Hello,

I am in dire need of help.

I am a freshman in high school, and up until now, I have been known to be a pretty good writer. I was never that into it, but I was pretty good at it. I won gold key in the Schoolastic Art and Writing competition 2 years in a row, in 7th and 8th grade (Like I said, I was never into writing, and so that's pretty much it for awards XD). I also have consistently been known to be "above my age" in my ability to analyse a book, and maintained an A/A+ grade throughout 7th and 8th grade.

This year, I started high school at a different school, as my old school was only K-8. And a former A/A+ writer that I was wrote his first analytical essay for school, and, though I was not expecting an A+, got back a C-.

I'll skip the nitty gritty details; I ended up with a B- for my first semester grade, and my second semester isn't going any better.

The problem is that my teacher and I fundamentally disagree on what "analysis" is.

He says that I must "stay as close to the text as possible" (and he demonstrated this by literally hugging a chair).

I say that you must have your own voice in your writing, and not just write what the author thinks, but what you think.

His goal is to teach us how to write in "close reading," but what ended up happening was that whenever I wrote anything, he would circle it and write "this is your own opinion- does it say this in the text?"

Basically, he wanted EVERYTHING to be directly from the text. Not only this, but he said our analysis should be directly from the quote. He wants us to quote a quote, and then analyse that one word from the quote, comparing that one word to the quote.

That doesn't seem too bad, does it?

I'll give you an example.

(I had asked for a model A+ student essay, and this is referring to that essay)

The book was "The Things They Carried." (The rest of my rant only makes sense if you have read this book, sorry...)

The essay topic was "In the chapter "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, What does Mary Anne's changes reveal about Rat Kiley?"

Take careful note of the essay question. Though the chapter that I was to write about is mainly about Mary-Anne, the essay wants us to reference her changes, and instead focus entirely on Rat Kiley. The essay should be about Rat Kiley.

Well, the model student wrote a 2 paragraph essay, and focused an entire paragraph on the changes that Mary Ann went through. Obviously, you need to mention what her changes were, but the essay topic is weighted not on Mary Anne, but on Rat Kiley. The student should not have devoted an entire paragraph to what her changes were, and why they are important to her and Fossie's relationship (Mark Fossie isn't even mentioned in the essay question!)

Next, i would like to give you an example of the A+ analytical claim that this student provided:

"Rat's use of commas at the start illustrate how he has not quite formulated his thoughts and just expresses his emotions."

THIS IS SUCH SURFACE-LEVEL ANALYSIS!!! I mean, it's not wrong, but its like, "so what? Who cares? Why does that even matter?"

Here's what I had:

Mary Anne’s slow deterioration from conventional gender standards reveal that Rat and the soldiers unconsciously carried the patriarchal structure of society with them into the battlefields of Vietnam, however, the soldiers start to realize that war is an anti-society in which societal rules and order cannot exist, and thus their pre-constructed bias against women is unable to last.
(There is more, I just don't think people will appreciate it if I post my entire essay on this site.)

The entire CHAPTER is centralized on the notion of Gender, and how Mary Anne is a female, but the A+ student fails to mention this even once!

I'm not saying that my essay was perfect. Looking back, I can find many mistakes that I could pick out and improve on. I just don't think that with analysis like the one I had, I should not have gotten a B- for having "no claim, and no analysis."


I guess what I'm asking for is this: just based on the example I have given you, who is right? Me, or my English teacher? And what can I say to him to convince him that analyzing someone's use of commas is not as strong of analysis than analyzing someone's preconstructed gender bias?


Sorry for that long wall of text. Any and All help is greatly appreciated. I am really suffering here. Never had I had to worry about low grades in english, and I don't want a shitty teacher to ruin my entire future.

It's hard to comment on your whole rant. For instance, I don't understand the issue about Rat's commas, partly because I haven't read the text.

Let me just comment on the paragraph below. I've also made a few edits to correct or improve your English.

Mary Anne’s slow deterioration from conventional gender standards reveals that Rat and the soldiers unconsciously carry the patriarchal structure of society with them into the battlefields of Vietnam. However, the soldiers start to realize that war is an anti-society environment in which societal rules and order cannot exist, and thus their pre-constructed bias against women is unable to last.

It would be much better if you added some quotes to support the assertions that you are making. For instance, what is it in the text that indicates they bring a patriarchal structure with them? I tend to agree with your teacher. If you go to university one day, I think you will want to thank your teacher for laying stress on a rigorous use of the text.

Briefly put, I don't clearly understand your paragraph. For example, the phrase 'deterioration from conventional gender standards' baffles me.

Clive

Hi Carina;

You sound really frustrated. I would love to say that you are right, and your teacher wrong. Unfortunately, in art, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's not Math or Science. There's no right and wrong.

A supremely clever student (and clever writer) knows what their teachers / readers want, and delivers it in an elegant style. It seems though you are a strong, smart person, and your idea of "analysis" would work to give you perfect scores in some circles, but you're not living in that kind of circle, at least for this semester. So turn your incredible vibrant energy towards hugging the text so tightly that it squeals. (At least for the rest of the semester...)

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

Maybe you could ask your parents. Just a thought.

Are you old enough to be on his forum?


Re:

"I say that you must have your own voice in your writing, and not just write what the author thinks, but what you think."


- That is for freshman in college. For now you have to learn the basics for academic / research writing. Next year, in the 10th grade, you will write 5-paragraph essays. It won't get less difficult.

Find an outlet for creative writing elsewhere, if nothing else. Take AP English from a junior college when you can.

My 2 cents..