The following Graduation Writing Proficiency Examination essays were written by HSU students during a regularly scheduled GWPE. Except for the elimination of cross-outs, the essays are reproduced here exactly as written. Insofar as possible, the essays were chosen to represent the entire range of possible scores. The majors represented by the authors of these essays are, in alphabetical order, Art, Biology, Business Administration, Environmental Resources Engineering, Fisheries, Geography, Geology, Industrial Arts, and Resource Planning and Interpretation.
Analytical Essay Prompt
You have 45 minutes to write on the following topic.
Please read and think about the following two quotations:
- "Organized charity is doing good for good-for-nothing people."
- "Charity is a helping hand stretched out to save some from the inferno of their present life."
Write an essay on the above two statements in three parts as follows:
- Compare the statements. Explain what the two statements have in common and how they overlap.
- Contrast the statements. Explain how the two statements differ.
- Take a position with regard to the two statements by choosing one or mediating between them, and support your view with an example from your own observation or experience.
Sample Essay Score: 6
The two statements address an identical topic. That is, they address charity, which might be defined as--the act of giving something of value, without the expectation of something in return. Further, the two statements address the receiver, the person or persons to whom the charity is directed.
That the two statements both give equal weight to the meaning of charity is evidenced by the descriptions "doing good," and "hand stretched out to save." These descriptions both illustrate the benificence of the act of charity, that it is in one act, both a recognition of need, and an attempt to fulfill that need. They both paint a picture of goodness, honor and sharing on the part of the charity giver.
Contrary to these similarities, the two statements are in stark opposition to the beneficiary's status in society. The first, calling the receivers "good for nothing people," depicts vagrants, bums, and worthless flies, fouling the smooth-flowing surface of society. The second, seeing the receivers as involved in an "inferno," brings to mind visions of lost souls, wandering homeless and possesionless in the Dante-esque hell of a society which measures a person's worth by his wealth.
Another contrast between the two statements, more subtle yet intuitively strong, is that the benefactor, the charity-giver, attains an even higher degree of honor when he gives to one in true need, than when his sharing is enforced, by taxes, social pressure or inherited response. The first statement speaks to the latter of these, the second to the former. Thus, the second statement not only attributes a higher character to the beneficiary, but also to the benefactor whose actions are performed from the heart.
Although the truth, as always, lies in the middle ground, between these two extremes, I am more inclined to the second statement. I have felt some degree of sympathy to almost every destitute, penniless or homeless person that I have met. Hobos, bums on trains and the road, are there usually as a result of a fallen thread in the Fates' tapestry or a falling out with society. Some would not accept a handout if offered, demanding to perform work in exchange, while others are every way deserving of a handout, refusing formal governmental welfare.
The poor of the urban slums are, the vast majority of the time, victims of a society which has entrenched them in a lifestyle from which it is virtually to lift themselves out. These are the ones which are most aptly described as falling to an "inferno" in their present life. That society is obligated to providing charity to these victims of its own hand is just.
I have observed examples or persons receiving charity who simply in the act of accepting it, belie a certain "good-for- nothingness." These are usually persons who would be affluent other than for a desire to catch a free ride on societies' back. A part-time employed student, relaxing for the summer at the taxpayers' expense is one example which stands out in my personal experience.
Still those in the category of good for nothing are a minute proportion of those receiving charity. With an optomistic view of the situation of mankind, one cannot deny the value of charity not only to those receiving it, but to the world in general.
Comment: Keeping in mind that this essay was written in 45 minutes, this is a superior response. Although it has some flaws, it is well developed and organized. There are indications ("the Dante-esqe hell of society") of considerable sophistication in language and sentence structure.
Sample Essay Score: 5
Charity has been practiced for thousands of years by human beings. The story of the good Samaritan, found in the bible, is an ancient example of charity that is familiar to many people. The following two quotes are both written about charity: "Organized charity is doing good for good-for- nothing people," and, "Charity is a helping hand stretching out to save some from the inferno of their present life." Both of these two quotes imply that charity involves helping, with acts of kindness, people who are in need or people who are destitute.
