Sunday, April 13, 2014


The purpose of an advantages and disadvantages type essay is to put forward the pros and cons of an issue in a cool and detached manner without taking sides. The complete lack of an argumentative element is due to the following:
·         There is no point in arguing for or against the issue because it is a well established fact whatever the arguments. All the writer can do is to point out the obvious. For instance, you can’t write an argumentative essay about iphones or androids,  air travel, only children, working women and the like but you can write advantages and disadvantages essays. On the other hand, you can write argumentative essays about capital punishment, censorship, euthanasia and the like.
·         The decision is being left to the reader. The writer presents the facts, indicates pitfalls and benefits but on the whole, doesn’t get involved.
The planning of an advantages and disadvantages essay is quite straightforward: the issue is presented in the introduction, the pros and cons are expressed in an objective and balanced way in separate paragraphs in the development.
The Introduction
In order to be able to discuss the pros and cons of an issue, you have to clearly delineate what the issue is. The way to do this is to start with the general and narrow the topic down to the issue. The rule of thumb is “from the general to the particular” or “from the past to the present”. Let us consider an example of the latter type of introduction:
In the past, due to lack of birth control and the existence of  rural communities where manpower was an advantage and custom, large families with a dozen or so children were quite common. Infant mortality was high and some would pass away but others would survive to till fields and plough the land. In the modern world, over population, the widely publicized disadvantages of a large young population, changing life styles and the existence birth control have shrunk families with only children becoming ever more common. Although this is the current trend, it doesn’t mean being an only child has only advantages; there are disadvantages as well.
Now let us consider a second example where the focus is on the present but the argument is narrowed down to the issue in hand which is the pros and cons of compulsory military service:
Human history is entirely composed of wars; a fact that continues today though missions do often serve peaceful purposes like aiding in clean up missions, humanitarian missions and disaster relief. This means the manpower to fight these wars or serve on these missions is necessary. There are very few countries that have small symbolic armies such as Switzerland and Japan; most countries have armies and recruit regularly. The period spent in the army is referred to as military service and is considered to be beneficial in numerous ways to the individual, to the society and to the wider community in general. Yet there are some undeniable drawbacks too.
One point of interest here is that the specific advantages and disadvantages are not listed in the introduction; the introduction is not ‘a table of contents’ or ‘an abstract’ it is an introduction to an essay. Listing all the points in the introduction, discussing them in the development and then listing the whole thing again in the conclusion makes the essay terribly repetitious and gives the impression one doesn’t know how to write introductions and conclusions.
The Development:
The development of an advantages and disadvantages is composed of two blocks: the advantages and the disadvantages. In a relatively short essay, they would be allotted a paragraph each but there is really no reason why they shouldn’t be dealt with in three paragraphs each or in as many paragraphs each as the writer sees fit or he has time for. Another point one needs to remember is that there needs to be transition between the paragraphs. Let us turn back to our example:
The army can transform the lives of people by encouraging a healthy lifestyle and regular habits. Going to bed and rising at regular hours after a decent night’s sleep gives people the energy they need to start the day. The first thing recruits do next is physical training, followed by showers and a healthy breakfast. Calories and food value are carefully calibrated in the mess. A life style such as this will help the recruit shed pounds and develop physical strength, which will impact mental health. Any ailments are treated very seriously and dealt with by the medical corps. Such a regular lifestyle has untold benefits and impacts  later life as well making it possible for people to both enjoy work and have fun while preserving their physical health. Yet nothing in this world is black and white and military service is no exception. (The function of this sentence is to provide transition to the disadvantages.)
The major disadvantages of military service are either practical or psychological or both. Since a career is impossible without doing one’s military servicein countries where conscription exists, a lot of people feel they are being held back by being obliged to do military service. They want to get started on the career ladder and rise fast; they don’t want to take time out doing something they feel is pointless. Plus the very macho atmosphere of the barracks doesn’t suit everyone: some are sensitive, lack confidence, cannot stand up for themselves and buckle under the pressure. People with issues do suffer in the army and this is true, but in most countries, the period is limited and after all, military service is considered character building.
The Conclusion: One thing the conclusion is not is a carbon copy of the introduction. While the function of the introduction is to narrow the topic down to the issue being discussed, the function of the conclusion is to move away from it and provide an opportunity to round off the topic in a general way. The conclusion can be written in various ways so long as this rule is adhered to: a restatement, a summary, a reference to the future, generalizations  are all possible. The misconception that the main points must be copy pasted into the conclusion from the introduction usually comes from the inability to write a restatement. The rule one needs to remember is that the conclusion is a paragraph in its own right and deserves individual attention. It is the last paragraph of a piece of writing and the last words a teacher reads before grading the essay. Let us consider the following example:
In conclusion, armies will exist so long as conflicts or peace keeping missions exist.  Although some benefit from their experience in the army, others do suffer yet overall, the institution works to the benefit of society. The changing role of the army with deployment in peace keeping or humanitarian missions should help deal with ethical concerns some people have and redefine the role of armies putting them on a par with similar humanitarian organizations.
Let us look at a complete example before put another misconception to rest:

The Olympics are the single oldest international organization of completely amateur sport in the world with the first games dating back to the ancient Greek city states of Athens and Sparta. The winners were famously only rewarded with a wreath; there were no riches or money; only honor and glory. This tradition endures in the present day as well with two differences: the wreath has been replaced with medals and the games are held in different countries all over the globe. Many countries consider it a great honor to host the Olympics and rivalry and negotiations are fierce until the announcement is finally made and one country emerges victorious. However, is hosting the Olympics all that it is cracked up to be and does the endeavor involve some disadvantages as well? The answer to this question is undoubtedly affirmative.

