During the first quarter you must turn in five of the following writing assignments, one each on the assigned days. There are more than five writing assignments available, so you don't have to write them all, though you do have to complete the assignments with stars by them. You may choose the order--work on any assignment you choose.

Due Dates
9/4 9/5
9/26 9/27
10/25 10/28
9/16 9/17
10/15 10/11

Other details to note
  • Type assignments in MLA format. Improperly formatted papers will be handed back to you.
  • I will use our general writing rubric to assign grades to the starred assignments and the AP scoring guide for the others.

Comparing Slavery and Segregation *

Having read first-person accounts of slavery and segregation, please write an essay (3-5 pages) comparing the two books and the worlds they describe. Note: You won't be able in the space provided to write an exhaustive account of the similarities and differences, so chose what you think is most important--your best and most unique insight--and explain it well. Said another way, aim for depth on a couple points rather than breadth across many points.

Coming of Age *

Many of the books we are reading this quarter can be labeled "coming of age" novels. A fancy German term is sometimes used for this genre: bildungsroman. M.H. Abrams explains the bildungsroman story this way:

  • The subject of these novels is the development of the protagonist’s mind and character, in the passage from childhood through varied experiences—and often through spiritual crisis—into maturity, which usually involves recognition of one’s identity and role in the world. (193)

In an essay (3-5 pages), please examine how closely something you've read fits into the bildungsroman genre and why this genre was or wasn't a fitting way for the writer to craft their message.

The Function of Humorists

In his 2004 book, Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton argues that the chief aim of humorists is not merely to entertain but “to convey with impunity messages that might be dangerous or impossible to state directly.” Because society allows humorists to say things that other people cannot or will not say, de Botton sees humorists as serving a vital function in society.

Think about the implications of de Botton’s view of the role of humorists (cartoonists, stand-up comics, satirical writers, hosts of television programs, etc.). Then write an essay (1-2 pages) that defends, challenges, or qualifies de Botton’s claim about the vital role of humorists. Use specific, appropriate evidence to develop your position.

Muckraker Honor

In the introduction to her book Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking, investigative journalist Jessica Mitford (1917-1996) confronts accusations that she is a “muckraker.” While the term was used by United States President Theodore Roosevelt in a 1906 speech to insult journalists who had, in his opinion, gone too far in the pursuit of their stories, the term “muckraker” is now more often used to refer to one who “searches out and publicly exposes real or apparent misconduct of a prominent individual or business.” With this more current definition in mind, Mitford was ultimately happy to accept the title “Queen of the Muckrakers.”

Do you agree with Mitford’s view that it is an honor to be called a “muckraker,” or do you think that journalists who search out and expose real or apparent misconduct go too far in the pursuit of their stories? Explain your position in a well-written essay (1-2 pages) that uses specific evidence for support.

Charity Incentives

A weekly feature of The New York Times Magazine is a column by Randy Cohen called “The Ethicist,” in which people raise ethical questions to which Cohen provides answers. The question below is from the column that appeared on April 4, 2003.

  • At my high school, various clubs and organizations sponsor charity drives, asking students to bring in money, food, and clothing. Some teachers offer bonus points on tests and final averages as incentives to participate. Some parents believe that this sends a morally wrong message, undermining the value of charity as a selfless act. Is the exchange of donations for grades O.K. ?

The practice of offering incentives for charitable acts is widespread, from school projects to fund drives by organizations such as public television stations, to federal income tax deductions for contributions to charities. In a well-written essay (1-2 pages), develop a position on the ethics of offering incentives for charitable acts. Support your position with evidence from your reading, observation, and/or experience.

Ownership and Self

For centuries, prominent thinkers have pondered the relationship between ownership and the development of self (identity), ultimately asking the question, “What does it mean to own something?” Plato argues that owning objects is detrimental to a person’s character. Aristotle claims that ownership of tangible goods helps to develop moral character. Twentieth-century philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre proposes that ownership extends beyond objects to include intangible things as well. In Sartre’s view, becoming proficient in some skill and knowing something thoroughly means that we “own” it. Think about the differing views of ownership. Then write an essay (1-2 pages) in which you explain your position on the relationship between ownership and sense of self. Use appropriate evidence from your reading, experience, or observations to support your argument.

Works Cited