write poorly, but boldly!

I just did an OWL for a WR121 student. She says the assignment is, “Pick a symbol/sign and use an essay (from a list) to support your argument as to why this certain thing symbolizes what I’m saying it does. For example, a rose can signify love, romance, or even an overused stereotypical sign.”

— a lot of obvious statements like “Glasses today come in all shapes and sizes.”
— only a couple of insightful lines.
— almost all passive voice and generalities
— content too superficial

I’m sure it’s pretty typical of a lot of first-year essays (though it isn’t as good as a lot of essays I read from pre-college writing courses as YVCC). But, based on her description of the assignment, it sounds as if the assignment is getting what it is asking for: more description than argument, more description of the way things are than insight or analysis. BUT I know that wording is the student’s paraphrase of the instructor’s assignment. Anyway, just a “note to self” to think twice (or thrice) about how I word assignments.

And note to self: maybe do something in class, in informal writing, to address sentence-level stuff (use active voice, active verbs, clear demonstrative pronouns) before they write their first essay, AND somehow emphasize need to focus, to zoom in, to say something that’s not obvious. Heheh, reminds me of Luther: “Sin boldly!” I should say “Be wrong boldly!” Just say it!

But Can They Really See?

Glasses are a prevalent part of how today’s society perceives the world. Meaning is constructed based on the presence or absence of glasses on a person’s face, and will have a negative or even a positive effect on the image they portray. This is primarily based on: age of wearer; type of glasses; overall appearance; and occupation of wearer. Susan Bordo, writer of the essay The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies, discusses the connotations that come with body shape and how society essentially judges and categorizes people accordingly. This is much the same process taken when a person with glasses enters a room.

Glasses today come in all shapes and sizes, just like the people that wear them. Advertisements and vendors claim different frame and lens shapes for differently shaped faces, as well as the best type for what job a person holds.

A negative connotation glasses can bring to a wearer is the fact that they can be “nerdy.” The younger the wearer, the more likely they will be subject to this. Children who wear glasses do not match the norm for that age. This makes them stand out, especially in an age group where they are less common to begin with. Society, and even human nature demand conformity, stay with the group and one should survive. In her essay Susan Bordo she discusses her four year old daughter’s way of interpreting the world around her, particularly how she is to look, saying, “Having a child, however, has given me another perspective, as I try to imagine how the models look through her eyes.” And she continues to say, “At her age she can only take them at face value” (Bordo, 160). Children take in what they see, not being able to think in the abstract. Typically, this means the kid with the “four eyes” is going to made fun of.

Social class can also carry its negative aspects for the glasses wearer. Class and occupation go hand in hand and often the clothing a person wears reflects the class in which they belong. The same goes for glasses. For example, “possibly they cannot afford contacts or Laser Eye Surgery, so they wear glasses” is an assumption that can be drawn about a lower class person. This essay addresses this issue in saying, “’The rest of us’ includes not only those who resist or are afraid of surgery but the many people who cannot afford basic health care, let alone aesthetic tinkering” (Bordo, 153). Lower or working class people may not be able to afford the more popular brand name frames and settle for something else more affordable. This can also be compared to Bordo’s statement concerning age-defying creams, “I want me lines, bags, and sags to disappear, and so do the women who can only afford to buy their alphahydroxies at Kmart” (Bordo, 153). The high profile of advertisements, availability of expensive brand names has started an unexpected change though.

As glasses can carry some positive aspects as well, first, the wearer is no longer squinting unattractively in vague directions; second, glasses in general have morphed into a fashion statement. This statement is intellectualism. The previously mentioned advertisements and brand names have spawned an unintended consumer and that is people with a 20/20 vision or better. Indeed, people who do not, in fact, need prescription glasses have begun to buy ones with simple glass lenses. For this example, think of the “hot librarian” who is pictured peeking seductively over the top of her Encyclopedia Britannica (which may or may not be upside down). Commercials and other forms of advertisements have a profound effect on society. Bordo addresses this when she states, “you can be as cynical as you want about the ads- and many of them [average 20-year-olds] are- and still feel powerless to resist the message” (Bordo, 154).

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