We talked in class about how, for critical thinkers, all ideas are merely hypotheses to be tested and refined. Therefore, it's only appropriate that our class have a set of hypotheses we can collectively test throughout the semester to see if they hold water and how they change with new contexts. So, without further ado, here they are:
You may think you are the only beneficiary when you do your homework, the only victim when you don't raise your hand and participate. Wrong. We rise and fall by the power of the community we create.
By "critical thinking," we mean actively identifying one's assumptions and doubting one's conclusions, repeatedly subjecting them to scrutiny to refine and improve their accuracy.
If you don't think well, you risk being a weak-sense critical thinker and making the world not better but instead just more how you assume it should be at first glance. If you don't read well, you risk joining a conversation in progress without knowing what has been said before, thus looking like an idiot.
This is just an easier way of saying "Write unto others as you would have others write unto you."
Mangling what you want to say to fit it into five prescribed paragraphs is not smart. Better to deviate from the five-paragraph essay and say what needs to be said in the most efficient way.
While there is no one right way to write papers, there are plenty of wrong ones—inefficient, ineffective, unrealistic. As the stakes get higher and the requirement for excellence steeper, you should refine your process to better meet the needs of your context and your understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses.