A. proper style (I e. Writing, grammar, organization, etc…)



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Gabriel Tordjman, Darwin’s Tea Party: Feedback to Bonus Assignment 7 Sept. 2009
Question: Why does Jared Diamond believes agriculture was the “worst mistake in the history of the human race”.
Your answer should be written in essay form and is graded according to both proper style and content:
A. PROPER STYLE (i.e,. Writing, grammar, organization, etc…)
1. An Introduction with a thesis statement.

Introduction should begin with a general point constructed so it leads to the more specific thesis statement. Thesis statement is shown in bold italics


Example:

Agriculture has been called “the single most important ‘invention’ in human history” (Tordjman 13). While many believe it is a major step forward in the progress of humanity, author Jared Diamond claims it was “the worst mistake in the history of the human race”. Diamond argues that agriculture led to increased disease, and the class and sexual inequality which still exist today.
Note how


  • Introduction leads and is connected to the thesis statement

  • Introduction signals the importance, or significance of the topic

  • Introduction moves from the general to the specific (thesis statement)

  • Thesis statement clearly indicates key ideas that the rest of the essay will address.

  • Thesis statement doesn’t just restate the assigned questions but actually answers them (in brief, general form)



2. Objective tone or Objective Viewpoint


  • No opinion. Do not include your opinion in this assignment but report accurately, objectively on the text(s) covered.

  • Distinguish your opinion from the rest. If there is space for your opinion, distinguish it clearly from objective reporting.

  • Maintain objective tone or objective distance, showing you recognize this is someone’s argument or theory or viewpoint, and not necessarily established fact.

Example:
Don’t write: People were worse off after agriculture.

Do write: According to Diamond, people were worse off after agriculture.
Don’t write: Diamond proves the agricultural revolution was a disaster.

Do write: Diamond makes a strong case that the agricultural revolution was a disaster.
Don’t write: Farmers had a less nutritious diet and constantly risked starvation

Do write: Skeletal evidence suggests that farmers had a less nutritious diet and constantly risked starvation

3. Organization.

One suggestion: Deal with one topic (e.g., one “negative consequence”) at a time. All sentences and points that belong to one topic should be dealt with in the same paragraph. Think about how to organize any essay. Example:


I. Intro & Thesis statement (see above)

TS: agriculture led to increased disease, and the class and sexual inequality which still exist today.

II. Why Agriculture a “Big Mistake”

A. Led to malnutrition and disease* (2 paragraphs?)

B. Led to Social (Class) Inequality (1 paragraph?)

C. Led to Sexual Inequality (1 paragraph?)

III. Conclusion (1 paragraph?)


4. Development, Elaboration:

Provide relevant details for key points – just mentioning an author believes or says “x” is insufficient (see “Content” section below). Often what is wanted is demonstration of causes, arguments, and evidence for key points.


5. Summarize when necessary:

There may be insufficient space to elaborate fully on all points. Summarize passages in your own words that are useful for presenting context and background to the reader but develop and elaborate key points.


6. Learn and use terminology:

To show you know it, to be precise and to save space (not just to be fancy), learn and use useful words that express more precisely the ideas you wish to express (many are in the text itself). Use dictionary and thesaurus.


7. Revise and proofread.

Assume the first version of your essay is bad (a safe assumption for most of us). Write a full draft then leave it aside for 24 hours and look at it again. If you’ve read and understood readings and assignment, you will probably recognize the need to improve essay.


8. Focus on main assigned text(s) and main assigned question(s).

Don’t be distracted by the huge amount of info– use your judgment and select from all this only what is most relevant.


B. PROPER CONTENT: (i.e., actual ideas, facts, etc… dealt with)
1. A brief explanation of the Agricultural or Neolithic Revolution.

2. Identifying and distinguishing clearly the different negative consequences agriculture (supposedly) created according to Diamond

3. Showing how or why agriculture caused these negative consequences according to Diamond

4. Identifying and examining the key types of evidence Diamond provides to support each negative consequence you choose to examine.

