December 2015 ACT Asia writing essay sample
One of the foundational principles in both macro and micro economics is specialization. Nations and individuals alike needs to find their unique competitive advantages to offer to the marketplace in exchange for compensation or trade for goods and services. This notion closely parallels the argument for the need of mastery at an individual level, however, I would argue that this is less relevant today than it was in the past.
Mastery of essential skills is fundamental to survival as a species, and therefore does provide "meaning and purpose" to life as Perspective One contends. By the age of two, babies begin their journey towards mastery of a spoken language, which is essential to communicate effectively. The same can be said of learning to read and write. In the past, writing was a skill reserved for the privileged and wealthy, but in today's world, it is a prerequisite to almost any job to know how to read and write. Therefore, I would agree that mastery of essential skills is worthwhile and pays back in multiples in the form of the ability to develop relationships, find gainful employment and develop a sense of purpose in life. However, the same cannot be said of mastery of just any skill.
Too many people today have the luxury of focusing attention on entertainment or activities that don't directly lead to "valuable or practical" benefits. The average grade school student will have played enough video games, listened to enough music or watched enough television to have reached a "mastery" level of media entertainment (10,000 hours as specified) by high school! Becoming adept in the skill of video gaming only benefits a small majority who can develop a career in this field. The same can be said of sports, music, and most hobbies. Although some have a natural inclination, affinity or ability for a certain skill as Perspective Three states, it is not necessarily wise to pursue it unless there is a clear path to monetizing the skill. So although an individual may have a love for playing guitar or sewing or making clothing and decide to master this, it is very unlikely that this skill will have great benefit outside of a sense of personal satisfaction. In the past this might have more readily translated into monetary value, but the reality is that the internet has made it easy to find free music and order cheap clothing from around the world, thus quickly negating the practical value of these two hobbies.
As society continues to fully embrace the information age that we have entered since the turn of the century, the skills worth acquiring have changed significantly. I partially agree with the fact that Perspective Two states that dedication to learning complex skills are worth the time for some, but more fully agree with the fact that we need "well rounded skills" and "variety". Simply choosing a major in college and spending four years of study mastering a subject guarantees a job only for a small percentage of graduates. The purpose of Universities was to create a standardized platform for "mastery" of the major you decided. But, the rate of change in the world today render's many skills obsolete in a matter of years. Many of the programming languages that were taught a decade ago in a computer science program are no longer very valuable as the world has moved to new programming languages and mobile friendly development. Instead, I would argue that a student would be better served in studying processes and abstract skills such as rapid learning, data dissemination, leadership or other transferrable skills that employers look for today. Students should choose mastery of complementary thinking or communication skills (for example - emotional intelligence fits well with management or business, or algorithmic thinking fits well with computer science).
To conclude, some time should be set aside for hobbies and relaxation as Perspective Three mentions, but this should not be the priority. In the increasingly competitive world we live in today, care must be taken in choosing how we spend our time and what we choose to pursue mastery in.
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