Essays That Speak

The Lyon Philosophy

All of the instructors at Lyon Prep have extensive experience teaching writing courses to first year college students, and, because of this, they have all seen hundreds of student essays that say absolutely nothing –essays that were written not because the students had something to say about the subject, but merely to prove to the instructor that they knew how an essay should be written.  It has become clear that many students have missed something vital in their high school experience: that, although high schools are doing a great job in many areas, high schools are failing to train our children to seek out knowledge, to think deeply, and to effectively organize and express their real thoughts. This is not the fault of the instructors. Any dedicated instructor will tell you about the pedagogical importance of interacting with their students, of providing detailed feedback on assignments, of engaging individual students in prolonged, meaningful conversation, and of motivating students by showing that they care, but the context in which public school

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teachers are teaching makes it impossible to do so on more than a superficial level. Although many high school teachers are extremely dedicated individuals, it is almost impossible, when dealing with 150 students in a day, to engage each child in meaningful conversation or to spend adequate time responding to the written assignments each child has completed. Once a teacher loses his ability to acknowledge each child individually, to talk with their students individually about their thoughts and to respond in detail to the work each individual student has produced, the children are robbed of their opportunity demonstrate their progress, making them progressively less likely to take the next assignment seriously.

The result of this — a result we experienced first-hand in our many years of teaching– is that many students enter college having gained an incredible amount of knowledge, but not having gained the gift of independent thought, having been conditioned by twelve thousand hours of sitting silently inside their classrooms to think of education as something spoon fed to them by their instructors. Because their public school teachers have no time to guide your children individually — can spend only 45 seconds per day responding to their homework — many children have developed a superficial notion of how to write their essays, viewing these essays merely as a writing exercise, or as proof that they were listening, rather than as the culmination of hours of active, independent study of a topic. They have never been required to develop an insightful, complex thesis, nor to immerse themselves in the research aspect of an assignment, gathering the information required to properly formulate their beliefs. If they ever did get excited about a project — excited enough to learn about the subject on their own — they were probably rewarded for their many hours of effort by a couple kind words from

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their teacher, and a couple positive comments written in the margins.

The Lyon Prep essay programs are founded on the idea that this is completely insufficient, and we use the particular learning context that We've created (the 1-on-1 attention and the opportunity to spend far more time outside of class responding to student assignments) to establish an environment where effort and thought are rewarded, not just by positive comments, but by a respectful, academic dialogue — a dialogue which begins with an honest acknowledgement of what the student has accomplished and which ends in a new understanding of how that student can further refine his thoughts.