However, the two quotes express widely divergent views on the value of employing charity to help destitute people. The first quote suggests that charity is useless. It implies that the people that charity is directed toward are not worthy of such help and that charity does not help them improve their lives. In contrast, the second quote suggests that the recipients of charity are worthy of the assistance afforded. It implies that the lives of the people recieving the charity will be better because of it.
I agree with the latter quote. The first quote shows a lack of belief in the good side of human nature and a disregard to trying to help other people. The second quote supports a belief that all human beings deserve a decent lifestyle. I believe that charity is not a "cure-all", a person must want to work toward helping himself or herself. But sometimes people in need of charity don't have the material means or positive attitudes necessary to help themselves better their lives. Charity can provide both.
One summer my mother and three sisters, and I had to go on welfare. We did not have enough money for the basic necessities of life despite the fact that my mother was working. The food stamps and help from our church that we were awarded were greatly appreciated by us. Unfortunately, there is an attitude held by many in our society that recieving charity is degrading and thus I didn't tell many of my friends about our financial situation. The charity given to us that summer enabled us to eat. It provided us with the means to survive until the fall when my mother worked additional hours teaching. I believe charity is helpful and a necessary act of concern for human beings in need. There are some people who abuse the charity given by others but there are always abusers in society. It is not justified to deny people in need because of the unethical actions of a few.
Comment: This paper handles the question quite well. It is clearly organized and, although it does not explore all of the possibilities of the comparison/contrast, it is strong in its use of supporting example. Its sentence structure, syntax and diction are generally free from major problems.
Sample Essay Score: 4
It is argued that "organized charity provides good for the good-for-nothing" and that charity is a true benefit to those in need. These statements, although quite opposite also have some aspects in common. The difference is largely in the perspective of the individual directly affected.
To say that charity is doing good for the good-for-nothing suggests that whose who accept charity are useless and unproductive. In fact it is likely that the receivers of charity are in fact unproductive, ie out of work. In that they represent a potential for production indicates they are not useless however. By accepting charity one may however feel useless. This is due to the pervasive attitude that people must be productive to be good- for-something.
Because people are often thrust out of the work force without any forewarning and because it is common that new work is difficult to find, the acceptance of charity doesn't always cause distress. Workers know that their aid is only temporary until they are matched with a new job.
In either case, when people are in the position where charity is being offered and is needed, it is likely that they will feel both unproductive and grateful. Because they are in trouble economically their lives can indeed be an inferno.
The difference between the gratitude for needed charity and the feeling of "freeloading" is great when the feeling acts singularly. Being grateful for help often induces people to organize and give more of themselves to others. Those who have been helped often feel motivated to help others.
On the other hand, those who feel unproductive and useless are ashamed and bitter. They are too ridden with guilt and self-consciousness to motivate and help others. They are likely to feel anger toward the society that offers them charity rather than gratitude.
The feeling that is probably pervasive among the disfortunate lies somewhere in between guilt & gratitude. The gratitude side of the scale is likely to be more productive in general and therefore is the prefered state. By gratefully accepting aid, a lot of immediate problems are solved for the unfortunate and they can then attempt to reorganize their lives.
The little bit of guilt from the other side of the scale helps those with aid recognize the needs of disfortunate people. Then, they can both work together to rebuild their lives and get back on their feet. For example, a story found in the S. F. Chronicle recently described two people who were out of work who became friends and started a firewood business. They were both previously on public assistance and now are off. They both indicated that had the aid not been available they would not have made it.
Because of the motivation induced by the acceptance of aid the helping hand view is accepted.
Comment: Although competent, this paper is less successful than the previous two. The large number of short paragraphs indicates some difficulties with development of ideas. The overuse of the passive voice ("It is argued," etc.), some diction problems ("the feeling acts singularly," "disfortunate"), along with the sketchiness of the example, sometimes interfere with the writer's meaning.
