Introduction

Welcome to the Reading and Writing Programs at Sacramento City College. We have prepared this booklet so that students, instructors, counselors, and all other members of our college community may understand the required competencies and grading standards for the courses in these programs.

We hope that this booklet will 1) aid students in choosing courses that will most benefit them, 2) unify expectations and grading standards for reading and writing instructors, 3) assist counselors in advising students into courses that will allow them to succeed, and 4) provide useful information for the entire Sacramento City College community.

Julia Jolly,

Dean, Division of Language and Literature

Robin Ikegami

Chair, English Department

Adrienne King

Chair, Reading Department

 

 


Important Terms

analysis—

a division of any subject (a reading, a concept, an event, an object, or a person) or any part of a subject into recognizable elements, to think critically about these elements, and to present the results of this thinking. Analysis often includes looking at cause/effect relationships, discerning subtleties of connotation, recognizing similarities and differences, and/or drawing inferences. Analysis may be used as a strategy in part of an essay, or it may be the goal of the entire essay.

analytical writing—

writing that defines significance for a reader. Analytical writing is writing with a particular purpose and attitude. That purpose is not simply to describe an experience or to arrange information in various configurations, but to explain the significance that the experience or the information has for the writer and to propose that it should have the same significance for the reader. Analytical writing extends information into the dimension of drawing inferences, values, and applications from it. That is why the ability—and willingness—to think and to write analytically is a prerequisite for all university work.

Writing of the kind we are discussing here is sometimes called “evaluative” or “interpretive.” Though analytical writing as we are defining it often implicitly evaluates and almost always reflects the writer's interpretations and inferences, its subjects are limitless and its purposes more various than saying yea or nay (from Teaching Analytical Writing, ed. by G. Gadda, R Peitzman, & W. Welsh).

causal analysis—

a rhetorical strategy (used as part of an essay or as the focus of an entire essay) in which the writer explains why something happened or why a phenomenon exists.

controlling idea—

the main idea within a paragraph. This may be explicit or implicit.

essay subject—

the person, place, idea, or object about which the writer's entire essay is written. Instructors commonly expect a narrowed subject (one that is limited in scope so as to be treated effectively in the assignment's particular word or page requirements). This narrowed subject may be derived from an initially broad subject (one which may be useful in the preliminary stages of writing—brainstorming or freewriting—but which will most likely need narrowing in order to create an effective thesis and essay.

implication—

a hint or suggestion made by an author.

inference—

a conclusion derived from facts or premises; in reading, a conclusion a reader derives from the author's stated ideas and/or specific details.

paragraph topic—

the person, place, idea, or object about which a writer's paragraph is written. In essays the paragraph topic will often be part of the essay's overall subject. The paragraph topic should be narrowed so that the paragraph will be an effective, unified unit of its own as well as, when appropriate, an effective part of a larger piece of writing.

premise—

a statement of fact or a supposition made or implied as a basis of argument, in argumentative writing, a logical premise is necessary if the writer's conclusion is to be reasonable.

prompt—

in a writing assignment, a command such as “explain,” “discuss,” “explore,” “analyze,” and so on.

support—

description, facts, details, statistics, quotations, or dialogue which clarifies for a reader any point made by a writer.

thesis—

an assertion that the writer advances and must support. The thesis is often presented directly in the opening paragraph or near the beginning of the essay. It is often stated in one sentence. However, in some cases a thesis may be effectively implied or stated elsewhere in the essay.

 


Key to Descriptive Phrases in Competency Sections

"a basic understanding and control of”

phrase used to convey the degree of skill necessary for minimum competency in “Mechanics” and “Sentences” in English-Writing 40. Some errors in the listed areas may occur in a student's writing at the end of the semester although these errors should not impair the reader's ability to understand the writer's sentences.

"reasonable control of”

phrase used to convey the degree of skill necessary for minimum competency in “Mechanics” and “Sentences” in English-Writing 50. Some errors may occur occasionally, and sentences may show little sense of style, but they do communicate. Remaining errors cause occasional but not serious distraction to a reader.

"reasonably consistent control of”

phrase used to convey the degree of skill necessary for minimum competency in “Mechanics” and “Sentences” in English-Writing 100. Sentences are relatively free of errors, and errors are usually not repeated. A reader can progress easily through the writing with infrequent distraction.

"overall mastery of”

phrase used to convey the degree of skill necessary for minimum competency in “Mechanics” and “Body Paragraphs” in English-Writing 300. Errors or difficulties in these areas will be very infrequent and will not interrupt the flow of communication from writer to reader.

 


 

 

 

 

 

Sacramento City College Writing Program: Course Competencies

 

 

 

 

 


A Special Note to All Writing StudentsAbout the Importance of Reading Skills

In Reading classes at SCC, students improve their skills in using sophisticated vocabulary, comprehending and interpreting college‑level material, and developing appropriate study techniques for college textbooks.

The English and Reading Departments believe that competent reading skills play an essential role in students' success in all writing classes. Much educational research nationwide, as well as research done on the SCC campus, indicates that reading skills (more than any other factor) are predictive of success in writing classes. Therefore, we strongly recommend that students successfully complete the appropriate level reading class before moving on to the next level writing class. For example, students who plan to enroll in English-Writing 300 should have completed the Critical Reading class, English-Reading 310, or in some other way have demonstrated that they can fully comprehend and interpret college level material.


Competencies for English-Writing 40

Students earning a “C” (satisfactory) grade at the end of this course must be generating written work (paragraphs and/or simple essays) that demonstrates the following competencies.

Sentences

The student is expected to possess the following:

*  The ability to vary sentence structure and word choice

*  Basic understanding and control of sentence conventions, meaning that most sentences should be relatively free of the following kinds of flaws:

        incorrect verb forms

        fragments and run‑ons (fused sentences)

        agreement errors (subject/verb, noun/pronoun)

        unnecessary shifts in verb tense, person, & number

        pronoun errors

        coordination or subordination errors

        errors in spelling and capitalization

Paragraphs

The student may be expected to write a paragraph which does the following:

*  features a clear controlling idea

*  includes specific examples, reasons, or other support for the controlling idea (topic sentence)

*  features only sentences relating to  the controlling idea

*  employs, where appropriate, one of the basic methods of organization: chronological, spatial, or comparison

*  includes appropriate transitional devices to connect supporting reasons, details, examples, etc.

*  shows evidence of revision, editing, and proofreading

Other Forms of Writing

The student may be expected to demonstrate competence in the following:

*  composing a formal letter, including proper format

*  writing a summary of a brief reading passage

*  responding, in the form of a paragraph, to a brief reading passage

 


Competencies for English-Writing 50

At the beginning of the course, the writing done by students hoping to complete English-Writing 50 successfully with a grade of “C” or better must demonstrate the competencies expected of students who have completed English-Writing 40 successfully. Please see the previous page to review the English-Writing 40 competencies.

By the end of the semester, compositions written by English-Writing 50 students who have achieved success in the course (“C” level work or better) will demonstrate the following additional competencies.

Mechanics (Basic skills)

*  Reasonable control of the conventions of punctuation, spelling, and capitalization (some errors, but not enough to distract a reader seriously)

Sentences

*  Variety of sentence types and constructions (simple, complex, compound, compound‑complex, etc.)

*  Relative freedom from these additional kinds of errors:

        syntax errors

        inappropriate or vague word choices

        lack of parallelism

Body Paragraphs

*  Employ basic patterns of organization, plus the following patterns when effective: 1) climactic, and 2) general to particular

*  Demonstrate knowledge and use of subtopics

*  Make clear how subtopics and other information support the controlling idea of the paragraph

*  Reveal an attempt at analysis or insight

Introduction and Thesis

*  Reveal a focus that addresses the assignment appropriately

*  Communicate clearly the essay's purpose

*  First paragraph or first few lines of the thesis should open up the general subject and attempt to capture the readers' interest and attention

*  Clearly state the essay's unified, limited, specific subject

*  Sufficiently narrowed to be manageable in the space and time allowed

*  Thesis is worthy of development

*  Clearly states contention, assertion, etc., relative to the narrowed subject

Conclusion

*  Summarizes/restates the thesis idea

*  Recaps major points

*  Gives the paper a feeling of completeness


Competencies for English-Writing 49/59

These courses provide individualized, self-paced instruction of writing skills including basic sentence skills, paragraph writing skills and basic essay writing skills. Students enrolled in English-Writing 40 must take English-Writing 40; students in English-Writing 50 must take English-Writing 59. These classes are corequisites for English-Writing 40 and English-Writing 50.   Instructors of English-Writing 49 and English-Writing 59 assign special exercises for students to complete, focused on individual writing needs. 

 


Competencies for English-Writing 100

At the beginning of the course, the writing done by students hoping to complete English-Writing 100 successfully (with skills earning a grade of “C” or better) must manifest the competencies expected of successful English-Writing 40 and English-Writing 50 writing. (Please see the previous pages to review the “end-of-the-semester” competencies for English-Writing 40 and 50.)

By the end of the semester, compositions written by English-Writing 100 students who have achieved success in the course (writing skills earning a grade of “C” or higher) will demonstrate the following additional competencies.

