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Issue 17: Formal Education Tends To Restrain Our Minds And Spirits Rather Than Set Them Free - With A Free Essay Review

PROMPT: “Formal education tends to restrain our minds and spirits rather than set them free. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.”

Does formal education tend to restrain our minds and spirits rather than set them free, as the above claim asserts? The speaker’s assertion seemingly reflects the phenomenon. After all, all the students follow the same study program in different fields. Nevertheless, this study process is the effective way of backlogging knowledge and lays the requisite preconditions for emancipating students’ minds and spirits.

Firstly, the formal education program is the process of classroom-based training and developing people in knowledge, skills and character in a structured and certified program, which means that all the students are required to take a myriad of compulsory curriculums ranging from arts to engineering. During this process, the students often act as the classroom-receivers of knowledge and skills; moreover, the tests measure their performance generally, and often contain memorizing about other’s value and spirits, rather than expressing themselves. Therefore, in order to obtain higher rankings immediately, the students might tend to mechanically memorize the contents related about the tests, instead of forming their own thoughts by the learned knowledge. Seeing all these behaviors, the values are being gradually instilled into the youth’ minds, just as the speaker claimed.

However, the above seemingly restricted-mind behavior just constructs the basis of freeing students’ minds. In other words, they are the roots of free mind and imagination, one critical factor of creative idea. This study process is the quick way of learning the attainments in different fields, most importantly, can learn some basic ability on how to address one given problem by their own, not limited to solution in the textbooks, which are invaluable wealth for students’ future career pursuing. In fact, the knowledge accumulation is the base of any free mind. Any mind without any theory as its support would be one beautiful castle in the air.

The next step of formal education should encourage students to apply their learned theory to practice, to think incisively and creatively about any traditional ideas and values and to have the courage of breaking any stereotypes, not just stop the teaching process at the memorization level. For nothing in the world is absolutely free, the student’s minds will be to some extent restricted by some basic moral values. Otherwise, the society would become disordered, nasty, and brutish. At this point the formal education must serve as the role of pouring out the required moral values to each student to restrict their minds.

In China, after the reform of quality-oriented education in 1997, most of formal education institutions, especially in big cities not only lay emphasis on the knowledge accumulation but also on the practice of developing creative thinking and emancipating minds. But we can’t too optimistic about these results, as some counter-examples are still around us. For example, to obtain higher grades of College Entrance Examination some educators pay more attention on the former by forcing the students fall into the sea of exams tactics. As a result, a lot of dull boy with excellent grades, who are only recorder of textbooks, are in fact useless for the advance of society.

From the above analysis, the formal education doesn’t tend to restrain students minds, on the contrary, they are trying to free their minds and develop creative and incisive thoughts. However, in China, as the measure of college admission is only related about higher graders, some educators, even the parents, might falsely tend to instill the theory, values and spirits, irrespective of their true meaning and practicability. To well reach the of formal education goals, it is therefore desirable to propose new college admission criterion weighing on memorization about others’ values and the freedom of student’s own minds, which are completely consistent with the ultimate goals of true formal education.



This is a good essay, poorly written. It’s only poorly written in the sense that you struggle at times for the right turn of phrase in English to adequately express your ideas. You are obviously trying hard to find interesting ways to say things, and from time to time you pull this off, but the risk in trying to do that is that you will lose your reader and I am not sure that that is a risk you want to take for the GRE examination. I would advise you to limit yourself to fairly simple English syntax and language for the examination and rely on impressing your reader with the complexity of your thought. (I advise that because I doubt you get to much credit for the eloquence of your expression anyway). But beyond your preparations for the exam, you should certainly continue developing your writing skills, because you have the possibility of becoming a fine writer.

Your argument here begins with a description of formal education, and that description seems geared toward explaining why it might be reasonable to suspect that formal education, to some extent, might restrain a student’s mind. That’s a reasonable way to proceed, but the conclusion you come to in that paragraph is poorly worded and more or less unintelligible: “the values are being gradually instilled into the youth’ minds, just as the speaker claimed.” If by “speaker” you are referring to the author of the original statement in the prompt (in which case, you can just say “as the statement claims”), it’s not clear why you are speaking of values being gradually instilled because you have not yet clarified that for you a restrained mind is a mind whose values have been imposed on it through education. (You do refer to the “memorizing” of others’ values, which doesn’t quite mean the same thing). The basic idea that you seem to want to communicate here is interesting, but it needs to be articulated with much greater clarity and precision.

The same problem arises in the next paragraph. Again you conclude with an interesting idea: a mind without theory is as a castle in the air, but again what you mean exactly by theory is unclear both in the context of the sentence and of the paragraph as a whole. You have not mentioned theory before nor its relation to the kind of knowledge acquisition that you think takes place in formal education.

The next paragraph is for me both the worst in terms of the clarity of the expression and, assuming I nonetheless have guessed correctly what you are getting at, the most interesting. It looks to me like what you need here is a different way to structure your thoughts; e.g., with the formulaic “on the one hand X, on the other hand Y” (where X and Y are opposed ideas). For you seem (again, I’m guessing) to want to say: On the one hand, formal education encourages a critical understanding of received values; on the other hand, it must also transmit certain values. If your paragraph does not want to say something like that, then it just seems to be, to me, self contradictory. I appreciate the allusion to Hobbes, nonetheless, in the penultimate sentence of that paragraph. Perhaps the implications of that allusion could be taken further (if, that is, you want to say that freedom is not quite as wonderful as it sounds).

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: Civil-ago

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