Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.
Nowadays nothing is private: our culture has become too confessional and self-expressive. People think that to hide ones thoughts or feelings is to pretend not to have those thoughts or feelings. They assume that honesty requires one to express every inclination and impulse. -Adapted from J. David Velleman, The Genesis of Shame
Assignment: Should people make more of an effort to keep some things private? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.
Thesis: Privacy is essential to the human condition, because humans must keep some things private: our unborn ideas, our joys, and especially those thoughts that are inappropriate for public consumption.
-Intro: the origin of privacy
-American Revolution/ change
From our earliest days, we humans have an instinct for privacy. Once were old enough to walk and talk, we begin keeping secrets. We learn to keep our thoughts to ourselves, to hide our favorite toys from bullying older siblings, and to lie to our parents when asked where weve been and what weve been up to. Yet when we become adults, especially in the Information Age, we suddenly feel we have to share absolutely everything. We post on Facebook what were having for lunch, what were doing this weekend, and when were going to bed. Theres even an acronym for itTMI, or too much information. Yet preserving our privacy is much more than avoiding TMI syndrome. It can be a matter of life and death, of joy and sorrow, and of what it means to be human. The fact is that we must keep some things privatewithout privacy, we would have neither the benefits of historical change nor the joy of surprises nor the freedom to not know what the people around us are thinking.
In the late eighteenth century, a group of American colonists began to develop the idea that British rule wasnt all it was cracked up to be. In private discussions and the quiet of their own minds, people like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin came to the conclusion that the American colonies needed to seek independence from Great Britain. When the time was right, they announced their intentions with the Declaration of Independence, now one of the most treasured artifacts of the founding of the United States. Yet if they had casually blurted out everything they were thinking, these founding fathers would certainly have been hanged for treason. Privacy was essential to the American Revolution, and without it the country would not have come into being. Every good thing the United States has done comes, in some respects, from the fact that the Founding Fathers knew when to keep their mouths shut.
Sometimes its the little things preserved by privacy that make it most precious. Consider the example of Christmas presents. In my family, everyone makes a great fuss over keeping the nature and location of Christmas presents a secret. It adds to the joy of Christmas morning to see someone pull out a large box or package that I know could not possibly have been stashed in the hall closet and find out whats inside it. Christmas is more enjoyable because we have all practiced privacy. If my family went around loudly announcing what everyone was getting for Christmas, there would be very little in the way of surprise and the occasion would be that much less joyous.
Most importantly, privacy enables humans to tolerate one another. The science fiction author Spider Robinson, in his short story Two Heads Are Better Than One, describes a main characters horror at suddenly gaining the ability to read minds. Robinson says what every reader knows but will not admitthat the things that fester in a sealed skull are not meant to be shared. Fundamentally, every human being believes that he or she is the center of the universe. We say otherwise, but we are lying. Of course we must be the heroes of the story! Our mental camera follows us all the time, so we must be the stars of the movie. This is not too bad in the privacy of ones own head, but imagine the horror and chaos that would result if we were all forced to confront, every day, the fact that everyone else is just as egocentric as we are. If we all went around saying exactly what we really think, half of us would have committed murder inside of a week. Humans can coexist because they can keep their thoughts private until theyve been cleaned up and made ready for human consumption.
There is much to be said for honesty and full disclosure. Obviously we shouldnt lie about everything, all the time. But occasional omissions are necessary to accomplish great things, to create joy, and to preserve our community with other human beings. The world would likely be a better place if we knew when to stop posting pictures of our lunches and tweeting every thought that crossed our minds. Some things are not meant to escape our sealed skullsand we would do well to remember that.
Recommended supplementary material to view SAT questions featured in lesson answer guides: The Official SAT Study Guide by the College Board.
Answer Guide: Section 1 (Essay)
Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.
Educator.com recommends The Official SAT Study Guide published by The College Board, the administrators of the actual SAT test. In it, you will find additional practice questions and a review of all subjects, along with 10 official SAT practice tests. Our instructors work through several of the practice tests in real time, going through their thought processes and test-taking tips.
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