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A Push Long Essay Rubric 2016 Military

The conclusion is a very important part of your essay. Although it is sometimes treated as a roundup of all of the bits that didn’t fit into the paper earlier, it deserves better treatment than that! It's the last thing the reader will see, so it tends to stick in the reader's memory. It's also a great place to remind the reader exactly why your topic is important. A conclusion is more than just "the last paragraph"—it's a working part of the paper. This is the place to push your reader to think about the consequences of your topic for the wider world or for the reader's own life!

A good conclusion should do a few things:

  • Restate your thesis
  • Synthesize or summarize your major points
  • Make the context of your argument clear

Restating Your Thesis

You've already spent time and energy crafting a solid thesis statement for your introduction, and if you've done your job right, your whole paper focuses on that thesis statement. That's why it's so important to address the thesis in your conclusion! Many writers choose to begin the conclusion by restating the thesis, but you can put your thesis into the conclusion anywhere—the first sentence of the paragraph, the last sentence, or in between. Here are a few tips for rephrasing your thesis:

  • Remind the reader that you've proven this thesis over the course of your paper. For example, if you're arguing that your readers should get their pets from animal shelters rather than pet stores, you might say, "If you were considering that puppy in the pet-shop window, remember that your purchase will support 'puppy mills' instead of rescuing a needy dog, and consider selecting your new friend at your local animal shelter." This example gives the reader not only the thesis of the paper, but a reminder of the most powerful point in the argument!
  • Revise the thesis statement so that it reflects the relationship you've developed with the reader during the paper. For example, if you've written a paper that targets parents of young children, you can find a way to phrase your thesis to capitalize on that—maybe by beginning your thesis statement with, "As a parent of a young child…"
  • Don’t repeat your thesis word for word—make sure that your new statement is an independent, fresh sentence!

Summary or Synthesis

This section of the conclusion might come before the thesis statement or after it. Your conclusion should remind the reader of what your paper actually says! The best conclusion will include a synthesis, not just a summary—instead of a mere list of your major points, the best conclusion will draw those points together and relate them to one another so that your reader can apply the information given in the essay. Here are a couple of ways to do that:

  • Give a list of the major arguments for your thesis (usually, these are the topic sentences of the parts of your essay).
  • Explain how these parts are connected. For example, in the animal-shelter essay, you might point out that adopting a shelter dog helps more animals because your adoption fee supports the shelter, which makes your choice more socially responsible.

Context

One of the most important functions of the conclusion is to provide context for your argument. Your reader may finish your essay without a problem and understand your argument without understanding why that argument is important. Your introduction might point out the reason your topic matters, but your conclusion should also tackle this questions. Here are some strategies for making your reader see why the topic is important:

  • Tell the reader what you want him or her to do. Is your essay a call to action? If so, remind the reader of what he/she should do. If not, remember that asking the reader to think a certain way is an action in itself. (In the above examples, the essay asks the reader to adopt a shelter dog—a specific action.)
  • Explain why this topic is timely or important. For example, the animal-shelter essay might end with a statistic about the number of pets in shelters waiting for adoption.
  • Remind the readers of why the topic matters to them personally. For example, it doesn’t matter much if you believe in the mission of animal shelters, if you're not planning to get a dog; however, once you're looking for a dog, it is much more important. The conclusion of this essay might say, "Since you’re in the market for a dog, you have a major decision to make: where to get one." This will remind the reader that the argument is personally important!

Resources

In January, I wrote a column wondering whether the military will nurture creative, talented thinkers:

I asked readers to email me with their comments. Here’s one, from a disillusioned young Air Force officer:

Let’s go ahead and admit it. The military stifles talent — in fact, it seems almost designed to drive out talent. No rational actor would choose to play this game. Before you label me as bitter or disloyal, consider the following flaws endemic to our system. What I offer are the perceptions that junior officers have of the bureaucracy they’re trying to navigate. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself what your chances of staying in would be, once your four-to-five-year commitment was up. Caveat emptor: These are the observations of a top performing mid-career Air Force officer across four bases, five skill communities, and ten years, based on the beliefs observed among the company grade officers around him.

