Is studying the concept of ‘discovery’ essential for teenagers? A persuasive writing task for year 12 English.

About a month ago I read a post on Facebook by Kelli McGraw where she asked whether we should be teaching students a range of essay types in English, and not just the typical literary analysis essay expected in the HSC. This is something that I have often asked myself, and (through my love of teaching Orwell’s essays to my year 12 class a few years ago), I have dabbled in this area a little over the years, especially with regards to having students write personal essays to develop their argumentation and personal voice.

Kelli’s post prompted me to challenge my year 12 students to write an essay form unexpected for year 12 – the persuasive essay. Of course, thanks to NAPLAN, this form of essay is not foreign to my students, and after a quick flick through an online guide (see link in task outline below), my students were good to go! I introduced the task with a (rather long) quote from John Green (thanks to my colleague Kate for sharing this Reddit AMA link with me) in which he explains why he loves writing young adult fiction, because ‘teenagers are doing so many things for the first time’. I think what he says about teenagers asking the big questions, and facing the world with sincerity, relates nicely to the concept of discovery… and I think it explains beautifully why I love teaching teenagers. ❤

The final part of the writing task involved me selecting the best responses and publishing them on my blog! So, after you read the task, please enjoy the incredible words of the incredible young people I get to hang out with for the next 12 months.

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‘Studying the concept of discovery is essential for teenagers.’

Do you agree or disagree with the above statement? Support your position for or against the above statement with evidence from the texts we have studied in class, making comment on both the ideas about discovery explored in the texts, and the way in which these ideas have been communicated through the features of the specific forms.
Tips on writing a persuasive essay from:


Essential…absolutely necessary… extremely important… crucial… indispensable… imperative… paramount… vital…discovery. Can you spot the odd one out?

Though this initial sentiment points to the notion I am extremely adverse to the subject, I actually do believe it to have some positives, with which I will initiate this discussion upon.

The study of Discoveries is a somewhat essential element of the HSC as it provides students with an invaluable, new and developed understanding of themselves and others and of their experiences, relationships, attitudes, perspectives and values past, present and future. As indicated in the infamous rubric, Discovery can not only encompass the experience of discovering something for the first time but also rediscovering something that has been lost, forgotten or concealed. Furthermore, discoveries can vary in nature, possessing qualities of being sudden and unexpected, or emerging from a process of deliberate and careful planning evoked by curiosity, necessity or wonder.

The concept of discovery can help us to understand processes occurring within our own lives, the visual text ‘Cosita’ by Ali Chalmers-Braithwaite achieves this, illustrating to us how the experience of physical and internal discoveries can transform the perspective of an individual. The juxtaposition “Home was an unstable concept… Spain was simultaneously more familiar and more foreign than a lot of places I’d been.”  Accompanied by the gaze of the character looking outward over the horizon illustrates the broad possibilities highlighting that every circumstance for discovery is different, and results in the development of knowledge and perspective, which can help us not just to understand and associate better with others but also consolidate our emotions and discoveries to mature emotionally and intellectually. Furthermore, studying discovery can catalyse internal realisation, this process is evident in the article ‘Why do we care who Banksy is?’ By Noah Charney which can help readers to understand ‘what makes us tick’. This is demonstrated through the use of repetition and truncated sentences in “If we know a secret, we wish to reveal it. If we learn of a secret, we wish to know it.”  whereby inclusive language highlights the shared, innate desire or curiosity we share to make discoveries of things that intrigue us, serving to develop our understanding of human nature. Additionally, through analysing the discoveries of others, one can make discoveries of themselves. It’s ironic but it’s brilliant, and it is one reason why the study of discovery is essential. Such a phenomenon is exemplified through the study of ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ by William Butler Yeats, which highlights the fragility and changeability of our lives; as in the causal statement “whatever is begotten, born and dies.”  Which serves to foster in our own minds the seeds of contemplation within our own lives. We begin to question the nature of our existence and conclusively form perspective on life, making us come to terms with our place in the world; helping us to realise, alongside other vital life lessons, that no; the world does not evolve around us and no; we are not immortal.

One would argue these to be important life lessons.

However…the study of discovery is not without its flaws. Flaws that, arguably, are much akin to a stubborn and insistent parent – they must not be ignored!!! Firstly, the study of discovery is complex. So very complex. Take for example again the poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, that presents to students the complexities of life and ageing. Us students already have to grapple with their tenuous transition into adulthood, some of us don’t have the mental endurance let alone capacity to withstand grappling with the intricacies and convolutions of the concepts explored in this area of study!

