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Topic 4

Consider this statement:

In a free society, individuals must be allowed to do as they choose.

Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which individuals in a free society should not be allowed to do as they choose. Discuss what you think determines when a free society is justified in restricting an individual's actions.

Essay XI Essay XII


Essay XI (Score = 5)

The social and political ideals that have shaped society since the founding of the country make it almost inevitable that in a democratic society, a "free" society, and formation of personal identity would hinge upon the individual's right to self-determination. In America, for example, the "self-made" person receives the highest praise, and the romantic notion still exists that anyone in America can become anything -- that not even the Presidency is out of reach for the humblest and least well-off of us.

The lessons of history -- slavery, economic hardship, and tendency for power to concentrate within select groups blessed by accidents of birth to occupy positions of political leadership or financial control -- teach us that the ideal of an equal society blind to social station is often more a dream than a reality. But even so, there is something undeniably sacred about the individual's right to do as he or she choses, an idea that shares the same root as "all people are created equal," although in a much more personal context. We as a country might not be able to offer the worst off of us the guarantee of a better life, but we cannot deny them the freedom to try for themselves.

Hence the essential truth of the statement, "In a free society, individuals must be allowed to do as they choose." To live in a society that often (benignly?) neglects its citizens is chilling enough. But for a government to deny this most basic of rights -- in a sense, taking away the individual's freedom to dream of self-sufficiency, or to work toward that dream -- would be essentially to practice a form of totaliterianism.

There are, however, situations in which the freedom to do as one choses must be restricted: for example, "hate crimes", i.e., the oppression of one person or group of people based on prejudical notions about the person or group. Hate crimes cover a broad spectrum of offenses: 'everything from sexual harassment in the work place to the brutal murders of blacks by whites. People who inflict such hate upon others are certainly "doing as they choose"; no one is forcing them to exercise such violent "rights" and just as certain, these people should not be permitted to exercise "such" freedom.

I believe the question that must always be asked about the exercise of individual rights is: does such exercise endanger or in fact harm others? Do one person's demands for self-determination involve limiting others' rights to the same freedom? If the answer is yes, then I believe society, even a "free society" is justified in restricting that individual's actions. There are certain acts that must not be tolerated, for to do so is to award greater personal freedom to those who least deserve it, and at the cost of a nation's soul.

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Score Explanation for Essay XI (Score = 5)

The paper as a whole focuses clearly on the topic defined by the statement and fully addresses each of the three writing tasks in the rhetorical assignment. Paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 respond to the first task ("Explain what you think the statement means"), Paragraph 4 responds to the second task ("Describe a specific situation in which individuals in a free society should not be allowed to do as they choose"), and Paragraph 5 responds to the third task ("Discuss what you think determines when a free society is justified in restricting an individual's actions").

The paper presents a thoughtful analysis of both the statement and the implications of the statement. The explanation of the statement begins in the first two sentences with an examination of the importance of the ideal of self-determination to a democratic society and a discussion in the following two sentences of how this ideal often conflicts with reality. This introduction clearly focuses the paper on the statement's central idea and provides a foundation for the second and third writing tasks. Paragraph 4 brings the statement into conflict with an example that would seem to contradict it, and Paragraph 5 resolves, or synthesizes, these opposing ideas with a discussion of the basis upon which one should decide when to limit the exercise of individual rights.

The paper conveys its ideas in a unified, logically connected manner. The paragraphs are clearly and appropriately organized around a particular topic and are related to one another. There is a cohesiveness to the paper, with appropriate transitions used both within and between paragraphs (i.e., "Hence the essential truth of the statement" in Paragraph 3 or "There are, however, situations in which freedom to do as one choses must be restricted" in Paragraph 4). Generalizations are explained with varying levels of specificity as needed (as in Paragraph 4).

