The Righteous Mind Essay Contest


In college you will be writing more than you ever have before. You will be writing for classes in and out of your major, not just your English classes.  The writing you are asked to complete will be more complex, require more advance preparation and more thought from you than high school writing.

To introduce you to the demands of this writing intensive environment, we are asking each incoming student to write a brief essay for our Righteous Mind Essay contest. This typed essay will also become a primary source for your ENL 101 instructor to evaluate your skills as a student-writer. (It is a chance for them to get to know you and your writing on the very first day of classes.)

Please bring two copies to your first day of English 101: Critical Reading and Writing. The first will be for your professor and the next can be submitted for the essay contest via your instructor.

On the top left hand corner of your essay include,

Your Name:

Assignment:  First Year Summer Reading Essay Response

Date: The date the assignment is due (First day of classes, Sept, 3rd, 2014)

Word Count: 325 – 350 words

Essays should be typed, double spaced, have 1 inch margins, and a standard font like Times New Roman.

Essay Prompt

Your Audience:  Your instructors and new classmates at UMD.  HINT: Remember that they have read the book.

Your Assignment:  Choose ONE of Haidt’s central metaphors: “the mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant,” “the righteous mind is like a tongue with 6 taste receptors” or “humans are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee.” Please tell us about which metaphor is most meaningful to YOU and why. Does it relate to a personal experience from your life? Do you think it might influence your actions as you enter the college environment? Do you think your chosen metaphor is the most important one in the book? Why? Do you disagree completely with one of his metaphors?

To be effective in this assignment, you will want to BOTH explain the metaphor  (quoting/ summarizing Haidt ) AND explain what how it relates to you, why you find it interesting or disagree with it or how you might apply it in your own life. For example, has there been a time when you made an intuitive decision and justified it to yourself and others afterwards (as Haidt describes with metaphor 1)? Have you found yourself making judgements and decisions that you couldn’t really explain later? How might you do it differently if you had the chance? Describe your experience in a way that really brings that situation to life for your readers. Think as a reporter: Let your readers see, hear, taste, touch and smell.

As for the form of your writing, it is perfectly appropriate to use a type of college writing style called a “personal narrative.” As Andrea Lunsford explains in The Everyday Writer, “A narrative is an example that tells a story” (131). Lunsford advises that “you may have been told that your personal experience doesn’t count in making academic arguments.  If so, reconsider this advice, for showing an audience that you have relevant personal experience with a topic can carry a strong personal appeal …” (130; italics added).

HINT:  Email yourself a copy of your essay so you will have an additional copy should you need one.

82 thoughts on “The Righteous Mind Essay Contest

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