Sample Essay Score: 3
The two quotes state that charity does good for a part of society. To some people both statements might indicate that "good-for-nothing people" and people in "the inferno of their present life" are one in the same. To other people, the parts of the two quotes dealing with people who recive charity might mean that the type of people mentioned in quote "A" are not the same as those mentioned in quote "B."
For many people life is a living hell, and they are thus in need of charity. There are people in society however, that believe that these people create their own hell. While they might maintain that charity is good for these people, they still think of them as "good-for-nothing". They probably think that charity cases could climb out of their "inferno" if they tried, but they will not and are therefore a burdun on society.
To many people in society there is a distinction between the "good for nothing people" reciving charity and those for whom life is hell also reciving charity. Furthermore, they think that organized charity might tend to do good for those who do not really desrve it (the "good for nothing people"). Whereas, charity in general tends to help out both the good for nothings and the people who really need it.
Statement "B," is the best because takes a more positive view to people in need. Statement "A" takes a less positive, less cynical view.
I know of a person who receives charity that someone who might make statement "A" would refuse to give charity to. This person is to proud to tell anyone of his affliction.
Sample Essay Score: 2
These two statements contain very strong personal biases toward the economically disadvantaged, and the people involved in their welfare. Both quotations seem to contain an element of sarcasm or negativity. The inevitable plight of the financially unfortunate person appears to be the attitude represented in these quotations. Charity is thought to be an ineffective means to this problem.
Quotation A is making a judgment about the people that charity effects. The "...good-for- nothing people, implies that these people don't deserve the aid of the organization. In contrast quotation "B" is speaking more of the hopelessness of charity, and its minute effect on the masses of disadvantaged.
I feel that even tho organizations concerned in charitable contributions have only a very small impact on the world at large, it is a beginning in raising the concerns of others.
Comment: This paper is very thin in content and inadequate in interpreting the quotations. Part 3 is completely unsupported and there are some serious problems with sentence structure and diction ("Charity is thought to be an ineffective means to this problem").
Sample Essay Score: 1
The only thing statements A and B have in common is charity being supportive.
Statement A uses "organized" where statement B uses charity in general. This means statement B can include all of statement A but A can only be a part of statement B.
Charity is supportive to a lot of people. It is helpful but charity can also be abused. People living for what other people will hand out to them won't be living their own life.
Comment: This paper is far too undeveloped for even a minimal answer.
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"Dramatic Appeal" Essay
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When I walked through my front door, the first thing I noticed was the odor. After the odor, I heard the groaning. I remember the occasion quite vividly, although it was ten or eleven years ago. My sister and I had just returned from the park with a neighbor, expecting everything to be normal. But soon I discovered that I would never be quite the same again—I was about to witness a scene, which shaped my life thereafter.
As we slowly inched into the living room, a staggering sight met our eyes. There, lying face down on a couch, was my father, ashen-faced and trembling. His head was completely bald, and his grisly figure appeared enervated. He was gasping for air, and then suddenly, he grabbed a blue pan, plunged his face into it, and vomited with such vehemence that it really shook me. Only then did I fully understand what it meant for my dad to have cancer. Before that afternoon, I used to think words like "cancer", "tumor", and "chemotherapy" described a simple disease that doctors knew how to treat like any other. And at seven years old, I had no reason to think any differently, for my father had simply told me that he might be "sick." But that first day when I saw the trauma his affliction caused him, I immediately realized that colon cancer was neither quick nor painless, but agonizing and disturbing. My father finally raised his head from the blue pan and uttered a weak "Hello," only to vomit again. My neighbor noticed the shock I was feeling, and put his hand on my shoulder. "Let's go to my house, Jeff," he recommended, "Let your dad rest—he has been fighting brave and hard."
My dad, my hero. The source of my love and guidance was now battling for his life. After the doctors detected the colon cancer in 1987, the illness became more and more malignant, and the effects on my family were more and more severe. The long series of debilitating surgeries and chemotherapy treatments consumed my father's life, and by extension, enveloped my entire family. My mom had to spend most of her time and energy, not to mention large amounts of money, to take care of my father's health. As a result, my mother had to set aside the needs of her two growing children, my sister and myself.
