Dear U.S. Academic Writing,
I pen this open letter to you knowing full well that in certain cases, you do have your uses. You know how to get your point across effectively. You are succinct. You are, indeed, an acceptable purveyor of argument and actuality. However, I object to your incessant insistence on inserting yourself into every single aspect of writing in American school systems, especially when your presence is less a consequence of necessity than an outdated habit spanning decades.
Take, for instance, the essay. To me, essays are like stories, and who wants to read a story where the ending is revealed to you in the very first chapter? I certainly wouldn’t. Yet what is a thesis statement if not a blatant spoiler for an ending? Therein lies my greatest qualm with you, U.S. Academic Writing.
You, my esteemed enemy, are a sledgehammer when you should have been a scalpel. To be quite frank, you lack finesse. Your linear structure, characterized by a set path of point-evidence-explanation, is the equivalent of trying to pound a nail into a hole created for the sole purpose of housing a screw. Instead of guiding a reader on a personal journey of discovery and revelation, you immediately tell them exactly what conclusion they are supposed to draw from an essay. Personally, I believe that the true beauty (the very art!) of a good essay lies in its ability to foster genuine interest about novel subjects in readers and to usher them subtly onto a path that will eventually lead them, of their own volition, to reach the same conclusion as the author.
In my opinion, there is a reason why many students dread writing essays, and that reason is that they struggle with your unforgiving rigidity. Indeed, even the most practiced of scholarly authors can grapple with academic papers when their thought processes conflict with the mode of their assignments.
And it is only at this point in my letter, the final paragraph (as far from the introduction as one could possibly hope to be), that I arrive at my thesis statement: let students choose their own structure for the essays they write. Do not force them to format every single composition in the same exact manner as the hundred or so they’ve struggled through in the past. Release the academic community from your grasp and allow the ineffable power of language possessed by each and every author to reach its full potential by expressing itself in whatever form it pleases. U.S. Academic Writing, take a step back and let us all remember that the key purpose of an essay is to communicate and propagate ideas, not to judge how well a student can follow some contrived blueprint. If an argument is solid and an author thorough, the structure of an essay should, in all honesty, take a backseat to the quality of its content.
Writing Center Intern