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Unread 12-20-2008, 07:44 PM   #1
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Default Highschool essay rules - where do they come from?

So, my sister, having already graduated one college program, needs to upgrade her English for another. As such, she's been writing highschool essays for the past little while, but of course, she's been making the mistake of writing actual essays, not the poorly structured jokes that highschool essays are. Her teacher continually tells the students that "this is what they will expect in college." This is frustrating for all involved parties.

So I got to thinking; where do highschool essay rules come from? What is up with the hallowed number of three body paragraphs (five is completely out of the question!)? I mean, this system obviously designed for low content/quality essays, because if you tried to write a decent college paper with it, you'd end up with giant, headache-inducing walls of text.

Why in the name of the moon are we teaching this to highschool students? Am I the only person who ever fucked up an essay while still making the switch in mindsets to college papers?
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Unread 12-20-2008, 08:51 PM   #2
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Funny, for me it was generally at least three body paragraphs. Three was what they said, yes, but more was not discouraged unless it was just 'filler' text. We had to write around 2000 words generally (if I recall), and you could squeeze past with a little under that if your work was very well-written and concise.
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Unread 12-20-2008, 09:04 PM   #3
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Nope, had to be a total of five at my school. Intro paragraph. Three body paragraphs. Closing paragraph. It wasn't till later that I learned to ditch such a fucked system. My friend was taking a college English class as a Sophomore, and when he turned in one of those kinds of essays, his teacher gave him an F and said, "What the fuck is this bullshit?" and went on a rant about how he should have outgrown it by middle school.
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Unread 12-20-2008, 09:25 PM   #4
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Understandibly straying from the original question a bit, but:

If that's not how one writes an essay, how does one do it? I suspect I'm in for a surprise at university now.
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Unread 12-20-2008, 09:31 PM   #5
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With as many body paragraphs as it takes?

Edit: I guess I can go out and say, once again, that I am glad that my school does not do <bullshit thing that lots of people complain about from high school>. It makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

SUPER EDIT: Also, the contents of body paragraphs and the organization of them changes depending on the type of essay you are writing, so that could come into play too.
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Unread 12-20-2008, 09:32 PM   #6
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Mine tend to be like that but more body paragraphs, but then, I'm just a freshman who skipped the basic Comp classes, so I don't know if that's right or not.
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Unread 12-20-2008, 10:42 PM   #7
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It's not just paragraph numbers either; it's the whole essay writing mindset. Highschool essays are NOT well-written papers. The thing I find most highschool students have trouble adjusting to is the broad topics college profs give you. In high school they pretty much tell you exactly what you're writing about, whereas in college they tell you "write a a paper about the evolution of technology in Asia," and then almost every first year student tries to write about the provided topic when they should be writing about Russian agricultural implements in the sixteenth century or the role of the Crusades in shaping contemporary Middle Eastern technology, or something along those lines. I dodged this one, but I've seen a ridiculous number of college students do it, produce well written highschool level essays, and fail horribly.

Edit: For those who don't understand, college essays are a lot more open ended. You're expected to take the broad topics you're given, and find something more specific to write about. No one ever tells graduating highschool students this, and they all get messed up until they figure it out.
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Last edited by BitVyper; 12-20-2008 at 10:47 PM.
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Unread 12-20-2008, 10:43 PM   #8
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My understanding was that the 5 paragraph was made to provide a basic framework to help highschoolers understand how paragraphs file and organize information, as well as build on each other.

Having it be the strict guideline is stupid though. Thankfully my teachers never cared to do that.
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Unread 12-20-2008, 10:49 PM   #9
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What? Seriously? We more or less stuck to the same principle, but generally I remember my teachers expecting more than 5 paragraphs. Actually, my high school papers were better than some of the stuff I turned in to my college instructors--I think my anthro ones were a couple of steps above "A Well-Thought Out Englilish Paper." I just really didn't like anthro.

Now I pretty much write in nothing but APA style.
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Unread 12-20-2008, 10:53 PM   #10
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Yeah if you don't give high school kids a structure you get three pages of meandering crap where at no point do they ever tell you what in the actual fuck their point is or how it has any actual thing to do with any of the things they think are supporting it.

No it's nothing that's going to poetically stoke the flame and fever of a man's imagination but as a way to state information clearly it gets the job done.
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