Fall 2019

Dr. Zhanshu Liu

Essay#1 Assignment Sheet

For the first formal writing assignment, you need to write an essay on the topic of college education. Some good questions are raised in the introduction of Chapter 16 “Is College the Best Option?” In deciding what to write on, you can take a look at the essays we’ve read so far, and you can also peruse those included in the chapter that we have not read. When you formulate your argument, make sure you clearly state when you stand in the debate over the value of higher education. In addition, be sure you know which author’s ideas you can use to support your claim, and which author’s ideas you will question and challenge.

Here are some questions for you to consider when you decide on what to write:

1. With tuition skyrocketing in recent years, many American families struggle to send their children to college. Do you think that college education has become a luxury that most working class families can no longer afford? What can be done to make college education more affordable to people of different backgrounds?

2. Do you agree that the traditional American liberal arts education has outlived its purpose in an age when technology has changed our life in so many ways and job market has become so competitive? What are the alternatives to the seemingly overpriced, obsolete, and impractical college education we’re accustomed to?

3. Rick Perlstein, a graduate from the University of Chicago, opines that American colleges and universities have lost their relevance they used to command in the 60s when students took over campus buildings and led antiwar demonstrations. Write an essay in which you argue that colleges, community colleges in particular, are playing an increasingly important role in our life.

4. Sanford Ungar and Charles Murray clearly disagree with each other on the value of a traditional liberal arts education in preparing students for a rewarding career. Ungar believes that jobs in the future require individuals capable of inspiration, not just narrow and job-focused training; on the other hand, Murray argues that a B.A. is just an admission ticket to the job market where employers show little interest in what the students have learned. What do you think the liberal arts education has to offer to the generation of students who are facing a changing and uncertain job market?

5. Liz Addison compares the community college system “American’s hidden public service gem,” which offers “a network of affordable future, of accessible hope, and an option to dream.” What do you gain from attending a two-year community college?

6. In his article “Hidden Intellectualism,” Gerald Graff argues that intellectual growth is not and should not be just the outcome of pursuing academic activities. Graff contends that being engaged in non-intellectual and philistine activities such as talking about cars, fashions, playing video games, and even reading sports magazines can help us learn how to think and argue critically. Write an essay using your own experiences to either challenge or support his argument.

7. Gerald Graff proclaims that he’d rather read a sharply argued student essay on an issue of popular magazines than pore over “a lifeless explication of Hamletor Socrates’ Apology.”Is reading Shakespeare or pursuing a college education necessarily and unavoidably boring? What can college administration, faculty and students do to make college education meaningful, fulfilling, and exciting?

8. Most colleges and universities in America strive to serve three important purposes: commercial, cognitive, and moral. What do you value most in your college education? Write an essay to address how a college education helps you grow as an individual?

9. Do you agree with Ben Casselman that the mainstream media has focused too much on the students who go to a smaller number of elite colleges? What are the consequences of ignoring the problems majority of American college students face today?

10. In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Hollywood celebrity Tom Hanks expresses his deep gratitude towards his alma mater, a local community college, for giving him the opportunity to jumpstart his education? Do you agree with Tom Hanks that community colleges can help many students of unprivileged background in ways that traditional four-year universities cannot?

Guidelines for Preparing Your Draft for Essay#1

I. Organization

A. Your essay should have an introduction, body paragraphs (minimum FIVE paragraphs), and a conclusion.

B. In the introduction, you need to include the following:

1. An opener or hook that grabs your reader’s attention. You can start with a question (usually rhetorical), an interesting anecdote, or shocking surveys and statistics. For good examples, refer to the essays in our textbook.

2. A brief summary of what other people have said or written on the issue. Use the template for ongoing debates (24-25).

3. State your own argument in a one or two sentence thesis statement.

C. In developing the body paragraphs, you need to:

1. Start the body part of the essay with TWO summary paragraphs of TWO articles you will reference to in the rest of the body paragraphs. You can modify the summaries you’ve written for your journal assignments.

2. Make sure each of the body paragraphs starts with a topic sentence that expresses the main idea. Include one or two key words and phrases that you can use to support your thesis.

3. Follow up with your topic sentence with at least three more sentences that support the main idea with further explanation, facts, and references to ideas from other writers. At least two quotations from other author’s articles must be included in each body paragraph.

3. Wrap up your paragraph with a sentence that reinforces or highlights the main idea.

D. In writing the conclusion, you need to:

1. Summarize your main points without repeating the same words or phrases used earlier in the essay.

2. Offer a suggestion, solution, prediction, warning, or call to action for your reader to consider.

II. Content

A. On the subject you write about, you need to establish a position that is reasonable, open-minded, and substantial. Try to make your argument transparent and thought provoking without being provocative. Have a strong opinion, but don’t sound opinionated.

B. Use ideas from other writers to support or form a contrast with yours. Refer to at least two different texts for this essay.

C. Whenever you refer to outside texts, always remember to integrate their ideas into your own writing by adding your comments and elaboration. Never quote without commenting.

III. Format

A. Try to use the templates we’ve learned in class in introducing ideas and quotes into your writing. This is an important requirement for this essay assignment.

B. Use proper in-text citations when you quote or refer to another writer’s ideas.

C. Prepare a list works cited at the end of your essay. For both in-text citations and works cited page, follow the MLA style.

D. Your paper should be typed, double-spaced, using Times New Roman 12 point font. Put information about yourself, instructor, course, and assignment on the upper left hand corner of the first page of your paper. Use header and pagination.

IV. Language and Mechanics

A. Follow academic writing conventions, such as writing in the present tense, avoiding excessive use of first person pronouns, and leaving out inappropriate or informal expressions. Make sure you introduce your quotes with proper words (37).

B. Try to challenge yourself by using some new vocabularies to better articulate your thoughts.

C. Use proper punctuations, especially when using quotations.

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