“Human interaction has been around since the beginning of human history.”

Yet another example of the “deep opening sentence” or “profound historical generalization,” both of which seem to be among the aspirations of student writers.

I encourage students to seek an opening assertion that both invites the reader’s agreement and opens the theme of the planned argument. For example, for an essay that will argue that a community garden should be permitted to remain even if that means less acreage for commercial development, a student might begin “The value of a piece of land cannot be adequately measured by its monetary worth.” From there the reader can be responsibly led through the specific subject and the “lens” or issue through which the writer is viewing the problem, to the thesis that the essay will support.

But sometimes students mistake the idea of this “general subject” or “broad issue” statement and write instead a “deep opening sentence” or a “profound historical generalization,” as you see I call them. And then they write sentences like today’s example.

Where is an essay that begins with this sentence going? It could go anywhere.

For me, it goes directly to mental responses such as “Well, duh,” “Obviously,” and “Luckily for human history.”

Caution: Human interaction taking place! (One of several kinds of interaction these humans engaged in…note Cain and Abel, for example…) Lucas Cranach the Elder painted Adam and Eve a number of times. This one is in the Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin, and can be found on numerous Internet sites.

Caution: Human interaction taking place! (One of several kinds of interaction these humans engaged in…note Cain and Abel, for example…)
Lucas Cranach the Elder painted Adam and Eve a number of times. This one is in the Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin, and can be found on numerous Internet sites.

 

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

7 responses to ““Human interaction has been around since the beginning of human history.”

  • Susan P

    The caliber of books or movies that average students engage are not going to invite deep thoughts, I don’t think. The standardized testing is not meant to help students to go deeply. The fine arts are slowly withering away.

    • RAB

      That’s the sad truth. Sometimes I permit myself to suspect a conspiracy. HOW could it be accidental?

      • Susan P

        Well, I’d hate to go down that road, but it seems very intentional. It bothers me no end that cursive writing is no longer taught in school. That and other like omissions are slowly eroding (or warps ) people’s imagination.

        • philosophermouseofthehedge

          Sheep herd well – and don’t question even at the cliff.
          So much easier to do “I know what is right for you and will make all the decisions” if the individuals don’t think to question or offer their own ideas. SO much easier…
          Rebel: Ban scantron sheets and multiple choice tests. Mandate short answer and essay tests for a start. Then moving on to writing essays weekly – in class….starting in 5th grade. Used to do that and kids learned to write their thoughts in logical proper form before they went to college (Then colleges cold teach courses they were meant to teach instead of remedial basics)

        • RAB

          Blessings on your head, Phil!

  • S34NST3W4RT

    Well… are you saying that truly deep, intriguing or profound opening statements are a faux pas of new writers, or that statements that merely attempt to be deep or profound but end up being vague generalizations are faux pas? Or by deep do you just mean ‘vague’? Cause I think sometimes intriguing or profound statements have their place in the beginning of any format you’re using to make an assertion or point of some kind. But that’s just me.

    • RAB

      The latter. Student writers often feel the urge to open with something profound, but lack the tools or the profundity (sometimes both!) to pull it off. If you browse around my posts you’ll see one, for example, for the opening sentence “Food has been around since the beginning of time.” Instead of a nod of agreement, a pause of enlightenment, or a gasp of awe, the typical reader lets out a shout of laughter. NOT what the writer was going for!

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