Example: Facilitative Commentary
Affirmative Action laws were designed to make up for America's enslavement and centuries of oppression of Black people. [Your language seems to rally the reader to support affirmative action, yet your essay finds fault with it. How might you reconcile this contradiction?] They were correcting laws, the aim of which wereto eliminate injustice. But in the end, new injustices have been created by these laws. The most harmful of which is the inability of qualified students to pursue their dreams and get into the really important professional schools, like medicine and law. [Fragment.] Why is race relevant to who makes a good doctor or lawyer? And how do we even measure merit? Is part of that measurement race? Where do we put it in the mix when we are considering whether you're good enough for graduate school? Is it more important than the standardized exams, professor recommendations and GPA - all of which, in the end, are just as prejudiced? [You raise a lot of questions here, but you don't offer any answers. Which question drives the essay?] After all, a man isn't measured by tests or by the color of his skin. In the end, all measurements of a person are flawed. But none are more flawed than the measurement of a person by their [pronoun agreement?] race. [Your thesis promises to critique the various measurements of merit - in particular, the "measurement" according to race. Do you think that your essay fulfills that promise? Is this promise the real point of your essay?]
Nowadays, kids [Why this word?] trying to get into professional schools should understand that the GREs and LSATs and MCATs and other standardized tests aren't a good way to test how smart you are or even ability. [Can you use a parallel structure?] Minorities themselves complain that these tests are biased against them. What do these tests measure except an ability to take a test? Steven Lobrawski argues that they measure how predictable a thinker will be. Moreover, Susan Worbal notes that lower test scores by minority applicants are accepted over higher scores by majority applicants. [Who are these authorities and why did you choose them? What about spokespeople for the other side?] If scores can be overlooked for minorities, why can't they be overlooked for majorities? Is the importance of race greater than the importance of test scores? Is your success as a lawyer or doctor predicted by them?
Professor recommendations are also unfair. Why should a professor's opinion get you in or keep you out of the school? Aren't professors as prejudice ["Prejudice" is a noun. "Prejudiced" is the adjective that you are looking for, I think.] as anyone? Their subjectivity isn't nearly as objective as standardized scores. So why are they so important anyway? Some students aren't even able to get to know their professors well - usually because the professor is never at his office hours, or because the student has too much integrity to kiss up to the professor. The same is true about GPAs. [New idea? New paragraph? Or perhaps construct the topic sentence to include both ideas?] Should one bad term where a student had a personal crisis or an adjustment problem haunt him forever? Should this kind of mistake be able to keep him from realizing his dream? Affirmative action allows students who have had difficult upbringings to make up for it. Are other students given the chance to make up for his own problems? Is this fair? [Again, you rely on rhetorical/unanswered questions. Why? They seem to obscure your argument. What position drives these questions?]
Anyhow, affirmative action is like beating a dead horse. And its caused more injustices than its fixed. Its [it's] not fair to minorities and women, [Are you comfortable speaking for women and minorities?] who feel like they don't really deserve to be where they are, and it's unfair to whites who are rejected from law school and denied their dreams. [Is this what drives the essay? If so, you might want to consider: a) declaring this up front, and/or b) considering your position more objectively and analytically. See below...] Schools should find more fair ways to admit students.
Response to Student
[(Address the student by name...)
Your essay raises some provocative questions about college admission standards. However, the course assignment asked you to deal explicitly with affirmative action and its controversial role in the admissions process. How are some of the issues you raise - such as GPA and the availability of professors during office hours - relevant to the affirmative action issue? Is your paper a consideration of merit? A critique of admissions' prejudices? What argument are you presenting here?
One rhetorical device that contributes to the sense that your argument remains unclear is your use of rhetorical questions. As I stated, you raise several provocative questions - perhaps too many - and you leave them unanswered. Can you determine which questions are most essential? Can you answer these questions, outlining your reasons? If you can, you'll discover your paper's thesis and its structure.
As you develop your argument, consider what proponents of affirmative action might say. Why was it developed? What positive effects has it had? Acknowledging the "other side" helps you to create an argument with backbone. It also helps you to gain objectivity - something that is eclipsed in this essay, perhaps by your own experiences? If so, you'll want to contain your personal experience - either by declaring it and getting it out of the way, or by using it to inform (but not to drive) your essay.
If you have any questions regarding these comments, contact me.
(Sign your name...)]