Mechanics

*  Reasonably consistent control of the conventions of punctuation, spelling, and capitalization

Reading Competency

*  The ability to read at the college level as evidenced by performance on the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (at the 10th to 12th grade level)

Sentences

*  Variety of sentence types, constructions, and lengths

*  Basic understanding of parallelism

*  Relative freedom from the following additional kinds of errors:

*  passive constructions (except where logically appropriate)

*  inappropriate or vague word choices

Body Paragraphs

*  Explicit topic sentences aren't always “first sentence announcements"

*  Controlling ideas are clearly related to the theme (coherence)

*  Use of more sophisticated organizational patterns for arranging ideas logically:

*  cause/effect,

*  classification/analysis,

*  definition,

*  analogy

*  logical sequencing of some kind is used so that the central idea of the essay is developed to a logical conclusion

*  Feature a variety of reasons, details, examples, etc., to explain/support the controlling idea or subtopic

*  Make clear how subtopics and other information support the controlling idea of the essay

Introduction and Thesis

*  The introduction clearly states the essay's unified, limited, specific subject.

*  The thesis has been sufficiently narrowed.

*  The thesis clearly states assertion, contention, etc., relative to the narrowed subject.

*  The introduction offers any necessary concessions (or leads to another paragraph that does).

*  The point of view and direction of development are clearly discernible by readers.

*  The introduction may be formulaic, but must retain a degree of subtlety (no direct announcements)

*  A diffused five-paragraph format is acceptable if it's reasonably effective.

Conclusion:

*  Summarizes/restates thesis

*  Recaps major points

*  Makes a thoughtful closing point

General English-Writing 100 Writers' Competencies

*  The ability to generate ideas about which to write

*  The ability to define both purpose and audience for various types of writing and to recognize the language and extent of development appropriate to carry out a specific purpose or to reach a particular audience,

*  The ability to support one's conclusions, including the appropriate use of evidence derived from the ideas of others, which includes the ability to avoid plagiarism and may include the ability to document sources

*  The ability to use dictionaries and other reference materials to check words and facts

*  The ability to proofread one's essay

*  The understanding, appreciation, and practice of revision as a fundamental part of the writing process

*  The ability to correct for errors in grammar and mechanics

*  The ability to produce a finished paper that is relatively free of sentence fragments, comma splices, agreement errors, improper pronoun references, and similar sentence errors

 


Competencies for English-Writing 300

English-Writing 300 is a course which focuses on the writing of college-level, expository essays. Students may take this course only once for credit, so they should take care to enroll in it only after they have developed the competencies expected of students who have successfully completed English-Writing 100 (described on the previous page).

By the end of the semester, essays composed by English-Writing 300 students who have achieved success in the course (C' level writing skills or better) will demonstrate the following competencies (in addition to those described on the previous pages).

Mechanics

*  Overall mastery of the conventions of punctuation, spelling, and capitalization

Sentences

*  Good variety of sentence types and constructions

*  Relative freedom from major sentence faults: fragments, comma splices, or run-on sentences

*  Avoidance of passive voice except where logically warranted

*  Relative freedom from sentence constructions using the verb “to be” in its many forms (weak verbs)

Body Paragraphs

*  Overall mastery of the competencies described in the “body paragraph” section of the “English-Writing 100 Competencies”

Introduction & Thesis

*  Establish and convey a tone appropriate for the assignment, the intended audience, and purpose of the essay

*  Demonstrate consistently the writer's focus on the needs of the audience

*  Clearly establish a frame of reference for the audience (readers)

Conclusion

*  States and analyzes the causal relationship(s) drawn from the thesis and supporting information

*  May utilize analogy or other effective device

The Research Assignment

*  Demonstrates the student's ability to conduct library research, field research or both

*  Shows the student's ability to quote, summarize, and paraphrase from sources and to smoothly incorporate this information into an essay

*  Is correctly documented using current MLA (Modem Language Association) format

The Whole Essay

*  Demonstrates unity and coherence throughout

*  Features consistent and effective tone

*  Meets the readers' (audience's) needs and expectations (delivers what the introduction and thesis “promise")

*  Features probing, substantive thought appropriate to a college level essay


Competencies for English-Writing 301

 

At the beginning of the course, the writing done by students hoping to complete English-Writing 301 successfully with a grade of “C” or better must demonstrate the competencies expected of students who have completed English-Writing 300 successfully. Students should also demonstrate the reading skills of students who have passed English-Reading 310 successfully. Please review the competencies for both English-Writing 300 and English-Reading 310.

By the end of the semester, essays written by English-Writing 301 students who have achieved success in the course (earning a grade of 'C' or higher) will demonstrate the following additional competencies:

*  probing, substantive thought about major elements of imaginative literature, which may include character, setting, imagery, symbolism, figurative language, point of view, persona, irony, paradox, plot, form, structure, tone, style, voice, myth, allusion, issue, and theme;

*  evidence of the student's ability to understand and articulate the interrelatedness of the above elements of imaginative literature;

*  evidence of the student's ability to use correctly the special vocabulary of literature, including the terms listed above;

*  evidence of the student's ability to argue persuasively for a particular interpretation or evaluation of a literary work.

 


Competencies for English-Writing 302

At the beginning of the course, the writing done by students hoping to complete English–Writing 302 successfully with a grade of “C” or better must demonstrate the competencies expected of students who have completed English-Writing 300 successfully. Students should also demonstrate the reading skills of students who have passed English-Reading 310 successfully. Please review the competencies for both English-Writing 300 and English-Reading 310.

By the end of the semester, essays written by English-Writing 302 students who have achieved success in the course (earning a grade of “C” or higher) will demonstrate the following additional competencies:

*  evidence that the student can handle ambiguity (i.e., entertaining several different points of view or bodies of evidence and eventually picking one point of view that takes into consideration the others)

*  evidence that the student can recognize and avoid logical fallacies

*  close textual analysis of fiction or nonfiction (more than merely telling a story or summarizing a plot)

*  control overall elements of a persuasive argument

*  evidence of the ability to make arguments from abstract concepts

*  effective, sophisticated, and correctly-documented use of primary and secondary resources

*  evidence that the student is aware of and has control over his or her writing style and voice.


 

Sacramento City College Reading Program: Course Competencies


Competencies for English-Reading 10

Entry Skills:

Student has the ability to comprehend, at the 80% level, material written at approximately the 4th grade level using the Fry Readability formula.

Exit Skills:

The overall reading level of students at the end of English-Reading 10 is approximately the 7th grade level on a standardized test.

      1.     Student can effectively use word attack skills and read orally material written at approximately the 7th grade readability level.

      2.     Student can use the dictionary to determine the meaning and pronunciation of unfamiliar words and demonstrates this ability through written vocabulary homework and oral class work.

      3.     Student can use context clues to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words and can pass the context clues mastery test for this level with a minimum score of 80%.

      4.     Student has general knowledge of word parts and can demonstrate this through passing at least two word part exams with a minimum score of 70%.

      5.     Student has sight recognition of vocabulary at the level of Townsend Press’s Building Vocabulary Skills (7th – 9th grade reading level) and can accurately pronounce the vocabulary words in the text as demonstrated by oral class work.

      6.     Student can identify stated and unstated main ideas and supporting details in paragraphs written at approximately the 7th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      7.     Student has general knowledge of the relationship between ideas in a paragraph and demonstrates this by passing the main idea and supporting details mastery tests at the 80% level.

      8.     Student can make inferences from materials written at approximately the 7th grade level and can demonstrate this through passing the mastery test at the 80% level.

Skills 1, 2, and 5 will be demonstrated through homework assignments and class work.

Skills 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 require that students pass a Reading Department approved mastery test at the 80% level. If students do not achieve mastery the first time they take the test, they will go to the reading lab for a specified number of hours of remediation in that skill and then will retake the test. The process will be repeated if a student does not achieve mastery on the second try. As a general rule, students will be allowed only three tries to pass a mastery test.


Competencies for English-Reading 11

Entry Skills:

These skills have been demonstrated in the English-Reading 10 class or are assumed by achievement of the assessment score necessary for this class.

      1.     Student can effectively use word attack skills.

      2.     Student can use the dictionary to determine the meaning and pronunciation of unfamiliar words.

      3.     Student can use context clues to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words.

      4.     Student has general knowledge of word parts.

      5.     Student has sight recognition of vocabulary at the level of Townsend Press’s Building Vocabulary Skills (7th ‑ 9th grade level).

      6.     Student can identify stated and unstated main ideas and supporting details in paragraphs written at approximately the 7th grade level.

      7.     Student has general knowledge of the relationship between ideas in a paragraph.

      8.     Student can make inferences from material written at approximately the 7th grade level.

Exit Skills:

      1.     Student can effectively use word attack skills and can read orally vocabulary from the Townsend vocabulary text and passages written at approximately the 9th grade level.

      2.     Student can use the dictionary to determine meaning and pronunciation and can demonstrate this through written assignments.

      3.     Student can use context clues to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words and demonstrates this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      4.     Student has general knowledge of word parts and has passed at least two exams on word parts at the 70% level.

      5.     Student has sight recognition of vocabulary at the level of Townsend Press’s Improving Vocabulary Skills (9th to 11th grade reading level) and can accurately read these words orally.

      6.     Student can identify stated and unstated main ideas and supporting details in paragraphs written at approximately the 9th grade level and demonstrates this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      7.     Student can identify the writing patterns in paragraphs written at approximately the 9th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      8.     Student can make inferences from materials written at approximately the 9th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      9.     Student can distinguish a fact from an opinion in materials written at approximately the 9th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

  10.     Student can recognize the author's purpose and tone in materials written at approximately the 9th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

  11.     Student can understand the definition of bias, point of view, and propaganda and demonstrates this through written assignments.

  12.     Student can use study devices such as outlines and textbook annotations and has demonstrated this through written assignments and underlining a text.

