing about the faults of scholastic learning
when, just the other day, I had discussed the same issue with my parents.
I had come to the conclusion that, although blessed with high grades
throughout my educational years, I did not come to an understanding
of the material learned until college. Not until then, when teachers
were open to opinions and challenges, did I start my in‑depth
cognitive learning. I definitely agree with Lewis Thomas and Howard
Gardener when they stress the importance of failure. Making mistakes
is what sets success. One cannot excel if one does not know where problems
lie and how to correct them.
Comments on Essay A: Rating = 5/6
good understanding of the reading selections and a unified, tightly‑organized
structure make this a strong essay. In addition, the student enhances
the discussion by quoting appropriately. Other distinguishing features
of this essay are its generally clear, fluid prose and its use of fairly
sophisticated sentence structure to express complex ideas. While the
concluding paragraph presents the student's own experience somewhat
glibly, all in all, the essay is an effective response to a challenging
is an on‑going process that never ends. To acquire information
is to not just by listening to lectures and answering test questions
correctly. It is how one uses their tools wisely in order for successful
learning to take place. Without possessing methods of effective learning,
one might not be considered to actually understand something.
"To Err is Human" by Lewis Thomas, he stresses the word "error."
Why does he emphasize this word? Lewis makes a point that all living
organisms including computers are bound to make errors. "We are
built to make mistakes coded for error", says Lewis. Without making
mistakes, new discoveries and new understandings will not occur. Mistakes
cannot be avoided, we all make them and it helps us find out what is
needed to rectify the problem so the mistake will not occur again. Errors
also help us learn the kinds of mistakes we tend to make to pinpoint
a individual's "weakness."
errors are actually positive by helping us find solutions and advancing
to a higher order of knowledge and learning. It is a tool that is subtle
to people but without errors, there will be no advancements. "If
it is a big enough mistake, we could find ourselves on a new level,
stunned, out in the clear, ready to move again"(4).
"The difficulties Posed By School" by Howard Gardner, Gardner
points out the fallibilites of the school system. "The curriculum
of school ought to go beyond a rehearsal of facts, however, and introduce
students to the ways of thinking used in different disciplines"(9).
Simply recalling facts via rote memorization, does little to true understanding
of the material they have learn.
interesting fact Gardner points out is the student's lack of ability
to distinguish intuitive learning and scholastic learning. Gardner admits
that this hard to accomplish. Another stumbling block Gardner points
out is students must be aware that they learn outside of school may
not coincide with the learning in a educational institution.
what changes can take place in the academia world of learning? One problem
addressed by Gardner is the mutual agreement between the student and
teacher of "correct answer compromises"(10). The problem with
this tool of understanding is once the student has answered a question
correctly, no further assessments are made to ensure full understanding.
This is one of the problems of conventional learning in schools.
I have come to express it, neither teachers nor students are willing
to undertake "risks for understanding."(10). This is the most
important Gardner makes about the schools failure in helping students
toward understanding. Teachers and students are not willing to take
the initiative of true learning. Gardner criticizes the use of conventional
assessment to check the student's understanding of materials. Gardner
makes the point that traditional "instruments" used to check
understanding will not be beneficial in the long run. "...for genuine
understanding cannot come about so long as one accepts ritualized, rote,
or conventionalized performances" (10).
both readings, Gardner and Thomas attempts to address the problems of
learning and acquiring information. Gardner identifies the ideal way
of real understanding and how school does not fulfill that goal. Lewis
points out that error is rather not a infallibility in humans but a
strength that we possess to new discovery and understand our process
of learning. Although both authors has a different approach in discussing
the different areas of learning, they both offers solutions to help
us learn more effectively and efficiently.
I read both readings, I am able to relate the discussion of problems
and solutions to my personal experience. Being a student in school and
out of school, I am able to understand how I learn effectively. One
major problem I had a difficulty in school was finding a consistent
method of studying. I learned by as Gardner states, "trial and
error." If a certain method didn’t work for me, I would try a different
tool or approach to learning and understanding material. My attempt
was to go beyond note memorization and to actually understand. When
you understand something, it is easier for you to absorb the material
than painstakingly, memorize material you can’t even interpret.
way I was assessed in school was not what I called the ideal way of
learning. For example, after taking a test I would forget the information
because I had to worry about new information for the next test. I thought
to myself, why remember old information that wasn’t going to be on the
made on exams were to be accepted. The teacher just labeled the question
as incorrect without offering an explanation. Without the teacher helping
me understand my error, I couldn't reach the next advancement of understanding
the question by under‑standing my error. This can contributed
to the fact that each teacher is forced to follow a curriculum implemented
by the school system. Teachers just didn't have the time to go over
student's errors because he or she had to get everything covered on
the curriculum "...bureaucratized institutions have difficulty
in dealing with ends that cannot be readily quantified"(10).
More problems are faced with
the task of learning. One, humans have to 'use our weaknesses into advantage.
For example, understanding errors made by an individual. Two, the individual's
success towards understanding because of the way the school adoption
of an assembly line of learning. The assembly line of learning being
schools spoon feeding students knowledge with minimal understanding.
We as learners must adopt effective
tools towards genuine understanding. Without these tools, a person cannot
claim themselves as true learners. True learning is accomplished by
making that knowledge part of yourself lasting a lifetime.
