What is the American Dream Essay? The Concept
As predicted by Sopanan's first paragraph, the second one is about the American dream. It's in this paragraph that she introduces personal experience "When I was in my country" , a rhetorical device that allows her to step back in time and retrace her growing understanding of the American dream. The implication in this paragraph is that her own experience of immigrating to the United States has helped her understand why others would be drawn here.
Her examples of the American dream earning lots of money, being able to buy whatever one wants may not match her own experiences, but that's easy to overlook for the moment. The implied subtext of real personal experience draws us in and promises an insider's view of the immigrant experience.
The third paragraph, following the order predicted in the introduction, is about ambitions, and Sopanan again brings in personal experience to illustrate her point that a person's ambitions can inspire him to make sacrifices. But Sopanan misses an ideal opportunity to make a connection between the American dream and her own ambitions, between her reasons for coming to this country and how she works here to fulfill her dreams. The prefab structure lures Sopanan into thinking that she is writing an essay by filling in the blanks, while we, the readers, are left with a series of unconnected vignettes.
It's a bit like watching a train pass: each window reveals a different person, with no real connection between them; they're simply held in place by the structure of the train, and shifting their seats would have no effect whatsoever on the contents of the train or its effect on the viewer.
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In the fourth paragraph, Sopanan addresses both day and night dreams. As with the previous two paragraphs, she uses personal experiences as examples, although with no actual details to support her ideas about how dreams influence the emotions. The final paragraph summarizes all that she has said so far and reiterates the thesis from the introduction. This essay is doubly disappointing not just because of the writer's missed opportunity to connect the American dream with her own effort to achieve that dream, but also because she never really explores the connection between dreams and emotions; she never develops her thesis.
She quickly skims over her ideas, believing that sentences such as "If I had bad dream, I felt upset" or "Sometimes I have day dream" constitute supporting details. Ironically, in our conference about this paper, Sopanan explained to me that she wasn't thinking about herself at all when writing about the American dream, and the phrase "When I was in my country" was, in fact, just a ploy to add more words to the essay. Her sense of the American dream had come from watching the Al Pacino movie Scarface after she had already been in the United States for several months.
It's a shame that the only method she could think of to lengthen her essay was to misrepresent her ideas; her teacher had given her no other options for developing her thesis. The teacher made no comments on Sopanan's draft that pointed to any gaps in content, and Sopanan herself was satisfied she had met the requirements of the assignment.
She explained to me, "I think that this is, um, clear enough, so I didn't add more idea, because the topic is not too, too wide, is focus, so I think everything on here. Sopanan was not at all committed to the content of the paper and was working instead to "write a passing essay" by following the teacher's instructions as closely as possible. In other words, she was doing a "dummy run," as Britton et al. If the teacher had posed questions about Sopanan's ideas, or drawn her attention to interesting relationships between her paragraphs, or even just challenged her view of the American dream as being overly mercenary, he could have pushed her beyond dummy-run writing to something not only more real but also more interesting.
The problems that we see in this essay illustrate how some kinds of instruction can do more harm than good by providing the student with the mistaken idea that once she has the organization, her troubles are over. Sopanan's thinking closes down and becomes superfluous to completing the assignments. Careful thought might even get in the way of successfully completing the assignment, since it could pull her away from the prescribed format and leave her with the wrong number of paragraphs. This closing-down effect is distressing. Teachers, intending to help their students write "passing" essays, are actually encouraging students to give up thinking at all.
I've known teachers to advise students facing the CUNY WAT that what they actually believe isn't important, that they can make up facts and examples, and that if they make sure their first paragraph has no errors at all, they have a good chance of passing. This is how we end up with generic student essays, compositions so predictable that we don't really need to finish reading them; we know from the first paragraph what the rest of the essay is going to say.
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This is what gives us "Engfish," to use Macrorie's term, "a language in which fresh truth is almost impossible to express" , 9. There is no "fresh truth" in Sopanan's essay, merely a concatenation of platitudes, with only the barest hint those early winter mornings of the writer's real feelings. I don't wish to argue here that every five-paragraph theme will always be disconnected and undeveloped. The problem is not with the structure itself but rather with the false sense of security it provides teachers and students alike.
Others have argued forcefully against the pointlessness of trying to fit ideas into a prefabricated format, what Lil Brannon calls the "muffin tin" view of writing see Berthoff , Britton , Knoblauch and Brannon , and Kutz et al. Teachers I've spoken to, mentored, or taught have nearly all reported that the five-paragraph structure is easy to master and gives their students one less thing to worry about.
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As one high school English teacher I know recently wrote,. I give [my students] a lot of models for writing and a lot of formulas for the less adept writers to help them get their sea legs. The formulas help them get over their fears of the form and focus instead on the content which is why I am a huge advocate of the five-paragraph essay with thesis statement, topic sentences, and main points.
My objection here is with the initial assumptions: 1 that teaching the five-paragraph theme—or any other structure—is teaching writing, and 2 that "inept" writers are the ones most in need of mastering a simple structural framework. Any prefabricated structure, with any number of paragraphs, still leaves unaddressed the larger issue of where the "content" comes from that goes into these paragraphs. How do we help our students—in college as well as high school—discover what they think, with opportunities to explore complex ideas and delve into their experiences in and with the world?
How do we help our students see how writing can help them construct meaning if the formulas we provide prevent them from doing their own structuring? Glenda Moss is right to wonder how standards affect instruction and how instruction affects students' concepts of the act of writing. I've heard many teachers, like the one quoted above, argue that using the five-paragraph structure "lets" students focus on their ideas, yet "focus on ideas" is precisely what Sopanan and the other students in my research did not do.
Their teachers never seemed to make ideas a priority, through instruction or comments on drafts. What I find most objectionable is the view of writing that this shortcut engenders.
The preset format lulls students into a nonthinking automaticity. It causes a closing down of the natural human tendency to draw connections and see patterns and relationships in our experiences. Sopanan missed the obvious connections between her personal dreams and the so-called American dream because making connections was not a function of writing that she had been taught.
I would argue also that in this process her teacher's thinking also closed down, making it possible for him to see Sopanan's essay as a good discussion of the topic of dreams. When teachers' attention is focused on grammar and structure, because the exams they're preparing their students to take seem to value only grammar and structure, they cease to be real readers who need to be engaged by interesting ideas.
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Who but a remedial writing teacher could be satisfied with the content of Sopanan's essay? This "closing-down effect" results in students not using writing to make sense of the world or to trace the routes of their ideas. It also results in teachers failing to read their students' work honestly, looking only for the easy surface features that they can check off a list of "criteria for good writing.
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They won't use writing to discover for themselves, and reveal to us, fresh truths. Britton, J.
Burgess, N. Martin, A. McLeod, and H. The American Dream refers to a well-paid job, economic wealth, health, and spare time for beloved ones.
List of 55 Five Paragraph Essay Topics
These factors are interrelated. People who wish everything to help automatically and fall into the trap out of ignorance will never find out what the American Dream is. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his Great Gatsby in Fitzgerald was the one who criticized the concept in public. The plot tells us a story of the young man named Nick who moves from the east of the country to the west to take part in the bond business. He meets a mysterious Gatsby who changes his life. Gatsby provides Nick with the major lessons of his life, and he writes the book about the great man being inspired.
He sees how hypocritical most people are. Once the generous man dies, everybody forgets about him. It appears he was protecting Daisy. It burst like a soap bubble once Nick recognizes the truth. Can we call the US a dreamland while it is full of greedy, cruel, selfish people who care about others because of their status and money?