Revision as “Re-Seeing”: Student Models

An 1101 Topic Assignment: In “The Culture of Cruelty” Daniel Kindlon and Michael Thompson discuss male adolescence as a rites of passage, one that socializes boys into “the dominant image of masculinity … strength and stoicism” (282). This culture of cruelty is a survival of the fittest: “you are either strong and worthwhile,” the authors write, “or weak and worthless” (287). Using evidence from within and beyond the essay, examine the emotional struggles boys undergo to meet social expectations about masculinity. Illustrate your ideas both with personal examples / observations and direct quotations from the texts.

Sample student introduction with instructor’s comments:



To Be A Man, Or Not to Be


Masculinity in today’s society has a negative effect on males[mm2] , young and old alike. Boys are told [mm3] at an early age that if they don’t “suck it up” and don’t “stop crying” that they are not a man. They learn from their fathers, from other peers, and from magazines and movies that they have to be masculine[mm4] . They may be seen as “weak and worthless” (Kindlen and Thompson 186). This is negative because if they don’t live up to this masculinity, they will be picked on their whole lives. They will be told they are inferior to other boys.



Ø      Upon receiving any graded assignment, carefully evaluate the instructor’s written commentary. Spend time thinking through the feedback. Look up any unknown terms, number references, or abbreviations in The Writer’s Resource. Reread your writing in light of the instructor’s feedback. Then, write a “synopsis” of the teacher’s commentary, highlighting the areas that need attention in revision and making notes or listing key questions as you write. Here’s are some things this particular individual wrote:


1)       “I’m not specific enough in my thinking.”

2)       “My writing is pretty ‘rough,’ awkward in places with predictable sentences (an 9th grader could have written this)—smoothing over is definitely needed.”

3)       “I agree that ideas could be more compelling. I’m not doing much to attract my reader’s attention. Not ‘sophisticated.’”


As you begin the process of revision—adding, deleting, developing, cutting and pasting—address the “global” or higher-order concerns first: content, thesis, argument-driven paragraphs and topic sentences, organization. Then, produce another draft that visits “local” or lower-order concerns: sentence structure and variety, word choice, punctuation and mechanics, etc. Immerse yourself in the process—the results are always gratifying!


 Revision Draft #1: Student’s comments included


To Be a Man or Not to Be a Man[mm6] 


The expected image of masculinity in today’s society has a negative effect on males, young and old alike[mm7] . Boys are told at an early age that if they don’t “suck it up” and “stop crying” that they are not men. They learn from their fathers, from other peers, and from magazines and movies that they have to be masculine. If they don’t fit in to the culture’s expectations for manhood[mm8] , they may be seen as “weak and worthless” (Kindlen and Thompson 186). This is negative because if they don’t live up to this tough image of masculinity, they will be picked on their whole lives and told they are inferior. This essay will examine the destructive forces of the “culture of cruelty” that pushes boys to become [mm9] aggressive, overly competitive, and insecure.


Ø      While working on a second and third draft, continue to dialogue with yourself in writing. Become a critic of your own writing—be merciless with yourself. Sometimes it helps to put the paper away for a day or two and come back to it with a renewed mind. Remember, revision means “seeing again”; if you submit a product that looks relatively the same as the original draft, chances are you’re not really revising.



Final Revision Draft:


To Be Or Not To Be… A Man


The American culture has always prized virtues of male toughness, independence, and strength. These “masculine” characteristics are seen in our early American heroes, from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, and perpetuated in Hollywood today though icons like Van Diesel and “The Rock.” One wonders, however, if this “dominant image of masculinity” has a negative effect on males, young and old alike. For many boys, cultural indoctrination begins at an early age as they are instructed by peers and family not to cry and to “suck it up” if they fall down or get into a fight. According to Daniel Kindlen and Michael Thompson in “The Culture of Cruelty,” if they don’t fit in to the culture’s expectations for manhood, they may be seen as “weak and worthless” (186). The ramifications are potentially enormous, as a boy who does not live up to this tough image could potentially be picked on his whole live and told he is inferior. As we examine the hardships and difficulties many boys face in adolescence, we will assess the destructive forces of the “culture of cruelty” that pushes many boys to become aggressive, overly competitive, and ultimately insecure.


Ø      Now, read the initial introduction one more time. See the difference? This introduction is a markedly different product. I don’t know many writers—however experienced—who can produce a product of this caliber the first draft through. This is because we are often still thinking through our ideas in the first draft. Commit yourself to the process of revision. This student took seriously the instructor’s comments: s/he understood that changing a word here or there, or adding in a sentence or two simply would not do. In this particular case, the student worked through several drafts to arrive at this “final” draft.



Another possibility altogether: Another student’s response to this topic offers a completely different way of “seeing” and conceptualizing these ideas in writing.


The Survival of the Fittest: Growing Up in the “Culture of Cruelty”


“Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” screamed the rowdy group of eighth graders who circled the two boys fighting in the hallway. It was in between classes when suddenly the two boys began to throw punches. One of the boys fighting was the renowned Derek Parker; having failed eighth grade a second time around, he was larger than most of his peers and the most feared bully of the school. Currently pinned down between the bully’s two powerful arms was Jake Manning, who, although squealing like a pig, at least defended himself before the audience of critical spectators. It had been two weeks since Derek had been pushing Jake for a fight, calling him names like “weenie” and “faggot” and humiliating him during P.E.: “Look, guys, it’s Jackie-pooh! What a wuss! Go back home to your mommie!” Jake could no longer bear it: he had to fight to show others—especially himself—that he was a man. For in the eyes of others, he knew that he was either “strong and worthwhile, or weak and worthless” (Kindlen and Thompson 186). If he didn’t prove his masculinity now, he would never live down the shame amongst his peers…


This story is a powerful illustration of what Daniel Kindlen and Michael Thompson refer to as “The Culture of Cruelty” in their essay. The story of the average male’s journey to manhood is a common tale of hardship and harassment at the expense of other males jockeying for status and position. According to the authors, maleness is something every guy is born with, but masculinity is something that must be earned or socially proven to others; this “performance-based masculinity” (187) requires that every youth (even into adulthood) prove his worth to others through exhibiting the prized virtues of “strength and stoicism” (182), the “dominant image of masculinity” embraced by our culture. Through an examination of Kindlen and Thompson’s essay, as well as my own personal observations, we will see that the negative effects of this culture of cruelty are pervasive and often widely overlooked: it teaches men, at large, not to fully trust one another, to avoid vulnerability in relationships (which would be construed as weakness), and instills in the man that his worth is measured by his ability to perform, not his intelligence or moral character.


In-Class Exercise: List at least three features in this introduction that are particularly effective in your view. Be ready to discuss these as a class.











 [mm2]Is this logical? How does masculinity, in itself, have a negative impact on males? Be more specific here in your thinking…

 [mm3]Passive voice: who tells boys this?? Boys are inundated by cultural definitions of masculinity vis-à-vis peers, family, media, etc… Specificity!

 [mm4]Foreground this concept: is “masculinity” something we are anatomically born with or a social construct? Define masculinity—the more specific, the better.

 [mm5]You tap the surface of some potentially vital concepts, but ideas are broad and general. A sense of argument exists, but it’s rough, not very compelling… 

 [mm6]Condense this?

 [mm7]This lead-in is a bit blunt. I could be more creative, more “compelling”—attract reader’s interest

 [mm8]Maybe cite examples from pop culture to bring this point home...

 [mm9]Work on varied sentence structures and more sophisticated word choice