In-Class Writing #1—You can download this and bring it to class. You can use notes and dictionaries during the class session. You must turn this in at the end of the class period.
In years past, I have asked students to write about Malcolm X and Charles Sykes’ articles on learning, self-esteem, teaching and the like. Some students have had almost opposite reactions to the following question: In light of the article he wrote about self-esteem and learning, would Charles Sykes have been impressed by Malcolm X’s efforts to learn while he was in prison?
Here are two students who have very different points-of-view.
Student 1 wrote: I think Sykes would be impressed with Malcolm X, and think that he hadn’t been victimized by others building up his self-esteem in a false way. After all, Malcolm X’s increased self-esteem came about by three things: one, he did a realistic assessment of his life and his skills and found himself lacking and unhappy about it; second, because he was highly motivated, he taught himself to read and write well; third, he demonstrated real change after jail by staying clear of illegal activities.
Student 2 wrote: Malcolm X was a jailbird. He spent six years in prison for crimes he committed. While in jail, he taught himself to read and write better than he had before he went there. I think Charles Sykes would say that the rise in self-esteem Malcolm X felt by the end of his prison term was not a good thing. First, Malcolm X shouldn’t have been allowed to profit for his crimes by being able to have the leisure time to learn to read and write. Leisure time is for those who work hard and do well, not for criminals. Second, he got involved in a religious movement, the Black Muslims, which was violently against American society, not for it. Many people, including himself, were killed by Black Muslim actions and activities. Finally, I agree with Sykes who wrote, People who have elevated or inflated views of themselves tend to alienate others." I wasn’t impressed by Malcolm X’s story. So he learned to read and write well, big deal! Does that mean he deserves a big autobiography and a movie? Hardly. Mother Theresa or even my own mother deserves to be celebrated, not some con who thinks he is something special—when he isn’t.
Of these two views, which is more like your own? Why? You need to write an essay that contains a title, an introduction with a thesis statement (one sentence that contains your main idea and organizational plan}, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion drawing your ideas all together. By the way, you can agree or disagree with Students 1 and 2, and use their thoughts and arguments to help you guide your own views. Of course, your work has to be original and it will be. You must also incorporate at least three quotations into your answer.