Comments on Essay P: Rating = 4
essay shows a good understanding of the reading selections. That sense
is bolstered by specific quotations and appropriate references, as well
as by accurate summarizing. The writer has produced a unified and fully
developed essay that permits some depth of analysis and comparison.
The essay is rated 4 and not 5, however, in part because the style is
loose, and there are too many lapses in use of conventions, even for
exam writing. Nevertheless, the student has written an essay that fulfills
the assignment adequately.
The article in the "Croftburg Beacon" says
that the school boards decision to impose a college prep academic track
or all students in the late '70's was a mistake and that vocational
training should be available and is in many cases preferrable. It contends
that there is a lack of skilled labor in such fields as electricity,
plumbing, and carpentry because of this change and that despite a general
relationship between a college education and salary, there are often
exceptions when you take individual examples.
data in the graphs provided does not make apparent these specific individuals
the article mentions. Although there is certainly a decrease in unemployment
for non college graduates indicated in Figure 1, implying that the work
force is decreasing slowly as alluded to in the article, the fact of
the consistency of unemployment rates for college graduates shows the
market has not been flooded and the decision of the board was not necessarily
a bad one. One would expect from this information alone that wages for
non college graduates would have increased dramatically as demand for
this type of worker increased. This in fact is what the article states
as the case when it mentions specific individuals in specific trades.
2 however shows the contrary. All of the fields shown, with half from
the college graduate pool and half from the non‑college graduate
pool, exhibit a similar percentage of wage increase of approximately
50%‑60%. There are exceptions such as the carpenters increase
78% but this is matched by a similar increase among attorneys. The most
tale‑tell sign in this second graph is the fact that none of the
vacations mentioned have reached a wage equal to that of a computer
analyst in 1970. When one considers the effect of inflation on the dollar
in that 30‑year span, it is difficult to argue with the board's
Comments on Essay A: Score = 5
writer provides a full, analytical response to the task. In the first
paragraph, the major claims are summarized clearly and accurately in
the writer's own words. In the following paragraphs, the writer demonstrates
the ability to integrate information from the text and the graphs ("Although
there is certainly a decrease in unemployment for non college graduates
indicated in Figure I implying that the work force is decreasing slowly
as indicated in the article . . ."). The writer also links the
two graphs ("one would expect from this information alone ... This
is in fact what the article states ... Figure 2 however shows the contrary").
concluding sentences bring an insightful analysis of the information
in the graph back to bear on the original claim ("The most tale‑tell
sign in this second graph is the fact that some of the vocations mentioned
have reached a wage equal to that of a computer analyst in 1970. When
one considers the effect of inflation on the dollar in that 30 year
span,it is difficult to argue with the board's conclusion").
Use of transitions and references, as well as clear language, facilitate
communication of the writer's ideas.
to the above reading, there is problem of not enough skill workers in
the domestic trade business, for example, carpenters, plumber, electrician.
This problem is evident in the town of Croftsburg which is "thriving
town" with thousands of "high paying jobs for skilled workers".
However, the town has mixed reactions over whether children should be
directly educated with 'college‑prep' course so that students
will make a decision to go to college to better their chances of a well
paying future career; or whether the schools should employ "better
vocational training", so that students who don't intend on going
to college could gain expertise and skill in a trade, which in this
town has a competive wage to support a family and "generous benefits"
without having to go to college.
according to figure 1, which shows the unemployment rates for college
graduated and non‑college graduates in Croftsberg, in 1990‑1999,
in seems that the claim that one doesn't needs a college education is
succeed, is supported. As, the rate of unemployment decreases over the
years for 10% in 1990 to 4% in 1999. Thus suggesting that even those
who didn't go to college still managed to find a job, regardless of
for the data represented in Figure 2, which demonstrates the average
annual wages for selected occupations in Croftsberg in 1970 and 1999;
it can be said that over the years wages for both domestic labor jobs
and skilled occupations, such as attoneys, computer anaylists, increased.
Therefore, get a good higher paying job or not go to college and people
would still receive a decent wage that would support a family. It just
means that if you are willing to put more time into learning a proffession
and go to school you are more likely to get a higher paying job.
Netheless, it is clear that in Croftsberg that one could
choice to go to college or not because theire is high employment rates
and impressive wages in whatever career path an individual choises.
Especially demonstrating that over the years, the effect of changing
the cirriculims to more vocational studies in schools did not cause
or "terrible mistake."
Comments on Essay B: Score = 4
response represents an adequate performance of the task. The first paragraph
summarizes the major claims accurately, occasionally using aptly chosen
and clearly identified quotations from the passage. The writer accurately
points out a link between each of the figures and the reading selection
("Thus, according to Figure 1 . . the claim that one doesn't need
a college education . . . is supported") and explains the implication
of the links ("Therefore, suggesting that whether you go to college
and get a good higher paying job or not go to college people would still
receive a decent wage that would support a family.") However, the
analysis does not go beyond the obvious interpretation. Although the
writer's language contains errors and some sentences are not well‑formed,
the writer's meaning is almost always clear. The flow of the response
and the connections between ideas are helped by effective use of transitional
words ("Furthermore ... Therefore. . . Nevertheless ... Especially.