When Jonathan Swift published his A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick in 1729, his goal was to criticize the inhuman conditions of living in Ireland, as well as taking a jab at often ridiculous “get rich quick” schemes prevalent in London of his time. One thing he didn’t foresee is that the essay will become a teaching tool and that almost 300 years later, teachers will be giving an assignment to their students on writing something in a similar fashion.
Swift’s satirical piece on solving the problem of overpopulation and poverty in Ireland has since become an almost unavoidable part of every Literature 101 course on the planet, especially in the Western world. Students get tasked with writing a modern version of modern proposal and see what modern practices and problems can be mocked and exposed in the best Swiftian tradition.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where such practices aren’t lacking and the possibilities and modest proposal ideas for an essay are endless. If Jonathan Swift was alive today, his biggest problem wouldn’t be writing, it would be deciding on the topic since there is so much to choose from. So, let’s explore a few of them and see which one would be best suited for a modern modest proposal. The key to a successful modest proposal essay is to write about a topic you are familiar with, so we will start with a few general ones.
Perhaps your school requires students to have an ID card displayed visibly at all times during their stay at school, like so many schools in the country. Let’s take it one step further and require that all students must have their ID tattooed on their forehead in the form of a barcode, for security reasons. Every teacher has issued a barcode reader and use it to take attendance and instantly get access to students’ records. Even hall monitors should get readers, to better determine the nature of a student’s presence in the hall during classes. And why stop there? If teachers have them, so should the parents, better keep track of their children’s education. Every day when you come home from school, your mum can scan your forehead and instantly see everything you did that day. No doubt that it would create for some interesting dinner conversations.
The next one is for people who are tired of fitness and good looks shoved down their throat every day from every possible outlet. The obvious solution is to send all ugly and overweight people to work on farms. This would have several benefits. First, it would make them lose weight (each one should be given a target weight and upon reaching it, they would be allowed to return to their lives). Second, we would get rid of the need for those pesky immigrants, since now we would have a pool of cheap labor to draw upon for jobs nobody else wants. Finally, and perhaps the most important, those poor fitness freaks wouldn’t have to be exposed to a sight of fat people walking the same streets as them, vastly improving their mood quality of life.
Speaking of immigrants, there is an easy fix to that problem. As they walk across the border, serve them with enlistment papers for the United States military. Those who refuse to sign are turned back immediately. After, say, ten years of service, those who survive all the foreign wars we would send them to get a citizenship. Just like in jail, they good get their time in the military reduced by various acts of heroism and going above and beyond the call of duty. Not only would we get an endless supply of recruits for our meatgrinder, but the conscription would also act as a deterrent, seriously reducing the pressure on our southern border, since those unfit to serve wouldn’t dare to try to cross over in fear of getting killed in boot camp. That would ensure that only the best and fittest would try and get in, supplying our military with the best candidates for armed forces. It’s a win-win all around.