The writing is clear and precise overall. For example, there is variety in sentence structure (compare complex sentences, such as Sentence 3 to the shorter, more direct Sentence 12 or to the use of questions in Paragraph 5) and precision in word choice ("the ideal of an equal society blind to social station is often more a dream than a reality" or "the oppression of one person or group of people based on prejudicial notions about the person or group", for example). Although the paper contains some minor errors (such as the misspelling of "totalitarianism" and "prejudicial" and the incomplete nature of Sentence 6), they do not detract from its overall effectiveness.

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Essay XII (Score = 3)

Our country was created on the basis of a haven for freedom. Since the landing of the Piligrims people have often come to America because they were being opressed by a foreign government that tried to restrict their action. The first settlers of this country wished to allow themselves the freedom their own country denied them. One of the main rights our forefathers developed was the idea that people should be allowed to live, work and worship as they chose to. Also that they would have the freedom to say and think what they believe. This idea has stayed true throughout America's history. What I think the statement "In a free society individuals must be allowed to do as they choose" means is just that. If we cannot do what we want then there is no freedom and the idea of America is a lie.

Under some circumstance it is not right to allow people to do whatever they want to do. Take draft dodging. If the nation needs you in a time of war, it is not right of you to avoid the responsibility of fighting for your country that allows you to live so freely. The nation has laws that must be obeyed if everyone is to enjoy their democratic rights. Dodging the draft is breaking a law plus avoiding responsibility. It is true that war is dangerous. Many people lost their lives in battle, but the country also make heros from its soldiers. Look at Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower, General McArthur, or further back in the Civil War people like U.S. Grant and Sherman. In Civil War days there were African Americans who had to struggle for the right to even sign up for battle. They were trained in separate camps and most of them had to do meanial work like cleaning the latrine. But most of them also got to fight and they were brave. They helped to keep the country together in one piece and free of slavery.

What I think determines when a free society is justified in restricting an individual's actions is this -- if their actions break a law. Whether it is destructive criminal behavior such as robbery or a more important issue like draft dodging. It doesn't matter. What is important is to not break the law because by doing something illegal you are threatening the well being of your fellow citizens. If you steal something you are hurting the person you took it from. If you run away from the draft you are avoiding the duty of serving the country in a time of war and that hurts all of us. By obeying the law you are protecting from commiting a crime against others. This is how we keep the country running. If you cannot stick to the rules you are only causing trouble for those around you.

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Score Explanation for Essay XII (Score = 3)

The paper addresses each of the three writing tasks in the rhetorical assignment. Paragraph 1 responds to the first task, Paragraph 2 responds to the second task, and Paragraph 3 responds to the third task. However, the paper as a whole is only generally focused on explaining the statement and its implications.

The paper conveys its ideas at great length but with little depth. The paragraphs are ordered around particular topics, but the logical connections between sentences are not always apparent, and the ideas discussed in each paragraph are not entirely linked to one another with examples. For example, it is not clear how "draft dodging" is related to soldiers becoming heroes.

Other examples in the essay tend to drift from a focused exploration of the statement. In particular, the discussion of war in Paragraph 2 quickly digresses from the subject of justifiable restriction of an individual's actions, and the discussion of lawbreaking in Paragraph 3 suffers from repetition.

The ideas are expressed with some clarity, but problems are evident. For example, note that in the opening sentence the prepositional phrase "on the basis of a haven for freedom" should read "on the basis of freedom" or "as a haven for freedom." There is some variety in sentence structure (compare Sentence 4 to Sentence 10, for example) but little variety in word choice (the repeated reliance throughout the paper on the words "country," "freedom," "right," "law").

The most dramatic improvements to be made in this paper are in the areas of focus and organization. Rather than digress or repeat itself, the paper would benefit from a more focused analysis of the statement and its implications. Logical transitions between sentences would sharpen the connection between the ideas discussed in the paper. Finally, some practice of the sort offered in an introductory writing course may help the writer in composing more varied sentences and unified paragraphs.

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