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Response to Teresa Arthur’s Back to Basics essay

“Back to basics” is an essay addressing the decline in the composition and problem solving skills of current day college students. I agree that the students essay writing skills and problem solving skills.

The thesis statement in the essay is; “The two biggest shocks for me about college, is the younger students lack of composition skills or essay writing skills and critical thinking skills, specifically problem solving skills”. It is a good argument because it takes a strong position which others might be compelled to challenge/oppose. However, in Rodburg’s Developing a Thesis, a good thesis should be clear and concise. This thesis is not stated clearly although it bears a clear opinion of the author. It is possible for the author to prove her stance through comparison of the essays written by current college students and those from the past, besides comparing the current system of education to that of the past.

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Paragraph two and three clearly contribute to defense of the essay. These two sentences in paragraph two “Knowing a subject means being able to take any problem from that subject and solve it through critically thinking about what you know about the subject.  Knowing how to take a test means knowing an answer to a question but not fully understanding how the answer was derived.” is related to the thesis. Form paragraph three we have “Structuring an effective essay involves taking lots of information from various sources and then solving the problem of putting the information together in a way that makes sense.  Without good problem solving skills, it is difficult to structure an effective argument in an essay”.

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Paragraph four is entirely out of place because it focuses on athletics, an issue that is not related in anyway to essay writing skills and problem solving skills. According to Gocsik’s Writing a Thesis Sentence, each paragraph should explain the author’s opinion; this paragraph instead discusses the nephew’s performance in athletics and the failure of the team coach to record each performance time.

The quote “No Child Left Behind” best relates to the thesis. It represents a program that ensures students who fail proceed to the next grades, hence fail to grasp essay writing and problem solving skills. The system concentrates on knowing how to take a test instead of knowing the subject. This quote is not effective enough as it is only vaguely related to the thesis. A better quote would be one which proves the lack of the stated skills, for example “preparation involved sample questions and practice tests that were then graded and corrected so that the students could see the correct answers”.

To make the essay really work, the author should use a clearer and more specific thesis to develop a stronger argument, for example; “the younger students lack essay writing skills and problem solving skills”. All the paragraphs in the body of the essay should support the thesis, which means paragraph four should be either edited out or replaced by a supportive one. The quotes used should be in a position to reinforce the author’s argument.