I recently read your essay “Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?” and found it to be quite intriguing. As a student of academic writing at Harvard Extension School, I look forward to opportunities where I can revel in reading and sharing my personal experience and how it relates to the author’s ideas. Since your essay targets incoming students, I was persuaded there must be something in it for me. Not only did the interrogative title pique my curiosity, but it also intrigued me to read further.
As I dove into reading, several points caught my attention. One point I found to be quite interesting was how you used pathos in describing the environment and its relationship to the development of the character. To fight for an education is a show of self-compassion that very few ever get the chance to experience. Proof of this is evident across America as incoming students enter onto college campuses like gladiators entering the Coliseum in Rome.
I agree with you; there is an erosion of the environment surrounding America’s colleges and universities , however, if such an environment negatively affects the students concentration on moving forward, then the relationship between student, administration, faculty, and institution is not causal, but a reflection of the influence of a deteriorating environment. I, too, can attest that “if you’re going to get a real education, you have to be aggressive and assertive.
You said in order to obtain a real education in America, students will have to fight against the institution they find themselves in no matter how prestigious it may be.
I totally agree with you and admire your tone in effectively presenting your facts and ideas. Your experience alone gives you the right to voice your opinion authoritatively, and I assume in an appeal to pathos your motive for writing this essay was to allow incoming freshmen to become aware that “…education will not be presented to them wrapped and bowed.
Subjectively, I have been fighting with institutions and showing true grit in the pursuit of completing my college education for numerous years. Up until this point, I partly blamed it on not knowing who I was. Nevertheless, I have been reading books to help me find my identity, in your essay you do assert that by the time a student comes to college, he or she will have been told who they are numerous times. Such was the case before I realized who I was and what I wanted to do in life. You also state the idea that a university education really should have no important matter and should not be about what John Keats called “Soul-making”, paradoxically, Keats mentioned in a letter to his brother “There may be intelligence or sparks of the divinity in millions – but they are not souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself” (Keats 100).
You mentioned that Richard Brodhead, while presenting an address to the senior class at Yale University before going on to become president of Duke University, took as his initiative the Duke of Wellington’s precept that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. Indeed, it was, which goes to show the prelude to winning the battle doesn’t begin on the battlefield alone, but in the classroom where critical thinking skills are developed. By the way, did you know that the Duke of Wellington attended Eton College, and as you mentioned, “students will tap their old resources of determination and then they’ll win”.
Your father played a pivotal role in leading you to become the first person in your family to obtain a college degree. Your debates with your father probably helped formulate and strengthen your character and your appeal to ethos makes it even more convincing. You claim that a “university education is a means to an end” and that “education has one salient enemy in present-day America, and that enemy is education” . Over time, a fulfilling end can only come as a result of hard work, fighting for what you believe, knowing who you are, and not letting others make you what they want you to be.
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