The motif of time is used to present the confrontation with one’s mortality and “sing to lords and ladies of Byzantium of what is past, or passing, or to come.” Illustrates the desire for immortality and sense of in his search for personal value in the physical world, then further confrontation with what awaits us beyond in what Yeats describes to be a pure spiritual world. Woah! Hold up! This is a notion reserved for the period of our mid-life crises! Also, has no one ever considered the fact that it is the near-identical-but-not-quite twin of the year 11 AOS Journeys? Like the kind of near identical twin that only their best best friends who are super super close and spend all their time together (i.e. teachers) can tell them apart but anyone who isn’t so emotionally attached and doesn’t quite know them (i.e. students) couldn’t tell them apart if their life depended on it? Well, I have; and I find it to be another reason that the study of discovery is really not all too necessary. Aren’t they basically the same, and if not, it is an undeniable truth that they catalysed each other and occur simultaneously. Is the syllabus just stuck on a broken record? We have (mostly) done it all already last year, why should we repeat ourselves?

So, is the concept of discovery essential? Honestly, my perspective on this is accurately summated in the rhetoric in ‘Why do we care who Banksy is:’ “are were any better off for knowing?”. But, overall, while the study of Discovery is not an essential element of the curriculum, I do believe it is still an important one in a necessary wide range of study of text and conceptual areas within the study of English that serve not just to enhance our intellect but also our understanding of the human condition and experience.



Does society remain sheltered and anxious without the drive for discovery, or is this a wistful grasp by self assured poets to try remain relevant in a changing world? School shines light on our inept education system, implicating the study of a concept can have real world impacts on an individual, translating to application within different scenarios. But this simply isn’t true. Though discovery in itself is a pivotal catalyst for the growth of teenagers, learning about the idea of discovery within a classroom setting is futile at best. William Yeats ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ and ‘Byzantium’ evidence this through the incoherent ramblings of a writer trying to relive his ‘glory days’.

Firstly, the most important part of appealing and teaching an audience is the metalanguage and jargon of their time, to act as an intermediary for their learning. Yeats completely ignores this in his text  ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ , with references to lines such as ‘Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre’, the use of rhyming couplets used to create flow and rhythm, but provide no meaning as to what is actually meant. Without truly understanding, the line is rendered useless to the audience, and even with substantial annotation by teachers, students are intimidated and no knowledge is gained. Following this, Yeats describes a spiritual journey he has supposedly undertaken, ‘Once out of nature I shall never take my bodily form from any natural thing’, juxtaposing ideas of birth in nature and rebirth in machines, unwittingly mirroring his alienation from the audience he is unsuccessfully trying to connect with. Yeats’ experiences with spiritual rehabilitation prove to be extraneous, as teenage readers simply cannot relate due to their lack of real world experience and ironically, revelations about themselves. Context is a central part in learning about discovery and without proper engagement with the target audience, Yeats’ poem is trivial.

Additionally, reading and absorbing information of other people’s experiences does not provide the same relevance as independently facing these challenges/journeys. In Yeats’ ‘Byzantium’ this is clearly revealed by ‘An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve’, metaphoric fire used to represent anger and anguish by the forgotten spirits. Though this is a ‘clever’ piece of writing, it has little substance in emulation of a real scenario and will not truly benefit teenagers in how they can and choose to behave. Our education fixates on the ideology of personal growth and rationalises discovery as a means to catalyse change in the ascension to adulthood. The paradoxical statement ‘death-in-life and life-in-death’, highlights the immortality of the mind, through the idea of intellectual preservation, but ultimately does not have any impact on an individual who reads it. The concept of rote learning and memorising pieces of texts thusly appears to be asinine, yet the HSC rewards retention of information, over application of the concept that is supposedly being taught.

In the end, discovery remains and always will be vital for teenagers, especially with how they can apply it to themselves as they move through life. However, studying the concept of discovery, especially the way in which we learn it now, is highly detrimental, and acts as a weak excuse for headstrong literature fanatics to force ‘classics’ onto a new generation of unwilling and unhappy teenagers.

Chris H

“Découverte, Entdeckung, Descubrimiento, Scoperta… Discovery.” No matter what country or culture, the innate importance discovery holds in all humans is a factor that universally binds us together. Discovery is not merely a noun, instead, as a concept it encompasses the experiences and emotions evoked; jubilation, fear, curiosity and the ultimate effects on the individual physically and emotionally. Studying discovery allows teenagers to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of the human condition and the desire to discover one’s place in the world and additionally, investigating this concept can potentially lead to the relieving of earlier personal discoveries  and the effects these had on oneself. Hence, I believe it is important that we teenagers should study the concept of discovery.

