We have reached that time of year where the “Best of 2013” stories start popping up on all the websites you frequent. Take a moment and click through a few of them. The information you find there may just be useful.
Current events are a great way to connect generic essay prompts to more concrete ideas that readers more easily connect with. The problem is that current events seem not to stay current very long and the constant flood of information we receive tends to wash out the relevant bits to the prompt in front of us when test day stress kicks in. So how do you get the focus you need while still maintaining a broad pool of examples from which you can draw?
That’s where those top stories lists can come in handy. Current events provide concrete examples that can help prove a point, without needing significant explanations to explain their significance. For instance, if I said “George Zimmerman” in an effort to explain something about race relations, “stand your ground laws”, or criminal justice in the media, you will instantly understand what I was talking about. If I said the “Boston Marathon bombings” you could instantly connect that to ideas of terrorism, how social media has changed news, or how people come together in a time of tragedy.
Hopefully those connections show you how handy current events can be for connecting abstract ideas to subjects that your readers will instantly understand. Let’s use the following prompt as an example to see how this might work:
“Do we value only what we struggle for?”
This is exactly the type of prompt question that many students will struggle with because it doesn’t immediately call to mind relevant examples. It seems too abstract. However, if you’ve recently looked over a list of current events, you’re likely to find something that you can connect with this topic. For instance, if you’re trying to show that we do only value what we struggle for, you might bring up the murder case of Aaron Hernandez. You might discuss his NFL career and how he’d just come into millions of dollars and a comfortable lifestyle. You could then make the argument that he didn’t value his freedoms until there were taken away from him, and that if he’d struggled more he would have been less likely to put himself in position where he would lose that freedom.
If instead you wanted to say we don’t only value what we struggle for, you might bring up the royal baby, Prince George. For the people of Britain his birth wasn’t a struggle or a burden, but they got immense joy from his birth. They value another life that can continue their line of royal succession without having to struggle.
Take a look at those best of 2013 lists this week. You might just find an example that will help put your essay over the top!