College Composition I ~ ENG 101         (Updated for Fall 2013)
Dr. Jonathan Alexander
Office, Academic Center, 317 (Office Hours TBA)
609-894-9311 or 856-222-9311 (x1123)
Online syllabus

—Wiesenthal, Simon. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. New York: Schocken Books, 1998.
(NOTE: Be certain, however you choose to acquire this text, that you get the 1998 edition with the 53-reading Symposium)
Flash Drive (portable storage device)
Maimon, Peritz and Yancey. Writing Intensive (2nd Edition, 2013)
Additional resources to be accessed on the Internet through the online syllabus.

B. COURSE OVERVIEW: The purpose of English 101 is to increase the student’s skills both as a writer and as a critical thinker. The course combines several teaching techniques: lecture, seminar, verbal communication, research, student collaboration, and testing. It will incorporate reading and discussing texts and writing papers based on class discussions and exercises. Readings and written assignments will demonstrate specific rhetorical strategies, but all will require application of critical thought. Several approaches to the writing process will be discussed. The student should find the writing strategies that serve him or her best and apply them to course work both in and out of this class.

C. LEARNING OBJECTIVES ~ At the end of English 101, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate competence in writing expository compositions, expressing thoughts logically, clearly, and coherently with minimal errors of grammar, mechanics and spelling;
  2. Communicate meaningfully with your chosen audience while implementing critical thought;
  3. Read and critically respond to selected essays which demonstrate a particular mode of writing;
  4. Critically revise and edit personal compositions;
  5. Compose and submit an argumentative research essay which demonstrates originality, depth of thought, and mastery of MLA format for source documentation;
  6. Cooperate within collaborative writing environments;
  7. Compose a competent, meaningful argumentative essay within a designated timeframe.

Students will only reach these stated objectives by fulfilling the scheduled assignments listed below.


Attendance: If the student is to profit from any course, he or she must attend class on a consistent basis.

Students must attend all classes for the full duration of each session. Should you need to miss a class for observance of religious holidays, jury duty, military duty, bereavement, or illness, you must notify the instructor by telephone or e-mail prior to or within 24 hours after the class. Without such communication, students forfeit the right to make up missed work. If such communication is made, students will be permitted to make up missed work at the beginning of the following class meeting. It is, therefore, the student’s responsibility to read the syllabus and be prepared for current as well as missed assignments.

Entering class late or leaving class early (without prior authorization) is considered disrespectful and will not be tolerated.

Academic Etiquette: Students will respect themselves, their peers and their instructors by considering the following:

Cell phones must be kept on silent. No calls are to be made or received during class. If you are expecting an important call during the class meeting time, notify me prior to class and quietly excuse yourself if the call is received. No text-messaging or game-playing will be tolerated.

Students who wish to use the restrooms may do so by quietly leaving and re-entering the room. If a student believes he or she will require an absence of more than a few minutes, it is his responsibility to notify me accordingly.

Communication: Many means of communication are available to the student including telephone, e-mail and mailbox.

If you leave a message on my office voice-mail (x1123), please remember to speak clearly and provide your name, course information, and phone number if you request a return call.

If you contact me via e-mail, it is expected that you use the BCC “Mymail” account provided to you by the College. Messages sent through any other email account may not be received or responded to. Students who send me e-mail and do not receive a reply of any kind within 48 hours should assume it was never received. Such e-mails should be resent. If your message doesn’t present itself as urgent, I may reply quickly and briefly and ask to get back to you before long. It is also suggested that you either copy yourself on messages or ensure that your sent messages are saved.

Students who send e-mails containing attachments must save these documents as one of the following types: DOC, DOCX, TXT, RTF, or PDF. Please do not send any MAC “Pages” files, ODT or WPS files. You may also choose to copy and paste the text of your assignment into the e-mail message itself, and always send a copy back to yourself  (or another email account) as a receipt to verify if the transmission fails to reach me.

Class Assignments:

All work written and submitted should utilize standard rules of grammar, sentence organization, paragraph organization, and diction.

All formal papers are to be typed, titled, double spaced, and carefully proofread. They must contain a cover page that lists the title, your name, the date, and the word count. Documents are not to be held together by paperclips, alligator clips, or other creative measures. Papers will not be accepted unless they are stapled prior to arriving to class. I would discourage you from asking me to borrow a stapler.

All assignments are due on the date specified on the syllabus. Assignments which are not submitted during the class session they are due will be penalized. If you happen to be absent for a particular class session and you wait to submit a paper until the next class meeting, it will lose 15% for each day it is late. NOTE: A “day” is a calendar day, not a class meeting. A paper which is received by email by the completion of the assigned class session will be considered submitted on time (without a penalty for lateness). A paper which is received within the first four hours after class will incur a late penalty of 5%. All papers received thereafter will be considered a “day” late and will incur a 15% penalty per day.

If a student presents reasonable justification for an absence, this absence will not be counted against the student’s course grade; however, such an absence does not allow for more time to complete assignments. Since students are provided with all assignments and deadlines on the first day of the semester, excuses such as “crashed computers,” “misplaced data,” “misplaced flash drives,” or “empty printer ink cartridges” will not be accepted. There is no excuse for not saving all documents twice (hard drive and floppy/flash).

Plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Be aware that plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying someone else’s words without crediting the source; paraphrasing someone else’s words without crediting the source; using someone else’s ideas without crediting the source (even if rephrased in your own words); using facts not universally known which are obtained from a source without crediting the source; asking someone else to write your paper, either in whole or in part; or obtaining a paper or portion thereof by any means and submitting it as an original document. The penalty for plagiarism is failure of the assignment and potentially failure of the course (at the instructor’s discretion), and it may result in suspension or expulsion from the College (at the discretion of the Student Affairs Committee). Please refer to the BCC Student Handbook for additional information regarding College regulations and the handling of plagiarism



Total Course
Points Earned

Final Percentages

Letter Grade


88.5 - 100



87.5 - 88



79.5 - 87



77.5 - 79



74.5 - 77



69.5 - 74



0 - 69


IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING FINAL COURSE GRADES: Since the research paper is a major part of Composition, a student who does not receive a passing grade for the research document by the last day of class (70% or 28 out of 40 points) will NOT receive a passing grade for English 101. (see rubric online for explanation of grading process) Any evidence of plagiarism on the research paper (whether intentional or not) will result in course failure and potentially additional College sanctions.


Scheduled Quizzes (Various Sessions) ~ At the beginning of class on certain assigned days, a short quiz will be given. The quiz will constitute one of two types of material as indicated on the syllabus: (1) it may evaluate material which was to be completed by that day (as in the reading of short stories or essays), or (2) it may evaluate material which was covered during the previous class session (as in research process information). Read the syllabus carefully for details. Quizzes will contain a combination of multiple choice, true and false, and short answer questions. Quizzes will commence precisely five minutes into the class period and will often be graded in class to provide immediate feedback. Anyone arriving more than five minutes late for class for any reason may not be permitted to take the quiz unless prior authorization has been granted. Due to communicated, excused absences as listed under Course Expectations above, quizzes may be made up during the following class meeting. Any quizzes not “made-up” will count as a zero.

