Critique Of The Articles Concerning Students’ Exam Stress
“A Pakistani student allegedly died due to exam stress and now her mother is breaking her silence” and “17 year-old girl jumped to her death because of A-Levels stress''. These are just two examples of the numerous reported and unreported cases. One could go on and on and the list would not end.
The article “Give childhood back to children…” is written by Peter Gray who is a research professor at Boston College and a well-known critic of today's educational system. The article was published on 12 January 2014 and intends to target teachers, parents, students and policymakers. We are living in a world where conversations about depression, anxiety and mental health, in general, have sprung up in the last decade. Most of the mental health issues in the age group 12-22 are associated with our flawed education system. In this article, Gray builds an impressive argument by utilizing strong persuasive appeals, appropriate choice of words and the right structure and organization of the essay.
Gray begins by sharing his own life experiences and establishes his main claim that what we learn in school has nothing to do with what we deal with in our daily lives. He compares life of children six decades back with the life of children today. Using examples and evidence, Peter further develops his argument and explains why it is necessary for children to indulge in activities that involve ‘play’. Gray describes in detail the effects of not playing enough and how this gradual change in the curriculum has lead to the deterioration of the mental health of children. He ends his article with restating his main claim and urging his audience to understand the importance of playing. Peter makes a ferocious use of all three persuasive appeals throughout the article to strengthen his argument. The very first line of the article makes good use of ethos. ‘’I am a research bio-psychologist with a PhD, so I have done lots of school’’, when the reader sees this, the credibility of what the author has to say automatically increases in the eyes of the reader. In the sixth paragraph of the text, Peter uses appeal to false authority by mentioning Yong Zhao to strengthen his own argument. Author’s clever use of pathos and logos also help him in achieving his goal. Peter states and explains the advantages of playing e. g ‘’ children also learn how to control their impulses and follow rules’’ and ‘’children learn to control fear’’. These examples convince the reader into believing ‘play’ is pivotal because it appeals to their logic. Peter hones in on examples that resonate with his readers. He talks about problems faced by the common man which leads to the audience believing that the author is one of them. Peter also uses appeal to pity when he says ‘’ …over the past 50 to 60 years, we have been continuously decreasing the opportunity for our own children to play’’. He implies that we have been doing something to our children that we won’t even do to animals. This affects the audience emotionally thereby helping Peter succeed in his mission.
Peter Gray crafts his argument skillfully with a strong structure and organization of what he has to say. Right from the beginning, the reader knows what the text is going to be about. The title of the article itself is self-explanatory. The reader is clear about the purpose of the article. To be more explicit about his purpose of writing this piece, Gray clearly mentions it in paragraph 5. Peter structures his argument in a way that he manages to hold the attention of the audience, so the reader never feels lost or naïve about the subject. Peter introduces the audience to the main subject in paragraph 5 and backs up his argument with examples and scientific research in the following 3 paragraphs. The transitions from one paragraph to another are smooth throughout the article. The reader hardly feels the need to go back and forth. From Peter’s main claim, topic sentences, the main body of the text and the conclusion, it is evident that he has ensured coherence of the text. Peter draws heartfelt ponderance with his perfect choice of words which also help him in his persuasive struggle. The tone and language used by the author perfectly match the aim of the text. When the author says ‘’it wasn’t the big deal it is today’, it helps the reader understand the severity of the issue. Likewise, he uses words such as ‘free’, ‘democratic’ to hint on the difference between the lives of children today and half a century back. He also uses negative words with poor connotations such as ‘emotional cripples’ to point towards the flawed educational system. Gray also makes use of the right tone to persuade his audience. ‘’My bet is that Gove would agree that now…’’, this use of a confident tone gains the trust of the audience. Peter wants his audience to think that the evidence and examples he has provided are sufficient in convincing Gove and the readers. In the last paragraph, Peter’s tone conveys annoyance and anger, he says ‘’We must give childhood back to children’’. His tone and choice of words in the last paragraph leaves the reader with the thought of changing the norm. Peter has ensured to use an effective tone and appropriate words for convincing his targeted audience. Even though the article as a whole is persuading, Peter somehow fails to justify his evidence and makes assumptions that seem biased. He gives evidence but forgets to mention where it is coming from.
The reader might think of the evidence as nothing but manipulated words. For example in paragraph 5, he says, ‘'Chinese children suffer from extraordinary high levels of anxiety'', he does not mention the exact source of the stated fact. Simply saying ‘large-scale survey conducted by British and Chinese researchers'' is a vague statement. In paragraph 14, again he mentions a scientific research but does not mention the particular association conducting the research. This weakens Gray's argument and the audience finds it difficult to believe his words. Speaking for only one side of the story is one of the mistakes authors want to avoid but unfortunately, Peter ends up making it. He does not talk about the pros of increasing the number of hours children spend in school. He could have talked about how the cons overweight the pros but completely omitting such an important part of the article is a mistake. He ends up losing support from people who are supporters of Gove’s policy. It won’t be wrong to say that I would have agreed with the point peter is trying to make without even reading the complete article. Being a part of the system which has plunged young kids into the rat race of academic competition, my reading of the article was biased to an extent. As I read the article I could think of so many people and so many examples which supported Peter’s argument.
‘’Straight As student, 15, killed himself over exam stress’’. This is a real-life example of what the author is trying to say in paragraph 5 ‘' School children suffer from extraordinarily high levels of anxiety''. So the moment I read it, I knew it was true because being a student myself, I see so many people suffering just because of the system. One of the sub-claims author makes is, If the number of hours children spend in school is increased, children will have no time to work on their physical or emotional health, ‘' So that they can grow into intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically strong and resilient adults''. Not only could I agree with this but also relate because being an obese kid myself, I hardly had the time to do something about it because it was always about assignments and exams. I won’t hesitate in recommending this article as a credible research source to anyone interested.
An article like this has colossal importance because it serves the need to talk about an issue that has been affecting so many children around the world. Although Peter misses out on a few things and forgets to prove the credibility of evidence, he is successful in convincing his audience that it is necessary to incorporate ‘play' in our children's lives. He says ‘’The Chinese are finally beginning to realize this, and so should we’’ to leave the audience in a state of confusion. The ultimate success of the article is that it leaves us thinking that we really need to make a change in the educational system for the betterment of our children.