We the Students Essay Prompt
What does civil discourse mean to you?
Civil discourse is a concept that goes beyond a simple dictionary definition, and understanding it involves a combination of personal experience and ‘big ideas.’ Perhaps it is something you recognize from an occurrence in your own life. Maybe you can easily recognize when it is missing. Differing perspectives are a key part of learning, of democracies, and of civil society. For this essay, we ask you not only share your comprehension of what civil discourse is meant to be, but to also relate what it looks like when it works – and when it doesn’t – and why. Perhaps you will choose to include mention of a time when you, yourself, were part of an exchange intended to understand something – how did you go about it? We encourage you to bring emotion, creativity, specific examples (including current events), and well-researched facts into what you write. A good essay will demonstrate how civil discourse is not just an abstract idea, but is, in fact, action inspired by constitutional principles, and demonstrated through civic virtues. We want to know what you think civil discourse truly means.
The winners of this year’s contest will receive:
1st Place – $7,500 and a scholarship to our 2020 Constitutional Academy in Washington, DC
Runners Up – 5 prizes at $1,500 each
Honorable Mentions – 8 prizes at $500 each
Essay Writing Guidance:
Note: Ideal We the Students responses…
- Address the question asked in a thoughtful and meaningful manner
- Use cited facts and arguments when appropriate to support their answers
- Are expressed in cohesive sentences and is free of distracting spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors
- They address diverse viewpoints in a respectful manner
- They organize their answer in a manner that flows logically and reads clearly
While you are writing:
- Stay focused and minimize distractions.
- Write however you feel most comfortable—using a pen and paper or a computer.
- Let your topic guide your structure. Consider including an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion.
- Stay on track: if you find yourself getting off the topic, go back and revise.
- Remember all writing is re-writing.
After you write, ask yourself:
1. Have I answered all aspects of the question?
- Is it clear what I am discussing?
- Have I stated an opinion when asked for one?
- Have I provided examples where asked?
- Have I said what I wanted to say?
2. Is my essay well-written?
- Have I used paragraphs?
- Do all my paragraphs have a topic sentence?
- Do I fully develop one idea per paragraph?
3. Is my writing correct?
- Have I checked for spelling errors myself, without relying on spell-check?
- Have I checked for grammar errors without relying on a grammar checker?
- Have I checked my facts: dates, document titles, names, etc.?
Try reading your essay aloud to a family member. Does it sound like it flows easily? Can your audience member summarize your essay back to you in one or two sentences? (If they can’t, try going back and clarifying your ideas.)
Try putting your essay down for a day or two and coming back to it and re-reading it. Do you notice anything you’d like to change or add?