Speech One (Session 3) ~ Twice during the semester, you will be asked to present informal speeches on different topics. The speeches will judge your ability to formulate thoughts coherently and compose ideas for delivery with clarity and unity. One of the keys to success in oral communication is preparation, which calls for organized thoughts, well-developed ideas, and a workable plan. You will be responsible for an effectively-presented set of thoughts on each topic. This will be the basis for evaluation. The topic for Speech One will be a significant turning point in your life. More information about this speech topic may be found online at

Usage Exam (Session 5) ~ Students will take a multiple choice exam covering a selection of popularly misused and confused words. The list of words to be included on the exam, along with their explanations, can be found online at

Sunflower Assignments (Sessions 13-16) ~ Students will complete short responses to critical issues both in class and for homework. Students will also read, review, and submit evaluations for a selection of articles in the back of The Sunflower. Click here for more information:

Argumentative Essay One (Session 15) ~ Students will submit a 750-word, typed, titled, double-spaced, argumentative essay in response to issues present in either E.B. White’s, George Orwell’s, or William Zinnser’s story. Topics and specifications for this essay may be found online at

Midterm Examination (Session 17) ~ This examination will cover material discussed in the first half of the semester regarding the research process. Regular attendance and attention will help students prepare for the midterm.

Speech Two (Session 19) ~ This speech will take the form of a Research Proposal. Students will identify the following five elements: 1) the narrowed focus of this paper (which must be reduced from a broad field of interest), 2) the debatable issue being investigated, 3) the argumentative thesis being proposed, 4) at least three secondary sources being used in the research, and (5) one source that offers a credible counter-argument.

Argumentative Essay Two (Session 21) ~ Students will submit a 750-word, typed, titled, double-spaced, argumentative essay in response to Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower. Topics and specifications for this essay may be found online at

Grammar Examination (Session 25) ~ After discussion and exercises are completed, some key problem areas of grammatical structure and usage will be revisited. This exam will mirror the topics covered in class. Students who ask questions when they arise and who perform well on grammar exercises in class should be successful on the exam.

Argumentative Research Paper (Session 25) ~ Students will submit a scholarly argumentative research paper of at least 1250 words (typed, double-spaced) with a minimum of five relevant secondary sources. Sample topics and specifications may be found online at

Formal Letter (Session 28) ~ According to a style provided, students will write a formal letter to their most influential teacher, coach, cleric, employer, relative or friend. Include what the individual did for you, why you appreciate it, and in what ways it has affected you. (Students are encouraged to send the letters, and I would appreciate hearing from you later if you receive feedback.) (

Final Examination (Session TBA) ~ During finals week, students will take one final in-class argumentative examination covering issues present in Elizabeth Whelan’s story “Perils of Prohibition.”


Scheduled Assignments

Point Value

Learning Objective

Due Dates

All Quizzes


3, 6


Speech One




Usage Exam


1, 4


Essay One


1, 2, 3, 4


Sunflower Assignments


1, 2, 3


Midterm Examination


1, 2, 3


Speech Two




Essay Two


1, 2, 3, 4, 6


Grammar Exam


1, 4


Research Paper


1, 2, 5


Formal Letter


1, 2, 3, 4


Final Examination


1, 2, 3, 7

Finals Week TBA

Homework and Participation










G. DAILY CLASS SCHEDULE: All readings, exercises, and assignments listed in a particular session must be completed before coming to class for that session. Chapter and page numbers refer to the DK Handbook. Boldface homework items are to be completed before class. Note: This class meets in a classroom on Tuesdays and a computer lab on Thursdays; be certain to bring some media device every Thursday to save work done in class.

SESSION 1: Thur, 8-29
Course Introduction—Distribution of syllabus and discussion of assignments and expectations

SESSION 2: Tue (LAB), 9-3
QUIZ on E.B. White, “Once More to the Lake” (Attached to syllabus)
Discussion of topics for Essay One: Returning to a place (Good/Bad/Past/Future)

SESSION 3: Thur, 9-5
SPEECH ONE—a turning point in your life (2-3 minutes)

SESSION 4: Tue (LAB), 9-10
QUIZ on George Orwell, “A Hanging” (Attached to syllabus)
Discussion of topics for Essay One: Group dynamics (Good/Bad/Conformity/Rebellion)

SESSION 5: Thur, 9-12
USAGE EXAM—covering a selection of troublesome words
Discussion of Argumentative Research Paper
Handbook: Chapters 1-6

SESSION 6: Tue (LAB), 9-17
Handbook: Chapters 1-6 (continued)
SESSION 7: Thur, 9-19
Handbook: Chapters 7-13

SESSION 8: Tue (LAB), 9-24
QUIZ on William Zinsser, “College Pressures” (Attached to syllabus)
Discussion of topics for Essay One: Pressures (All, Some, One, None)

SESSION 9: Thur, 9-26
Handbook: Chapters 7-13 (continued)

SESSION 10: Tue (LAB), 10-1
Handbook: Chapters 14-18

SESSION 11: Thur, 10-3
Discussion of Essay Revision Process
Essay Titling Exercise (handout)

SESSION 12: Tue (LAB), 10-8
Essay One drafting workshop—review of essay assignment structure, submission and revision guidelines (folders, drafts, log sheets)

SESSION 13: Thur, 10-10
Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower (NOTE: Because of scheduled group exercises, anyone not having read the entire story AND completed typed article reviews as assigned by this date will not be permitted to participate in this class exercise.) Click here to see important information about The Sunflower assignment.

SESSION 14: Tue (LAB), 10-15
Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower

SESSION 15: Thur, 10-17
Click on link for important assignment details
Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower

SESSION 16: Tue (LAB), 10-22
Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower (VIDEO EXCERPT)

SESSION 17: Thur, 10-24
MIDTERM EXAMINATION—covering the research process

SESSION 18: Tue (LAB), 10-29
Handbook: Subordinate conjunctions; Coordination / Subordination (249); Conjunctive adverbs (287); Prepositions (336); Pronoun case; Irregular verbs (299)

SESSION 19: Thur, 10-31
SPEECH TWO—Five-point proposal of Argumentative Research Topic

SESSION 20: Tue (LAB), 11-5
Handbook: “Agreement” (290, 309)
Also, click on and complete Grammar Exercise #1 and Grammar Exercise #2 for today’s class.

SESSION 21: Thur, 11-7
ESSAY TWO DUE—Click on link for important assignment details
Handbook: “Sentence Fragments” (280)
Also, click on and complete Grammar Exercise #3 for today’s class.

SESSION 22: Tue (LAB), 11-12
Handbook: “Comma Use” (340)
Also, click on and complete Grammar Exercise #4 for today’s class.

SESSION 23: Thur, 11-14
Handbook: “Comma Splices and Run-On Sentences” (285)
Also, click on and complete Grammar Exercise #5 for today’s class.

SESSION 24: Tue (LAB), 11-19
Handbook: “Semi-colon, Colon, Apostrophe, and Quotation Marks” (352)
Also, click on and complete Grammar Exercise #6 for today’s class.

SESSION 25: Thur, 11-21
GRAMMAR EXAMINATION—covering elements of grammar discussed in class

SESSION 26: Tue (LAB), 11-26
Writing a Formal Letter
Grammar Exam Review

SESSION 27: Tue (LAB), 12-3
Discussion of Elizabeth M. Whelan, “Perils of Prohibition” (Attached to syllabus)

SESSION 28: Thurs, 12-5
Formal Letter Due
Student conferences as needed

FINAL EXAMINATION—covering issues present in Whelan’s essay



Usage Examination (

Students will take an objective exam covering a selection of popularly misused and confused words. The words to be included on the exam are listed below and students can find assistance with the usage rules by clicking on the word-group. The information is provided on the website of Professor Paul Brians of Washington State University ( The few words in boldface are completely incorrect structures and should never be used.

