Sample Student Essays
The Value of Life


|Writing Assignment |
|So far in this assignment sequence, we have heard a number of different |
|voices giving insights into the value of life. Hamlet's soliloquy offers|
|an emotional, metaphor-laden glimpse into the thinking of a young man |
|contemplating suicide. Lance Armstrong's autobiography uses storytelling|
|from a first-person perspective to get across how the famed cyclist |
|thinks about life. Amanda Ripley's article from Time magazine provides |
|insight into the problems involved in translating the concept of valuing|
|life from abstract terms into actual dollars and cents. The Human Life |
|Value Calculator establishes specific criteria for assigning monetary |
|value to a person's life. |
|You might not fully agree or disagree with any of the texts' essential |
|claims about the value of life. This makes your voice an important |
|contribution to this discussion about how we should value human life. |
|Where do your ideas fit into the terrain mapped by the other texts we |
|have read? Is it right to assign dollar values to a person's life? Do |
|suffering and illness impact how we should value life? Assume that the |
|audience for your piece consists of intelligent citizens interested in |
|this issue-the same types of people, for instance, who would read Time |
|magazine. |
|As you write your essay, think about the different ways the authors we |
|have read make their points about valuing life. Depending on the points |
|you are trying to make, you might want to use some metaphors for life, |
|as Hamlet does, or tell some stories the way Armstrong does. You may |
|choose to include some words from people you interview, as Ripley does |
|in her article, or you might even choose to establish some criteria for |
|how human life should be calculated in monetary terms. As you construct |
|your essay, make conscious choices about the ways you can represent your|
|ideas to your reader. |
|How should our society assign value to human life? |
|Be sure to refer to and cite the readings. You may also use examples |
|from your personal experience or observations. |


The sample student essays that follow reflect the EPT Scoring Guide's
criteria.

Sample student essay with a score of 6:

The Value of Life

Should people put the value of life into monetary value or should life
be kept solely as an emotional quantity? People and societies throughout
the ages have been trying to answer the problem of putting the value of
life into terms of dollar bills. The ancient Egyptians buried their dead
with all of their worldly belongings. They believed a person's monetary
worth on Earth was over, and they should take all of that earthly worth
with them to the afterlife. Modern day Americans are different from the
Egyptians. Today people believe that the families of the dead should be
compensated for "their" loss.
It is true that life is a precious commodity much like a diamond. But
unlike a diamond, life has no set monetary value. But today's government is
trying to change that. After the tragedies of September 11, 2002, the
federal government started a federal fund to help the victims and families
of victims of the attacks. This fund would give priority to people who were
injured in the attacks, then to the spouse, and then to the parents. Sounds
great doesn't it? Your husband dies and now you just lost your income, and
the government is going to pay you for your loss. Well don't jump on the
bandwagon so fast now. This might sound great now, but once you are knee
deep in the program, it won't be so fun. To figure out how much money a
person will receive from this fund is determined by a multi-step process.
First they figure out how much an individual would have earned had there
been no attacks. This would mean that a banker's family would earn far more
than the family of a janitor in the buildings. Is it true that a banker is
worth more to society than a janitor? Is a lawyer more important than a
desk clerk? Then the fund adds $250,000 as a base cover, and then another
$50,000 for a spouse and each child (Ripley 12). This would imply that a
married man who has 6 kids in more important than a married man with no
children at all. Is it more important in society to "make babies" than it
is to just live