Being Taught the Wrong Things Makes Us Ignorant Writers

There are things to which we are subjected in our education that receive no valid reasoning, no proper explanation other than “because I said so.” Throughout elementary, middle and high school, all of these pointless rules given to us becomes a gimmick, a sham, a deceitful list of regrettably mind-numbing rules. There are always rules that make one want to punch their teacher in the face because the rules are borderline retarded (no offense–it’s a word, just as “stupid” is). Below are just a few of these rules we so adamantly despise.

  1. “Never use ‘I’ in your essay.” “Why?” “No reason, other than because I said so.”

2. “Write five paragraphs persuading the audience to agree with you.” “How do we do that?” “Give three main points and support those points with three facts each. Doesn’t matter what they are–they can even be false. It’s not like I’m actually gonna read them.”

3. “Never use numbers in your essay… except for dates in time and large numbers.” “So that means eighty percent of the time, right?”

4. “Don’t use contractions, it’s unprofessional and you’ll get points off.” “It’s a short story riddled with dialogue, not an application into the Pentagon…”

5. “Always have a grabber sentence.” This one has no response phrase, because I can explain it now: a grabber sentence for high school English students is always awkward and just doesn’t fit with the essay. Forget the grabber if it sounds like a pedophile inviting kids into his candy van…

6. “Make proper use of gerunds, infinitives, possessive nouns, ‘their-they’re-there’, ‘your-you’re’… “So, write as if a machine were to read my paper?” “Exactly.”

I feel we are taught these things because it is in the education system’s intent to develop in students a solid understanding of grammar, spelling, and the like. However, these methods are so outdated and rarely used by everyday lifestyles that the five-paragraph essays and lack of emphasis on material have become an exercise in futility.

Contrary to this, though, there is one rule that should be followed, such as the proper use of spelling and grammatical tools. In fact, that is one rule I find to be golden in every piece of writing, even in text messaging and Twitter updates. Another less-essential-yet-still-important rule I tend to follow is that of “not showing my cards in the beginning.” This means that I would not outline what I would be writing, as it would take away from the interest of the essay itself and might be enough for a reader to state “I have no need of reading this.”

(At the time of writing this I have spilled Coca Cola on myself. Wonderful.)

Writing Timeline: The Disabled and the Developed (Papers, Not Children)

Throughout my life I have never written many papers or done intense writing assignments. The best I have ever done outside of college life was on my ACT writing portion. This is not to say I have never written papers before–I have, lest I would not have such a crisp writing style.

It was primarily during my freshman year of high school when I began writing better than I had previously, as middle school English courses were bland. I had enrolled in a Latin study course in high school, and took four years of it. This sparked my interest in grammar, vocabulary and derivatives, the three major studies I honed for our regional and state competitions. It was during my time in Latin that I decided to write like all my writing had weight and meaning.

In my freshman year, my English course was harder than I expected, yet I wrote supposedly amazing essays. There were some bad ones–summaries for chapters of books, short stories, poems, and others–but mostly good. One particular piece involved a scenario as an introduction, of a man who was texting and driving and ended up in a three-car pile-up on the interstate and receiving amputation of both his legs and his right forearm. This began my detailed, almost painfully grammatically-sound writing style.

I enrolled in an online English course during my sophomore year, in which I was required to write multiple analyses and essays for many different subjects. The most common critical remarks I received on virtually every assignment was that I had great material, yet I did not answer the provided questions or address the given situations or subjects properly (the assignment prompts were, in reality, vague and never straight-forward–or I am one of few who has difficulty comprehending assignment instructions).

During my junior year I had a very interesting teacher. She was kind and ditsy, and the class was interesting–we still wrote the generic five-paragraph essays, but the teacher was lenient and detailed and actually loved her job as a high-school English teacher. The most memorable of writing assignments was one that was never graded: we were instructed to analyze a photograph that was the cover of a short story. At this moment I indulged myself to write how wanted to write, and, while reading some of the pages turned in for reading she complimented mine by asking everyone else where their great writing has been hidden away (my classmates had written well, she meant no insult). This instance began the paradigm shift of writing styles from one that not a soul would jump up happily to write to one that engaged the reader by way of intriguing structure and, occasionally, utilizing the “stream of consciousness” method.