C. EDITING FOR CLARITY AND ECONOMY
Below are examples of the first paragraph of student essays on the same assignment. The examples show the paragraph before and after editing by the teacher for clarity and economy (i.e., to eliminate wordiness). Perhaps this will help you understand what some teachers are aiming for in their students’ essay.
Example 1: (DTP 46)
For the vast majority of human history, humans have held the status of hunter-gatherer-scavengers, killing animals and foraging plants to survive. Societies were small and nomadic and food surpluses were non-existent. Some claim that this is the “natural” way of life for human beings (Tordjman 2). However, ten thousand years ago, most humans across the globe adopted agriculture and animal husbandry. in other words, the domestication of plants and animals. This created a change in for human culture and the world at large that has been “snowballing” ever since. (Tordjman 4)

Microbiologist Jared Diamond doesn’t consider this a good thing. He claims that human beings were better off as hunters and gatherers than they are now. “With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism that curse our existence”. (Diamond 1)


(135 words)

Problems: wordiness, punctuation, losing focus on topic, thesis statement, factual errors, sentence agreements.
Example 1 Revised
For the vast majority of history, humans have been hunter-gatherer-scavengers, killing animals and foraging plants to survive. Societies were small and nomadic and food surpluses were non-existent. However, ten thousand years ago, some humans adopted agriculture and animal husbandry, in other words they began domesticing plants and animals. Many assume this created a positive change in human culture that provided more food, better health and increased leisure time. Microbiologist Jared Diamond doesn’t share this view and claims that human beings were better off as hunters and gatherers than they are now. “With agriculture,” he argues, “came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism tat curse our existence” (Diamond 1).
(112 words)
Example 2: (DTP 46)
The practice of hunting/gathering was abandoned 10 000 years when farming proved to be a more convenient way of life. Agriculture is an efficient way to produce food without the troubles of starvation. Yet Jared Diamond counters this belief, calling it the “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race”.

The agricultural revolution allowed people to adopt an easier way of life, going from nomadic to sedentary. It allowed people to have a stable lifestyle, where you can grow your own food without the anxiety of one’s next meal. Agriculture seemed to be the ideal solution, but Diamond brings a whole new perception to life without the practice of agriculture. One would think that following a farmer’s lifestyle, we would be healthier, and live longer, yet Diamond’s research or skeleton’s from back then revealed that hunters/gatherers lived a longer life, were healthier (study of enamel), and taller then the farmers.

Assimilating to an agricultural lifestyle caused huge rifts of inequality among people, a class division of richer and poorer and the need of defense on the farmer’s part. This sedentary way of life sparked trade with other villages or developing cities and Diamond claims “led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease”.
(205 words)

Problems: wordiness, repetition, insufficient elaboration on a key point.
Example 2 Revised

Hunting/gathering was abandoned 10 000 years when farming was replaced by agriculture. Though many think it provided more food, better health and a longer life span, Jared Diamond claims it was “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race”.

Diamond’s research reveals that hunters/gatherers lived a longer life, were healthier, and taller than the farmers. Assimilating to an agricultural lifestyle also caused extremeinequality among people,

Diamond uses Paleopathology to show that skeletons from the early farmers had far more bone lesions than those of hunters-gatherers – a sign of increased disease. ((Diamond 4). Evidence of tooth enamel wear also indicates that the farmers suffered from more malnutrition than hunters-gatherers which Diamond argues was due to the dependence of farmers on a few high starch, low protein crops, in contrast to the wider nutritional balance of hunters-gatherers.


(138 words)
Example 3 (DTP 46)
The agricultural revolution took place thousands of years ago, giving free time and abundant crops to these new farmers. Before this, hunting and gathering was the main factor for survival. J. Diamond believes that agriculture was a major disaster that occurred in human history. The ways of a nomadic hunting-gathering lifestyle is the idealistic way of life. This essay will discuss that with agriculture came the beginning of inequality, the higher risk level of diseases due to crowded societies and a limited variety of nutrition.
(85 words)

Problems: needs objectivity (“objective distance”), needs transition word(s), wordiness, word choice (wc).
Example 3 Revised
The agricultural revolution took place thousands of years ago, supposedly giving free time and abundant crops to these new farmers. Before this, hunting and gathering was the main means of survival. However, J. Diamond believes that agriculture was “the worst mistake in the history of the human race” and seems to think the nomadic hunting-gathering lifestyle is the ideal way of life. This essay will discuss Diamond’s view that with agriculture came the beginning of inequality, the higher level of diseases due to crowded societies and a more limited variety of nutrition.
(93 words)
D. FACTUAL ERRORS AND ADDED ASSUMPTIONS
1. Hunter-gatherers abandoned their lifestyle because they were “lazy,” agriculture was easier, offered more leisure time, etc…

2. Population increased with agriculture and sedentary life because people now had more time to have babies [!].



3. Agriculture caused bad teeth enamel. (Point missed: “bad teeth enamel” indicates inadequate nutrition – provides evidence that agriculture caused decline in health).


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