1.      accept / except
2.      adapt / adopt
3.      advice / advise
4.      affect / effect
5.      already / all ready
6.      allude / elude
7.      allusion / illusion
8.      alright / all right
9.      ambiguous / ambivalent
10.  assure / ensure / insure
11.  beside / besides
12.  breath / breathe
13.  capital / capitol
14.  cite / site / sight
15.  close / clothes
16.  coarse / course
17.  complement / compliment
18.  continual / continuous
19.  could of / could have
20.  council / counsel
21.  desert / dessert
22.  device / devise
23.  drank / drunk
24.  dyeing / dying
25.  elicit / illicit
26.  emigrate / immigrate
27.  eminent / imminent
28.  empathy / sympathy
29.  envious / jealous
30.  epigram / epigraph / epitaph / epithet
31.  faze / phase
32.  good / well
33.  hanged / hung
34.  hear / here
35.  imply / infer
36.  interment / internment
37.  lay / lie
38.  lead / led
39.  lose / loose
40.  passed / past
41.  personal / personnel
42.  precede / proceed
43.  principal / principle
44.  stationary / stationery
45.  they’re / their / there
46.  though / thought / through
47.  to / too / two
48.  use to / used to
49.  weather / whether
50.  were / where


The Sunflower: Assigned Author Commentaries

Each student is responsible for reading and evaluating FIVE authors’ commentaries included in the back of The Sunflower. Students must begin with the one assigned to them below (according to their playing card), then they may select any other four authors in the book. The five assigned commentaries, as well as the entire novel, are to be read completely by the first date assigned on the syllabus (Session 13). Note: It is strongly suggested that you read The Sunflower first before any of the commentaries to ensure that your initial opinions of Simon’s experiences are your own. The views of the other authors may influence your thoughts, so it is necessary that you draw your own conclusions before considering others’ ideas.

 Along with the reading of the five commentaries, students are expected to read the brief biographical information for their authors found at the very back of the book. Students are then asked to type up and submit all of the following information for each of their five authors:


·        Identify any relevant information pertaining to each author’s religion, gender, age, nationality, and/or race (based on what is explicitly stated or what you can infer).

·        Identify any relevant information regarding each author’s career or life’s work.

·        Identify other information provided that may connect each author in some way to the issues of the novel (i.e., genocide, prejudice, sociology, psychology, education, theology, etc.)

·        If any or all of the above information is not available in the back of the book, go online and “Google” each author by full name (in quotation marks) to see what similar information is available.

·        Return to each of the authors’ commentaries and underline the complete thesis statement of each essay. It may be a single sentence or many. It may comprise the first few sentences of the commentary, may be found at the end of an introductory paragraph, or may not occur until the very end of the entire commentary.

·        Identify and number all major points of support used by each author throughout their commentaries. These points must be clearly identified and distinct from all others. Do not renumber points which are repetitions of previously mentioned information. All distinct evidence or reasons should receive a separate number.

·        Finally, for each author’s commentary, write a 75-word evaluation in which you claim its effectiveness or ineffectiveness as an argumentative essay. You must justify your evaluation based on similar criteria of effective writing used to prepare your own essays (as in the first three sections of the essay feedback sheet online).

After you have completed the tasks below, feel free to supplement your viewpoint by reading as many of the authors as you’d like, though the assignment only calls for the reading of five. The more you read, the greater perspective you will gain in preparation for Essay Two.

Assigned Author Commentaries for The Sunflower: (read the one assigned below and any four others of your choosing) MU



Sven Alkalaj



Jean Amery



Smail Balic



Arthur Waskow



Alan L. Berger



Robert McAfee Brown



Harry James Cargas



Desmond Tutu



The Dalai Lama



Eugene J. Fisher



Edward H. Flannery



Eva Fleischner



Matthew Fox



Rebecca Goldstein



Mary Gordon



Mark Goulden



Hans Habe



Yossi Klein Halevi



Arthur Hertzberg



Theodore M. Hesburgh



Abraham Joshua Heschel



Susannah Heschel



Jose Hobday



Deborah E. Lipstadt



Primo Levi



Harry Wu



Albert Speer



Dith Pran



Lawrence L. Langer



Franklin H. Littell


    Martin Marty


    John Pawlikowski


    Dennis Prager


Argumentative Research Paper

Students will produce a scholarly research paper of at least 1250 words with a minimum of five relevant secondary sources. These sources must be documented according to the Modern Language Association style for citing information. Sample argumentative research topics are available by clicking here. Topics must be restricted enough to be accomplished in five to six pages. Be sure to check out the following helpful sites:

Common Pitfalls of the Research Process
Purdue’s Online Writing Lab
Independent research schedules for students who need/want more formal deadlines

The submitted research paper should be organized as follows:

  • Cover page must include your name, instructor’s name, course, word count, date of submission, and argumentative title
  • Signed Honor Policy—click here to access and print
  • Outline (optional)
  • Text of the research paper shall be between 1250 and 1500 words, typed and double-spaced
  • Works cited page—See the Handbook for current samples of MLA Works Cited pages.
  • Feedback Sheet—click here to access and print

Appendix: Students must submit photocopies of all pages of secondary sources from which citations were taken (whether quoted directly or paraphrased). Students are NOT to include all pages from all sources; rather, they must photocopy or print only the pages from which information was borrowed directly or indirectly and highlight the borrowed information on the photocopy. If the name of the source and original page number are not present on the photocopied page, these must be written into the margin where appropriate. The Appendix should be submitted as a separate packet (stapled and identified by name) since it may prove too thick to staple with the research paper.

Essay Formatting:

  • Margins: One-inch margins on all pages except cover page.
  • Font style: Times Roman or Courier only.
  • Font size: 12 pt. font size only.
  • Page Numbering: All pages numbered in upper right corner
  • Binding: Staple paper together in upper left corner. NO PAPER CLIPS OR FOLDERS OF ANY KIND WILL BE ACCEPTED.

REDUNDANT ELECTRONIC SUBMISSION: You are also to submit your paper electronically, either via e-mail (as a suitable file attachment) or on a flash drive. Electronic files must be submitted in class the same day as the paper version is submitted (session 25, see syllabus for date). E-mail submissions must be received no later than 8:00pm the evening BEFORE the paper is due. If you do not receive a reply to your e-mailed submission, it was never received and must be submitted in class as described above.

Research Paper Evaluation Procedures: See the online rubric for more information.

  • 25 % for Content of Essay (including an established and narrowed thesis, well-developed examples, use of academic English, and unity and coherence)
  • 25% for External Organization (including typing, expected length, page ordering, and the overall appearance of presentation)
  • 25% for Diction and Mechanics (including usage, grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence construction)
  • 25% for Research and MLA Documentation (including use of at least five credible secondary sources, attachment of photocopied sources with all citations highlighted, correct and effective assimilation of source material into research, concession and rebuttal of opinions, and the application of "3-to-1" ratio, in-text / long citations and Works Cited / Bibliography pages)


E.B. White
Once More to the Lake (1941)

One summer, along about 1904, my father rented a camp on a lake in Maine and took us all there for the month of August. We all got ringworm from some kittens and had to rub Pond’s Extract on our arms and legs night and morning, and my father rolled over in a canoe with all his clothes on; but outside of that the vacation was a success and from then on none of us ever thought there was any place in the world like that lake in Maine. We returned summer after summer--always on August 1st for one month. I have since become a salt-water man, but sometimes in summer there are days when the restlessness of the tides and the fearful cold of the sea water and the incessant wind which blows across the afternoon and into the evening make me wish for the placidity of a lake in the woods. A few weeks ago this feeling got so strong I bought myself a couple of bass hooks and a spinner and returned to the lake where we used to go, for a week’s fishing and to revisit old haunts.