All of this lead up to the pinnacle of my writing career: an analysis of the funding of my own high school. This crucial essay was the decisive factor of whether or not I would achieve a highly-successful score of thirty (out of thirty-six) on my ACT exam. I had much fun with this essay: I started off with a sort of staple of an introduction, jumping right into the issue at hand. I explained the biased funding of the football team over the rest of the school organizations, which needed multiple fundraising activities just to function. I felt that to be my most proud work, as it involved a topic for which I have a severe passion.

I hope to further evolve the skills I hold in writing, as it has been a relationship which I could only describe by the famous line of a poem by Catullus: “Odi et amo”–“I hate and I love.”

Words Of Which I Just Couldn’t Think

Everyone experiences the infamous “writer’s block” at some point–be it in their high school English courses, college courses, or even established authors. It is most common during high school, as students are given narrow prompts with limited resource and minimal real-world application. It was one such time I had encountered the writer’s block.

It was during my freshman year of high school that I failed to turn in a paper because I refused to turn in a blank sheet. My class had gone through the first quarter of the year with no permanent instructor, and so we had little work to do. Once the permanent instructor arrived, we had to cover a whole year’s worth of honor’s course-work in three quarters. This did often involve writing papers every two or three weeks, and at that time it was on the most boring subject (Shakespearean poems) and I was very bad at writing anything. I don’t remember the prompt, but I and my classmates had to write a poem about ourselves. In that moment, I sat in the classroom, staring blankly for forty-five minutes at a piece of notebook paper. I was lost.

I stayed after school and tried to finish it on my own. I remember myself still staring, nothing written down, wanting to give up on it. My instructor (she was usually a mean pregnant lady, but what she did next was shocking) sat down next to me and asked me what I needed help with. I cried because no one had ever helped me with my English–I felt stupid if I asked for help, as if I was unable to utilize my own native language. I did finally get it written, yet I still managed to get a seventy-ish score.

That writer’s block made me realize that I was being given strict stipulations on bland five-paragraph essays that had no meaning to anyone but to test my grammatical education. It is why I now try to write my works as cleanly and detailed as possible, as there are now minimal restrictions to what I am permitted to write.

Description and Analysis: Telling It How It Is and Why It Is So

A Sheet of Work for Analysis

The Update

In the attached completed chart closely related to the very topic at hand, there are many observations on the rhetorical situation of the chosen products’ advertisements and the multi-method uses of them for a single purpose. I notice a more central focal point in the products’ creators’ method of advertisement, one aimed at providing a way to play a pivotal role in a story–one in which someone can be the main character. This analysis answers about ninety-nine percent of the question at hand (the “why” of their advertisements); the other one percent is any question that could stem from the initial inquiry.

Interesting Advertisement and the Curious Complexity of It

This is a short yet riveting description!!”

The world has plummeted into chaos. Tracers fly, explosions riddle the battlefield, soldiers shout out commands and acknowledgments to their allies. War rages on. *click* A menu with a bold title interrupts the captain’s order to move around the left flank. “GAME PAUSED.” It’s a game, there is no war. A few minutes pass and the player returns with a pepperoni Hot Pocket. He picks up his controller and returns to the firefight.

Simulation games allow us to escape the worries of the real world for a while. Whether it’s rising gas prices, impending (or current) debt, or the annoying little s*** that is our younger brother, that escape is the stress relief we may need. Some get a kick out of living a separate life, baking loaves of banana bread or conversing incoherently with a fake person; or building a casino, where artificial customers enjoy themselves with a bit of gambling and slots. Then, there are those who get relief from firing digital bullets at digital enemies to accomplish a digital mission. Then again, all of these games can be for pure enjoyment. There are many games that target that third audience, promising them the feeling of importance, of being great, of saving lives… of being the hero.

“The rest is just a bunch of interesting facts.”

One of the biggest franchises in the category of military and tactical warfare simulation seems to have captured that promise and has become the most renowned virtual present-day-setting shooter in the world–Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (and its three parts, CoD4: Modern Warfare, CoD: Modern Warfare 2 and CoD: Modern Warfare 3). It takes quite a lot of success (and funding) to be able to produce three titles in a franchise, and Activision’s and Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare series is the very epitome of that success. After selling over thirteen million copies in two years, the initial installment created the most well-known community of players who enjoy such simulations (let’s be honest–who couldn’t enjoy a little bit of virtual violence?). Other titles try to replicate this franchise’s success, but even with the enormous virtual-shooter fan-base there is still a large margin of players who prefer Call of Duty.

Successful Marketing from Four Simple Factors: Why Was the Release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 So Successful?