– The promotion system offers no opportunity to excel or advance. As an officer, the first truly competitive promotion (where you can get promoted ahead of your peer group) is at your 15th year. Fifteen years. Before that you can only disqualify yourself; you can miss a critical gate and fall behind the rest of your peer group.

– The retirement system discourages risk taking. It’s an all-or-nothing, up-or-out system. If you fall behind your peer group, you will get passed over for promotion. Getting passed over makes it nearly impossible to remain in the force long enough to draw retirement. Retirement is only paid upon reaching 20 years; if you serve fewer than 20, you get nothing. Risks can only hurt you.

– The assignment system directs assignments based on the need for an officer of a particular career code (i.e., "Security Forces") and rank (i.e., "Major") in a location. It makes no attempt to catalog their skills, intentionally develop them, or track officers towards experiences they will need for higher command. Most officers don’t even talk to their assignment team before being handed an assignment. Refusing any assignment means you must resign within seven days.

– Deployments, remote tours, hardship tours, and thankless staff jobs are frequently cited as ways to "pull ahead" of the pack. Successful senior leaders emphasize their divorces and flaunt how many years they’ve been away from their families. Rewards appear to be aligned with willingness to sacrifice work/life balance; no rational organization defines success by how much they can give up.

– Officer performance management offers no transparency; officers are not given real, honest, or timely feedback. Only the top 25% are ever quantified and stratified ("My #1 of 25 Captains!") in performance reports. The rest are left to assume they’re doing ok; that they’re somewhere just below that top 25%. Lacking stratification, reports are written as if each officer is fantastic. Grade inflation leads to ego inflation which encourages both complacency and mediocrity.

– Officer performance reports offer no objective measures of success or mission accomplishment. Absent objective measures, officers are left with subjective measures — specifically, how much their bosses like them compared to their peers. When promotion and stratification depend on your boss’ regard for you, a system creates perverse incentives toward politicking, backstabbing, and whitewashing your record. This system should naturally select towards the selfish and power-hungry.

– Promotion boards appear arbitrary and capricious. The Air Force freely admits that each officer’s paper records get fewer than 30 seconds of review when being scored for promotion. Given the lack of stratification on most officers’ records and the grade inflation for lack of objective criteria, most officers can only guess at what might be missing. The board presents no feedback to the officers being considered for promotion.

– The career field structure creates sub-competitions which do not select the best available talent for senior leadership. Some career fields top out at Major, meaning those career fields are effectively ineligible for senior leadership. Others are disproportionately selected because of cultural bias (e.g., fighter pilots) despite being relatively less equipped to manage large organizations. Note that your career field is selected for you, after you’ve agreed to commission, and is exceptionally difficult to change.

– Promotion is a one-way street — officers cannot be demoted and then promoted again — so one mistake (sometimes one bad performance report) can be a career killer. Negative feedback will only occur when someone is already on the way out — this pattern encourages passive aggressive leadership. Officers will not be afforded a chance to learn from their mistakes or grow.

– There are no established success criteria for reaching senior leadership; officers are left to infer the right career path from anecdotes, most of which are not positive. Since generals are most exposed to promising and like-minded colonels within their career field, the flag officer ranks appear to be primarily driven by nepotism and politics.

– The decision structure is exceptionally vertical, resulting in a top-down economy of ideas even though the information resides at the bottom. Important decisions must go through multiple levels of commanders, each time being "fixed" by officers with less knowledge of the problem. Much of an officer’s time (and career) are spent simplifying complex problems to be presented to a flag officer who has very little time to understand them. New ideas and initiatives are generally unwelcome, and especially from the junior ranks.

Why would a bright and enterprising young officer want to compete in this Air Force? Is there a sense of efficacy? Can they expect to manage their growth, develop their skills, or guide their own career? What young strategic thinker would choose this life? What senior leader would design this system?

The key issues in retaining top talent, at least for the Air Force, revolve around transparency, efficacy, and the incentive structure. Most of these rules are self-imposed. This is the culture we’ve ossified into. If we want to keep our top talent as we downsize and pivot to newer and more complex warfighting domains (e.g., drones, cyber) we have to fix this now.

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