I took along my son, who had never had any fresh water up his nose and who had seen lily pads only from train windows. On the journey over to the lake I began to wonder what it would be like. I wondered how time would have marred this unique, this holy spot--the coves and streams, the hills that the sun set behind, the camps and the paths behind the camps. I was sure that the tarred road would have found it out and I wondered in what other ways it would be desolated. It is strange how much you can remember about places like that once you allow your mind to return into the grooves which lead back. You remember one thing, and that suddenly reminds you of another thing. I guess I remembered clearest of all the early mornings, when the lake was cool and motionless, remembered how the bedroom smelled of the lumber it was made of and of the wet woods whose scent entered through the screen. The partitions in the camp were thin and did not extend clear to the top of the rooms, and as I was always the first up I would dress softly so as not to wake the others, and sneak out into the sweet outdoors and start out in the canoe, keeping close along the shore in the long shadows of the pines. I remembered being very careful never to rub my paddle against the gunwale for fear of disturbing the stillness of the cathedral.

The lake had never been what you would call a wild lake. There were cottages sprinkled around the shores, and it was in farming although the shores of the lake were quite heavily wooded. Some of the cottages were owned by nearby farmers, and you would live at the shore and eat your meals at the farmhouse. That’s what our family did. But although it wasn’t wild, it was a fairly large and undisturbed lake and there were places in it which, to a child at least, seemed infinitely remote and primeval.

I was right about the tar: it led to within half a mile of the shore. But when I got back there, with my boy, and we settled into a camp near a farmhouse and into the kind of summertime I had known, I could tell that it was going to be pretty much the same as it had been before--I knew it, lying in bed the first morning, smelling the bedroom, and hearing the boy sneak quietly out and go off along the shore in a boat. I began to sustain the illusion that he was I, and therefore, by simple transposition, that I was my father. This sensation persisted, kept cropping up all the time we were there. It was not an entirely new feeling, but in this setting it grew much stronger. I seemed to be living a dual existence. I would be in the middle of some simple act, I would be picking up a bait box or laying down a table fork, or I would be saying something, and suddenly it would be not I but my father who was saying the words or making the gesture. It gave me a creepy sensation.

We went fishing the first morning. I felt the same damp moss covering the worms in the bait can, and saw the dragonfly alight on the tip of my rod as it hovered a few inches from the surface of the water. It was the arrival of this fly that convinced me beyond any doubt that everything was as it always had been that the years were a mirage and there had been no years. The small waves were the same, chucking the rowboat under the chin as we fished at anchor, and the boat was the same boat, the same color green and the ribs broken in the same places, and under the floor-boards the same freshwater leavings and debris--the dead hellgrammite, the wisps of moss, the rusty discarded fishhook, the dried blood from yesterday’s catch. We stared silently at the tips of our rods, at the dragonflies that came and wells. I lowered the tip of mine into the water, tentatively, pensively dislodging the fly, which darted two feet away, poised, darted two feet back, and came to rest again a little farther up the rod. There had been no years between the ducking of this dragonfly and the other one--the one that was part of memory. I looked at the boy, who was silently watching his fly, and it was my hands that held his rod, my eyes watching. I felt dizzy and didn’t know which rod I was at the end of.

We caught two bass, hauling them in briskly as though they were mackerel, pulling them over the side of the boat in a businesslike manner without any landing net, and stunning them with a blow on the back of the head. When we got back for a swim before lunch, the lake was exactly where we had left it, the same number of inches from the dock, and there was only the merest suggestion of a breeze. This seemed an utterly enchanted sea, this lake you could leave to its own devices for a few hours and come back to, and find that it had not stirred, this constant and trustworthy body of water. In the shallows, the dark, water-soaked sticks and twigs smooth and old, were undulating in clusters on the bottom against the clean ribbed sand, and the track of the mussel was plain. A school of minnows swam by, each minnow with its small, individual shadow, doubling the attendance, so clear and sharp in the sunlight. Some of the other campers were in swimming, along the shore, one of them with a cake of soap, and the water felt thin and clear and insubstantial. Over the years there had been this person with the cake of soap, this cultist, and here he was. There had been no years.

Up to the farmhouse to dinner through the teeming, dusty field, the road under our sneakers was only a two-track road. The middle track was missing, the one with the marks of the hooves and the splotches of dried, flaky manure. There had always been three tracks to choose from in choosing which track to walk in; now the choice was narrowed down to two. For a moment I missed terribly the middle alternative. But the way led past the tennis court, and something about the way it lay there in the sun reassured me; the tape had loosened along the backline, the alleys were green with plantains and other weeds, and the net (installed in June and removed in September) sagged in the dry noon, and the whole place steamed with midday heat and hunger and emptiness. There was a choice of pie for dessert, and one was blueberry and one was apple, and the waitresses were the same country girls, there having been no passage of time, only the illusion of it as in a dropped curtain--the waitresses were still fifteen; their hair had been washed, that was the only difference--they had been to the movies and seen the pretty girls with the clean hair.

Summertime, oh summertime, pattern of life indelible, the fade proof lake, the woods unshatterable, the pasture with the sweet fern and the juniper forever and ever, summer without end; this was the background, and the life along the shore was the design, the cottages with their innocent and tranquil design, their tiny docks with the flagpole and the American flag floating against the white clouds in the blue sky, the little paths over the roots of the trees leading from camp to camp and the paths leading back to the outhouses and the can of lime for sprinkling, and at the souvenir counters at the store the miniature birch-bark canoes and the post cards that showed things looking a little better than they looked. This was the American family at play, escaping the city heat, wondering whether the newcomers at the camp at the head of the cove were “common” or “nice,” wondering whether it was true that the people who drove up for Sunday dinner at the farmhouse were turned away because there wasn’t enough chicken.

It seemed to me, as I kept remembering all this, that those times and those summers had been infinitely precious and worth saving. There had been jollity and peace and goodness. The arriving (at the beginning of August) had been so big a business in itself, at the railway station the farm wagon drawn up, the first smell of the pine-laden air, the first glimpse of the smiling farmer, and the great importance of the trunks and your father’s enormous authority in such matters, and the feel of the wagon under you for the long ten-mile haul, and at the top of the last long hill catching the first view of the lake after eleven months of not seeing this cherished body of water. The shouts and cries of the other campers when they saw you, and the trunks to be unpacked, to give up their rich burden. (Arriving was less exciting nowadays, when you sneaked up in your car and parked it under a tree near the camp and took out the bags and in five minutes it was all over, no fuss, no loud wonderful fuss about trunks.)