  13.     Student can read a novel that has a level of sophistication similar to Family by J. California Cooper or No Crystal Stair by Eva Rutland. The student can interpret the novel using the following elements of fiction: setting, character development, conflict, plot, and theme and can demonstrate this through written assignments.

Skills 1, 2, 5, 11, 12, and 13 will be demonstrated by written assignments and class work.

Skills 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 require that students pass a Reading Department approved mastery test at the 80% level. If students do not achieve mastery the first time they take the test, they will go to the reading lab for a specified number of hours of remediation in that skill and then will retake the test. The process will be repeated if a student does not achieve mastery on the second try. As a general rule, students will be allowed only three tries to pass a mastery test.


Competencies for English-Lab 55

This course provides individualized, self‑paced, and/or small group instruction of reading skills ranging from word attack skills through critical reading. There is a strong emphasis on content‑based reading. Students meet with an instructor for a diagnosis of reading needs and an agreed upon prescription is then determined. Students are awarded units based on the successful completion of work assigned and post testing. This lab class may be required by instructors of English-Reading 10, 11, 110 and 310 for students needing additional skills work, and this lab may be added until the end of the twelfth week. There are no prerequisites for English-Lab 55, and it will be graded on a Credit/No Credit basis. For each ½ unit of credit, students must complete 27 hours of lab work.

Recommendations

Since English-Lab 55 offers self‑paced and individualized work, recommendations for individual students will vary. Students should see their English-Lab 55 instructor for any recommendations.

 


Competencies for English-Reading 110

Entry Skills:

These skills have been demonstrated in the English-Reading 11 class or are assumed by the achievement of the assessment score necessary for the class.

      1.     Student can use a variety of vocabulary techniques, such as structural analysis and dictionary skills, to pronounce and understand word meanings.

      2.     Student has sight recognition of words at the level of Townsend Press’s Improving Vocabulary Skills (9th ‑ 11th grade reading level).

      3.     Student can use context clues to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words.

      4.     Student can identify stated and implied main ideas and supporting details in paragraphs written at approximately the 9th ‑ 10th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      5.     Student can determine the writing patterns in paragraphs written at approximately the 9th ‑ 10th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      6.     Student can make inferences from material written at approximately the 9th – 10th grade level.

      7.     Student can distinguish a fact from an opinion in material written at approximately the 9th ‑ 10th grade level.

      8.     Student can identify the author's purpose and recognize tone in material written at approximately the 9th – 10th grade level.

      9.     Student has beginning understanding of what is meant by point of view, bias, and propaganda and can demonstrate this through written assignments.

  10.     Student can determine the central idea or thesis of a longer reading selection at the 9th ‑10th grade reading level.

  11.     Student has beginning understanding of how and why to annotate a textbook.

  12.     Student has beginning understanding of written study devices such as outlines or maps .

  13.     Student can read a novel with a level of sophistication similar to Family by J. California Cooper or No Crystal Stair by Eve Rutland.

  14.     Student can read a novel with a level of sophistication similar to Things Fall Apart (Achebe), The Kitchen Gods' Wife (Tan), Jubilee (Walker) or Bless Me. Ultima (Anaya). Student can interpret the novel using elements of fiction such as plot, setting, characterization, conflict, climax, theme, and figurative language.

Exit Skills:

      1.     Student can use word attack skills effectively and can demonstrate this through oral reading.

      2.     Student can use the dictionary to determine meaning, pronunciation, and origin of words and can demonstrate this through oral reading and written assignments.

      3.     Student has sight recognition of words at the level of Townsend's Advancing Vocabulary Skills (11th to 13th grade reading level) and can demonstrate this through oral reading.

      4.     Student can use the context to infer word meaning and can demonstrate this through passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      5.     Student has general knowledge of word parts and can demonstrate this by passing at least two tests with a score of 70% or better.

      6.     Student can determine the main idea of a paragraph and can distinguish between main ideas and supporting details of material written at the 10th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      7.     Student can make inferences from material written at approximately the 10th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      8.     Student can distinguish the author's the purpose and tone of material written at approximately the 10th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      9.     Student understands how and why to annotate a textbook and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

  10.     Student has independently written study devices such as outlines or maps and can demonstrate this through written assignments.

  11.     Student understands what is meant by point of view, bias, subjective, and objective and demonstrates this through written assignments.

  12.     Student can distinguish a fact from an opinion in material written at approximately the 10th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

  13.     Student can determine a central message or thesis of a longer selection written at the 10th grade level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

  14.     Student is familiar with paragraph patterns of organization and can demonstrate this through passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

  15.     Student can read a novel with a level of sophistication similar to Things Fall Apart (Achebe), The Kitchen Gods' Wife (Tan), Jubilee (Walker) or Bless Me. Ultima (Anaya). Student can interpret the novel using elements of fiction such as plot, setting, characterization, conflict, climax, theme, and figurative language.

Skills 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 11, and 15 will be demonstrated through written assignments and class work.

Skills 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, and 14 require that students pass a Reading Department approved mastery test at the 80% level. If students do not achieve mastery the first time they take the test, they will go to the reading lab for a specified number of hours of remediation in that skill and then will retake the test. The process will be repeated if a student does not achieve mastery on the second try. As a general rule, students will be allowed only three tries to pass a mastery test.


Competencies for English-Reading 310

Entry Skills:

These skills have been demonstrated in the English-Reading 110 class or they are assumed by achievement of the assessment score necessary for the class.

      1.     Student is proficient in word attack.

      2.     Student is familiar with diacritical marks and can use them to pronounce a word correctly.

      3.     Student is proficient in use of the dictionary.

      4.     Student has sight recognition of vocabulary at the level of Townsend Press Advancing Vocabulary Skills (approximately 11th grade level).

      5.     Student is able to use the context to infer the meaning of unknown words.

      6.     Student has general knowledge of word parts and can use them in structural analysis.

      7.     Student can determine the main idea of a paragraph and can distinguish the main idea from supporting details in material written at approximately the 11th – 12th grade level (Newsweek or Time magazine).

      8.     Student can make inferences from material written at approximately the 11th grade level.

      9.     Student can distinguish the author's purpose and tone in material written at the 11th grade level.

  10.     Student has a beginning understanding of how to annotate a textbook effectively.

  11.     Student has a beginning understanding of how to use study devices such as outlining and underlining.

  12.     Student is familiar with the terms “author's viewpoint,” “bias,” “subjective,” and “objective.”

  13.     Student can distinguish a fact from an opinion.

  14.     Student can distinguish a central message or thesis of a longer selection written at about the 10th – 12th grade level.

  15.     Student has knowledge of patterns of organization of paragraphs.

  16.     Student understands the concept of themes in literature and is familiar with the elements of a novel such as character development, conflict, plot, climax, and figurative language.

Exit Criteria:

It is assumed that the English-Reading 310 student is already reading material at approximately the 11th grade level and higher and is proficient in the entry skills listed previously. In addition, at the end of English-Reading 310, a student

      1.     is able to use the context to understand the meaning of vocabulary in sophisticated prose such as that found in The New Yorker or similar level writing and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      2.     has sight recognition of vocabulary at the level of Townsend Press’s Advanced Word Power (approximately 12th – 14th grade level) and can demonstrate this by reading orally.

      3.     can determine the main idea and supporting details of paragraphs written at the college level (The New Yorker, New Republic, "Forum" section of Sacramento Bee) and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      4.     can make inferences from material written at the college level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      5.     understands and effectively uses text annotation and study techniques for college level courses and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      6.     can distinguish purpose and tone of essays and fiction written at the college level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level and by successfully completing written assignments.

      7.     can paraphrase the thesis of an essay written at the college level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      8.     can summarize an essay written at the college level and can demonstrate this by passing a mastery test at the 80% level.

      9.     can practice critical reading and thinking and apply techniques to what is read.  These techniques include judging validity of a writing based on analysis of the factual content, supporting information, errors in reasoning, and author's bias and can demonstrate this through written assignments and the final exam.

  10.     can write an analytical evaluation of a selection based on criteria using elements of critical thinking and can demonstrate this through written assignments and the final exam.

  11.     can read and analyze a work of fiction including analysis of character development, conflict, themes, figurative language, and symbolism and can demonstrate this through written assignments.

  12.     can apply concepts from literature to his or her life and can demonstrate this through written assignments.

  13.     can use critical thinking skills in life outside of the classroom and can demonstrate this through written assignments.

  14.     can handle ambiguity involved in presentation of opposing viewpoints and can demonstrate this through written assignments.

Skills 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 require written assignments, class work or passing the final exam.

Skills 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 require that students pass a Reading Department approved mastery test at the 80% level. Students who do not achieve mastery the first time they take the test, will go to the reading lab for a specified number of hours of remediation in that skill and then will retake the test. The process will be repeated if a student does not achieve mastery on the second try. As a general rule, students will be allowed only three tries to pass a mastery test.


 

 

 

 

Grading Standards for Writing Courses

 

 

 

 

 

 


Grading Standards for English-Writing 40

“C” = Satisfactory paper

While the “C” paper is adequate in quality, it features some weaknesses in one or more areas, which do not impede the reader's understanding.

*  Paragraph ideas are satisfactory but may be less clearly defined than those in the “B” or “A” papers.

*  Development may be thin and/or superficial at times (for instance, the examples may be sparse, and the details might occasionally be too general).

*  Organization of ideas is sufficient but may be formulaic.

*  Transitions used may be adequate but sometimes weak.

*  Sentence structure is effective overall, although a number of surface errors may appear (in grammar, punctuation, etc.).

*  A few major sentence errors may occur, but they do not impede the reader's ability to understand the paper.

