English 103 // Essay Two Prompt
Essay two builds on your exploration of American cultural beliefs and expectations from Essay one. In that first essay, you reflected on your personal experiences relating to one of the seven broad spheres in which American society exerts its influence through common expectations or “myths.” You explained how those myths shaped your experience, and how your experience challenged those myths. This second essay will continue to broaden your awareness of the diverse and changing nature of American society by asking you to compare your own experiences with those of someone else through an interview process. This assignment will focus on differences and similarities, either generational or cultural, and will attempt to describe and account for those differences and similarities.
Review your first essay, and, on a separate sheet of paper, consider not only what aspects of American culture you wrote about, but also what myths or expectations you think typically accompany that aspect of culture. For example, if you wrote about gender roles, you might make a list of occupations or behaviors you think are considered typical for each gender. You probably wrote or thought a little about this for your last essay, but put those thoughts together in one place, on one sheet of paper. If you wish, you may choose to explore an area of society different from the one you wrote about in your first essay.
After you have sketched out some of the common beliefs pertaining to the area of society you’ve chosen, design a series of questions that would help you investigate how the same aspect of American society is viewed by someone different than yourself. Your questions should be open-ended (not answerable with "yes" or "no") and should help you collect rich, specific information about how that particular aspect is viewed by someone else, and why. Your goal is to figure out what another person, different from yourself, understands American social norms to be, what gives them their perception of those norms, and how they feel about the usefulness or quality of those expectations.
Next, select an individual who is substantially different from yourself to interview. This might be a person of a different generation (at least 15 years older or younger), or from a different culture, ethnicity, or religious upbringing. Contact and discuss your project with a potential interviewee, and, if she or he is willing, schedule the interview.
Using your series of questions as a starting point, begin a dialogue/interview with your interviewee and collect at least three pages of information, preferably direct quotes, that help explain how they view your chosen aspect of society in America. You may wish to use a tape-recorder to preserve a transcript of the interview, or conduct your interview over email to have a written record of the discussion, or use a combination of written and oral records. Be sure you have obtained permission from the interviewee if you plan to tape record the interview.
Finally, compose an essay that explores the aspect of popular culture you chose by focusing on cultural difference and/or change. As you write, you may wish to consider some or all of the following questions, but without allowing these questions to dictate the organization of your essay. How did your personal experience with American society compare to the experience of the person you interviewed? How was your perception and evaluation of American expectations different from theirs, and in what ways were those differences important? How did the interview affect your ideas about American society? How did the interview affect your perception of how societal expectations can change over time or be different because of a specific environment? Be sure to include and explain direct quotes from your interview to substantiate your claims about social difference and the effect or impact of American society on people’s lives.
Your essay should be 4-6 pages and should observe conventions for printing a college essay as indicated in your New Century Handbook (please use Times New Roman, 12-point font). In addition, you should be careful to observe proper format for citations as indicated in the appropriate sections of your handbook for the style format you are following (e.g. MLA, APA, etc.).
Essay 2 will receive a letter grade that will count for 10% of your final course grade. The successful essay will present and maintain a clear focus on similarities and differences between yourself and your interviewee on social expectations. Your essay should be thoughtfully and generously developed, smoothly integrate and preserve the voice and words of the interviewee while maintaining your own distinct voice, and draw meaningful conclusions about some of the ways in which the definition and influence of social norms change over time, or depend on specific historical or social conditions. Essays that do not integrate the thoughts and words of the interviewee, that fail to explore the implications of social difference, that have haphazard organization, or that are poorly developed will receive lower grades, as will essays with surface errors so numerous that they interfere significantly with communication.