The advertisements of Modern Warfare are perhaps Activision’s and Infinity Ward’s greatest factor to why the series was one of the biggest successes in entertainment history. During the countdown to the release of the biggest title (and the final title, indefinitely) of the series, Modern Warfare 3, it was highly apparent in the commercial advertisements for it (and the entire Modern Warfare series) that presentation is everything, and presentation can only be made better by its content. This was well-established when actors Sam Worthington and Jonah Hill and Houston Rockets basketball icon Dwight Howard starred in the humorous Modern Warfare 3 trailer “The Vet and The n00b.” Because of some of the most efficient and well-timed advertisement, Modern Warfare 3 became the most successful entertainment title ever, beating the sales record of the highly-successful James Cameron movie Avatar when it generated over $1 billion in just 16 days, as opposed to the 17-day record set by Avatar. (Billion-Dollar Record)

In fact, over the course of the franchise’s history, Call of Duty shows more success over similar titles like Battlefield, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Medal of Honor (nobody mentions Medal of Honor because of its minimal success in the competition). Metacritic, a major game-review site that provides the composite score of multiple critics’ ratings, has frequently rated the Modern Warfare series higher than the title’s main competitor Battlefield (the titles that directly rivaled each title, that is). According to Metacritic, the Modern Warfare series was rated at 94,94, and 88 for each of its three titles (in respective sequential order). On the other hand, Battlefield’s  competing titles rated at 86 (composite rating of the Modern Warfare title-competition-starter mini-series Bad Company that consisted of two titles, rated 83 and 88 in respective sequential order), 77 (Battlefield 2), and 84–which, given the previous Modern Warfare ratings, was never higher than the lowest score of 88 for Modern Warfare 3. Even compared to the entire Counter Strike series, which consisted of four main titles, Modern Warfare had better scores. Counter Strike’s scores, in order of release date, were 88, 65, 88, and 83 (the initial CS, CS: Source, CS: Condition Zero, and CS: Global Offensive, respectively).

Composite Score Source: Metacritic

So, what do these ratings tell us about the Modern Warfare franchise? For a start, it might suggest that the series handled the present-day war scenario much better than Battlefield and Counter Strike could. More importantly, it could also mean that Activision and Infinity Ward probably made better content and provided better advertisement, leading to better reviews and higher sales than any other competing title.

Entering the Conversation: A Virtual Reality Analysis

I’ve been involved in video games since I was very young–seriously, I played Grand Theft Auto with my stepfather when I was five years of age, and Donkey Kong two years prior. It’s not uncommon for someone to pick up a game or two with which they really enjoy passing time–in fact, there are tens of thousands of games floating about in the fabric of the Internet, ubiquitous discount game stores, and major store outlets like Wal-Mart–but there is a specific genre that receives many a critical opinion about its “violent” inhibitions, yet is a valid stress relief method: first-person shooters. Let us explore three primary brands of this genre, and their target audience and marketing techniques.

The original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which sparked a triple-title franchise
The original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which sparked a triple-title franchise

When one says “FPS,” they are referring to one of two things: their frame-rate of their display, or the lag-heavy game on that display that is dropping said frame-rate. More specifically, when one says “FPS,” they (or others) make the automatic assumption that the game in question is Call of Duty. This response is only natural, considering the two primary developers of Call of Duty have released their games on more than the high-competition trio of devices (XBOX, Playstation, and PC)–one such example of this diverse marketing was the release of Call of Duty on the Nintendo DS. Nintendo’s main audience is children and young teens, which begs the question: were the developers of Call of Duty attempting to coax these children into investing in their games? Maybe (unless you are my age–then you would know that they did and the entire XBOX community is flooded with overly aggressive and annoying children screaming obscenities for no reason). A better question is, why? Were the game developers losing their present audience to the competitors? Or were they pushing the limits on who they can target?

The first Battlefield game cover design
The first Battlefield game cover design

The closest competitor of Call of Duty that is, like it, multi-platform is Battlefield. Every younger game player you will ever encounter has in some way heard of, seen, or played Battlefield. With its over-the-top multiplayer experience–where the players can jump out of a plane traveling over a thousand miles an hour, shoot and kill another player in their plane traveling over a thousand miles an hour, then take that plane and continue flying–surely has an appeal to the thrill junkie players. What other audience does the developer target with this absurd logic of daredevil tactics? Perhaps they are obliging the inner psychopath and providing increasingly insanely improbable scenarios to those who crave it most?

