How can schools encourage critical thinking rather than conformity? How can the school system better its system of testing? What might the government do to help public schools? How can schools improve curriculum?

In Idiot Nation, and Against School, Michael Moore and John Taylor Gatto argue that the school system in the United States is deeply flawed. To both authors, public schools are oppressive and create students who conform and learn to submerge any personal expression (Moore 143).

For this essay, your job is to describe what measures must be taken to improve the American public school system. Address the problem(s) raised and provide a solution for them.

Questions to help you think about this include (but are not limited to): How can schools encourage critical thinking rather than conformity? How can the school system better its system of testing? What might the government do to help public schools? How can schools improve curriculum?


Your introduction must hook the reader at the beginning and then briefly summarize Idiot Nation, Against School and the documentary, Waiting for Superman. Be sure to introduce the authors/director and the title of their works. Provide a brief overview of the topic as well. Your thesis statement must be the last sentence of your introduction, and it must address what you believe will help improve the American public school system. Remember to take a position that others might challenge. Thesis statement cannot be in the form of a list. (See sample essay and sample thesis statement to help construct your own.)

Topic sentences for each body paragraph MUST connect with your thesis statement/argument. They should all address the solution. Be sure to provide transitions between body paragraphs. Stay focused with body paragraphs: one topic per paragraph.

Use textual evidence (one from Moore and one from Gatto) and one example (from the documentary) that specifically address the problems in Americas public school system. Briefly discuss the problem through interpretation of the quote or through one example from the documentary. Then, come up with solutions that you think would help fix those problems. Develop these solutions. These are your solutions. You will need to provide specific examples for the solutions you are offering, so that your audience will clearly understand how YOUR solutions will help improve our public school system. Do NOT focus too much on the problem. Focus on the solutions. See sample student essay.

All quotes must be integrated in the middle of your paragraphs. You may only quote once from Idiot Nation, once from Against School and provide one example from the documentary film, Waiting for Superman, in your essay. Follow the guidelines from the sandwich-style quote handout. Introduce the quote, state the quote directly, and then explain it. Longer quotes require a thorough explanation.

Structure for 1st body paragraph:
1. Topic sentence connects/supports the thesis statement the first solution.
2. After the topic sentence, discuss the problem in brief.
3. Quote to support the problem, properly introduced and formatted. Take the time to explain the quote.
4. Your fully developed solution to fix the problem addressed in the quote.
5. Concluding sentence that closes the paragraph. (Restate the topic sentence in a new way.)

Structure for body paragraphs with transitions:
1. Transition by briefly mentioning the topic of the previous paragraph while introducing the next topic of the new paragraph that connects/supports the thesis statement second solution for body paragraph #2 and third solution for body paragraph #3.
2. Repeat steps 2-5 above for the second and third body paragraph.

Your essay must follow MLA form in your in-text citations. Follow the sandwich-style quote from the handout and video presentation: introduce the quote, state it, and then explain it.

Before the conclusion paragraph, include an opinion paragraph about your experience in a public or private school setting. Discuss any problems that you noticed when you attended the school at the time. What was working? What wasnt working? What do you think the school could have done to make things better for students? The opinion paragraph should only be about half a page and no longer than that. Your paper will incur a loss of points if your opinion paragraph is too long or too short.

In your conclusion, begin by restating the thesis in a new way. Next, restate the main points you made in your essay one point per body paragraph. Once again, dont merely reiterate your points. Be sure to also push forward your argument. Think of these two simple questions: so what? Who cares? Here you can discuss why it is important to fix our public schools. Be sure to mention Moore, Gatto, and Waiting for Superman one last time in your conclusion. Then leave a final impression on the reader. This will be the last sentence of your conclusion paragraph. What is it that you want your readers to think about the topic you have just discussed in your paper? Give your conclusion and your essay a sense of closure.

Your essay must be at least 5 FULL pages in length. Essays that are under 5 pages will result in a 10-point deduction.

Your essay should also be clear and free of spelling and grammatical errors. Make sure all sentences are well constructed with varied structure.

Follow MLA. Your first (rough), second (rough) and final draft MUST all follow MLA form. Your papers should be double spaced using Times New Roman size 12 font. Refer back to the MLA template and the videos. Dont lose points for formatting.

You must participate in both peer review sessions. I will deduct 5 points from your essay for each peer review session you miss.

Late work will be accepted but up to one full day from the original due date. If you submit a late assignment, your paper will result in a 10-point deduction. Give yourself enough time to work on your paper, so that you do not lose those points.

Structure for Argument & Persuasion Essay (Must be in this exact order.)
1.) Intro
2.) Body paragraph #1 (solution #1 quote from Moore that addresses the problem and your solution for it.)
3.) Body paragraph #2 (solution #2 quote from Gatto that addresses another problem and your solution for it.)
4.) Body paragraph #3 (third and final solution example from Waiting for Superman that addresses one problem and your solution for it.)
5.) Your opinion paragraph
6.) Conclusion