Human history


Hi Luschen! Long time no see. How are you? Would you mind helping me correct this essay? Thank you very much.

Topic: Some people think that human history has been a journey from ignorance to knowledge. Others argue that this underestimates the achievements of ancient cultures, and overvalues our achievements. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

It is clear that the cognitive abilities of humanity have evolved over thousands of years, transforming all aspects of life for the better. Although this development appears to push ancient cultures into oblivion, a great deal of effort has been made to preserve their value.

To begin, the advancement of knowledge has turned humans into more well-rounded individuals than the past generations. First, throughout history, it has been a long battle against ignorance that challenges deep-seated beliefs and misconceptions. This has an impact on the whole society as the evolution of cognition allows people to approach problems in a logical way instead of observing with the naked eye or following religious beliefs. For example, our ancestors used to think that the earth was flat until the theory was disapproved by scientific experiments and research. Second, discoveries and inventions of late should not be taken for granted as they are the fruits of great thinkers’ labours. In fact, hopes for an improvement in living standard have become one of the main motivations behind numerous significant breakthroughs that were thought to have been impossible in the past. For instance, unlike the past ones whose communication was limited to written letters and telegrams, the internet has made it easier for people living in modern society to connect with each other and update the latest news regardless of geographical distance.

On the other hand, people have a high appreciation for ancient feats more than ever. Experts, especially on the archaeology, actively doing research in different historic sites, attempt to work out the way the past ones constructed such impressive monuments as the pyramids in Egypt. Thus people get inspired to learn techniques and skills from ancient civilizations, which can be applied to modern architecture. Furthermore, a great deal of effort has been made to preserve the relics of ancient cultures as their value is still immensely admired today. By providing financial aid to build museums, governments around the world can keep artifacts and historic monuments inact, as well as raising public awareness of their own countries’ heritage. For example, my recent visit to the Louvre was a memorable experience. There I had an opportunity to get a glimpse into early civilizations through various collections of artworks and antiquities. I took pictures to show my friends and encouraged them to spend time visiting museums where people learn to treasure the past as much as the present.

In conclusion, the progression of human cognition should be embraced because of its overwhelming advantages. It not only benefits the whole society in different ways but helps preserve the accomplishments of ancient cultures as well.

(I was rather overwhelmed with this topic. To be honest, I spent many hours figuring things out and ended up writing the essay I felt a little bit of awkward. Do you have any tips to open my mind to ideas before writing essays? I really appreciate your help!)

TOEFL listening discussions: Two seminar classmates discussing their classwork


Hi Bibo. Interesting fact - Do you know that “long time no see” is an idiom that first appeared among Chinese immigrants to the US? Do you happen to be from China? haha

As for your essay, I agree that this is a very challenging prompt. I think the problem is the two views stated in the prompt are not exactly opposite.

First sentence: human history has been a journey from ignorance to knowledge.
Opposite: ancient people were just as knowledgable as modern people

Second sentence: the achievements of ancient cultures are underestimated compared to modern acheivements
Opposite: the achievements of ancient cultures are admired just as much as modern achievements

I think you mainly focused on the second part - talking about the achievements of modern society and then talking about the works of art and architecture that ancient people created and how it should be preserved.

I guess I was hoping to hear more about the first part of the prompt. It seems like the prompt just gives the second part to give a possible consequence of the first part. I think one mistake you make off the bat is that you think the prompt means that people are getting smarter and smarter and that you agree with this. Being more knowledgable is different from being more intelligent or having better “cognitive abilities”. I really think this is what the prompt is getting at - yes of course our knowledge of the world has vastly increased, so in that way ignorance is changing to knowledge. But that does not mean that people today are smarter than those living in ancient times, it just means that we have access to all the knowledge that society and science has gathered through the ages. And it is unclear that a single individual today has more knowledge than a single individual living 2000 years ago. Yes, we know the earth is a sphere and that germs cause diseases, but that so-called “primitive” individual probably knows the name of every plant in the forest where she lives, which ones are edible, and which are poisonous, knows the steps in weaving a basket or making a clay pot, and may have memorized hundreds of myths and folktales that are told and retold. If you cannot read or write, everything must be memorized, so maybe the ancient person actually had more “knowledge” stored in her head. But the modern individual undoubtedly has access to more knowledge, knowledge stored in books and now on the internet.

OK, maybe I got off on a tangent there! I guess my advice is to make sure to answer all parts of the prompt and make sure not to modify the prompt into something that the prompt is not actually saying. And make sure to give your own opinion. I guess your conclusion has a little of this, but make sure to use the phrase “in my opinion” or something similar so the grader knows that you are addressing that part of the prompt as well.


Thank you so much for your expertise!