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Tutor profile: Louis S.

Louis S.
Tutor and mentor for K-12 + college students; senior-level sustainability consultant

Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

Please answer the following question: Should we fear failure? Please write a persuasive essay, and please keep it under 750 words.

Louis S.
Answer:

On the list of things that all of humanity has in common, I would argue that the fear of failure sits near the top of the list. For many of us, we grow up in environments that are strewn with expectations: academic performance, career paths, behaviors, achievements, etc. Those expectations may be borne of culture or family, but they can also manifest independently: wanting to feel happy, to be successful, or to be liked. And regardless of expectation, we do fear our own failure. As to whether we should, I would argue we should not for three reasons. First, failure is in the eye of the beholder. Obtaining a 74% on an exam, which on a conventional grading scale does not constitute a “failing” grade, can still be seen as failure by a high-achieving and ambitious student. Failure, thus, is a subjective concept that we often view in objective terms: we think that if we have failed, then everyone else will recognize that we have failed too. And yet, take that 74% to any teacher or registrar, and they will tell you instead that you passed. If we have indeed failed, then how could someone else say we did not? That is because of individual perspective and experience. So, actual and objective failure does not exist, and we thus can define for ourselves what failure and success mean. And if we can do that, then theoretically we could set parameters whereby failure does not exist or is easier to avoid. If the parameters of failure are under our own control, why fear it? Second, and relatedly, we fear failure because to it we attach connotations of either our own or others’ design. Failure, by definition, is the lack of success. You could attempt to climb Mt. Whitney in one day, but for one reason or another, you do not make it to the top in that timeframe. By definition, you have failed, but that alone is not what many would consider failure. Let us add context: your father was a prolific climber who climbed Mt. Whitney in under a day, and throughout your childhood he expressed his desire for you to do the same. And yet, if you do not succeed, it is not because you did not climb the mountain that you will feel failure. You will remember your childhood and your father’s wishes, and you will feel that you have disappointed him. Therein lies what we often mistake for failure. The failure itself was not completing a task within certain parameters, but that alone is not devastating. It is instead the burden of expectation and the value we place on our own or others’ expectations that we recognize as failure and is thus why we fear and feel it so intensely. But could this not, theoretically, be overcome by creating that distinction in our minds? Could failure instead be that you just did not climb Mt. Whitney in one day, and that you could try again and succeed? If that were failure, knowing that you could re-attempt and successfully climb the mountain, would you fear it so much? Finally, we should not fear failure because it is necessary for success. Through failure, we are often given the enviable opportunity to recognize our mistakes. You will receive your graded exam, for which you received a 74%, and have outlined for you which questions you answered incorrectly and where there were opportunities to earn a higher score. You now have instructions to correctly answer similar questions on, say, the final exam. Coming down from your failed attempt to climb Mt. Whitney in one day, you have the chance to reflect on why you were unsuccessful. Perhaps you took an inefficient path, or perhaps you were not physically fit enough to achieve the feat just yet. In both scenarios, you can identify what needs to change and adjust so that you succeed on a future attempt. In other words, by failing, you can secure for yourself that you can succeed and take the steps to do so. By my measure, failure does not merit fear. It is subjective, and how we view failure is often very much in our control. We can teach ourselves to distinguish between actual failure and the fear of not meeting expectations. And we can learn from each of our failures to succeed later in life. Instead of fearing failure, we should embrace it as a natural, inevitable, and productive part of life.

Subject: US Government and Politics

TutorMe
Question:

Among the pillars of American constitutionalism are classical republicanism and natural rights philosophy. How have these philosophies influenced the U.S. Constitution, state constitutions, and the Declaration of Independence?

Louis S.
Answer:

