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GRE Issue Essay: The Well-being Of A Society Is Enhanced When Many Of Its People Question Authority - With A Free Essay Review
Issue 18. Prompt: "The well-being of a society is enhanced when many of its people question authority. 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."
Even though there is no doubt that the freedom of questioning the authority is important for the well-being of a society, I can't agree unconditionally with the statement. In my opinion, when many people question authority, the well-being of the society is not necessarily enhanced. Furthermore, if the manner and/or content of the questions are improper, the society's condition might get worse.
First of all, I admit that freedom and courage of questioning the authority is essential in advancing the society, no matter in the aspects of art, science and politics. Throughout history, every time there was a revolution in art and architecture, if there was no one questioning the conventions in designing and painting, no advancement and creation would come in place for a better world of art. The same is true for science and knowledge. Ever since the time of ancient Greek, Socrates had instilled into his students the quality of questioning, even towards those considered knowledgeable by most, or the authority. It is this quality of questioning the authority that is constantly pushing the human knowledge forward. As for the public policies of a society, questions from the general public act as a surveillance and guidance to the government. Whenever there is a policy that is unfair and not aligned with the interest of the most, people's voices can be heard by the policy makers by questioning the authority.
Even though questions toward the authority have so many potential benefits on a society, they do not necessarily enhance its well-being. More specifically, in the case of public policies, the questions from the people are not always valuable for the well-being of the whole society. Sometimes the questions or requests could be from their own interest, instead of the whole society's. For instance, when some citizens interrogate the education system, they ask for a segregation of the students based on performance. While this might improve the learning efficiency of the better students, it is not the best way to ensure a good education for the whole society. More importantly, it is difficult for the authority to take in all the opinions that range significantly from different parts of a society, especially when many of its people have questions for the authority.
Another reason for my disagreement with the statement is that people's questions may come in different forms. There are instances when people use violent and extreme manners to raise their questions towards the authority. As a result, the riots and violence would make the life miserable for the innocent public. After the miseries, people's life may get better, but also may not. Examples from history like the French revolution demonstrate a good result, while the recent Egyptian revolution and Syria riots are among the failed cases.
In conclusion, while I concede that questioning the authority is necessary for advancing the well-being of the society, in terms of its culture, science and policies, I do not totally agree that the society will surely be better off with many of its people questioning the authority. The results would have to depend on the contents of the questions, as well as the way they are being made.
The prompt seems most obviously about questioning state authority (state policies, laws, enforcement and so on). Such questioning might come in the form of protest, civic disobedience, resistance, or public critique. The most obvious issues related to the prompt are the ways in which such questioning might help keep authority honest or just, and the ways in which it might undermine social order. I have no idea how much freedom one would be given when one deviates from the obvious interpretation of the prompt, so I don't know how much you risk when you do discuss, for example, the important role in the history of art and architecture of "questioning the conventions in designing and painting." You give your reader a little bit of work to do in order to figure out how the point relates to the prompt. Here "conventions" take the role of "authority" and the production of a "better world of art" seems to take the place of enhancing "the well-being of society." That's a fairly oblique approach to the assigned task and so entails, as I say, uncertain risk. You can mitigate that risk by justifying your oblique approach explicitly. For example, a statement something like the folloowing would go a long way towards making your approach unobjectionable and perhaps even make the oblique approach count in your favor: "Questioning authority doesn't just entail speaking truth to power; it also entails questioning the received opinions and conventions and paradigms of all areas of life." You could (indeed should) also add a statement clarifying why you think advances in art contribute to the well-being of society.
You are on safer, more conventional ground when you examine the advantages and disadvantages of questioning public policy. Your discussion of the advantages ("questions ... act as a surveillance and guidance to the government") is too vague. Your discussion of the possible disadvantages begins with the claim that questioning policy can be motivated by self-interest. That's a reasonable point but I think what you are demonstrating here is that "some" questions are possibly not to the benefit of the well-being of society; the prompt is about the general scenario in which "many people" question authority. One might think, then, that even though some specific questions addressed to public policy do not enhance the well-being of society, even so the well-being of society is generally enhanced by having many people question authority. Your second point is that it is "difficult for the authority to take in all the [different] opinions." That point is perhaps true but you don't clarify how it impacts your evaluation of the original claim.