Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Essay prompts for contemporary college students

Final exam
Instructions: Pick one (1) of the following prompts. This means you should not pick more than one or less than zero. You *may* pick a prompt other than number 1. “Pick one (1) prompt” means you pick less than two prompts from among the possible ten. If this is confusing, please ask for clarification.

Compose an essay of at least fifty (50) words. Good luck.

1.)

Consider this ethical dilemma: The person you love more than anyone in the world has been kidnapped by a madman with a biological weapon at his disposal. He will either shoot his single hostage in the head or deploy the weapon in a major metro area, killing millions and possibly starting a pandemic. But he is leaving the choice up to you. You decide if he kills millions or his hostage.

Explain how will you face society after you refuse to sacrifice yourself. Will you mostly text or will you also be available on Facebook? At which time and on which days? Also, explain in detail why the deployed biological agent will have no effect on you.

2.)

Imagine a nightmare scenario: the internet, television and mobile phones have been deactivated for 48 hours by a Texan whose superpowers allow him to control all electronic communication. Explain who must step forward immediately—either a government leader, a representative of private business or an educator—to ensure your self-esteem feedback loop is properly maintained. What punishment will be appropriate in the event that s/he fails?

3.)

What would give you greater pleasure: fucking a vampire or killing a zombie? Explain in detail and be sure to use relevant sources.

4.)

Imagine that you found some money to buy a car. You ended up driving this car through a bus shelter, killing a pregnant woman, her unborn son, a veteran of Iraq and a rabbi. The police arrived to discover that you have no insurance, that your license is suspended and your car unregistered.

Using what you have learned this semester regarding civics and ethics, explain if the person who misplaced his money, your parents, educators, the salesmen of the automobile or the urban planner who left a shelter in your path are most responsible for this atrocity. What would be an appropriate punishment for the guilty party?

5.)

Once you graduate from college and secure your dream job, where will you go for your first summer vacation? Describe in detail.

6.)

Imagine the online service that has been writing all your essays suddenly went bankrupt. Although it would be legal for an opportunistic competitor to charge you double or triple for a last-minute service, would this price increase be ethical? Be sure to apply at least one principle of business ethics to your argument.

7.)

Invent at least three facts that would help support an essay arguing for the creation of a grade higher than an A and meant for the most special students. Be sure these facts do not contradict any of the facts you have invented on earlier essays this semester. (They are recorded in the class database.)

8.)

Cut and paste a text written at a level that is four to six times higher than your current reading capacity. Do not document where you found this text. (Failure to follow this instruction will automatically lower your grade to B+. Do not test this!)

9.)

Consider this theoretical situation: In an effort to keep tuition costs from skyrocketing, the college devises a plan that allows instructors to supplement their income by charging students fees to write their assigned essays for them. This equals an automatic “raise” for faculty to the tune of 35-40%, but costs the college nothing. Students, instead of paying online essay writers, divert those funds to their instructors. Given that the instructors already know what they will write, AND that they are the only one who will “read” these essays anyway, should they be written at all? If these essays never exist, would your degree be more or less marketable?

10.) If any of the above prompts offends or confuses you, make up your own prompt. Be sure to take the offensive material to the dean and demand a full refund for the semester. (Note: in most circumstances, students who receive refunds do not get credit for having taken the class.)

Extra points:

+50 for writing at least three complete sentences
+100 for writing at least one coherent paragraph
+500 for demonstrating vague knowledge of at least some of the assigned reading material
+1000 for completing the assignment without your asinine hip hop ring tone erupting


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It finally happened…

I wondered if it ever would—today is the day. Students routinely come to class without having completed reading assignments, often really short, almost symbolic ones. But today an entire class of college students came without a single one having completed this week’s writing assignment.

I came prepared to lead a revision workshop. I was prepared for some percentage of the students to come without anything to revise. I use turnitin.com to collect essays, and only five minutes before class was to begin not one student had turned anything in. I gave them a long break (it’s a three hour discussion/lecture that meets Wednesdays) thinking that some of them would sneak to a computer. Nothing. Two students left the class to take phone calls. Two others left before the class was finished.

I didn’t bother enforcing any of my telephone rules. As for the essays, I played along without ever mentioning them. I taught a workshop on flawed assumptions, and we reviewed a paper that makes serious errors. And that was it. I told them their revisions are due next week and sent them home.

For the record, this is a horrible feeling. I feel useless, inconsequential, like I went through motions that had less value than steps on a treadmill. I could have spent this time writing or playing with my children. I could have cooked food for a hungry person. I could have gone to the Zen center to meditate. Continue picking numbers—the gutters need cleaning and my garage door is broken.

I used to get angry and frustrated. I used to think about what else I could do to motivate, to interest the students. Today I just came back to my office and ate the meal I had brought with me. I put on Pandora and sat to write this post. I’ve become one of them. This is how it feels—I’m finally there—to have nothing at all to say.