All articles here were timed under exam conditions of 30min. So please excuse the typos, grammaticals, and sometimes convoluted logic.
1. Some believe that students are less well-equipped for college than they used to be. They say that present-day students are inadequately prepared to express themselves in writing or perform tasks that entail quantitative thinking. But they do not realise that college-bound students are trained to think creatively, and use resources, like computers, which did not even exist a generation ago.
Which argument do you find more compelling?
A school of thought believes that students are not as good as they used to be in previous generations. They are unable to match up with their previous generations both in language and logic, and are thus not as prepared for college. Instead, I find the counter-argument, that students are actually more creative than ever before, more logical and compelling, for reasons I will elaborate on.
We live in a defining era--the age of Information, heralded by the birth of the Internet. History has shown that whenever there was a breakthrough in the proliferation and dessimination of information, culture and society would blossom. For example, the invention of the printing press in the 1400s by Johannes Guthenburg resulted in the Renaissance. The Age of Information, where we are now, is no less momentous. With such a wealth of resources at the tips of our students fingers, it is natural that they should be more creative and resourceful than ever before. The Internet, together with the immensely rich content of witty blogs, cutting-edge videos and anthemic music, is testament to this fact.
Secondly, we cannot compare between different generations, and then judge them on subjective skills like thinking and writing. It is true the previous generations seemed to be more prolific and creative, but possibly we are looking into the past with rose-tinted glasses. The Jack-Keroac inspired Beat Generation was a movement in response to the 'hippie' culture, but the main reason there is no equivalent Jack Keroac in our present generation is we do not need one. We have instead, technological whiz-kids and scientists who continually define the new frontiers of science. The quantitative demands of a physicist is more gruelling than ever before. It is difficult to argue that the previous generation of students was possessed of better quantitative thinking skills.
In conclusion, the present generation of students are equally, if not more creative than students of the previous generations. And rightly so, for they have so much more resources and information to tap from, unthinkable only one decade ago. Also, we cannot compare between different generations. Each generation had their own demands, the baby boomers with the social issues, and now, our generation, with technology. Certainly, our present generation are well-equipped to tackle college and life after college.
2. Human nature, no matter how selfless is appears, is selfish. Discuss.
The author asserts that there is no such thing as altruism in human nature, and that we are inherently selfish in everything we do. Human nature is too complex an issue to make such generalisations, but upon deeper analysis, with support from philosophy and neuroscience, I agree with the author.
People tend to struggle with an emptiness in life. Philosophers from the school of thought of Kiekegaard term this inherent emptiness "existential loneliness". Some immerse themselves in a religion, start a family, embark on world adventures, while others seek solace in volunteering. All these are alleged to be manisfestations of the phenomonon of "existential loneliness". When we observe a selfless act, we can trace its roots back to the person struggling to find a meaning in life. His act of volunteering or committing altruism is his way of filling that emotional void.
Doing good and selfless often makes one feel good about himself. Developments in neuroscience has discovered that the act of committing altruism may release certain chemicals into the brain which can get people hooked, much like what romantic love does to the brain. So if you need a rush of high, you can always go out and do something good. These chemical reactions are inherent in us, and we are often unaware of them. Once the scientists have pointed this fact, it becomes clear why people are addicted to altruism.
But how about Mother Theresa? Hasn't she dedicated her whole life to helping the underpriveleged in India, so far away from her safe haven in Ireland? Mother Theresa is invariable a shining example of altruism. But people look no further than the 2nd hand accounts given by what the media wants us to believe. Some scholars who have studied her life have controversially pointed out that she was obsessed with her public image, so much so that she only granted interviews to "cordial" reporters. She made timely public appearances in a show of ultimate devotion to her cause. In short, she knew the world needed a "Mother Theresa" figure, and she boldly set out to claim her role as that aforementioned "Mother Theresa", thus writing herself into world history.
In conclusion, there are lots of basis to claim that human nature, no matter how selfless it appears, are inherently selfish. It is difficult, and understandably so, to break away from how we are wired up in our mind and body. Still, altruism can be considered to be a form of benevolent selfishess, definitely more welcome than the strain of selfishness we normally encounter. Be selfish, and help save the world!
3. The study of history is largely a waste of time because it prevents us from focusing on the challenges of the present.” Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed above. Support your point of view with
reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.
The author asserts that the study of history detracts us from our present problems, and is thus largely an exercise in time wasting. While it is true that our attention and resources should be focused on the problems of now, nevertheless there are much to learn from our history. Therefore, I disagree with the strong stance of the author.
History repeats. Much of history is littered with amazing stories and lessons from which our present society has much to learn. The success of UN stems largely from the failures of the League of Nations. Ronald Reagan, probably aware of the doomed appeasement policy to Adolf Hitler, refused to stand down to the Soviet Union's arms race in the 1980s, ultimately culminating in the arms treaty pact signed between the two superpowers.
On the other hand, politicians who refuse to heed history's lessons too often find themselves walking down the slippery path of failure and doom. Geroge Bush has been forewarned of the problems caused by an invasion of Iraq by Vietnam war veterans who knew better. Despite international condemnation and warnings of another Vietnam in the making, he went ahead, and got the US stuck in a largely unsuccessful and costly operation. Ethnic cleansing in history have always been shown to be a disastrous policy, yet in our modern society, we are still forced to witness the horrors of mass slaughter based on racial prejudice from Serbia to Rwanda.
In conclusion, the study of history is still largely relevant in our modern world. A leader who is astute and wise would do well to listen to history lessons and forge policies with history in mind. Otherwise he risks committing the mistakes of his forefathers. For the sake of progress, history is still an important part of our modern world.