“B” = Good paper

The “B” paper is competent. It has some but not all of the strengths of an “A” paper.

*  Paragraphs are clear.

*  Paragraphs are well developed with appropriate supporting details, although the paper's details may be less specific and vivid than those in the “A” paper, and transitions used are logical, solid, and perhaps a bit mechanical.

*  More grammatical errors and sentence flaws exist in this paper than in an “A” paper, but they do not impede the reader's ability to understand the paper.

“A” = Excellent paper

The “A” paper is a clear, effective response to the assignment.

*  Paragraph ideas are clearly expressed, and the paragraphs are well developed with effective, specific supporting details and logical examples.

*  Transitions are smooth and effective.

*  The writer uses effective word choice.

*  Some grammatical errors and sentence problems may appear; however, these flaws are not numerous or serious, and they do not interfere with the paper's readability.


“D” = Unsatisfactory paper

The “D” paper has some serious weaknesses, which may impede the reader's understanding.

*  Paragraph ideas may be confusing or poorly expressed.

*  Paragraphs are weakly developed and rely heavily on empty generalizations.

*  Organization is poor, and paragraphs lack unity.

*  Transitions are poorly used or are nonexistent.

*  Sentence structure contains serious and frequent errors.

*  Word choices are often serious errors.

*  Readability is hindered by serious problems.

“F” = Failing paper

The “F” paper has many serious deficiencies.

*  The paper is totally inadequate; it may fail to address the assignment.

*  Organization is lacking; development is seriously deficient.

*  Transitions are missing.

*  Almost every sentence has an error in sentence structure or word choice.

*  The paper is virtually unreadable.

 


Grading Standards for English-Writing 50

(These standards apply to out-of-class papers in English-Writing 50.)

“C” = Satisfactory paper

The “C” essay shows a basic understanding of essay structure. It may be weak in several areas, but overall, it does communicate. The C essay has most of these characteristics:

*  a simplistic yet adequate response to the writing prompt

*  an attempt at analysis or insight

*  an introduction and conclusion which are functional but which generate little interest for the reader, perhaps merely presenting the thesis (introduction) and restating it (conclusion)

*  a recognizable thesis although simple and perhaps stated with minor awkwardness

*  paragraphs which generally support, prove, or relate to the thesis (Some may be sparsely developed, may occasionally digress, and/or repeat details)

*  sentences which are mostly simple but which occasionally vary in structure (compound and complex) Command of these structures is not absolute

*  sentences which are readable but which contain some errors such as fragments, run‑ons, comma splices, lack of agreement, or lack of parallelism (A reader will notice these errors but will still be able to follow the writer’s thoughts with little dffficulty)

*  sentence‑level errors, spelling, usage, and/or punctuation, but not enough to seriously distract a reader (The reader may be bothered by these but will be able to look beyond them to understand the writer's sentences)

"B" = Good paper

The “B” essay shows good understanding of essay structure and development. The essay will have some weaknesses, but overall it communicates well. The “B” essay has most of these characteristics:

*  a complete response to the prompt

*  analysis or insight

*  a functional introduction (including thesis and a basic context for it) and a conclusion (a brief summary or perhaps simple synthesis)

*  a clear thesis

*  paragraphs which clearly support, prove, or relate to the thesis (They are adequately developed with little digression, but specific details are not as vivid and clearly presented as in the “A” essay)

*  sentences which are mostly simple but which occasionally vary in structure (compound and complex) (These structures are used correctly most of the time)

*  sentences which contain occasional errors—fragments, run-ons, and comma splices (They are not repeated throughout the essay and are generally not bothersome for a reader)

*  occasional (not repeated) surface-level errors

*  sound usage of transitions to clarify relationships between ideas

“A” = Excellent paper

The “A” essay shows a command of short-essay structure, has very few errors, and communicates clearly. It has these characteristics:

*  a thorough, thoughtful response to the prompt (It may surprise the reader with its creativity)

*  thoughtful analysis or insight

*  an introduction and conclusion which are functional and interesting

*  a clear thesis which is stated in a compelling way

*  support paragraphs which are notable for their unity, use of smooth transitions, and vivid (clearly described and explained) details

*  sentences which vary in structure and which have very few errors (Remaining errors are minor and provide very little distraction for the reader)

“D” = Unsatisfactory paper

The “D” essay shows a lack of command of essay structure and frequent errors in standard English conventions. It has one or more of these characteristics:

*  a response which distorts the topic of the prompt or which is extremely simple

*  poor organization which may include random paragraphing and/or little evidence of a clear introduction and conclusion

*  a thesis which is not clear or which is so general that it is not functional for the essay

*  paragraphs which do not clearly or adequately support the thesis (They may stray from the focus of the essay or offer little specific evidence. Sentences often seem disjointed, without transition)

*  sentences which are simple and/or have frequent errors (These errors are frequent enough to confuse the reader)

*  frequent and repeated spelling, punctuation, and usage errors

*  distracting ESL or dialect errors which impede a reader's understanding

“F” = Failing paper

The “F” essay is unduly brief or incoherent. It has one or more of these characteristics:

*  a response which distorts the topic of the prompt

*  no organizational strategy

*  no thesis or one which cannot be understood

*  no support for a thesis

*  major, repeated errors in sentence structure, usage, spelling, and punctuation


Grading Standards for English-Writing 100

(These standards apply to out-of-class papers in English-Writing 100.)

“C” = Satisfactory paper

The “C” essay is a marginal pass that has most of the following:

*  a topic very worthy of development in a college essay

*  generally features an appropriate tone for the assignment and intended audience

*  paragraphs support the thesis, but some might lack unity or coherence

*  examples might be sparse and/or occasionally not quite to the point

*  the essay is primarily analytical, but the writer might depend at some points on narration where analysis is required

*  organization is generally clear but sometimes formulaic

*  most sentences are correct; the few errors don't impede understanding

*  sentence structure might be choppy or lack variety

*  generally is free of errors in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization; occasional errors don't impede understanding

“B” = Good paper

The B essay is clear and thoughtfully, thoroughly addresses the topic.

*  thesis is clear and worthwhile, and it controls the essay's direction

*  paragraphs support the thesis and are generally unified and coherent

*  analysis is clear and logical, with only rare lapses

*  examples are well chosen but may occasionally be lacking in specificity or vividness

*  organization is generally clear and logical

*  may contain a few errors or some ineffective sentences, but others will show flair

*  generally shows evidence of careful proofreading (overall freedom from mechanical errors)

“A” = Excellent paper

The essay is fresh, personal, and provocative. It communicates clearly and effectively.

*  a well‑chosen thesis clearly controls the direction of the paper

*  supporting points are thoroughly developed with clear, well chosen, vivid examples

*  analysis of the subject is clear, thorough, and logical

*  paragraphs exhibit unity and coherence

*  organization is smooth and logical

*  diction and tone are appropriate and effective

*  the intended audience's needs are well met

*  sentence structure is correct and varied

*  few, if any, errors in mechanics exist

“D” = Unsatisfactory paper

The “D” essay is a marginal fail that does most of the following:

*  responds simplistically to prompt

*  thesis is not clearly stated

*  paragraphs may lack focus and wander from the point or not advance the thesis; be mostly summary or narration; lack a controlling idea; have little or no analysis; have little development; have ideas that are not carried through

*  has errors in syntax

*  has usage problems or awkward working

*  has difficultly spelling commonly used words such as “planned” or “selves”

*  sentences lack variety

“F” = Failing paper

The “F” essay is a clear fail that does most of the following:

*  misunderstands the point of the topic and the response is simplistic

*  has no particular point; consequently, paragraphs may lack direction or are not related to each other or to a central point (thesis)

*  paragraphs may lack topic ideas and have little specificity or development

*  ideas may repeat

*  has numerous sentence errors and distracting errors in usage and spelling

*  sentences lack variety

*  is unduly brief or incoherent


Grading Standards for English-Writing 300

“C” = Satisfactory Paper

The essay communicates, but requires effort from the reader.

*  generally meets the audience's needs but may feature occasional lapses

*  has a central idea, but it might lack clarity or might not be very worthy of development in a college essay

*  paragraphs support the thesis, but some might lack unity or coherence; relocating or omitting a paragraph might help

*  development might not be consistently thorough; examples might be sparse, not quite to the point, or repetitious

*  the essay depends more on narration, description, or mere fact; has too little analysis (balance between general and specific might be weak)

*  organization is apparent but may have lapses

*  sentences have errors, but they don't impede understanding

*  sentence structure might be choppy or lack variety

*  there are errors in spelling and punctuation, but they don't impede reading of the essay

*  the essay needs more careful proofreading

“B” = Good Paper

The essay clearly, thoughtfully, and thoroughly addresses the topic.

*  thesis is clear and worthwhile, and it controls the essay's direction

*  paragraphs support the thesis and are generally unified and coherent

*  analysis is clear and logical, with only rare lapses

*  examples are well chosen but may occasionally be lacking in specificity or vividness

*  organization is generally clear and logical

*  may contain a few errors or some ineffective sentences, but others will show flair

*  generally shows evidence of careful proofreading (overall freedom from mechanical errors)


“A” = Excellent paper

This essay is a fresh, personal, and provocative composition that communicates clearly and effectively.

*  a well-chosen thesis clearly controls the direction of the paper

*  supporting points are thoroughly developed with clear, well chosen, vivid examples

*  analysis of the subject is clear, thorough, and logical

*  paragraphs exhibit unity and coherence

*  organization is smooth and logical

*  diction and tone are appropriate and effective

*  the intended audience's needs are well met

*  sentence structure is correct and varied

*  few, if any, errors in mechanics exist

“D” = Unsatisfactory Paper

The essay does not communicate clearly and persuasively.

