What is America?  What is an American?

Final Essay:  Due May 14th, 100 Essay points
I.Purpose/Topic:  What is America?  What is an American? Your purpose is to ARGUE that America is/is not ____________ or Being an American is/is not ______________ — Some aspect of what it is to be an American or what America is, based on what de Tocqueville observed on his trip, compared to today’s world.
While you may develop your own topic (approved by me), you may want to consider some of the following that have arisen from the book and/or discussion.

  1. The tyranny of the majority: de Tocqueville saw this as a real weakness to democracy. It’s a big topic, and, like others, it would have to be focused.  What about political correctness?  Is that tyranny of the majority? The way to approach this would be to
  2. Spend time researching political correctness as it is today.
  3. Establish an argument that it is/is not tyranny.
  4. Return to de Tocqueville to set up your argument that it was a threat
  5. Then decide if it is
  6. And what it says about America.

Of course you are gather quotes all along the way, which you may or may not use.

  1. A well-informed electorate:  Using the suggested directions from above, answer the questions, does a democracy need a well-informed electorate as de T. says?  And are we?   You can go further and ask if it matters to present-day democracy.
  2. Associations among men/people: This is another aspect that de T. witnessed in the early stages of America and saw as vital to democracy.  Do we still have this?  (This might be tough to focus.  You must first define some terms, like what that person to person communication) among people means.  He calls it different things, especially in the early chapters.
  3. Judicial system and the Constitution: see above
  4. Art/literature: Then and now. De T. thought art and literature were the provinces of Europe, and they just couldn’t thrive in a democracy.
  5. Religion: The influence of God on the founding and now.  Or Church and state.  Or the effect of religion on national morals and mores.
  6. Aristocracy: Then and now.
  7. The races: Then and now.
  8. Minorities: or those treated as minorities then and now.
  9. The New England Colonies, The West, and/or The South: Who’s who.  Who are the real Americans?
  10. American Exceptionalism: Yes? No?  In what regard?
  11. Note:  Important in selecting a topic and achieving focus is to know that this is not a very lengthy essay – about 4 to 5 pages.  Do not bite off more than you can chew.  A valuable critical thinking skill is being able to limit your topic to something you can effectively develop in this essay.

More Essay Guidelines:

  1. Development: Development is how you expand upon the topic. How do you fill in the basic structure of your argument? For argument, you will most likely use definitions, reasons, examples, specific details data, and lots of quotes. This does not mean that you cannot use other means of development like description or illustrations.  It does mean that your development or how you flesh out your argument is geared to proving your point and persuading your audience.  The key to developing your topic is really good research.  In the first stages of research, don’t overlook anything.  Take notes, annotate, keep bibliographic information of EVERYTHING you consult.  You can sort out what works when you get closer to the final draft.

FYI.  We will meet in the library on May 4th to do research.
III. Organization:  Organization is the blueprint of writing; the framework upon which ideas are ordered, including lead-in’s, closure, transitions, etc.  For example, if you’re having trouble getting from one point to the next, it’s most likely a matter of organization.  When I write GAP on your paper, it is often an error in organization.  Points should move from one to the other in a logical order.  For this essay it will most likely be Logical Order of Importance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use some other organizational pattern within the larger order of the essay.  Your essay will be overall Order of Importance, but within it, you might use Cause and Effect or Comparison, or a short Narrative.
This step comes after you do your research and ask yourselves, How can I best organize this essay to prove my point?
IV:  Style and Tone:  Style and Tone include the word/language choices the writer makes:  the voice, the point of view, the vocabulary, etc.  This is an Academic Essay which calls for Standard American English.  Your tone is Academic; avoid using personal pronouns, exaggerated, judgmental words, etc.  The focus is on the proof which you should have plenty of.
V:  Sentence Formation:  The correctness and manner in which words are put together in a sentence.  Avoid basic construction errors like fragments and run-ons.  Vary your sentences (simple, compound, complex) depending on the effect you want to have on your audience.
VI:  Conventions:  Usage, mechanics, spelling, and grammar.  These technical issues are often underlined by software.  At least pay attention to the underlines.
You can include MLA here.  Most of you said you understand MLA, yet there were many errors in the last essays.  I will grade even harder on MLA errors for this assignment.  We will discuss some MLA issues in class, especially in-text citations.  Come with questions about headings, works cited, etc.
This class is a critical thinking class, a continuation of your English education.   You have all had writing classes prior to this.  This is a great time to use what you have learned before.  While teachers are different, good writing is good writing; and correct MLA is correct MLA.
Please don’t hesitate to come to my office hours or make an appointment.

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