Among the many questions with which constitutional scholars wrestle, identifying the balance between two fundamental philosophies that underpin the U.S. Constitution, classical republicanism and natural rights philosophy, reigns supreme. We see this question appear in many different ways, often by way of prioritizing the rights of the individual versus the needs of the many. And yet, it is as much the dialectic between these two principles as it is the principles themselves that upholds the U.S. Constitution and gives it is strength and robustness. In short summary, natural rights philosophy - which emanates from the likes of John Locke - opines that humans are born with natural and unalienable rights. Locke defined these in his second treatise as the right to life, liberty, health, and the estate, but the rights that one might consider natural or "God-given," may vary depending on one's point of view. Classical republicanism, on the other hand, is based in ideas of governance and civic life dating back to the likes of Aristotle, Cicero, and more, While there have been variations in this philosophy over time, whether you are reading Baron de Montesquieu, Niccolo Machiavelli, or Thomas Hobbes, government is seen as a more active agent, one that knows and addresses the needs of the people, and one that establishes a relationship or social contract with those it governs that essentially defines what rights people do and do not have. And in some way, classical republicanism promotes civic engagement and enlightened self interest - that people should look beyond themselves and engage with both government and society at large for everyone's prosperity - not just their own. These philosophies find themselves interwoven throughout the governing and framework documents of the United States. The U.S, Constitution itself is, in and of itself, a demonstration of social contract theory - defining the terms of engagement between the document itself, the government, and the people. Classical republicanism shows itself often throughout the document, starting with the Preamble - "We the People..." - defining the ins and outs of a federal republic with elected officials and a justice system in Articles I, II, and III, and concluding with a clause in Article VI, Clause 2 that states that the Constitution shall be the supreme law of the land. And yet as much as the Constitution, in effect, establishes a democratic republic, it is also rooted very much in the fear of tyranny and monarchy. Article I, Section 9 defines what Congress and the government cannot do, touching on protections of individual liberty (see Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 on the writ of habeas corpus). However, it is the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments to the Constitution, where protections of individual liberty are brought out with fervor. They indicate which rights the government cannot deny, including the rights to freedom of speech, freedom to petition and assemble, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and more. The state constitutions showcase much of this language, and in fact it was the U.S. Constitution that drew from the likes of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written to proclaim the inherent rights of men. The Massachusetts Constitution, which predates the U.S> Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, describes itself as "social compact" and outlines a process by which people can "alter the government." It is accompanied by its Declaration of Rights, which lays out many of the individual rights included in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. Classical republicanism and natural rights philosophy found themselves both in conversation and in conflict in older state constitutions as much as they still do in our current federal and state constitutions. The Declaration of Independence, finally, puts this dialectic on display as well. Many of us have perhaps recited such lines at school, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." This definitive line of the Declaration places natural rights philosophy and classical republicanism side-by-side: humans do have natural, inalienable rights - but a government is needed to both secure and further define these rights but does so by consent and will of its people.

Subject: College Admissions

TutorMe
Question:

What is an obstacle you've faced, and how did you get through it?

Louis S.
Answer:

When I was younger, a close friend of mine passed away. We had grown up together, and for the last few years of his life, he was one of my closest friends and confidants. He was brilliant: he was an aspiring aerospace engineer, a talented timpanist, and a well performing student. He had a dry, perhaps cynical, sense of humor that I adored. But above all, he was kind - and gosh, was he generous. He gave so much of his time to others and was as courteous as they came. But he struggled with mental illness for most of his life, and his mental health declined to a point where he could become unrecognizable. Like the stain of sunlight when you close your eyes, I can remember his last few messages to me before he took his own life. I like to think of myself as a fairly resilient person, but his passing shook me. I feared death for a long time - as I suppose so many of us do - and it showed itself in its grimmest demeanor. I asked myself questions that I could not answer. Why was I not there for him? What did I say, or not say? Why did I not do more? Am I a bad friend? And as time went on, I lingered in the shadow of that event and found myself depressed, all the time wondering how far anyone really is from feeling that the world has turned against them and that there is no other solution. Getting through it took years, and it was not until an idol of mine also died by suicide. I listened to some of his final interviews and paid attention to his words, his phrasing - and I started to feel that I could relate. And that terrified me - so much to the point where I finally sought therapy. Therapy, as I've learned, can be curative - but more than anything, it is insightful and managerial. I gained an understanding of myself that I truly never had imagined before. What we see of ourselves can be so limited and biased, and yet talking to someone who could ask the right questions and could listen without judgment removed a heavy veil for me. Over time, I felt better. I was able to process and properly mourn my friend's death, and I was able to accept my emotions as they came. The full spectrum of emotions, so much of which we learn to reject or shun over time, became my biggest asset. I accepted how I felt, no matter how positive or negative, and I let myself feel without judgment. Over time, I got better, and I've been in a progressively better place since beginning therapy. I'll close by saying that I learned that grief is non-linear - it can tackle us when we least expect, and it can reveal the darker shades of our mind. But, it can also be an opportunity and a path to self-healing and self-realization, and I think that is ultimately how I got through my friend's passing - even if it took me some time.

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