*  the essay has no central controlling idea, or it has one that is too general or obvious; overall, the essay lacks focus

*  paragraphs are often out of order and/or lack unity and coherence, or are unduly brief

*  organization is weak, tenuous

*  sentences often contain errors, and these errors impede reading of the essay

*  sentence structure will often be choppy and/or incorrect, impeding understanding

*  ESL errors are numerous and repetitious, or they occur so often as to impede reading or understanding the essay

“F” = FAILING Paper

The essay does not communicate.

*  the essay might be off topic, unduly brief, or incomprehensible due to an overwhelming number of errors (for example, sentence structure errors, mechanical errors, usage errors, or ESL errors).


Grading Standards for In-Class Writings and the Final Exam in English-Writing 50

6 = Strong Pass

The essay shows a command of short-essay structure, has very few errors, and communicates clearly.  It has these characteristics:

*  a thorough, thoughtful response to the prompt (It may surprise the reader with depth of thought)

*  an introduction and conclusion which are functional and interesting

*  a clear, well-stated thesis that responds to the prompt

*  support paragraphs which are notable for their unity, use of smooth transitions, vivid (clearly described and explained) details, and thoughtful analysis and insight

*  sentences which vary in structure and which have very few errors (Remaining errors are minor and provide very little distraction for the reader.)

5 = Clear Pass

The essay shows a good understanding of essay structure and development.  The essay will have some weaknesses, but overall it communicates well. The essay has most of these characteristics:

*  a complete response to the prompt

*  a functional introduction (including thesis and a basic context for it) and a conclusion (brief summary or perhaps simple analysis)

*  a clear thesis that responds to the prompt

*  paragraphs which clearly support the thesis and provide some analysis or insight. (They are adequately developed with little digression, but specific details are not as vivid and clearly presented as in the 6 essay)

*  sentences which are mostly simple but which occasionally vary in structure (compound and complex).  These structures are used correctly most of the time. 

*  sentences which contain some errors—fragments, run-ons, and comma splices (They are generally not bothersome for a reader.)

*  occasional surface-level errors

4 = Pass

The essay shows a basic understanding of essay structure.  It may be weak in several areas, but overall, it does communicate.  The essay has most of these characteristics:

*  a simplistic, yet adequate response to the writing prompt

*  an introduction and conclusion which are functional, but which generate little interest for the reader, perhaps merely presenting the thesis (introduction) and restating it (conclusion)

*  a recognizable or implied thesis, although simple and perhaps stated with minor awkwardness

*  paragraphs which generally support the thesis and demonstrate an attempt at analysis or insight (Some may be sparsely developed, may occasionally digress, and/or repeat details)

*  sentences which are mostly simple but which occasionally vary in structure (compound and complex).  Command of these structures is not absolute.

*  sentences which are readable but which contain errors such as fragments, run-ons, comma splices, lack of agreement, or lack of parallelism. (A reader will notice these errors but will still be able to follow the writer’s thoughts with little difficulty.)

*  surface-level errors, spelling, usage, and/or punctuation, but not enough to seriously distract a reader.  (The reader may be bothered by these but will be able to look beyond them to understand the writer’s sentences.)

3 = Marginal Fail

The essay shows a lack of command in a significant aspect of the essay or frequent errors in standard English conventions.  It has one or more of these characteristics:

*  a response which is extremely simple, off topic, or exclusively narrative

*  poor organization which may include random paragraphing and/or little evidence of a clear introduction and conclusion

*  a thesis which is not clear or which does not respond to the prompt

*  paragraphs which do not clearly or adequately support the thesis (They may stray from the focus of the essay, offer little specific evidence, or provide irrelevant support).  Sentences often seem disjointed, without transitions.

*  sentences which are simple and/or have frequent errors (These errors are numerous enough to confuse or seriously distract the reader.)

2 = Clear Fail

The essay lacks control.  It has one or more of these characteristics:

*  a response which is clearly off the topic of the prompt and/or reading

*  no organizational strategy or understanding of paragraph structure

*  no thesis or one which cannot be understood

*  no support

*  major, repeated errors in sentence structure, usage, spelling, and punctuation

*  distracting ESL or dialect errors which impede a reader’s understanding

1 = Incoherent

*  begins but then falls apart (totally off topic, unreadable or extremely brief)


Grading Standards for In-Class Writings and the Final Exam in English-Writing 100

The 6 essay is a strong pass that has most of the following:

*  An unusually clear response to the prompt

*  A clear and significant thesis

*  Extensive, thoughtful, and relevant analysis of the source essay

*  Smooth and logical organization

*  Paragraphs that are related to the thesis and are

   fully developed with relevant, specific, meaningful examples

   developed with analysis that connects examples to the topic idea

   insightful, thoughtful, and unified through internal logic

*  Superior control over sentences

*  Appropriate—even creative—language

*  A strong writing “voice”

*  Overall, content is the paper’s strength.  The writer is clearly invested in his or her writing.

The 5 essay is a clear pass that has most of the following:

*  A clear response to the prompt

*  A clear thesis, though it is a little less original than a “6” and may be somewhat formulaic

*  Some relevant and thoughtful analysis of the source essay

*  Organization that is generally clear and logical

*  Paragraphs which are related to the thesis and

   have clear topic sentences

   include specific examples relevant to the thesis

   are unified and have appropriate use of transitions

*  Control over sentences, even variety

*  Appropriate use of language

*  A sense of “voice”

*  Overall, clarity of ideas and/or strength in analysis.

The 4 essay is a marginal pass that has most of the following:

*  An understanding of the prompt and appropriate response

*  A clear but perhaps simplistic thesis

*  Reliance on quotations and/or summary of the source essay rather than analysis

*  Organization that is generally clear but sometimes formulaic

*  Paragraphs which are relevant to the thesis and include

   satisfactory examples

   some analysis

*  Simply-constructed sentences that lack variety

*  Occasional errors in spelling or usage – but these don’t impede understanding

*  Language that may be simplistic and predictable

*  A few problems with “voice” or there is little personal investment in the topic

*  Overall adequate control of sentences, mechanics, and analysis.

The 3 essay is a marginal fail that has several of the following:

*  A simplistic response to the prompt

*  A thesis which is unclear, confusing, or missing

*  Response to the source essay that is minimal or non-existent. The essay may simply plagiarize or summarize without responding.

*  Paragraphs that may lack focus and may do any of the following:

   wander from the point or not advance the thesis

   be mostly summary or narration

   lack a controlling idea

   have little development

   have ideas that are not carried through

*  Sentences that lack variety

*  Poorly constructed sentences or distracting errors in logic

*  Errors in syntax

*  Usage problems or awkward wording

*  Difficulty spelling commonly-used words such as “planed” or “selfs.”

The 2 essay is a clear fail that has one or more of the following:

*  Misunderstanding of the prompt and/or simplistic response

*  Misreading of the source essay or NO reference to the essay.

*  No particular point; consequently, paragraphs may lack direction or are not related to each other or to a central point (thesis)

*  Paragraphs that lack topic ideas and have little specificity or development

*  Repetition of ideas

*  Numerous sentence errors and distracting errors in usage and spelling

*  No sense of audience, voice, or purpose.

The 1 essay is unreadable. Most of the following apply:

*  Is unduly brief or incoherent.

*  Ignores the topic

*  Shows random organization

*  Has no support for ideas, or points are irrelevant

*  Has major, repeated errors in sentence structure, usage, grammar, and mechanics.


Sample Essays

The following section of this booklet offers you an array of student essays that serve as illustrations of the level and quality of written work expected in each of the writing courses in the Sacramento City College Writing Program (from English-Writing 40 through English-Writing 301). Essays labeled “adequate model” are ones which would earn a passing grade (C) in the course named, while other essays labeled “strong model” are compositions which would earn an “above average” grade (in the “B” or “A” range) in the courses for which they were written. After the end of each essay, you'll find a paragraph offering you commentary about the quality of the essay from one of the instructors in our English Department, and we hope that you'll find these evaluative comments helpful.

By examining these essays carefully, a student may form a clearer understanding of the level of writing skill expected in the course he or she is considering taking in the future or is currently taking. Also, by discussing the essays in class with an instructor and classmates, a student will gain more specific insights about why a particular essay earns one grade rather than another grade, especially if such discussions include the instructor's frequent references to the appropriate “grading standards” sheet for the course.

 


Adequate Paper, English-Writing 40

Memphis Belle

My favorite movie that I enjoy is called the, “Memphis Belle.” Why I like this movie is because of the story, the characters in the movie, and where it took place.

First, I liked this movie because it described in good detail how a bomb group in the 8th Army Air Corps survived the fierce air war over Germany. It showed how dangerous it was flying over enemy targets, because of enemy fighters trying too shoot them down. Also, how hard it was for the crew to see their comrades die. Some of their comrades would go down in flames or never make it out of their severely damaged plane before it blew up in mid‑air.

Second, I liked the characters in the movie. The captain was responsible for all of his crew members. They all depended on each other for their safety against the enemy. By doing this they keep in good communication with each other on where an enemy plane was coming from and if anyone was injured they could be helped quickly. In the movie one crew member was very scared about flying on their last mission because he was afraid to die, but it took the crew to help him overcome this. Because in the end of the movie he was responsible for providing them with a safe landing.

