Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Essay Options

Essay Options, English 102 Winter 09. Nickel and Dimed

Rough: January 21st (Bring 4 copies)

Final: January 27th (Bring 2 copies)

  • 3-5 pages. Typed drafts. Double spaced, 12 point font.
  • Use N&D and Class Matters as sources.
  • Use three additional sources from the web or elsewhere. Start with "One Search."
  • Thesis and support for your main point.
  • Explain criticism of your main point.
    • Refine/Defend/Concede/Expand your main point.
  • We are looking for good solid ideas—original and well supported.

We are looking for real questions and real answers because these are issues that affect our lives every day. You are in school because of the issues raised in this book. Keys to your future, whatever kind of future it may be, are in this book. That's what we're looking for.

Essay Options:

  1. Perception Versus Reality

According to Class Matters:

  • on the surface, class is less of an issue,
  • while in reality the divisions between classes run deeper than ever.
  • And, this is unlikely to change.

Provide examples for first two points from Nickel and Dimed and "15 Years on the Bottom Rung."

Then, explain why there is a difference between our perception of class and the reality. Finally, explain why you think the gap between classes will grow, shrink or stay the same. Evidence from "Shadowy Lines" as well as the Evalutation chapter in N&D'd will help here.

  1. Living/Minimum Wage Debate (A traditional argument)

Should we have a national "Living Wage"? Should there even be a minimum wage? What is fair? What is best for the country?

Pick a dog in the fight and back it up with well researched evidence.

Check the online living wage calculator.

Consider the economic crisis.

Consider kids working.

Consider working with kids.

There is recent legislation on this at the federal and state level. There will be information about this from the president, too.

  1. YakTown (For the investigative journalists in the class)

    Figure 30% of Minimum wage in Washington State. Get the math right first.

    What does that rent in Yakima? Investigate and report. COMPARE THIS TO N&D.

  • What do your findings mean to the premise in N&D that housing held back many people? This will be your thesis.

Photos help. Actually going there and taking pictures.

Where are you going to get the information? The Big Picture? The best evidence?

How about "first, last, and deposit" issue in Yakima? What is the norm?

What do the motels rent for by the week? Where are they?

Safety concerns?

  1. What is to be done? (This one gets more philosophical. )

The book is great at pointing out the problem. But when it comes to solutions, it glosses over objections. If you agree with the book's ideas, help Ehrenreich by addressing these objections to her solutions, and maybe add to the suggestions. If you disagree with the ideas, expand on the objections and offer your own solutions.


This question will deal with the "Evaluation" chapter a great deal.

People who work 40 hours a week should be able to survive. Right now, they live on or over the edge. How do we fix this problem?

Here's a quote from Salon Magazine:

But [the book] also half-raises questions without truly answering them….[She] shoos them off again without letting us get a really good look at them and generally shies away from admitting that however intolerable the conditions …may be, any viable alternative to tolerating them is far from obvious.

They're right. Ehrenreich's evaluation has some flaws. What she observed is pretty convincing, but when she attempts solutions or when she confronts criticism, she is vague.

That may mean there's a problem with her premise. It might simply mean that she fumbles the final push but that the issues are still real.

Here's what I'll be looking for in a good paper:

  • What are the problems she identifies?
  • What are her solutions?
  • What counter arguments does she deal with?
  • How does she address these objections?
  • Now, you take over the argument.
    • What should be done?

Maybe she should have said, You're right.

If you tend to be more conservative, this might be a good option for you to write about. What would the conservative write for an "Evaluation" of the events in N&D'd?

Or, maybe she should have explained why the criticisms were wrong. Defend her points where she has left them open.

Maybe the criticisms, being partly right, don't change the fact that there's a problem, they just point out adjustments needed to your argument, to the solution.

Once you think you've got it all figured out, ask: What are the objections to your ideas?


JCampos said...

YakTown seems very interesting. This topic is unique and most likely will be the most popular. Going and actually doing something for a grade seems like a very doable and enjoyable way of writing an essay!

publius said...

I really like where this class and the essays are going. I very much enjoy this type of critical thinking that challenge world views and presuppositions.

Kirsten said...

I think Perception vs. Reality sounds interesting....In our society today appearance means a lot to a vast majority of people. My family grows fruit and it amazes me when the people who are working for $14/bin of pears drive nicer cars than me and my parents. It is also shocking when you drive through the "bad parts" of town where it looks like their roof is going to cave in any minute but sure enough, they have cable TV and a brand new car parked in their driveway. It makes me wonder where their priority's are.