Peace and goodness and jollity. The only thing that was wrong now, really, was the sound of the place, an unfamiliar nervous sound of the outboard motors. This was the note that jarred, the one thing that would sometimes break the illusion and set the years moving. In those other summertimes, all motors were inboard; and when they were at a little distance, the noise they made was a sedative, an ingredient of summer sleep. They were one-cylinder and two-cylinder engines, and some were make-and-break and some were jump-spark, but they all made a sleepy sound across the lake. The one-lungers throbbed and fluttered, and the twin-cylinder ones purred and purred and that was a quiet sound too. But now the campers all had outboards. In the daytime, in the hot mornings, these motors made a petulant, irritable sound; at night, in the still evening when the afterglow lit the water, they whined about one’s ears like mosquitoes. My boy loved our rented outboard, and his great desire was to achieve single-handed mastery over it, and authority, and he soon learned the trick of choking it a little (but not too much), and the adjustment of the needle valve. Watching him I would remember the things you could do with the old one-cylinder engine with the heavy flywheel, how you could have it eating out of your hand if you got really close to it spiritually. Motor boats in those days didn’t have clutches, and you would make a landing by shutting off the motor at the proper time and coasting in with a dead rudder. But there was a way of reversing them, if you learned the trick, by cutting the switch and putting it on again exactly on the final dying revolution of the flywheel, so that it would kick back against compression and begin reversing. Approaching a dock in a strong following breeze, it was difficult to slow up sufficiently by the ordinary coasting method, and if a boy felt he had complete mastery over his motor, he was tempted to keep it running beyond its time and then reverse it a few feet from the dock. It took a cool nerve, because if you threw the switch a twentieth of a second too soon you would catch the flywheel when it still had speed enough to go up past center, and the boat would leap ahead, charging bull-fashion at the dock.

We had a good week at the camp. The bass were biting well and the sun shone endlessly, day after day. We would be tired at night and lie down in the accumulated heat of the little bedrooms after the long hot day and the breeze would stir almost imperceptibly outside and the smell of the swamp drift in through the rusty screens. Sleep would come easily and in the morning the red squirrel would be on the roof, tapping out his gay routine. I kept remembering everything, lying in bed in the mornings--the small steamboat that had a long rounded stern like the lip of a Ubangi, and how quietly she ran on the moonlight sails, when the older boys played their mandolins and the girls sang and we ate doughnuts dipped in sugar, and how sweet the music was on the water in the shining night, and what it had felt like to think about girls then. After breakfast we would go up to the store and the things were in the same place--the minnows in a bottle, the plugs and spinners disarranged and pawed over by the youngsters from the boys’ camp, the fig newtons and the Beeman’s gum. Outside, the road was tarred and cars stood in front of the store. Inside, all was just as it had always been, except there was more Coca Cola and not so much Moxie and root beer and birch beer and sarsaparilla. We would walk out with a bottle of pop apiece and sometimes the pop would backfire up our noses and hurt. We explored the streams, quietly, where the turtles slid off the sunny logs and dug their way into the soft bottom; and we lay on the town wharf and fed worms to the tame bass. Everywhere we went I had trouble making out which was I, the one walking at my side, the one walking in my pants.

One afternoon while we were there at that lake a thunderstorm came up. It was like the revival of an old melodrama that I had seen long ago with childish awe. The second-act climax of the drama of the electrical disturbance over a lake in America had not changed in any important respect. This was the big scene, still the big scene. The whole thing was so familiar, the first feeling of oppression and heat and a general air around camp of not wanting to go very far away. In mid-afternoon (it was all the same) a curious darkening of the sky, and a lull in everything that had made life tick; and then the way the boats suddenly swung the other way at their moorings with the coming of a breeze out of the new quarter, and the premonitory rumble. Then the kettle drum, then the snare, then the bass drum and cymbals, then crackling light against the dark, and the gods grinning and licking their chops in the hills. Afterward the calm, the rain steadily rustling in the calm lake, the return of light and hope and spirits, and the campers running out in joy and relief to go swimming in the rain, their bright cries perpetuating the deathless joke about how they were getting simply drenched, and the children screaming with delight at the new sensation of bathing in the rain, and the joke about getting drenched linking the generations in a strong indestructible chain. And the comedian who waded in carrying an umbrella.

When the others went swimming my son said he was going in too. He pulled his dripping trunks from the line where they had hung all through the shower, and wrung them out. Languidly, and with no thought of going in, I watched him, his hard little body, skinny and bare, saw him wince slightly as he pulled up around his vitals the small, soggy, icy garment. As he buckled the swollen belt suddenly my groin felt the chill of death.

George Orwell
A Hanging (1931)

It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two.

One prisoner had been brought out of his cell. He was a Hindu, a puny wisp of a man, with a shaven head and vague liquid eyes. He had a thick, sprouting moustache, absurdly too big for his body, rather like the moustache of a comic man on the films. Six tall Indian warders were guarding him and getting him ready for the gallows. Two of them stood by with rifles and fixed bayonets, while the others handcuffed him, passed a chain through his handcuffs and fixed it to their belts, and lashed his arms tight to his sides. They crowded very close about him, with their hands always on him in a careful, caressing grip, as though all the while feeling him to make sure he was there. It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water. But he stood quite unresisting, yielding his arms limply to the ropes, as though he hardly noticed what was happening.

Eight o’clock struck and a bugle call, desolately thin in the wet air, floated from the distant barracks. The superintendent of the jail, who was standing apart from the rest of us, moodily prodding the gravel with his stick, raised his head at the sound. He was an army doctor, with a grey toothbrush moustache and a gruff voice. ‘For God’s sake hurry up, Francis,’ he said irritably. ‘The man ought to have been dead by this time. Aren’t you ready yet?’

Francis, the head jailer, a fat Dravidian in a white drill suit and gold spectacles, waved his black hand. ‘Yes sir, yes sir,’ he bubbled. ‘All iss satisfactorily prepared. The hangman iss waiting. We shall proceed.’

‘Well, quick march, then. The prisoners can’t get their breakfast till this job’s over.’

We set out for the gallows. Two warders marched on either side of the prisoner, with their rifles at the slope; two others marched close against him, gripping him by arm and shoulder, as though at once pushing and supporting him. The rest of us, magistrates and the like, followed behind. Suddenly, when we had gone ten yards, the procession stopped short without any order or warning. A dreadful thing had happened – a dog, come goodness knows whence, had appeared in the yard. It came bounding among us with a loud volley of barks, and leapt round us wagging its whole body, wild with glee at finding so many human beings together. It was a large woolly dog, half Airedale, half pariah. For a moment it pranced round us, and then, before anyone could stop it, it had made a dash for the prisoner, and jumping up tried to lick his face. Everyone stood aghast, too taken aback even to grab at the dog.

‘Who let that bloody brute in here?’ said the superintendent angrily. ‘Catch it, someone!’

A warder, detached from the escort, charged clumsily after the dog, but it danced and gambolled just out of his reach, taking everything as part of the game. A young Eurasian jailer picked up a handful of gravel and tried to stone the dog away, but it dodged the stones and came after us again. Its yaps echoed from the jail wails. The prisoner, in the grasp of the two warders, looked on incuriously, as though this was another formality of the hanging. It was several minutes before someone managed to catch the dog. Then we put my handkerchief through its collar and moved off once more, with the dog still straining and whimpering.

It was about forty yards to the gallows. I watched the bare brown back of the prisoner marching in front of me. He walked clumsily with his bound arms, but quite steadily, with that bobbing gait of the Indian who never straightens his knees. At each step his muscles slid neatly into place, the lock of hair on his scalp danced up and down, his feet printed themselves on the wet gravel. And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working – bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming – all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned – reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.