Finally, I liked where this movie was made because I had visited the base where they made the movie. It was set on an old World War two air base near Cambridge England, and I recognized all of the locations in the movie where I was at. All of the planes that were in the movie were at this base, so it was great to see them with my own eyes the planes they used.

In conclusion why I liked this movie was it showed how it was in detail to fly over enemy targets. Also how well the characters worked together too survive, and the beautiful scenery where the movie was made.

Commentary about this piece of writing:

This paper is adequate in quality for English-Writing 40 because it demonstrates, for one thing, that the writer has a sense of paragraphing (although the organization of ideas is formulaic). The introduction establishes the purpose of the essay but is also formulaic. Fair details are included to support ideas, and the writer used some basic transitions to create connections between ideas. Some sentence problems appear (fragments, etc.), while other sentences are sound.


Strong Paper, English-Writing 40

A Horrible Experience

The most horrible experience of my life happened on Halloween night of 1991. That night is etched in my mind forever.

A few nights before Halloween my best‑friend Robert had been telling me of some serious problems he had been having. He was having a hard time coping with his problems, so I was helping him out and trying to keep him together.

I woke up on Halloween morning with a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew something was wrong with Robert. A couple hours later he called me. He was having suicidal thoughts and needed a friend. I could not be with him because I had no transportation, but I talked to him on the telephone. He started to feel well after I talked to him, so we then hung up with each other, but I knew he was not totally well, so I stayed home by the telephone all evening waiting for him to call.

I woke up at four o'clock in the morning to the sound of the telephone and it was Robert. He was hysterical and uncontrollably crying. He had two razor blades with him and he was threatening to kill himself. I kept him talking on the telephone trying to make him feel well while my parents went to find him. He had passed out while I was talking to him, so after my parents reached him they proceeded to give him C.P.R. They revitalized him just before the ambulance got there. After he was taken to the hospital my father picked me up so I could go to the hospital to be with him.

I finally reached the hospital and the doctors told me I could see him. While I was talking to him the police officer and doctor that had worked with him came in his room to talk with me. They asked if I was doing alright and they proceeded to tell me that I did an extremely good job on handling the situation. They had not seen someone handle a suicide case as good as I did.

Although I felt good about myself for saving my best‑friends life, I felt horrible inside. I did not like the pressure of knowing that someone's life was in my hands. It was up to me to keep him feeling good about himself and keep him alive. I did not like that kind of pressure one bit. It was too much for a 15 year old girl to handle. It was a traumatic experience.

Commentary about this piece of writing:

This is a strong paper because it relates a story in an organized way, includes some transitions, and uses good supporting details. It lacks some punctuation, but sentence problems aren't too serious. Also, the paper shows the writer's mastery of verb tenses.


Adequate Essay, English-Writing 50

Rambos of the Road

In Martin Gottfried's essay, “Rambos of the Road”, the author writes how “there has recently been an epidemic of auto macho—a competition perceived and expressed in driving". He also states that by allowing the “Rambos” of the Road to deride our right to drive, we approve their actions toward us. I agree with Mr. Gottfried's thesis because I have experienced several experiences on the road with rude drivers.

One experience I had while driving on the Bay Bridge one day causes me to agree with Gottfried's point about rude drivers in the city. It was late evening, and the sun was pondering on the top of the hood. I was driving 45 M.P.H. on the Bay Bridge instead of 50 M.P.H. as posted on the side rail of the bridge. Then, a red Chevy truck, who was behind me blasted it's horn. Although I realized the fact that he wants me to move over to the next lane, I decided to stay on the lane where I was driving. I told myself, if you want to drive fast and kill yourself, you should move over to the next lane. To my surprise, the Chevy moved over to the right lane, and suddenly he pulled in front of my car. I almost ran into rear of his car. How rude for that person to demand that I get out of his way. Although I was driving 5 miles under the posted speed limit, that does not mean you can act like a hoodlum. Maybe he should demand for me to drive faster, and cause a accident or better kill myself

Another experience I had while driving in the Sacramento City College Campus causes me to agree with abusive behaviors exhibited toward fellow drivers.

Because there were not a single parking space to be found, I was driving slowly to find a parking space. Next, a black Camero, with a young man wearing a Giant cap was tailgating me. I didn't know if he was trying to find a parking space, or he had nothing better to do than intimidate me. Since I was terrified by the fact that he may bump into my car, I pulled over to the side of the curve. As a result, I almost ran into the nearby parked car. Then, with the sound, of screeching tires, he sped a way. I suppose pulling over to the side of the road wasn't enough to satisfy his aggression. I hoped that he has a bad day because he has ruined my day.

In summary, my experiences with other rude drivers support the points Gottfried makes about the aggressive, rude, “Rambos” on the road today. I don't know how I can make those rude drivers to understand that they are terrorizing other drivers. But if we as a parent can teach and show our young driver to respect the other fellow driver on the road, then maybe we can eliminate some of the “Rambos” of the road.

Commentary about this piece of writing:

This is an adequate essay for English-Writing 50 because it features a clear yet simple thesis, clear, logical organization, and thorough development, especially in the second paragraph. The essay offers personal, specific examples to illustrate abstract ideas. Although they are not too distracting, a number of usage errors occur in this paper. Also, word choice is not always precise, and the half of the essay contains questionable paragraphing.


Strong Essay, English-Writing 50

Married with Children

A recent conversation between a friend and me led us to the old rhyme... “John and Mary sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, first comes love then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage” we were discussing the expectations from family and friends that some couples experience when they date or after they marry. Sometimes the expectations to marry and start a family can cause or contribute to pressures and pain for the people in the relationship.

The question, “When are you getting married?” can start after a man and women have dated for anywhere from a few months to a year. My friend and her boyfriend, who have dated for one year, are targets of this question. Recently, they were at an engagement dinner for another couple; during a toast the comment was made that soon they should be the next couple to be toasted in congratulation. Even their dance class instructor has started to drop not very subtle hints that they should get married. I, too, heard these same questions and comments after my last boyfriend and I had dated for a few months. My father, in particular, had us marching down the aisle before he barely knew my boyfriend. He used to tell my boyfriend what a fine son‑in‑law he would make. Needless to say this lead to some awkward moments.

The question of marriage from people outside of the relationship can cause undue or additional pressure between a couple. Often the couple has not even discussed the subject of marriage or what the future holds for them. This was the case with my friend and her boyfriend. When people continued to mention marriage, a silent tension built up between them until finally they discussed the subject. Because of outside comments they were forced to evaluate the future of their relationship before it naturally evolved to that point. In my case, I did want marriage but my boyfriend was, not sure. When other people besides me would mention the subject, it put additional stress on him to make a decision. It also made him wonder what I had been saying to people about our relationship. For me the outside comments were a painful reminder that marriage might not be what he wanted.

Once a couple is married, most are asked when they are going to have children. Often it is relatives and well‑meaning friends who make these comments. My brother and his wife were a classic example. They were married for less than a year when my parents began asking them, at least once a month, if they were expecting a baby yet. My father's favorite question of them was when was he going to be a grandfather again. On the extreme side, I know of one couple where the wife wants children and the husband doesn't. A friend, who likes to pull pranks, has been anonymously mailing the husband articles on parenthood and pictures of men with children!

The reminder that children are expected after marriage can be agonizingly painful or annoying for some people. My brother and sister‑in‑law wanted very much to start a family. They were having a hard time conceiving and went through several complicated medical procedures before a successful pregnancy occurred. During this time, the comments from my parents became very hard to endure and eventually my brother asked them to please not mention it anymore. On the other side, it is very annoying to my friend to have additional pressure from people besides his wife telling him he should have children when he already knows that is not what he wants.

I have read statistics that approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce. Considering this, it would be wise for people outside of the relationship to have second thoughts before expecting or encouraging others to make such commitments as marriage and children. In addition, it would be thoughtful to try and consider what feelings a comment can evoke when not all the variables involved are known. To be married, with or without children, is definitely a decision that a man and woman should decide for themselves.

Commentary about this essay:

This is a strong essay for English-Writing 50 because it is built on a clear thesis and includes good supporting examples. The paper is easy to read because the ideas flow smoothly, and the conclusion is satisfactory. The opening paragraph succeeds in drawing the reader's interest. Clear topic sentences keep the essay focused on the controlling idea of the essay. The writer demonstrates some sophistication of sentence structure and an ability to employ sentence variety. Punctuation is varied in method and correct. Finally, the essay reveals that the writer has a sense of voice.


Adequate Essay, English-Writing 100

The Crime Epidemic

In this country we are held hostage by a crime epidemic. Our United States Constitution is based on the privilege of being free. Today, our privilege is being demolished by crime and there seems to be no one that can stop this destruction. The criminals are overpowering the American people. Americans are becoming terrified of the world around them. They are taking extra precautions to protect themselves from becoming crime victims. The American people know crime has spread throughout the country, and it can approach anyone at any time. There have been multitude of crime reports in the media. Those items along with my personal experiences have led me to believe that no one is safe from crime. Criminals are in control, and at anytime anyone could be the victim. Our lives have changed due to the crime epidemic.

We live in a society where crime is controlling the way we live. We are adjusting ourselves to fit the conditions that we live in. Society has produced new technologies to help protect us from being the victim. We have car alarms, “The Club", house alarms, security bars, barbed wire fences, private security guards in private complexes or communities, and self defense programs. People and communities have started “fencing” themselves in. This is the kind of control crime has over society. By “fencing” ourselves in, we have already let crime take control.

