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Edit my second round GRE practice essays please please please!


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Issue Prompt: The luxuries and conveniences of contemporary life prevent people from developing into truly strong and independent individuals.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


Issue Essay: In Anna Karenina, the philosophically driven Levin toils in the fields for months, living an ascetic life with his peasant field hands in order to understand the nature of hard work and sacrifice. Meanwhile, his peers in Moscow live the enjoyable, luxurious life of socialites, and become corrupted by greed and moral debasement. Tolstoy’s grand treatise on the nature of love and life underscores the idea that luxury and convenience makes people physically and emotionally weak, while physical labor strengthens the body and independent spirit. However, the luxuries and conveniences of modern life have had the opposite effect. Modern conveniences have allowed people to become more independent by furnishing increased opportunities for educational advancement and the use of services to satisfy basic human needs, freeing individuals to pursue their goals, work hard to achieve a luxurious lifestyle, and focus on strength and self improvement.


Modern luxuries and conveniences have allowed individuals to invest in education and the pursuit of thought. Education allows individuals to exercise more independence, by permitting them to forge independent ideals and beliefs through informed decision making. Higher educational attainment frees individuals to develop character as well as to gain social standing by expanding the level of opportunity available. As a result, education is a luxury that allows knowledge seekers to advance in society as well as to care for themselves economically, leading to financial independence. This advancement is especially salient for young women, who have leveraged the opportunity to gain an education to become independent in society—a level of social status previously reserved almost exclusively for men in a society where women were precluded from educational opportunities and the ability to manage their own assets.


Furthermore, the expansion of the service sector has permitted individuals to spend less time on menial tasks such as laundry and cleaning, and more time on the pursuit of moral and physically strengthening activities. Spending less time on basic labor frees time for cultural and social activities that cultivate the mind and strengthen the spirit, such as attending the opera or fostering interpersonal relationships through books clubs and community events. This has a similar impact on physical strength. In the absence of maintaining a completely self sufficient household, individuals can now purchase gym memberships and engage in group exercise classes to strengthen the body. Practices such as yoga and Pilates strive to strengthen both the body and the mind. Rather than farm for food, people now go to the supermarket; rather than raise their own livestock, people eat vegetarian or visit a butcher; washboards of old have been replaced with Laundromats. Modern conveniences allow people to focus on becoming independent thinkers and doers, innovating, and strengthening the mind and body through cultural and physical exercises.


The emergence of the greatest convenience of all—technology—stymies this argument. Detractors of the cell phone and personal computer contend that these devices have made us more dependent on the luxuries of daily life than ever, and that rather than increase social strength through constant communication, these innovations weaken human ability to build interpersonal relationships face to face. Others adhere to Tolstoy’s argument that hard physical labor and a life bare of luxury is the only way to maintain spiritual independence and physical integrity. This idea contributes to the persistent ideal of the farmer as virtuous and wholesome, or working middle class as the heart of America. Yet despite these arguments, the gains made by modern conveniences in terms of time for independent pursuits reduce this argument to mere rhetoric.


The luxuries and conveniences of modern life have expanded the human capacity for independent educational, social, cultural, and physical pursuit, allowing individuals to strengthen the mind and body through the freedom allotted by time for personal growth.


Argument Prompt: 

According to a recent report, cheating among college and university students is on the rise. However, Groveton College has successfully reduced student cheating by adopting an honor code, which calls for students to agree not to cheat in their academic endeavors and to notify a faculty member if they suspect that others have cheated. Groveton's honor code replaced a system in which teachers closely monitored students; under that system, teachers reported an average of thirty cases of cheating per year. In the first year the honor code was in place, students reported twenty-one cases of cheating; five years later, this figure had dropped to fourteen. Moreover, in a recent survey, a majority of Groveton students said that they would be less likely to cheat with an honor code in place than without. Thus, all colleges and universities should adopt honor codes similar to Groveton's in order to decrease cheating among students.

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.