The gallows stood in a small yard, separate from the main grounds of the prison, and overgrown with tall prickly weeds. It was a brick erection like three sides of a shed, with planking on top, and above that two beams and a crossbar with the rope dangling. The hangman, a grey-haired convict in the white uniform of the prison, was waiting beside his machine. He greeted us with a servile crouch as we entered. At a word from Francis the two warders, gripping the prisoner more closely than ever, half led, half pushed him to the gallows and helped him clumsily up the ladder. Then the hangman climbed up and fixed the rope round the prisoner’s neck.

We stood waiting, five yards away. The warders had formed in a rough circle round the gallows. And then, when the noose was fixed, the prisoner began crying out on his god. It was a high, reiterated cry of ‘Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram!’, not urgent and fearful like a prayer or a cry for help, but steady, rhythmical, almost like the tolling of a bell. The dog answered the sound with a whine. The hangman, still standing on the gallows, produced a small cotton bag like a flour bag and drew it down over the prisoner’s face. But the sound, muffled by the cloth, still persisted, over and over again: ‘Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram!’

The hangman climbed down and stood ready, holding the lever. Minutes seemed to pass. The steady, muffled crying from the prisoner went on and on, ‘Ram! Ram! Ram!’ never faltering for an instant. The superintendent, his head on his chest, was slowly poking the ground with his stick; perhaps he was counting the cries, allowing the prisoner a fixed number – fifty, perhaps, or a hundred. Everyone had changed colour. The Indians had gone grey like bad coffee, and one or two of the bayonets were wavering. We looked at the lashed, hooded man on the drop, and listened to his cries – each cry another second of life; the same thought was in all our minds: oh, kill him quickly, get it over, stop that abominable noise!

Suddenly the superintendent made up his mind. Throwing up his .head he made a swift motion with his stick. ‘Chalo!’ he shouted almost fiercely.

There was a clanking noise, and then dead silence. The prisoner had vanished, and the rope was twisting on itself. I let go of the dog, and it galloped immediately to the back of the gallows; but when it got there it stopped short, barked, and then retreated into a corner of the yard, where it stood among the weeds, looking timorously out at us. We went round the gallows to inspect the prisoner’s body. He was dangling with his toes pointed straight downwards, very slowly revolving, as dead as a stone.

The superintendent reached out with his stick and poked the bare body; it oscillated, slightly. ‘He’s all right,’ said the superintendent. He backed out from under the gallows, and blew out a deep breath. The moody look had gone out of his face quite suddenly. He glanced at his wrist-watch. ‘Eight minutes past eight. Well, that’s all for this morning, thank God.’

The warders unfixed bayonets and marched away. The dog, sobered and conscious of having misbehaved itself, slipped after them. We walked out of the gallows yard, past the condemned cells with their waiting prisoners, into the big central yard of the prison. The convicts, under the command of warders armed with lathis, were already receiving their breakfast. They squatted in long rows, each man holding a tin pannikin, while two warders with buckets marched round ladling out rice; it seemed quite a homely, jolly scene, after the hanging. An enormous relief had come upon us now that the job was done. One felt an impulse to sing, to break into a run, to snigger. All at once everyone began chattering gaily.

The Eurasian boy walking beside me nodded towards the way we had come, with a knowing smile: ‘Do you know, sir, our friend (he meant the dead man), when he heard his appeal had been dismissed, he pissed on the floor of his cell. From fright. – Kindly take one of my cigarettes, sir. Do you not admire my new silver case, sir? From the boxwallah, two rupees eight annas. Classy European style.’

Several people laughed – at what, nobody seemed certain.

Francis was walking by the superintendent, talking garrulously. ‘Well, sir, all hass passed off with the utmost satisfactoriness. It wass all finished – flick! like that. It iss not always so – oah, no! I have known cases where the doctor wass obliged to go beneath the gallows and pull the prisoner’s legs to ensure decease. Most disagreeable!’

‘Wriggling about, eh? That’s bad,’ said the superintendent.

‘Ach, sir, it iss worse when they become refractory! One man, I recall, clung to the bars of hiss cage when we went to take him out. You will scarcely credit, sir, that it took six warders to dislodge him, three pulling at each leg. We reasoned with him. “My dear fellow,” we said, “think of all the pain and trouble you are causing to us!” But no, he would not listen! Ach, he wass very troublesome!’

I found that I was laughing quite loudly. Everyone was laughing. Even the superintendent grinned in a tolerant way. ‘You’d better all come out and have a drink,’ he said quite genially. ‘I’ve got a bottle of whisky in the car. We could do with it.’

We went through the big double gates of the prison, into the road. ‘Pulling at his legs!’ exclaimed a Burmese magistrate suddenly, and burst into a loud chuckling. We all began laughing again. At that moment Francis’s anecdote seemed extraordinarily funny. We all had a drink together, native and European alike, quite amicably. The dead man was a hundred yards away.

William Zinsser

Dear Carlos: I desperately need a dean’s excuse for my chem. midterm, which will begin in about one hour. All I can say is that I totally blew it this week. I’ve fallen incredibly, inconceivably behind.

Carlos: Help! I am anxious to hear from you. I’ll be in my room and won’t leave it until I hear from you. Tomorrow is the last day for…

Carlos: I left town because I started bugging out again. I stayed up all night to finish a take-home make-up exam and am typing it to hand in on the tenth. It was due on the fifth. PS: I’m going to the dentist. Pain is pretty bad.

Carlos: Probably by Friday I’ll be able to get back to my studies. Right now, I’m going to take a long walk. This whole thing has taken a lot out of me.

Carlos: I’m really up the proverbial creek. The problem is I really bombed the history final. Since I need that course for my major I…

Carlos: Here follows a tale of woe. I went home this weekend, had to help my Mom, and caught a fever so didn’t have much time to study. My professor…

Carlos: Aargh! Trouble. Nothing original but everything’s piling up at once. To be brief, my job interview….

Hey Carlos, good news! I’ve got mononucleosis!

Who are these wretched supplicants, scribbling notes so laden with anxiety, seeking such miracles of postponement and balm? They are men and women who belong to Branford College, one of the twelve residential colleges at Yale University, and the messages are just a few of the hundreds they left for their dean, Carlos Hortas - often slipped under his door at 4 a.m. - last year.

But students like the ones who wrote those notes can also be found on campuses from coast to coast - especially in New England and many other private colleges across the country that have high academic standards and highly motivated students. Nobody could doubt that the notes are real. In their urgency and their gallows of humor they are authentic voices of a generation that is panicky to succeed.

My own connection with the message writers is that I am master of Branford College. I live in its Gothic quadrangle and know the students well. (We have 485 of them.) I am privy to their hopes and fears - and also their stereo music and their piercing cries in the dead of night (“Does anybody ca-a-are?”). If they went to Carlos to ask how to get through tomorrow, they come to me to ask how to get through the rest of their lives.

Mainly I try to remind them that the road ahead is a long one and that it will have more unexpected turns that they think. There will be plenty of time to change jobs, change careers, change whole attitudes and approaches. They do not want to hear such liberating news. They want a map - right now - that they can follow unswerving to career security, financial security, social security and, presumably, a prepaid grave.

What I wish for all students is some release from the clammy grip of the future. I wish them a chance to savor each segment of their education as an experience in itself and not as a grim preparation for the next step. I wish them the right to experiment, to trip and fall, to learn that defeat is as instructive as victory.

