Five Paragraph Essay
This is the first sentence of my essay’s introductory paragraph; it’s supposed to hook you, the reader, into continuing onward. The next few sentences will expand on this broad “hook,” leading you through an increasingly narrow “funnel.” Unfortunately, you probably aren’t hooked in the slightest; this format, after all, is entirely self-defeating, as it undermines the best part of story-telling: unpredictability. Even more unfortunately, the 5-paragraph essay is indicative of a much more serious trend in education. That sentence, by the way, is the part of the introduction which is supposed to establish some kind of connection, a bridge between the hook and the thesis. Speaking of which, the end of the introductory paragraph is coming up, which means you get to read my thesis soon; it’s considered the most important part of the essay, probably because, after reading it, you don’t actually have to keep going – it reveals the contents of the entire paper.
Enough anticipation, though – I present my thesis: Modern education not only lacks support for creative activities, but, in a phenomenon best epitomized by the 5-paragraph essay, it actually destroys creative potential through needless academic and artistic limitations. This is the first sentence after the introduction. At this point, writers are expected to proceed into a body paragraph, which is a stylistically uninteresting way to organize an essay’s main arguments. This sentence is a concrete detail that expands on the topic sentence by describing the body sections’ format: evidence followed by commentary. Incidentally, in addition to the repetitive paragraph structure, this essay is also full of inherently unoriginal sentences that match the following pattern: “This is a general thing; this is a specific instance of that general thing.” Anyway, because the purpose of the first body paragraph is to establish background information, the next few sentences list important facts.
For example, as many of you are already aware, American education stresses English and STEM over music and the arts. Most schools with financial pressures therefore eliminate their arts classes before touching more “rigorous” academic subjects, and with the introduction of standardized tests, this problem has only been exacerbated. Having listed these facts, I can now “explain the evidence;” actually, though, this is often accomplished by simply rephrasing or summarizing the aforementioned details. In this case, for instance, the following will suffice: Clearly, American education culture and the impact of standardized tests foster an uncreative learning environment by devaluing the arts. With the end of the first body paragraph approaching, it’s time to connect the contents of this section to the thesis, presumably because you may have forgotten it by now.
Just as the school-mandated structure of this essay limits the extent to which I can experiment, today’s educational system severely restricts students’ creativity by discouraging or eliminating forms of creative engagement. This is the topic sentence of the second body paragraph, and it presents the subject of this section – namely, the validation of my argument. Because it offers the main support for my thesis, this paragraph is full of Aristotelian appeals, comparisons, and other rhetorical techniques. Pathos, in particular, can be a powerful tool, especially when its presentation is unrestricted. Unfortunately, the 5-paragraph essay mandates evidence-commentary format, regardless of how well it actually suits a narrative. In keeping with this structure, I present the facts: Gillian Lynne was born in 1926.
She grew up in England, and early in her childhood, her mother took her to a doctor because she was underperforming in school. They discussed her lack of focus for a bit, but then the doctor asked Gillian’s mother to step out of the room to speak privately. He turned the radio on as he left, and, having stepped outside, he suggested her mother take a look at Gillian: she was dancing to the music. The doctor told Gillian’s mother to take her to a dance school, and she did; in the years to come, Gillian Lynne joined the Royal Ballet, choreographed musicals with Andrew Lloyd Weber, and enjoyed an incredibly illustrious career as a dancer. This marks the end of the story, and now, as expected, I comment: Had Gillian been growing up today, doctors would have diagnosed her with ADHD, given her medications, and sent her back to school.
Today, in fact, not only would she have been forced into a rigid, unnatural, academic setting, rather than flourishing in a creative environment, but even her opportunities for creativity in school – writing, for example – would have been reduced to formulas. This brings me to the end of the paragraph, and as before, the purpose of this sentence is to remind the reader of the thesis: Modern society places such a tremendous emphasis on the academic – which itself is creatively limited – children are hardly able to spend time engaged in the artistic activities they enjoy. This is the topic sentence of – who am I kidding, you know exactly what this is by now, because it doesn’t ever change. The contents of this paragraph include the refutation of possible arguments against my thesis, most prominently, the impracticality of encouraging the arts. As usual, I first present the facts: regardless of the economic contributions of music, theater, and dance, these artistic endeavors have benefits that expand far beyond the scope of possible career choices. Especially in children’s formative years, creative activities expand the mind, build confidence, and offer avenues to make new friends and meet different people.
And now, for the commentary: This may be surprising to hear, especially from an engineering major, but I can personally vouch for the stress relief and other benefits that accompany artistic activities – I’ve played piano for over 10 years, and I love watching dramatic productions. Besides, just like the format of this essay is so monotonous and uninteresting it becomes absolutely tedious to read, drilling children in the same academic activities for 12 years only succeeds in wearing them out – and let’s face it: not many children treat algebra problems as a mode of self-expression. The entire institutional mentality is ironic, really: in attempting to become as efficient as possible – teach more students, grade papers faster, present more information – both the education system and the 5-paragraph essay become repetitive, boring, and completely counter-productive. In keeping with the irony, this paragraph, too, must end with a connection back to the thesis: Because of the many emotional and creative benefits offered by the arts – and in spite of the flawed perception that they hinder productivity – music, theater, and imaginative culture should clearly be retained in the U.S.
education system. Modern American education has devalued the arts so dramatically, children lack opportunities to develop their creative potential. That, by the way, is the last topic sentence of the essay; it introduces the conclusion. More specifically, it marks the beginning of the “upside-down funnel,” where writers are expected to repeat the introductory paragraph in reverse order. After the thesis, then, comes a summary of the essay’s main points, as well as a broadened perspective at the end.
It almost appears as though the 5-paragraph essay format strives to be as bland and predictable as possible. Sadly, this seemingly inconsequential technique used by schools reflects a much broader trend in academics – namely, an increased emphasis on formulaic thought processes rather than creativity. Thus, the essay concludes with a glance at the future: If we do not stress the importance of arts in schools, American children will be entirely unable to think originally; all they will know is how to fill in blank templates, like this 5-paragraph essay.