Task 5+, p. 376
This is a personal commentary that aims to persuade the reader about a prominent trend in today’s world. The writer uses many language features and literary devices to enhance his message and convince the reader of his point of view. For example, the writer immediately calls this trend a “problem”, so the tone is critical right from the start. He uses the personal pronoun “we” to include us all in his argument and even refers to the readers as “my friends”, where the possessive pronoun “my” makes the argument more intimate, which is the writer’s way of suggesting that certainly everyone must or should agree with him.
The issue the writer is referring to is the control aspect in modern education, where everything is supposed to be measured and quantified. He gives this modern trend a negative connotation by using the adjective “box-ticking” to state that the process is a mundane duty rather than something that can enhance learning. He uses the metaphor of digging to suggest that the modern trend tends to scratch the surface only. In contrast, what education should be doing is “exploration” and taking a “fantastic voyage”, the type of thing that cannot be quantified easily. This positive picture of education is thus enhanced by the nouns “exploration” and “voyage”, whilst the adjective “fantastic” refer to how students would react to this way of teaching.
To underline what students could find below the surface, the writer lists five nouns that state what we should be looking for in education: “knowledge, facts and theories, opinions and beliefs”. But he then breaks the positive tone of what education should be with the adverb “unfortunately” and then establishes the contrast where, according to this new trend, the interest is more in “measurable results than in achieving effective learning”. He follows this with an allusion to the seventeenth-century poet Alexander Pope, quoting his famous line about “a little learning”. This reference establishes the writer’s authority (ethos). He also suggests that measuring does not really get below the surface, suggesting that the quantifiers are making the same mistake that Pope warned us about centuries ago.
The writer then comes with a warning, suggesting that surface learning can lead to manipulation. The verb “twisted” has negative connotations, suggesting evil and wrong-doing, and the adjectives describing potential manipulators as “nefarious” and “scheming” add to this negative picture. A simile is then used to describe how vulnerable we could be to abuse if our education is too weak: we might leap like “dogs for a biscuit” and we might be satisfied by “mercurial” and “quick-fix” solutions, suggesting little thought or knowledge goes into the solutions, a process which is then contrasted with the statement that issues and problems cannot be fixed in this way. The adjectives used here underscore just how complex the issues are, as “careful, painstaking thought and determined, well-focused action” is required. There is a circular structure to the text, as the writer rounds off his argument by referring back to the quote he mentioned earlier in the text.