I have had to deal with the crime epidemic a couple times in my life. I have also read and heard about the problems in the country today dealing with crime. For example, car jacking is becoming more frequent than it used to be, Japanese exchange students are getting shot for no reason, and the United State's population owns more firearms than any other country's population. My knowledge and experience have made me realize that I have to protect my-self and modify my life because of crime.

About fifteen years ago in East Sacramento, everyone kept their windows and doors opened or unlocked. They felt safe, until a criminal called “The East Side Rapist” moved in. This man was going into random areas, trashing various homes, tying and raping various victims. My grandparents lived in an area that neighbored the targeted community. After hearing of this criminal, my grandparents and many other neighbors installed bars on their windows and alarms in their homes. My grandmother still keeps her windows open, but with the bars on her windows she “feels safe and secure.” The neighborhood is now more vigilant and attentive towards crime.

My father's truck was stolen from the side of a street near his work one day. The truck was found by the police about twenty miles away with the engine running. The thieves had just abandoned it. The police said he was lucky to have found it in good condition. I was glad that we got our truck back in one piece. But I feel crime has gotten to the point that people say “well you were lucky that...” to too many incidents that are really serious. Are people going to be saying “well you were lucky the criminal just shot once"? When some crimes are committed, people aren't even shocked. For example, gangs used to be very rare, and the general public was always astonished when a gang was mentioned. Today, everyone knows there are dangerous gangs in every community. Society isn't surprised when they hear about gang violence as they used to be. Also, murder used to be very unusual and the question was “how could this happen?” In this day and age, people ask “who was it this time". Crimes are becoming just a way of life.

About a year ago, my family and I took a vacation to New York. Knowing that New York was a high crime area, we came prepared. We didn't bring any nice jewelry, we wore “fanny packs” instead of carrying a purse or wallet, and we had travelers checks. We also spent some extra money to stay in an upscale hotel that was close to the places we wanted to go. When we got to New York, we talked to people to see where the safe places were. At the Hard Rock Cafe, our waitress told us not to ride the subway or go into Central park after 7:00 P.M. She also warned us to not go past 47th Street. These local people knew all the dangers in New York, but they were willing to deal with the problems. They had adapted themselves to that kind of lifestyle. This experience showed me that there is crime everywhere, and sometimes you should just prepare yourself for the worst.

In his essay “'Crime Epidemic: 'It Can Happen to Me"', Hodding Carter explains that “North, South, East, West, big city and smaller community, we live in sure knowledge that there's no hiding place from the epidemic of crime which afflicts the land.” I feel Carter is exactly right. Carter has had many experiences with crime to affirm his opinion. I agree that there is no way to escape crime. No one is protected anymore and anyone can be a victim. Many people might think Hodding Carter Is paranoid and disturbed. He isn't paranoid. He understands this dangerous world and is trying to warn other people about it.

Crime is increasing and there seems to be no stopping it. Today, people are taking the crime problems into their own hands. An article entitled “Can Stricter Gun Laws Ease Fears?” in the Sacramento Bee, August 31,1993 issue, reports that “our cities are awash with assault weapons". In today's society people are so afraid of being assaulted that the only way of protection is with a gun. These people are just making the problem worse. I feel that part of the problem‑ with crime today is that the Constitution grants us “The Right to Bear Arms". But in our society do we really have the need to possess a lethal weapon? The drafters of the Constitution gave us this right to protect our democracy from outside aggression. Today, guns are not being controlled properly because of the strict interpretation of the Second Amendment. People will not give up their right to own a gun. This Amendment is contributing to the violence in our streets. The government should be able to control the firearms. Gun control in this country would stop some of the crime in the street.

We are in a world in which crime is taking over. Our country has already changed so much to adapt to crime I'm afraid of what could be ahead. “The wolf is at every door” says Hodding Carter, I agree. Someday, even with all the precautions taken, you will run into crime and become a victim. “Crime is coming to a neighborhood near you."

Commentary about this essay:

This is an adequate essay for English-Writing 100 because it has a clear thesis and coherent organization. The body paragraphs relate to the thesis and contain satisfactory examples, although they could be significantly improved by the addition of more vivid details. Better sentence variety would help, and so would a stronger sense of voice; nevertheless, the writer shows reasonable control over her sentences.


Strong model, English-Writing 100

Fear: Crime Epidemic

In the United States, statistics show the increase in population has had a direct proportional effect on the increase in crime. In fact, it is more than safe to say that crime has become an epidemic. So immense is the impact of crime that the news today is not news in general, but a crime update. Of the main agendas with government and social impact groups today is certainly the issue of crime and its negative impact on society.

Of the many effects of today's crime epidemic, fear seems to be in the forefront. I recently read a viewpoint by Hodding Carter, the chief correspondent to the television series “Inside Story,” titled, “Crime Epidemic: ‘It Can Happen to Me.’” In his essay, Carter basically goes straight to the point: “North, South, East, and West, big city and smaller community, we live in the sure knowledge that there's no hiding place from the epidemic of crime which afflicts the land.” Carter justifies his premise by writing about a number of experiences he and his family have encountered as victims of crime. As Carter concludes, “The wolf is at every door,” which needs no interpretation, Carter creates a sense of overwhelming fear and paranoia by sending out a clear warning that the probability of anyone becoming a victim is practically absolute.

Although Hodding Carter gets a bit extreme, his message is an excellent example of the drastic degree of fear the crime epidemic has had on the public. The dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by the expectation or awareness of danger,” which is exactly the resulting consequence crime has had on the public. While community support groups, local and state authorities, and so called “experts” of social issues are racking their minds for a solution, most average American citizens are fearfully taking their own precautionary measures to protect their businesses, homes, and persons.

With the businesses, just about every store owner has had security bars installed in front of the outside doors and windows, some going as far as to surround the entire building. If the establishment does well enough financially, many have gone to the extreme of hiring security guards to patrol their immediate area. Some banks have posted security guards at their automated teller machines after office hours to protect their customer's welfare who would otherwise be prime targets of criminal activity while making financial transactions in the open. At night, every effort is made to light as much parking lot and sidewalk space as possible around the perimeter of the stores. Signs are placed in the windows advertising what security system they use as well as signs explaining the maximum penalty by law for certain crimes that are frequent for that establishment. The purpose of this is in the hopes that the signs would ward off any would‑be attackers planning to make a “hit."

Surrounding the business community are the residential neighborhoods where the desire to take precautionary measures continues. Entire neighborhoods, as well as individual homeowners, are making serious efforts to protect themselves. Many communities have established a “Neighborhood Watch” program which is an agreement among the neighbors within that community to watch each other's home in addition to their own home. Many residences, like the businesses, have also had security bars installed in front of the outside doors and windows. Occasionally, the homeowner will go as far as to install outdoor light systems that turn on when they detect motion. Other security methods include hiring expensive 24 hour electronic surveillance companies and owning watch dogs. Many newly built homes, as a standard, have doors more secure by installing inner security peep holes, reinforced by several types of locks. Another popular method of security is combining several types of door locks together, a typical selection of corresponding locks being the standard doorknob key lock, dead bolt lock, and chain link lock. Despite the stated precaution, most people still answer their doors, especially at night, with the utmost caution.

One feels relatively safe within the confines of the sturdy walls of their home, reinforced by these security devices, but a key element that makes this fear epidemic complete is the methods American citizens are taking to protect themselves as individuals. The simplest form of personal criminal protection devices can be found at most grocery and home supply stores. These items are most conveniently located at the front cash register beside the gum and magazines. These items of protection include mace, an irritant spray used to spray, in the face of hostile attackers; hand size defense batons, designed to make the bare fist blow more damaging; and canned scream, which is just that, a spray which, instead of excreting an irritant solution, simply discharges a high pitched tone imitating a hysterical female scream. These are only a few devices among the endless line of personal compact security items sold to the public.

Among the most extreme, as well as the most dangerous of protection devices is indisputably firearms, the sales of which have risen at an alarming rate. Individuals who oppose violence are purchasing guns for protection despite any contradictory stereotypic feelings that guns are too violent and only criminals use them. The decision to arm oneself becomes a priority battle of values to decide whether one should go along with personal ethics to continue condemning such a violent weapon or buy a gun to protect loved ones and oneself from becoming a victim. Unfortunately, the latter is usually victorious. While recently conversing with a local gun shop owner, I asked him if he has noticed a rise in the purchase of guns by private citizens for protection. He replied firmly, “Absolutely!” He also added that he has noticed especially more single women and senior citizen customers.

In conclusion of my explanation of the various criminal precautionary measures taken by average folks like you and me, I am afraid the fear of crime will only escalate as the crime rate continues to rise. Perhaps there may be a solution in the near future to end the crime epidemic, thereby ending the resultant fear epidemic. Every American, ranging from the people who agree with Hodding Carter's paranoia to the modern day determinist who believes whatever happens was meant to be by order of nature, regardless of what social or economic level they inhabit, will no doubt have some degree of fear from the crime epidemic.

Commentary about this essay:

This is a strong essay for English-Writing 100 because it features an interesting introduction, a clear, thoughtful thesis, and intelligent organization. The body paragraphs are insightful, well developed (offering thorough support), and unified. The writer uses effective transitions between and within paragraphs. Moreover, the essay demonstrates effective sentence variety and a strong writing voice.


Note About English-Writing 300 Sample Essays:

In most English-Writing 300 classes, students will be required to write several kinds of essays. At the beginning of the semester, instructors frequently give assignments which allow students to develop their theses with anecdotes, narratives, or personal experiences. As the semester progresses, students write analytical and argumentative essays which demand more sophisticated and varied types of development. We are including sample essays of both kinds to illustrate how the English-Writing 300 Grading Standards apply to each.

