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In popular thoughts, the United States is a symbol of freedom and equality. The official narrative of U.S. history often overlooks the darker chapters of the nation’s past. As a field, American Studies offer a critique of this grand narrative of freedom and equality. According to you, to what extent do the promises of freedom and equality are fulfilled or not fulfilled in American society today? In this essay, you are required to:
1. Pick one or two pieces of news article about a recent event – Research phase: 100 points.
Please pick a descriiptive news article rather than an opinion piece because you are going to analyze the event, rather than the opinions of a writer. The article can be about race, class, gender, disability or immigration (depending on your interests). If you want to focus on race, you can find articles about the anti-Asian hate that rose with the rise of Covid, the Atlanta shooting, the murder of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the Black Lives Matter movement. Or if you want to focus on gender, you can look for articles about shares of house chores between men or women or the comparison between men and women salaries, or the number of women in CEO positions or in Supreme Court, for example. Or if you want to focus on class, you can find article about how covid impacts meat-packing workers or delivery workers (most of whom are people of color) or about how the rich handle social distancing during covid. These are suggestions only. You can basically pick any news article that you think can help you support your to answer the question above.
2. Analyze the article(s) of your choice to answer the question above. Engage 3 reading texts in the class to support your analysis. – Writing and Analysis phase: 300 points
To engage with the texts does NOT mean summary. Engaging with the texts mean that you use an author’s concept or argument to highlight how their concept or argument is relevant for your analysis of a particular evidence of your choice.
1. Do NOT summarize the readings.
If your essay is a mere restatement of what the authors of the readings say, your essay is a summary essay. That means you will get a C or a D (see grading rubrics in the syllabus)
2. Do NOT organize the essay in terms of the readings (that is, paragraph 1 about article 1, and paragraph 2 is about article 2) because usually when you do that (focus on the readings instead of your own argument), you will end up just summarizing the texts for the whole essay, which will mean a C or a D.
3. Do NOT put long quotes in your essay. Get the idea/ argument that the authors are trying to convey, then demonstrate your understanding of the readings through your analysis. Focus on your thoughts and analysis. Do NOT spend a whole paragraph explaining to me what the authors say. Use texts as supporting arguments/logic or use the evidence in the texts as supporting evidence for your arguments.
4. A clear argument should be included in the introduction. This will help you stay focused on what you your essay is about. Essays without a clear argument in the introduction usually end up being a summary essay. In this essay, your argument is your answer to the question: you can argue that the promises of freedom and equality have been fulfilled, or you can argue that these promises have not been fulfilled, or you can argue that these promises are fulfilled in such and such aspect but not fulfilled in other aspects, for example.
What is an argument and how to make one? I found a helpful guide for making an argument here:
Basically, making an argument is making claim that is supported by evidence and analysis. So pay attention to making claims that you cannot support. Also, do not make simple matter-of-fact argument that is kind of obvious. For example, the statement “Harriet Tubman is a brave woman” is kind of a matter-of-fact argument, but the statement “Harriet Tubman challenged stereotypical images of black women at the time” is a more complicated argument that needs to be proven with evidence and analysis.
5. Organize your essays into paragraphs. Each paragraph starts with a topic sentence that shows the main idea of the paragraph. The paragraphs should contribute to the big argument that you’ve stated in the introduction.
To help you organize your essay, try this template:
Introduction: In this essay, I will argue/demonstrate that……… (your answer to the prompt question 1-2 sentences). I will do this by analyzing article [article’s name] to highlight …..
1. Paragraph 1 (idea 1 about how you can support your argument………. (1-2 sentences)
2. Paragraph 2 (idea 2 about how you can support your argument………. (1-2 sentences)
3. Paragraph 3 (idea 3 about how you can support your argument………. (1-2 sentences)
6. Support your argument with evidence from the article of your choice + include 3 class readings.
To do this you need to point to an evidence in the article + analyze this evidence (i.e. what does this evidence tell us about the extent to which the promises of freedom and equality is fulfilled or not fulfilled) + engage with reading materials in class (i.e. how does this article reflect something similar in the past that someone already wrote about or how a concept developed by a scholar that we’ve read help you understand this evidence more).
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