It is universally agreed that hosting an international organization on such a grand scale has various advantages. The most obvious one is all the facilities and amenities that are provided for the games which later benefit the locals of the area. Stadiums are built or revamped, infrastructure is updated and any problems are ironed out, accommodation is arranged; in short, there is a general clean up ahead of the guests. Any international organization of this sort means tourists, which means potential customers, which means local businesses can look to making a tidy profit. It is a wonderful opportunity to advertise the country in all its glory, which in turn means future profits. In short, at first glance, it looks like a brilliant business opportunity so why are the Brazilians out in the streets protesting en masse the fact that the country is preparing to host a very similar international event, the world cup?

There are various disadvantages of hosting any organization on such a large scale which may not be obvious at first sight. If there are vast differences in quality of life and standard of living between various segments of society in the country as in the case of Brazil, the lower classes may see all the money being poured into the building of stadiums and the like to be a total waste of money and misuse of valuable resources. They may prefer these millions to be spent on welfare projects, housing, schools and roads not on some fancy playing fields they are not going to be able to get into. It must be agreed these people do have a point. Then there is a very real danger of not being able to recoup the money invested, which may be the case if not enough tickets are sold for the games or people just prefer to watch the games in the comfort of their living rooms. This has been the case in London but luckily, Britain is a developed country which can afford this. Can the same be said for developing countries and is the risk worth taking?

To sum up, hosting the Olympics does bring glory, free showcasing of the attractions of the country and revenue but whether this revenue will cover the costs and provide a healthy profit and whether public opinion will back the government of the host country is up for debate. Governments should consider the pros and cons very hard before taking on such a venture.

The Misconception: an essay can focus on just advantages or just disadvantages as well; there is no rule that says both have to exist in each essay. Let us consider the two examples below; both based on reading tasks posted on this blog:
Reading related advantages disadvantages essay: “No more executive bonuses”; Level ** reading tasks
It has long been assumed that the individual who seeks to take the rudder and sail the ship shoulders the most responsibility, takes the biggest risks upon himself, feels overwhelmed by all those depending on him and thus requires some additional compensation. The intrepid sailor being referred to is the CEO and the ship he is steering through the stormy seas is the company. The result in the second half of the previous century and the current one has been the custom of executive bonuses. Far from guaranteeing the future of the company and the welfare of all concerned, this system has produced a lot of disadvantages.
The most important disadvantages concern the chief executives themselves. Knowing that they get bonuses if they fail, in the form of golden parachutes, and if they only appear to succeed like in the case of mergers, the executives shift their attention away from what is good for the company to lining their own pockets. The average idealist is hardly going to get involved in such a racket so the rakes, the crooks and the sleazy businessmen take on the position. It is very hard to blame these executives for taking unnecessary risks as they get paid whatever they do but with the wrong man in charge, the company is doomed to suffer in the long run.
The second group of disadvantages concerns the rest of the staff of the company; those who don’t get the bonuses and look on. This silent majority, Nietzsche’s herd, watch ‘the rulers’ and quickly lose any loyalty they feel for them and the company. This kind of an attitude bodes ill for a company as very little can be achieved in business without cooperative team work. It is working together, sharing ideas and discussing them which produce innovative thoughts. With the passion gone, the workers go about their daily jobs and probably cut corners while working. The class structure created in the company is, therefore, very bad for business.
To sum up, although executive bonuses were created to further companies and get real, engaged leaders to head the companies, the system has backfired. The current system has done quite the reverse and brought the wrong people to leadership positions and undermined the staff. Future success for companies can only be guaranteed with managers with leaders with leadership potential.
Let us now consider another example; this time focusing on only advantages:
Reading related writing activity: “Peer Pressure for Teens Paves the Way to Adulthood” Level ** reading tasks
It is in the nature adolescents to wish to explore their more extended environment, seek out new experiences which they can enjoy and form a wider social circle. In the meantime their brains are still in the process of completing their developments; a process that goes on into their twenties. Everything is exciting, new and fun and must be fully enjoyed and it is with these feelings churning around inside them that teenagers immerse themselves in all the new experiences. They are not alone on this journey; they are with their peer group which can exert some beneficial influences on them.
Contrary to popular belief, not all peer groups are bad; in fact some can be very useful.  They encourage the teenager to learn to take part in useful activities like playing sports. There are some wonderful team games that build solidarity, teach cooperation and build a team spirit. Working towards a common goal of say beating the team from the neighbouring school can be very rewarding. Fears and phobias can be overcome during camping trips or on visits to the sea side for instance where the fear of the sea can be eliminated.  There are all kinds of people in a peer group but the group identity does gain tremendous influence with kids even dressing similarly. So long as the influence is a good one such as being coaxed into adopting good habits, the influence of the peer group can be very positive.
There is a long term advantage of peer groups and the pressure they exert, and that is the growth of self reliance. According to research, the influence exerted by peer pressure peaks at around 15 and then starts dropping, tailing off at about 18. During this period, teenagers sometimes go along with group decisions but also learn to resist it gradually becoming more self reliant. Given that human beings live in highly developed, complex societies, this initial learning opportunity is invaluable. The social learning that takes place as well as the psychological development that inevitably occurs both help the teenager in all his future relationships.
To sum up, peer groups and the pressure they exert can be very beneficial to the all round development of an individual. Learning how to interact with group member, how to work and enjoy things together as well as how to resist pressure when the need arises from some of the corner stones of growing up.

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