Argument Essay: 


The argument that all colleges and universities should adopt honor codes similar to Grovetons in order to decrease instances of cheating among students hinges on several begs several questions. In order to evaluate this lofty claim, it is necessary to understand the demographic and nature of Groveton students compared to other students in the nation, how the honor code has been enforced and how students and teachers have reacted to it, what penalties are in place for students that are caught cheating and how these penalties have changed over time, and what constitutes a majority for the purposes of the survey of Groveton students.


Firstly, this argument necessitates an investigation of the student body at Groveton compared to student bodies in other schools. This claim suggests that the Groveton honor code program should be applied to all colleges and universities, but it is likely that the demographics and nature of students at these schools differs vastly from Groveton. The honor code program at Groveton may have been more successful because Groveton students happen to have higher integrity than students at other universities. Perhaps it is more socioeconomically and ethnically diverse, which may impact how the honor code system functions. On the other hand, perhaps Groveton students have colluded to cheat the honor code system by deciding to ignore it, leading students to report less cheating with each passing year due to an implicit agreement between students not to blow the whistle on their classmates. Other universities may have different student populations, that would react differently to an honor code like the one applied at Groveton College. Therefore, it is a gross overstatement to imply that because a program worked at one school, it will de facto work at another school with very different student types and a different student body. Knowing how students react to the honor code system, and what types of students comprise a student body, will allow program managers to better assess how the program could apply to or be adapted for different schools, and to parse out the extent to which the program has actually been successful, as opposed to the extent to which students have worked together to protect each other.


Additionally, it is important to know the size of Groveton College in order to assess if the honor code has actually driven lower levels of student cheating. Small class sizes may actually allow teachers to catch cheating more easily, rendering the honor code system less effective. However, if class sizes are large, the honor code system would be more likely to work because teachers cannot possibly monitor every individual student while proctoring. Knowing the class size would inform the application of this program to other schools, and may suggest the use of teaching assistants or additional proctors to monitor students. Understanding the punishments utilized by each school in order to limit cheating also serves to inform this claim, and question the extent to which the honor system has been successful. Have the changes in cheating levels at Groveton College been because of the honor code, or an increase in severity of punishments for cheaters, which might dissuade students from cheating? Do other schools have punishments so severe as to render the honor code obsolete? Knowing the answers to these questions will help to isolate the honor code as the variable contributing to a reduction in cheating, and how applicable this model is to different schools.


Logistics also impact the applicability of the claim that the Groveton honor code model should be universally applied to all colleges and universities. The survey taken of students about cheating with an honor code in place as opposed to teacher monitoring cites that a majority of students would be less likely to cheat with an honor code, but this begs the question—what constitutes a majority? Without knowing survey metrics, how the questions were asked, who was asked and what the sample size was, and generally how the survey was done, it is difficult to apply survey results empirically to programs at other schools. Survey design may have been Groveton specific, meaning that results may indeed not be universally applicable. Furthermore, knowing what the Groveton honor code includes will inform which elements should be exported to other schools, if at all. If this honor code is specific to Groveton policies and students, it may not be exportable at all, and other schools should not anticipate that it will be successful on their campus because it was successful at Groveton.


Finally, this claim exposes a major flaw insofar as teachers reported 30 students cheating, but students reported less. The difference between replying on student and teacher reports introduces variability into the argument, because students and teachers may have different metrics for reporting. This may confound results, which makes the data unreliable. In order to improve upon this, teacher and student reports of cheating before and after the introduction of the honor code should be simultaneously collected and compared, so as to maintain consistency and discover if there is a significant difference between student and teacher reporting, and the resultant efficacy of the honor code program.


Without answers to the pressing logistical, survey bias, and design questions discussed above, it would be unwise to apply to Groveton College honor code module blindly to other universities. Interested universities should explore the answers to these questions in order to determine the extent to which the reduction of cheating at Groveton has been to the honor code, possible biases and survey design flaws that might skew the data, and how the honor code could be adapted from the Groveton model to serve the unique needs of their specific college or university.

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