Contemporary Social Issues
Next essay assignments: prospectus due Nov. 15, essay due Dec. 3

I.  You have a choice of two essay topics:

A. Take a single paragraph, claim or piece of evidence in one of the books we've read and develop a paper supporting or refuting it, explaining why the fact or interpretation is convincing or wrong, and what the implications of that are for our understanding of the topic. Draw your own examples or evidence from as wide a range of our reading as possible, although you are welcome to seek other sources to check up on someone's claims or facts, and tell us how your conclusions relate to one or more of the other authors we've read.

 B. Decide what you think about the relationship between structural and cultural factors in explaining some aspect of the education or poverty issues we've read, and argue for a specific thesis that uses that framework.

 For example, your topic could be why so many kids in the Horner Project and in the film Hoop Dreams admired drug lords and gang leaders, or why there are high crime rates in inner cities, or why the black-white achievement gap exists, or poor why kids fall further behind in the summer. Think about alternative theses: e.g., for the first example, you could argue that it's because of a materialistic mind set brought on by too much tv, or that it's a result of chaotic families that don't socialize their kids properly, or that it's a loss of hope caused by entrenched poverty and bad school; or that it's a mix of structural factors such as jobs that are too low-paid and cultural ones such as aspirations that are unrealistically high. Then collect the evidence you are going to use.

II. For what's due on Monday, Nov. 15, instead of a paper draft, write a paper prospectus. Turn in an essay explaining your goal in this paper and your specific thesis, the main arguments you plan to raise, and the main pieces of evidence you will use.