Hiram College

At freshman orientation this year, all first year students received a copy of Marjane Satrapi’s Perseopolis as the Common Reading. This autobiographical graphic novel discusses Satrapi’s life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, and it was selected as an exemplar of this year’s ethics theme: Civility.

Now, first year students have the chance to extrapolate on their analyses of Persepolis in their colloquiums and writing seminars, applying their insights on Persepolis and its demonstration of civility in an essay for the Fourth Annual Tom and Betty Niccolls First Year Ethics Essay Contest.

Cash prizes for the top three essays are as follows include $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place.

The deadline for essay entries is March 1, 2012.

Below are the introduction and the three prompts for the writing contest:

Persepolis describes the experiences of the young heroine, Marjane Satrapi, while coming of age during the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The incivility of the Revolution has effects on both Satrapi’s duties as a political citizen and her personal ethical values. Ultimately, the Revolution shapes Satrapi as a person and causes her to question the place of civility in her life. In this year’s ethics writing contest, students are asked to examine civility in their own lives by addressing one of the following prompts:

  • Reflect on an incident of incivility in your own life (a fight at school, a struggle with friends, a feud within your family). What caused the conflict? Were uncivil actions necessary? How might civil actions have improved the situation? In the reflection, relate your personal account to broader themes about the nature of civility and its ethical importance in your own life.
  • Analyze and evaluate an incident of civility or incivility in current public life (politics, sports, journalism, technology). Which parties to the incident are behaving civilly and which uncivilly? Why are parties behaving in the way they are? Is incivility justified in this case? Connect your reflection to a broader discussion of and reflection on the importance of civility and/or the duties of citizens in your chosen area.
  • Place yourself in Marjane Satrapi’s shoes. Do you believe her actions were civil? How do you believe you would have reacted to growing up in a society in which you were not free to express the values you thought were important? Would you leave such an environment? Would you protest? What would be the civil thing to do? In your response, consider the importance of civility as a value. Should we always be civil or are other values sometimes more important?

This contest is sponsored by the Center for Engaged Ethics and the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature.  The opportunity is supported by Betty Niccolls, in memory of her late husband Tom Niccolls, Professor of Religion and Hiram College Chaplain.