Learning about (essentially discovering) other people’s discoveries allows for teenagers to gain a greater understanding on the human condition which can make them more global citizens. Teenage years see us moving away from the enclosed enclave of school and parents into the ‘outside world,’ and it is natural that many of us may question what our role is in this world. Through the persona of William Butler Yeats 1928 poem “Sailing to Byzantium,” the discovery of mortality and the fear of being rejected is conveyed, only to be changed as the poem progresses and the persona discovers that he can gain immortality through his intellectual works. The persona’s initial disappointment with his sense of unfulfillment in current society is

illustrated through the high-modality language “That is no country for old men,” which emphasises his frustration, however, this then changes as he gains acceptance of himself through imagery “Into the artifice of eternity.” Many of us may relate to Yeats and this poem. Not so much in the fact that we are ageing and becoming disjointed with the society around us… well hopefully not, but because we are reaching a new phase in our life. Studying discovery through this text may affirm or challenge our assumptions about the human experience and may even give us hope that if a 60-something year old can still discover his place in the world, so can we.

The exploration of the concept of discovery through texts also allows for us as teenagers to understand the significance of personal discoveries on the self. Already in our young years, we have made many discoveries either for the first time or have rediscovered things that have been lost or forgotten. However, many of us may overlook and downgrade these discoveries and their impact until we are forced to look closer in the form of a NESA A4 rubric that tells us everything a discovery should lead to and entail. Tim Winton’s 2004 short story “Aquifer,” describes a young male protagonist’s childhood years in which he gains new knowledge about the world around him, in particular through making a poignant discovery on the construct of time and how the experiences we live in our lives are more important than the ticking of the clock. The metaphor “My parents bought a kitchen clock that seemed to cheat with time. A minute was longer some days than others,” highlights the protagonist’s discovery and road to maturation. It wasn’t too long ago when we were this age and through analysing this text by focusing on discovery, we may be able to reflect on our own experiences of discovery when we were a child and re-evaluate their worth on our progression. The power of discovery may be elevated as through ‘Aquifer,’ we see the permanency of these changes on one’s self, or, by trying to understand the protagonist’s epiphany at the very end due to his discovery, teenagers may ultimately be confused about how energy can move through a wave without the physical movement of water.

Despite the many reasons for studying the concept of discovery , there will still be those students who disagree with my arguments and try to write an essay better than this, but they won’t due to the very fact that their base thesis is wrong. Those of the opposing view may believe that the concept of discovery is too complex for our immature selfs. This may be true, however, many of us have already learnt about complex topics and have been challenged in multiple ways, and, if you have a great teacher :), the concept becomes quite bearable. Additionally, many of us can already easily relate to this topic as discovery is part of the universal human condition.

Hence, I believe that it is important that teenagers study the concept of discovery through texts. Studying discovery can allow us to understand more about the people around us and the innate human desire to discover your place in the world and also, this concept can help us gain a greater appreciation of life-discoveries and their effect on us. I hope you discovered something today.


Some things have to be learnt from first-hand experience. And some things don’t. At least, the foundations of an idea can always start in the classroom, where there is guidance and an experienced voice to show you the way. Why should teenagers be pushed into the deep end when upon finishing high school, they are forced into a world of unknowns where all the discoveries-in-waiting become so overwhelming and confronting as to become stagnating.  

Study of Discovery within texts lets us know that sometimes the unexpected happens like Tim Winton’s protagonist bony discovery in ‘the Turning’, and that it’s okay if sometimes everything goes sideways, but it also gets us inexperienced youth pondering greater things. Tim Winton’s character asks himself ‘is time moving through us or us through it?’ and so as the audience we do to, and are privy to an inner discovery that maybe we wouldn’t experience first-hand. Therefore, if nothing more than a slight change of perspective, the study of discovery expands our youthful and naïve field of vision, to better develop our understanding of the world’s intricacies and perhaps allow us to consider all those discoveries we have yet to make. 

It seems that contrary to the idea guidance, there comes the expectation that we are allowed to experience failure and ‘learn our lesson’, and yet in reality the two are not distinct from one another. Most worry that a preconceived idea of the discovery experience – a preconceived idea of life – can be debilitating; it won’t allow us to come to our own conclusions because we are only following planted recipes. But guidance is not a bad thing. I experienced this first-hand with the Yeats poem ‘Byzantium’ wherein the first reading is so overbearing and intimidating. Confident direction has brought comprehension to a beautiful piece of literature, and yet my interpretation of the poem is still just that – mine. This study has opened my awareness to a whole new array of writings, you could even say it has helped me to make my own independent discoveries (hah). And if discovery’s not for you and you like being boring and leaden that’s fine, at least you’ve gained a little bit of knowledge of one of the greatest poets ever. See? No downside. 

But most importantly there is one fact that runs all counterarguments into the ground – something I’m certain of because I am experiencing it firsthand. The study of discovery can only gift you knowledge, and being a teenager on the cusp of strange new horizons rife with potential findings is scary, so I can say with utmost confidence that even this little bit of preparation could never be a bad thing. 


Roll up teenagers, you avid English fanatics! Today, I will take you on a journey and together, we will discover how the study of discovery is essential for teens. Please don’t leave, hear me out! Discovery is a key component of the human condition – that is, we all can and will experience it, especially during this important period of teenage identity development! Without discovering, our lives would be bland and very, very boring. Through studying discovery, we can gain a better understanding of our emotions, desires, abilities and strengths. This intricate concept has been artfully weaved through the non-fiction text ‘Why do we care who Banksy is?’ by Noah Charney and short story ‘Aquifer’ by Tim Winton, allowing us to explore why studying discovery is essential for us to reveal more about ourselves and the people around us.

Ah, the human condition. For those of you who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, the human condition are the essential characteristics and events that are the building blocks of human existence, one of which happens to be an aspiration to discover. Through studying discovery, we learn of its potential and gain a better understanding of why we want to discover. This is seen in Charney’s use of synecdoche ‘We humans dislike secrets. Or rather, we love secrets…after a period of wondering, guessing and inquiring’ unifying experiences of the human collective unconscious (props to Carl Jung) hence perpetuating that we will all inevitably experience discovery. Furthermore, the study of discovery allows us to realise the sheer power of discoveries able to trigger traumatic memories. Winton uses the persona’s sombre tone ‘I saw a shabby clump of melaleucas and knew exactly where it was that this macabre discovery had taken place’ conveying the persona’s emotional turmoil after rediscovering a death he witnessed as a child, and while we don’t particularly want to experience discoveries which take a severe emotional toll on us, it’s what makes us human. Hence, we can see that discovery is a key component the human condition, something all of us can and will experience, therefore allowing us to appreciate and understand the many facets of discovery and the effects they can evoke.

The human mind can sometimes cause us to behave in incomprehensible ways. Sometimes, we just don’t know what to do after discovering something traumatic, shocking or awe-evoking, however, studying discovery through the numerous texts the concept is manifested in allows us to see how others react to discovery. A literary learning experience, if you will. Charney reiterates the curious and inquisitive nature of the human mind and its desire to both make and hide discoveries, in the repetition ‘If we know a secret, we wish to reveal it. If we learn of a secret, we wish to know it. If we are the secret, we want someone else to find out’ making us wonder why our gears turn in such a paradoxical manner. Similarly, Winton’s persona undergoes extreme emotional torment from witnessing traumatic events as a child, in the rhetorical questioning ‘What did he want? What did he ever want from me?’ conveying the persona’s realisation of the mental strain and torment that persists years after witnessing the death and having no outlet to release his emotions. Therefore, through studying discovery in many different texts we can see how characters, personas and composers respond to the upsides and downsides associated with discovery, and allow us to relay this information in our own lives.

Of course, it can be argued that teenagers don’t need to study discovery as the process of ‘revelation’ somewhat detracts from the allure of mystery. Charney concludes his article with his opinion ‘The moment a secret is revealed, no matter how engaging, there’s something of a deflation. The world could use more unsolved mysteries.’ juxtaposing and mocking our widely held belief of the importance of discovery. However, studying discovery is highly important. I’ll propose to you some questions (you too, Mr Charney): If we aren’t discovering, then what are we doing? Is there any point for our existence if we aren’t discovering? How do we develop without discovering? Even now, Mr Charney providing us with his opinion that discovery isn’t important, that in itself is a discovery, isn’t it? Your move, Mr Charney.

Phew, what a discovery that was! I hope I have allowed you to discover the intricacies, the many facets and significance of the study of discovery. Whilst some people think that the teenage brain is too underdeveloped and lacks experience to fully understand discovery, I firmly believe studying the concept allows us to understand happenings in our world. We can comprehend parts of the human condition, understand our emotions and what we really desire. Kudos to Noah Charney’s non-fiction text ‘Why do we care who Banksy is?’ and Tim Winton’s short story ‘Aquifer’, two texts which explore the different aspects of discovery beautifully.


