Contemporary Satire Essays

The principal of North County High School in Anne Arundel sent a letter home to parents after a student's "insensitive" essay caused controversy. (WJZ-TV)

The high school Advanced Placement English class had an assignment: Write a paper mimicking Jonathan Swift’s satirical “A Modest Proposal” of the 1700s. The teacher called for the teenage students to closely follow the seminal text in which Swift called for poor mothers of Ireland to sustain themselves during a famine by selling their babies to wealthier families.

“A young healthy child well nursed,” Swift wrote, “is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.” In its historical context, it was biting satire aimed at criticizing the British devaluation of Irish lives.

A student in the North County High School class who turned in a version of his own, modern “modest proposal” — satirically suggesting the eradication of all but a few black Americans — has stoked racial tensions in Anne Arundel County, Md., after his essay circulated on social media extolling the virtues of “corralling said Negroes back to the Sahara desert, and using a high-ordnance nuclear missile to wipe the cesspool of filth some call a ‘race’ from the earth.”

Julie Cares, principal of North County, sent a letter home Tuesday to parents addressing the essay, which was written and submitted by a 17-year-old junior who is white.

[Read the North County letter to parents]

“Just as one could argue that the content of Swift’s piece was ill-advised and insensitive, such is the case with the content of the student’s piece here,” Cares wrote. “I want you to know emphatically that North County High School embraces and supports all students, with no exceptions. Conversations around sensitive topics such as this, however, are critical to our growth as a school and, ultimately, as a society.”

Anne Arundel schools spokesman Bob Mosier said that the school system is investigating the incident and has yet to determine if any disciplinary action is appropriate.

Mosier said that the essay began circulating among students and that parents brought concerns about the essay to school officials. Mosier said that teachers in Advanced Placement language and composition classes commonly give students the assignment to copy Swift’s style with their own “Modest Proposal.”

“The topic chosen by this student was clearly insensitive and clearly ill-advised and has created feelings of anger, frustration, concern and consternation among students and staff,” Mosier said.

While the assignment specifically called for satire, the student’s words were alarming enough to spark an investigation to determine if, in fact, the student meant to imitate Swift’s grotesque way of making a point or whether the overtly offensive language was linked to something fundamentally racist and perhaps dangerous. Mosier said the county schools are taking the concerns about the essay seriously and sent administrators to North County to speak with students about the essay.

Mosier noted that Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was originally made in jest and that Swift knew “it was a ridiculous proposal.”

The teacher who assigned the paper did not respond to a request for comment; the student who wrote the paper also did not respond to a request for comment, and a woman who answered a phone number listed for the student’s mother declined to comment. The Washington Post is not identifying the student because he is a minor.

The incident at North County came three months after another white teenager in suburban Maryland was captured in a viral video disparaging black people, whom he said belonged to “an inferior race.” The Mount Hebron High School student’s racist pronouncements led to a demonstration at the school and rebukes from the Howard County administration.

[Maryland student’s dismissal of ‘Black Lives’ movement prompts backlash]

The North County student’s satirical paper caused outrage, Mosier said, for its bombastic language. The student assailed black Americans with a litany of stereotypes and wrote that the few who buck those stereotypes could stay in the country and “keep each other company.”


Channelle Robinson, the mother of a junior at North County, said that her family found the student’s paper racially offensive.

“I understand that the school is saying that it was an instruction about satire,” Robinson said. “At the same time, I feel like given the times we live in I feel like the teacher should have handed it right back.”

List of Good Topics to Write a Satirical Essay and Make an Impact

Satire expresses the harsh truth in a funny or mocking way. There are various elements in human society that exhibit hypocrisy. A satirical essay can be a brilliant way to highlight the irony or hypocrisy in a situation.
A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift, is one of the most famous satirical essays about the complete lack of empathy by the rich class towards the poor oppressed class in 18th century Ireland. He proposes a 'modest solution' for the poor who cannot afford to tend and feed their children. He suggests that these children be fed to the rich landlords, which will solve the problem of the poor parents, and serve as a delicious treat to the inhumane landlords.
Satirical essays are intended to represent an ironic situation by inducing a touch of humor and hyperbole. These essays represent tough problems in a subtle manner, laced with wit and humor; however, they are highly effective in conveying the message.
If you're planning to write one, there are various topics that you can choose from. Most satirical topics can be found in current affairs and politics. If you're aware of the trending hot topics around you, it will certainly prove beneficial while writing satirical essays. Given below are a few major areas that can provide topics for writing a good satire.
No society is devoid of problems. Look around and analyze the current social issues that need to be addressed urgently. Compare your society with that of others. Of course, there are bound to be cultural differences and many social evils still prevail, yet this very diversity can bring about various issues that need to be addressed.
Political issues are the biggest source for satire. Keep yourself updated with news and recent happenings if you want to choose a political topic that is a currently trending. Yes, of course, you can pick up something from the history too. A good way to enhance the satirical impact of your essay perception is to read newspaper comic strips that address political issues.
Every economy has to face bad times, and it suffers from certain loopholes. Such loopholes can become a good topic for satire. For example, inflation, taxes, or problems associated with employment, etc.
Addressing the environmental issues has become the biggest need of the hour, and is the biggest satire on the face of humankind. For his own benefit, man has exploited nature beyond reproach, and in turn invited the wrath of nature's fury. A satirical essay on such issue can be a good way to create awareness that we need to protect our planet for the future generations.
► Gay marriages
► Challenges faced by the marriage system
► Rising divorce rates
► Obesity
► Increase in suicide rates
► Increasing cardiovascular diseases
► Obsession with social networking sites
► Couch potatoes
► Obsession with video games
► Teenage pregnancy
► Addiction to drugs
► Teen depression
► Rising work stress
► The rat race
► Carrot and stick approach
► Gender bias in an office environment
► Harassment at workplace
► Problems faced by the working class
► Women's Rights
► Fashion obsession
► Working mothers
► Crimes against women
► Gender inequality
► War
► Terrorism
► International relations
► Export-Import policies
► Globalization
► Budget deficit
► Illegal immigration
► Abortion
► Unhealthy competition
► Unethical business practices
► Economic disparities
► Unemployment
► Inflation
► Debt peonage
► Taxes
► Demerits of capitalization
► Pollution
► Deforestation
► Global warming
► Ozone depletion
► Demerits of nanotechnology
► Is man becoming slave to technology?
► Child sexual abuse
► Crime rates
► Animal cruelty
► Racial discrimination
The comic element in a satirical must not be overdone. Also remember to not go overboard while bringing out the harshness or irony of the situation. If you're writing on sensitive topics like religion, you need to be cautious with your language. You might be entitled to your opinion; however, your essay must reflect a fair analysis of the subject. Write a satirical essay with deep research and good knowledge of the subject. A poorly researched essay will expose your lack of knowledge.

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