Counter Strike: Global Offensive is a "kill or be killed" shooter, pitting terrorist against counter-terrorist--the age-long struggle of good v. evil
Counter Strike: Global Offensive is a “kill or be killed” shooter, pitting terrorist against counter-terrorist–the age-long struggle of good v. evil

In line with both of these big-name games is the quickest-paced first-person shooter to have ever been released: Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Though it is available on console and PC, it has prevalence on the latter since it was developed by the same company to create the number-one digital game store on PC in the world–this can be enforced by the console versions not having a single update since their release three years ago. Who is their audience in the masses of people who love to kill virtual enemies? Counter Strike: Global Offensive is simply the more realistic idea of the previous two. Where does it fit with the two leading competitors? In what ways is it better and worse?

What ties these three games together? Their marketing techniques? Audiences? Content? Three brands of the same genre, each competing to be better than the other two. How are they similar? How are they different? Why does one target younger game players while another is for the mature? Why do critics claim these main competitors (and their counterparts not mentioned) instill violent tendencies into those who play them? Marketing and audiences make these games what they are today: the youthful with a watered-down franchise (Call of Duty), the thrill-seeking (Battlefield), and the realistic fast-paced high-reaction-time game players (Counter Strike: Global Offensive).

“Summary, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation”

Writing is about the expression of ideas in one’s own voice.

Oftentimes we are taught to write in five-paragraph essays, five to seven words a line, three lines to the introduction and conclusion and six lines to the body paragraphs. This concept is completely incorrect; writing should simply be an ad-lib act, like a jazz soloist or a stand-up comedian. Writing, much like those practices, is an art in its own form. An essay shouldn’t be something students dread, it should be an opportunity to convey thoughts and feelings to the reader. I have always had a certain desire to want to neglect the “rules” given to me in high school when writing; therefore, “Writing About Writing” clarifies as well as describes what was coursing through my mind when I was forced to write those five-paragraph essays.

There has only been one time when my writing really caught the attention of one of my teachers–the introduction had her so impressed she read it to the rest of the class and afterward stated, “Now THAT’S an introduction.” It was a situational introduction describing the fearful aspect of texting and driving, and the aftereffects it can have; and that was my most cherished introduction in high school–not even the next three years of it had anything worth telling about. Other than that one time, I had always felt that my essays were about spelling my words correctly, or avoiding comma splices and split infinitives, or identifying proper use of gerunds, or utilizing a polysyndeton (what I learned in Latin as a grammatical term describing the repeated use of the word “and” or the word “or”). The worst experience by far that I have ever had when given a prompt and being expected to procure excessive information on it was when I was a freshman in high school. I had to write a two-page paper on the first chapter of “Animal Farm,” which was a great book when I wasn’t being forced to write a two-page paper on the uneventful first chapter (I managed to receive a thirty percentile on that paper). There are certain times (such as this one) where I feel comfortable writing freely, since there are no solid rules to follow and I am allowed to express my ideas without being told I misspelled “totalitarian” and having that be the focus of the reader for the rest of the text. I remember one such instance during my ACT Writing portion: the prompt was to describe the current educational system of my school. Perfect. I had buckets of information on the incredibly biased funding of my high school, from the football team being given seventy to eighty percent of the school’s annual funding; to the twenty-year-old Personal Fitness textbooks that were crumbling, missing pages, written upon; to the band and orchestra and ROTC and Latin and engineering organizations having to raise their own money to go to competitions or purchase new equipment and study material. It was a personal topic for me, and I felt comfortable writing it.

Stuart Greene states in the very first line of his essay, “Argument as Conversation,” that argument “is very much a part of what we do every day…” Most people would hear the word “argument” and almost instinctively connect that word to verbal strife–a back-and-forth between opposing parties, each defending their points of view with different facts and opinions that either support their own stance or negate the other’s. This instinctive definition of “argument” is, ironically, correct–only, it isn’t considered “strife.” As Greene would describe it, an argument is like a conversation, a trading of views and ideals that revolves around a central thought. Arguments are based on prior knowledge, research, inquiries, and–you guessed it–arguments. In order to establish an argument, you must perform research on inquiries you have to acquire the prior knowledge of the subject so that you may create a solid argument that defends or opposes a certain point of view. You could even go so far as to draw information from your findings in the future. Each of these approaches to the concept of arguments is, to me, individually effective as well as collectively. The collection of these basic theses of arguments (which correspond to the writing practice in the way of creating the skill to develop an argument worth defending) is not a boring set of rules from high school, but a brilliant foundation to successful and effective writing.