“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”[1]

Ultimately, Discovery is a vital unit for teenagers to study, as it broadens their horizons so that they might sail further, or gain the courage to set sail in the first place. The fact is simple: discovery is an unavoidable wave on the ocean life, and there won’t be just one. An appreciation of the mysteries of life, and the new knowledge and experience gained from revealing them, is attained through studying the value and many faces of Discovery. Discovery is essential for teenagers to study as it develops empathy and appreciation of life experiences, although the confronting nature of some discoveries may give reason for shelter up until the teenage years.

Remember the first time you discovered the ocean? Maybe you’d lived in the city or inland some, and that first breathtaking sight of its seemingly endless expanse just blew you away. Or maybe you’d known the beach since toddler age, but each time you come back you find yourself knowing something different about the world… Throughout your life, in expected and unexpected ways, you’ll discover more and more about yourself, the world and everything in between, but those little knowledges won’t be as valuable if you haven’t studied the concept and many facets of discovery. Firstly, discovery develops the self. Ali Charmer’s cute comic Cosita explores this: on the protagonist’s lonely travels through Northern Spain, she reveals a hidden truth about herself: that a) she is homesick more for her cats than for her family, and b) she needs affection and a supportive purpose in order to be fulfilled. She adorably suffices this by adopting a stray palace cat and being its carer for a short while, all shown through the minimal monochrome squares of story. Similarly, in Fiona MacFarlane’s humorous short story Man and Bird, our Reverend protagonist discovers his new religious beliefs, hilariously through a combination of psychedelic dreams and believing his pet cockatoo to be an archangel sent from God. However, he simultaneously discovers his solitude in believing these new beliefs, leading him to find God in his little yellow car, with the fantastical imagery of ‘the white bird [flying] in the shaft of light above the car, and the revolving earth… man and bird together reached the sea.’ And we’re back to Square 1 with the sea. New truths about oneself and one’s places in this exciting and tumultuous world are gained through discoveries, but only sufficiently appreciated through a study of this concept.


Due to teenagers’ totally unstable and unpredictable (although actually highly predictable) emotional status[2], discovering the confronting nature of some discoveries can be a tough discovery to discover. Also simply put: some teenagers just don’t have, like, the time to study discoveries, or else they just won’t understand what the heck they’re learning, and so the whole process is wasted on their confusion. For example, you don’t have to be a literary scholar to process Cosita or Man and Bird, but you very well do have to be one to process Yeats by yourself as a teenager. I didn’t understand his two famous poems Sailing to Byzantium and Byzantium until our teacher had taken us through it, at least not the hidden or figurative meaning. Teenagers can easily whack their fingers on the literal, or physical discovery, but the real juicy ones – the figurative, metaphorical, metaphysical discoveries – are the ones that matter. “That is no country for old men.” First line. The first thing I think of is that epic Coen Brothers movie, and then I assume that ‘That’ is referring to Byzantium, because that’s where he’s going right? Wrong. It’s referring what he’s left behind, i.e. the physical world, and sets up the whole mood and theme of the confronting nature of old age, which is arguably not much on the minds of young people. So, if a teenager was reading this by themself, and interpreted the first 6 words wrong, how do you think they’re going to find the rest of the poem!? For some, it’s just not feasible to study the deeper aspects of discovery, but if you don’t what’s the point at all? In Byzantium, he goes on about ‘I hail the superhuman; // I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.’ which is so awesome and beautiful if you get it, but otherwise for the most of teenagers who haven’t read Thus Spoke Zarathustra[3], the vacillation and circular juxtaposition of ‘death-in-life and life-in-death’ would just be plain confusing, and the whole beauty of the spiral motion of Yeats attempted description of The Next Life would be lost on deaf ears (or brains).

Therefore, despite the possibly confusing or confronting nature of discoveries, the empathy and appreciation of life’s experiences gained from studying discoveries tips the scales, and justifies the study of discovery for teenagers, as it will ultimately aid in their navigation of this constantly undulating sea of life. The smooth-sailing texts like comics and short stories provide a pleasant and accessible pedagogy of the value and nature of discoveries, whilst the more difficult, adult, texts like Yeats’ poetry call for a more hands-on-deck approach, but both are valuable in bettering the self through learning. Which, as we know, is a point ceaselessly needing addressing when it comes to teenagers.

[1] Quote: André Gide, French author

[2] I would know…

[3] Unexpectedly, as I have: one of Nietzsche’s most celebrated works that I picked up in Dymocks for, like, $8


2 thoughts on “Is studying the concept of ‘discovery’ essential for teenagers? A persuasive writing task for year 12 English.

    • Thanks! Refreshing is what I was after – I’m going to get them to write personal essays after we engage with The Motorcycle Diaries, to get their real thoughts on Che’s discoveries!

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