We are witnessing in America the creation of a brotherhood of paupers - colleges, parents and students, joined by the common bond of debt.

Today it is not unusual for a student, even if he worked part-time at college and full-time during the summer, to accrue $20,000 in loans after four years - loans that he must start to repay within one year after graduation. Exhorted at commencement to go forth into the world, he is already behind as he goes forth. How could he not feel under pressure throughout college to prepare for this day of reckoning? I have used ‘he,’ incidentally, only for brevity. Women at Yale are under no less pressure to justify their expensive education to themselves, their parents, and society. In fact, they are probably under more pressure. For although they leave college superbly equipped to bring fresh leadership to traditionally male jobs, society has not yet caught up with this fact.

Along with economic pressure goes parental pressure. Inevitably, the two are deeply intertwined.

I see many students taking pre-medical courses with joyless tenacity. They go off to their labs as if they were going to the dentist. It saddens me because I know them in other corners of their life as cheerful people.

“Do you want to go to medical school?” I ask them.

“I guess so,” they say, without conviction, or “Not really.”

“Then why are you going?”

“Well, my parents want me to be a doctor. They’re paying all this money and...”

Poor students, poor parents. They are caught in one of the oldest webs of love and duty and guilt. The parents mean well; they are trying to steer their sons and daughters toward a secure future. But, the sons and daughters want to major in history or classics or philosophy - subjects with no ‘practical’ value. Where is the payoff on the humanities? It is not easy to persuade such loving parents that the humanities do, indeed, pay off. The intellectual faculties developed by studying subjects such as history and classics - and ability to synthesize and relate, to weigh the cause and effect, to see events in perspective - are just the faculties that make creative leaders in business or almost any general field. Still, many parents would rather put their money on courses that point toward a specific profession - courses that are pre-law, pre-med., pre-business, or as I sometimes heard it put, ‘pre-rich’.

But, the pressure on students is severe. They are truly torn. One part of them feels obligated to fulfill their parents’ expectations; after all, their parents are older and presumably wiser. Another part tells them that the expectations that are right for their parents are not right for them.

I know a student who wants to be an artist. She is very obviously an artist and will be a good one - she has already had several modest local exhibits. Meanwhile she is growing as a well-rounded person and taking humanistic subjects that will enrich the inner resources out of which her art will grow. But her father is strongly opposed. He thinks that an artist is a ‘dumb’ thing to be. The student vacillates and tries to please everybody. She keeps up with her art somewhat furtively and takes some of the ‘dumb’ courses her father wants her to take - at least that are dumb courses for her. She is a free spirit on a campus of tense students - no small achievement in itself - and she deserves to follow her muse.

Peer pressure and self-induced pressure are also intertwined, and they start almost at the beginning of freshman year.

“I had a freshman student I’ll call Linda,” one dean told me. “Who came in and said she was under terrible pressure because her roommate, Barbara, was much brighter and studied all the time. I couldn’t tell her that Barbara had come in two hours earlier to say the same thing about Linda.”

The story is almost funny - except that it is not. It is symptomatic of all the pressures put together. When every student thinks every other student is working harder and doing better, the only solution is to study harder still. I see students going off to the library every night after dinner and coming back when it closes at midnight. I wish they would sometimes forget about their peers and go to a movie. I hear the clack of typewriters in the hours before dawn. I see the tension in their eyes when exams are approaching and papers are due: “Will I get everything done?”

Probably they will not. They will get sick. They will get ‘blocked’. They will sleep. They will oversleep. They still bug out. Hey Carlos, HELP!

Part of the problem is that they do more than they are expected to. A professor will assign a five-page paper. Several students will start writing ten page papers to impress him. Then more students will write ten page papers, and a few will raise the ante to fifteen. Pity the poor student who is still just doing the assignment.

“Once you have twenty of thirty percent of the student population deliberately overexerting,” one dean points out, “It’s bad for everybody. When a teacher gets more and more effort from his class, the student who is doing normal work can be perceived as not doing well. The tactic works, psychologically.”

Why can’t the professor just cut back and not accept longer paper? He can, and he probably will. But by then term will be half over and the damage done. Grade fever is highly contagious and not easily reversed. Besides, the professor’s main concern is with his course. He knows his students only in relation to the course and does not know that they are also overexerting in their other courses. Not that it is really his business. He did not sign up for dealing with the students as a whole person and with all the emotional baggage the student brought along from home. That is what deans, masters chaplains, and psychiatrists are for.

To some extent this is nothing new: a certain number of professors have always been self-contained islands of scholarship and shyness, more comfortable with books than with people. But the new pauperism has widened the gap still further, for professors who actually like to spend time with students do not have as much time to spend. They are also overexerting. If they are young, they are busy trying to publish in order not to perish, hanging by their fingernails onto a shrinking profession. If they are old and tenured, they are buried under the duties of administering departments - as departmental chairmen or members of committees - which have been thinned out by the budgetary ax.

Ultimately, it will be the students’ own business to break the circles in which they are trapped. They are too young to be prisoners of their parents’ dreams and their classmates’ fears. They must be jolted into believing in themselves as unique men and women who have the power to shape their own future.

“Violence is being done to the undergraduate experience,” says Carlos Horta. “College should be open-ended; at the end it should open many, many roads. Instead, students are choosing their goal in advance, and their choices narrow as they go along.”

It is almost as if they think that the country has been codified in the types of jobs that exist - that they have got to fit into certain slots. Therefore, fit into the best paying slots.

“They ought to take chances. Not taking chances will lead to a life of colorless mediocrity. They’ll be comfortable. But something in the spirit will be missing.”

I have painted too drab a portrait of today’s students, making them seem a solemn lot. That is only half of their story: If they were so dreary, I would not so thoroughly enjoy their company. The other half is that they are easy to like. They are quick to laugh and offer friendship. They are not introverts. They are usually kind and are more considerate of one another that any student generation I have known. Nor are they so obsessed with their studies that they avoid sports and extra-curricular activities. On the contrary, they juggle their crowded hours to play on a variety of teams, perform with musical and dramatic groups, and write for campus publications. But this in turn is one more cause of anxiety. There are too many choices. Academically, they have 1300 courses to select from: outside class they have to decide how much spare time they can spare and how to spend it.

This means that they engage in fewer extracurricular pursuits than their predecessors did. If they want to row on the crew and play in the symphony they will eliminate one, in the ‘60s they would have done both. They are tending to choose activities that are self-limiting. Drama, for instance, is flourishing in all twelve of Yale’s residential colleges, as it never has before. Students hurl themselves into these productions - as actors, directors, carpenters, and technicians - with a dedication to create the best possible play, knowing the day will come when the run will end and they can get back to their studies.

They also cannot afford to be the willing slaves of organizations like the Yale Daily News. Last spring the one hundredth anniversary banquet of that paper, whose past chairs include such once and future kings as Potter Stewart, Kingman Brewster, and William F. Buckley, Jr. much was made of the fact that the editorial staff used to be small and totally committed and that ‘newsies’ routinely worked fifty hours a week. In effect, they belonged to a club; Newsies is how they defined themselves at Yale. Today’s students will write one or two articles a week, when he or she can, and is defined as a student. I have never heard the word newsie except at the banquet.