Because of this unavoidable neglect, I began "lagging" behind. Growing up without a "dad" figure at my side, I always felt distanced from my classmates. In elementary and middle school, I noticed that most other youths communicated and fraternized with ease. But I was quiet, timid, and introverted, since my parents weren't always there to encourage me to express myself openly. At one point, I felt so unable to simply express myself to others that I was avoiding human contact, and I couldn't bring myself to look at people's faces when they were speaking to me. Some children considered me an outcast; I was often the target of harassment and ridicule.
My depreciated self-esteem also adversely affected my performance in school. Ridiculed by my classmates into believing I was unworthy of merit, I ceased to believe I could excel as a student. My bad grades, in turn, lowered my confidence even further, for my dad had always stressed academics quite heavily—but after seeing my grades, I felt like I had failed my father. Furthermore, with my parents too preoccupied to foster my curiosity in activities outside of school, I missed the opportunity to discover my love for the piano at a young age. While others around me already played instruments, attended art lessons or played sports, I simply felt helpless to change my predicament. I was doomed to be a "late starter." Often, I would simply say to myself, "I can't take this any longer. I don't have the patience or the spirit for this—I just don't know what to do anymore."
Then I figured out how I could change my life. At the point when I felt like giving up for good and resignedly accepting my fate, I remembered my father. I recalled with perfect clarity the day when I had witnessed him atrophying away before my eyes, vomiting into a pan. And then my neighbor had said to me, "Let your dad rest—he's been fighting brave and hard."
I saw the truth in this statement. My dad fought and struggled to survive his disease, and never once did he give in, because if he had, he probably would have lost his life. But by enduring the suffering so that he could live another day to see his family, he taught me to steadfastly hold on to life. He taught me not to give up. When I realized that by following his example I could surmount any obstacles, I made up my mind. I would face the world "brave and hard," and I would cast off the anxiety, which constrained my personality from growing. I would work to improve my grades and shine as a student. I would harvest my talents with an active passion. No more delays. No more fear. No more shame, and most importantly, no more giving up.
After this revelation I made as a middle school student, I worked persistently to catch up and surpass my peers, and I have accomplished a lot of my goals. Since the sixth grade, my marks in school have progressed steadily upward. Particularly these past few years in high school, I've been proud of my exceptionally high marks. Additionally, I turned my eager determination to mastering the piano, and to this day I continue to cultivate my love for the instrument. I competed with musicians who had been playing since very young ages, when piano is best undertaken, but I remained resolute. With the strength my dad had taught me to apply to life, I pushed myself; I practiced and practiced, despite the increasing demands of my high school curriculum. Finally, I found myself actually skipping levels in the Certificate of Merit exam, and catching up with—if not exceeding—others of my age and older. In March of 2001, I am going to take a "level 9," which I reached in half the time most students take.
But more than any other achievement I pushed myself toward, I am proud of my ability to overcome my shyness. In eighth grade, I made the decision to join an Asian youth leadership program, which would compel me to communicate frequently with my peers. Furthermore, I knew my role as a mentor and community leader would teach me to speak clearly and confidently. My project has worked wonders. Now I feel at ease among classmates and friends, and last year, I even hosted an open house event for the program, speaking comfortably in front of a very large audience.
I am very proud of my ability to fulfill my true potential in life and I owe all my strength to my father, my reason for living. My dad has been at my side every step of the way. Even as a bedridden cancer patient, sick from chemotherapy, his example has taught me to face adversity and conquer it, no matter what the nature of the challenge. I will never forget his deep discomfort and agony, but the dignity with which he faced his suffering is equally memorable. His struggle with colon cancer became a model for my own struggle to improve myself. Even today I continue to fight, struggling with college entrance tests like the SAT. But I continue unshaken, knowing that the truest test of my ability is my determination to live bravely like my father and overcome the hardships of life. I can never thank my dad enough for what he has given me. He has become my role model, and as I face the future I can hear him say to me, "I'm proud of you son . . . you've been fighting brave and hard."