The Junior Critical Paper, or JCP as it’s more fondly known, is a capstone writing experience of The Gregory School English Department. The JCP requires 11th grade students to select fiction or non-fiction books of their choice to analyze in relation to The Gregory School’s guiding principles of the "6 Cs": critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, compassion, and community.
This 12- to 15-page paper compares and contrasts the chosen books. English 3 teacher Lori Barnett says that individualization is important in allowing students to explore and then decide upon the books and the "Cs" they want to write about. The JCP serves as in-depth study—both of the books and of one or more of the 6 Cs and how these traits guide the central figures.
"Although we, as students, often view the 6 Cs as contrived terms that place too much of an emphasis on values that we already think we possess, writing the JCP has made me realize that these terms hold a lot more meaning than we give them credit for,” Ashling Lee ‘22 wrote.
The JCP process is lengthy. Students select and read their books during the fall semester. They begin writing in stages in the third quarter, with the final draft due at the start of the fourth quarter. Juniors have frequent conferences with Ms. Barnett throughout the entire reading and writing process and, in addition, are encouraged to use The Gregory School Writing Center during any stage of the assignment to get assistance and feedback from peer editors.
“I enjoyed the JCP because of the freedom that we had to choose two different books,” wrote Martin Weich ‘22, who selected The Color of Water by James McBride and The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish.
Madison Harland ‘22 agreed. “The opportunity to study one topic through two novels was enlightening. I was able to find a new level of analysis and depth that previously was impossible in shorter essays. The JCP gave me the ability to truly understand a topic of my choosing.”
Beyond offering students autonomy in their education and opportunities for in-depth literary analysis and refinement of writing skills, the Junior Critical Paper also provides students with a hefty academic achievement.
“I encourage our seniors to include the JCP on their resumes and note it on their college applications as part of their academic accomplishments,” Director of College Counseling Michelle Borleske explained. “The JCP is a tangible example of the academic rigor expected of our Gregory School students. Colleges are looking to admit students who have demonstrated not only excellent writing skills, but also who have the ability to think critically regardless of the major being pursued.”
Anisha Jaggi ‘20 has found the skills she honed in the JCP process to be an asset in her first year at Pitzer College. “The JCP was an important experience in preparation for college writing, due to the extensive length and deep analysis that it entails, the exposure to literature from around the world, and the freedom to individually explore specific systems within our writing.”
Finally, the JCP offers juniors the chance to grow on a personal level, as reflected by Ashling Lee ‘22: “I hope that throughout the process of writing my JCP I will learn more about my chosen ‘c,' compassion, and learn to become a more compassionate person myself."