GED Sample Questions: Reasoning Through Language Arts Extended Response

By Murray Shukyn, Dale E. Shuttleworth, Achim K. Krull

The Reasoning Through Language Arts portion of the GED will include an extended response, or essay, section. You will need to be prepared for writing a lengthy, clear, concise response. Here are some examples of what you might see.

Time: 45 minutes

Your assignment: The following articles present arguments both for and against making cyberbullying a criminal offence.

In your response, analyze the positions presented in each article and explain which you think is best supported. You must use specific and appropriate evidence to support your arguments. Write your response on the pages provided.

Pro

Some youth deliberately set out to harm others by using social media, texting, and other technologies. That should be a crime, especially because the intent to hurt and harm is there. The resulting evidence of the harm is also clear. The number of young people who have in desperation committed suicide after months and years of horrific abuse shows that.

Cyberbullying is a form of abuse. In a recent case, a teen was raped, and photographs of the rape were distributed to her classmates. Comments that followed taunted her as a slut, escalating until she transferred schools. The rape was reported to the police who took little action. She received an endless stream of abusive e-mails and text. Meetings with the high school solved nothing. The teen eventually committed suicide.

This was not an isolated case. Nearly half of all teens report they have been victims. There have been multiple suicides in many countries. The police are often unwilling or unable to take action, claiming that cyberbullying does not constitute a crime.

Education programs don’t work. Virtually all schools these days have anti-bullying programs. Even grade school children are taught about bullying and respect for others. They are also educated on how to be safe online. Yet bullying continues.

The threat of a criminal record certainly would be a deterrent and, at the very least, give the police a tool with which to fight cyberbullying. It might also give the victims a tool for seeking redress from the bullies. All the other initiatives have failed, so what choice is left?

Against

There are several considerations in the debate on criminalizing cyberbullying. There are already laws against cyberbullying, if it crosses the line into criminal harassment. That is a chargeable offence. Second, how can one keep a clear line between cyberbullying and an abrogation of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution? Further, does the threat of a criminal record really deter people from such activities?

The whole issue is unclear: How do you define cyberbullying? Mostly, it consists of wild accusations and name-calling. However, that is neither slanderous nor libellous, hence not a crime. If there is no physical harm done, and no intent to drive someone to self-harm, is verbal abuse a crime? When it continues and crosses into destruction of reputation, it does become criminal harassment. Existing laws can deal with this issue.

There are other tools. A young teen texted nude photos of her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend to friends. She also posted a copy on the former girlfriend’s Facebook page. All were minors at the time. She was recently convicted of distributing child pornography, even though she, too, was a minor at the time. Existing laws punished the crime.

The other issue often raised is that cyberbullying has driven victims to suicide or attempts at self-harm. This is certainly true, but what is not proven is that the cyberbullying was the cause. Were the victims already suffering from depression? Were there other issues in their lives that made them unstable and prone to self-harm?

Proponents argue that the fear of a criminal charge will be a deterrent. But if that is the case, why do so many people still drive while drunk or continue to indulge in recreational drugs? There are clear consequences if caught, but they certainly do not stop these incidents.

The Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. When the law tries to tell people they cannot say something, at what point does that infringe on that right? Some social media have taken a solid first step. They no longer permit people to have accounts in false names.

Education is a better approach. Let’s get the schools and parents, community groups, and churches all involved in teaching our teens to have respect for others. Teach teens that words can hurt, and that hurting others is never an appropriate thing to do.