If I have described the modern undergraduate primarily as a driven creature who is largely ignoring the blithe spirit inside who keeps trying to come out and play, it is because that is where the crunch is, not only at Yale, but throughout American education. It is why I think we should all be worried about the values that are nurturing a generation so fearful of risk and so goal-obsessed at such an early age. I tell students that there is no one ‘right’ way to get ahead - that each of them is a different person, starting from a different point and bound for a different destination. I tell them that change is a tonic and that all the slots are not codified nor the frontiers closed. One of my ways of telling them is to invite men and women who have achieved success outside the academic world to come and talk informally with my students during the year. They are the heads of companies or ad agencies, editors of magazines, politicians, public officials, television magnates, labor leaders, business executives, Broadway producers, artists, writers, economists, photographers, scientists, historians - a mixed bag of achievers.

I ask them to say a few words about how they got started. The students assume that they started in their present profession and knew all along that it was what they wanted to do. Luckily for me, most of them got into their field by a circuitous route, to their surprise, after many detours. The students are startled. They can hardly conceive of a career that was not pre-planned. They can hardly imagine allowing the hand of God or chance to nudge them down some unforeseen trail.

Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc. D.
Perils of Prohibition

My colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health, where I studied preventive medicine, deserve high praise for their recent study on teenage drinking. What they found in their survey of college students was that they drink “early and...often,” frequently to the point of getting ill.

As a public-health scientist with a daughter, Christine, heading to college this fall, I have professional and personal concerns about teen binge drinking. It is imperative that we explore why so many young people abuse alcohol. From my own study of the effects of alcohol restrictions and my observations of Christine and her friends’ predicament about drinking, I believe that today’s laws are unrealistic. Prohibiting the sale of liquor to responsible young adults creates an atmosphere where binge drinking and alcohol abuse have become a problem. American teens, unlike their European peers, don’t learn how to drink gradually, safely and in moderation.

Alcohol is widely accepted and enjoyed in our culture. Studies show that moderate drinking can be good for you. But we legally proscribe alcohol until the age of 21 (why not 30 or 45?). Christine and her classmates can drive cars, fly planes, marry, vote, pay taxes, take out loans and risk their lives as members of the U.S. armed forces. But laws in all 50 states say that no alcoholic beverages may be sold to anyone until that magic “21” birthday.

In parts of the Western world, moderate drinking by teenagers and even children under their parents’ supervision is a given. Though the per capita consumption of alcohol in France, Spain and Portugal is higher than in the United States, the rate of alcoholism and alcohol abuse is lower. A glass of wine at dinner is normal practice. Kids learn to regard moderate drinking as an enjoyable family activity rather than as something they have to sneak away to do . Banning drinking by young people makes it a badge of adulthood-a tantalizing forbidden fruit.

Christine and her teenage friends like to go out with a group to a club, comedy show or sports bar to watch the game. But teens today have to go on the sly with fake IDs and the fear of getting caught. Otherwise, they’re denied admittance to most places and left to hang out on the street. That’s hardly a safer alternative. Christine and her classmates now find themselves in a legal no man’s land. At 18, they’re considered adults. Yet when they want to enjoy a drink like other adults, they are, as they put it, “disenfranchised.”

Comparing my daughter’s dilemma with my own as an “underage” college student, I see a difference--and one that I think has exacerbated the current dilemma. Today’s teens are far more sophisticated than we were. They’re treated less like children and have more responsibilities than we did. This makes the 21 restriction seem anachronistic.

We should make access to alcohol legal at 18. At the same time, we should come down much harder on alcohol abusers and drunk drivers of all ages. We should intensify our efforts at alcohol education for adolescents. We want them to understand that it is perfectly OK not to drink. But if they do, alcohol should be consumed in moderation.

After all, we choose to teach our children about safe sex, including the benefits of teen abstinence. Why, then, can’t we--schools and parents alike--teach them about safe drinking?


Essay One Topic Workshop  (ZINNSER)                 NAME__________________________________

Directions: Fill in the spaces with information for each potential essay topic. Use actual experiences whenever possible. Remember that the key to a strong argumentative essay is to propose a specific topic (A) and provide support that is sufficient, adequate, representative and relevant. Try to develop three different “reasons” (B-D) to support each argumentative statement. The more blanks you can complete, the better the chance that your eventual essay will be strong and well-written.



1. My high school (A) did not adequately prepare me for college because (B) I became accustomed to others reminding me about assignments, (C) I never appreciated how important extra curricular activities would be, and (D) I was not given the opportunity to take college-prep courses which would’ve given me a jump on my first semester courses.


PREPARATION: (consider high school, home school, prep school, other college experience, etc.)

1. I believe _________________ has prepared me for college because __________________________










2. I believe _________________ has not prepared me for college because ______________________










PRESSURES: (for either option below, try to focus on three pressures to allow for a 3-part essay)

3. I do suffer from peer / parental / economic / self-induced pressure because ____________________










4. I do not suffer from peer / parental / economic / self-induced pressure because _________________










Essay One Topic Workshop  (ORWELL)                  NAME__________________________________

Directions: As with the previous exercise, fill in the spaces with information for each potential essay topic. Use actual experiences whenever possible. Remember that the key to a strong argumentative essay is to propose a specific topic (A) and provide support that is sufficient, adequate, representative and relevant. Try to develop three different “reasons” (B-D) to support each argumentative statement. The more blanks you can complete, the better the chance that your eventual essay will be strong and well-written.



1. I’m glad I chose to go along with (A) my cousins on their last-minute road trip to the shore because (B) it gave me one more chance to relax before the new semester, (C) I was able to rekindle a relationship with an old girlfriend, and (D) I proved to my friends that I was dependable when it came to making plans for the group.

CONFORMITY: Past and Present

1. I’m glad I chose to go along with ________________ because ______________________________










2. I wish hadn’t gone along with _________________ because ________________________________










3. I think I will go along with ________________ because ___________________________________










4. I probably will not go along with ________________ because ______________________________










REBELLION: Past and Present

5. I’m glad I went against ________________ because ______________________________________










6. I wish hadn’t gone against _________________ because __________________________________










7. I think I will go against________________ because ______________________________________










8. I probably will not go against ________________ because _________________________________










Essay One Topic Workshop  (WHITE)                     NAME__________________________________

Directions: Fill in the spaces with information for each potential essay topic. Use actual experiences whenever possible. Remember that the key to a strong argumentative essay is to propose a specific topic (A) and provide support that is sufficient, adequate, representative and relevant. Try to develop three different “reasons” (B-D) to support each argumentative statement. The more blanks you can complete, the better the chance that your eventual essay will be strong and well-written.



1. I’m glad I returned to (A) visit my high school teachers because (B) I was able to tell them of my recent 


academic achievements, (C) I was fortunate to run into other old friends who were happy to see me, and


(D) I was asked by the Principal to speak briefly to incoming freshmen about my first year at college.


PLACE: Past and Present

1. I’m glad I returned to ________________ because _______________________________________








2. I wish hadn’t returned to _________________ because ____________________________________








3. I think I will return to ________________ because _______________________________________








4. I probably will not return to ________________ because __________________________________








PERSON: Past and Present

5. I’m glad I contacted ________________ because ________________________________________








6. I wish hadn’t contacted _________________ because _____________________________________








7. I think I will contact ________________ because ________________________________________








8. I probably will not contact ________________ because ___________________________________








EVENT or ACTIVITY: Past and Present

9. I’m glad I decided to ________________ because _______________________________________








10. I wish hadn’t decided to _________________ because ___________________________________








11. I think I’ve decided to ________________ because ______________________________________








12. I’ve decided not to ________________ because ________________________________________