Adequate descriptive/narrative essay, English-Writing 300

On Being Someone Special

The self‑esteem instilled in a child will determine how the child relates to the world. Usually, the child is dependent on the parent for an understanding of the concept of selfesteem. This understanding is vital for all children, but is of particular significance when the child must be prepared to survive the problems of race, class, poverty, and bigotry.

My two younger sisters and I were raised by my mother in an inner‑city government housing project in Washington, D.C. Roughly half of the families were, like mine, headed by working mothers, or mothers on welfare. What we all had in common was that we were Black and we were poor.

My sisters and I were friends with two other sisters, Sandra and June, who lived across the street. We went to the same all‑Black elementary school and walked to school together daily. Sandra and I were older than our sisters and in 1957 were in Mr. Brown's 5th grade class. Mr. Brown set aside time each week for a “Real Family Life” lecture to the 5th and 6th graders. A White man, Mr. Brown told us that “our people” usually did not do well financially because we never learned to properly budget our money. For a homework assignment we were to bring an ad from the “help wanted” section of the newspaper. We would pretend that we were adults with the job we had each selected, and he would show us how to prepare a family budget based on the annual salary. Sandra had clipped an ad for a secretarial position which paid $5,000 per year. She explained to Mr. Brown that she would be a single person living on that salary until she married someone. Mr. Brown told the class that no one in that room would be likely to earn that much money. He also told Sandra she had better count on the possibility of having “one or two extra mouths to feed” on that money, if she was lucky enough to ever earn it.

I could hardly wait for my mother to get home from work that evening. I asked if what Mr. Brown had said was true. I wanted to know how he knew what Sandra would be like when she grew up. She was only ten years old.

My mother and I talked until very late that night. She said that it was impossible for Mr. Brown to know what our lives would be. She explained that his prejudice and bigotry caused him to judge us in the way that he had. When I said, “but he's a teacher, Ma”, she said it didn't matter who he was, he was wrong. She said that I might often meet people who would try to make themselves more important by making me feel as if I were less of a person, but that I was always to remember what she said, be strong, and refuse to believe what they said. Even if they were teachers. She said she would speak with the principal of the school, but that I should remember that whatever happened, there was nothing naturally inferior about being Black. She said that overcoming poverty was possible with education and persistence, and that I should never believe anything other than that. I promised to come to her if I had questions about any of these things in the future.

As far as I was concerned, the problem of Mr. Brown had been solved in that talk with my mother. I knew that my life had potential beyond Mr. Brown's capacity or willingness to understand.

When I saw Sandra the following day I asked her if she had talked to anyone about Mr. Brown. She said that she had and showed me the want ad she planned to take to the next “Real Family Life” session. The advertisement was for a $50.00‑per‑week hotel dishwasher. Her mother had told Sandra to pay attention to her teacher. Fifty dollars was her mother's weekly salary, about half of the $5,000 per year secretary's position. If it was good enough for her mother, Sandra had been told, it was good enough for Sandra. Sandra refused to discuss it with me any further.

Later that afternoon, however, we saw my mother entering the principal's office. The following Friday, the principal announced that Mr. Brown would no longer be teaching us “Real Family Life” because his schedule was too busy. Although the little lectures on life were never resumed, I knew I had received one of life's biggest lessons.

The example my mother set in her talk with me and in her subsequent visit to the principal were typical of the ways in which she encouraged self esteem in my sisters and me. She would frequently refer to that conversation, particularly the part about overcoming poverty, when she talked with us about remaining free individuals who could make choices about our lives.

Drug addiction, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, and the high‑school drop‑out rate had reached epidemic proportions in my neighborhood in the late 1950's and early ‘60’s. To counteract the images we were receiving from the neighborhood, my mother insisted that we become aware of Blacks who were making or had made positive contributions to the world around them. In addition to our homework assignments from school, she required that we write weekly reports to her about important Black people. We had to get the research and writing done and have our reports ready for her to read when she got home from work. Because she held two jobs, she often returned home after our bedtimes. After she read the assignments, we would talk about the contributions of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Dr. King, or whoever we had chosen as the important Black person of that week, and she would reemphasize the importance of contributing something positive to the world. We always felt very special when she praised our work and dreamed with us about the kinds of lives we could lead if we were strong enough to withstand the outside pressures that could kill our spirits, if not our bodies.

It seemed fairly obvious as I grew older that my friends did not perceive their right to choices in life in the way that I did. My friend Marie dropped out of our 10th grade class to have her first baby in 1963. She did not return to school but married the baby's father, a high school junior, when she became pregnant with their second child the following year. Father, mother, and babies lived with Marie’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend in a four‑room flat for several years. While visiting Marie in the hospital after the birth of the second child, I had a talk with Marie's mother. As we sat in the solarium waiting for Marie to finish nursing the baby, Mrs. Glover asked me when I planned to start having children. As a 16‑year‑old high school senior, I explained that children were the last things on my mind. Mrs. Glover reminded me that I was the oldest child in the family, and that my mother would probably be counting on me to start giving her grandchildren pretty soon. I told her I doubted that, but that it didn't matter what anyone wanted other than myself. She went on, saying that it was natural for women to want to have babies, at least one. When I asked her why this was so, she said, “Just to prove you're a woman.” I asked her if she had ever said these things to Marie. She said that she was sure she must have at some point. “Women's bodies were built for having babies. We're the only ones who can do it.” She said that although she would have preferred that Marie wait a year or so before starting, she was happy she was having her babies while young and “getting it over with now.” She ended the conversation by telling me not to wait too long before starting.

I felt no need to relay this conversation to my mother. By that time my sense of self and individuality were pretty well developed. But I did give Mrs. Glover's remarks a lot of thought. I imagined it possible that other young girls believed that having babies was their assigned role in life, that they had little choice in the matter due to its inevitability. I wondered if their apparent “Why wait?” attitude was based on the belief that they neither had choices nor rights to choices about their lives.

My sisters and I made it out of that neighborhood and the way of life it represented. I am convinced that we did not meet the fate of our peers primarily because of my mother's positive influence over us. She was convinced that self‑applied pressure to succeed, parental encouragement and support were powerful weapons against peer pressure or any other kind of influence. Because she was convinced that we were special people with strength and potential, we searched ourselves until we found those qualities, and we faced the world with the best that was in us.

Commentary about this essay:

This essay is a good example of adequate writing in English-Writing 300 because it begins with a straightforward introduction, which leads to an interesting thesis. The body paragraphs narrate two movingly described personal experiences which are meant to illustrate the validity of the thesis; however, the body of the essay would be strengthened by a better balance between analysis and narration, as well as by the inclusion of some additional examples focusing on other people besides the author whose lives illustrate the validity of her thesis. Then the essay would become more of an expository paper.

This essay generally meets the audience's needs, but a few lapses occur (par. #8, for example). The writer demonstrates mostly solid sentence skills, and occasional surface errors do not impede understanding.


Strong descriptive/narrative essay, English-Writing 300

The Failure Monster

Oh sometimes skies are cloudy

And sometimes skies are blue

and sometimes they say that you eat the bear

But sometimes the bear eats you

And sometimes I feel like I should go

Far far away and hide

'Cause I keep waitin' for my ship to come in

And all that ever comes is the tide

—Jim Croce

 

There are times when my skies seem clouded with the fear of failure and other times they are blue when I've overcome that fear. As I wait for my ship to come in under blue skies, I am often disappointed that all that comes in is the tide and all that hovers above is a cloudy sky. The fear of failure and failure itself are elements that have been molded into a bear‑like creature, commonly known as the Failure Monster. The Failure Monster is a part of me and he manifests himself as an annoying creature who causes frustration and also as a positive reinforcement that nudges me to strive for success and perfection.

This creature, who resides inside each one of us, begins his career during our childhood, subtly making his presence known. In reflecting back to my pre‑school years, I remember the frustration I felt when I first met the failure monster. I was all of three years old and perhaps a bit harsh on myself, but I was determined to master the art of tying my shoes. Every morning I would saunter into my parent's bathroom with my shoes in hand, and I would patiently wait for my father to finish shaving. When he was ready, he would sit down on the toilet and I would sit by his feet. Step by step, my father would show me how to cross one lace over the other, make two separate loops, cross one loop over the other and finally pull one loop through the other. Viola, a bow. Well, it looked much less complicated than it actually was and for the longest time my father would inevitably end up tying the final bow. I would stand up and leave the bathroom with a dejected look on my face and the Failure Monster following close behind. Once I learned to tie my own shoes, I was naturally quite pleased with myself just as I was when I graduated from diapers to underpants. From then on, I was sure that only “babies” wet their pants. Well, this particular incident became another episode in the continuing saga of the Failure Monster. Everything had been going along just fine. I slept through‑the night without wetting my bed, I told someone when I needed to use the potty, and I avoided accidents at all costs, even if that meant holding “it” in. For some reason, however, when I was three I suffered a slight setback. I always took a nap in the afternoon, no big deal, just an hour or two. Suddenly, I began to wet my bed during every nap. I woke up distraught with embarrassment, especially when I had to face Holly, my nanny, with the news. She looked at me in such a way that there was no doubt in her mind—I had failed. Holly would take the wet sheets off the bed, wash them, and then she would set my little rocking chair on top of my bed and drape the sheets over it to dry. Every time I passed by the doorway, the ghost‑like appearance of the sheets hanging over the chair, moving slightly with the breeze from the open window, would remind me of a monster, perhaps the Failure Monster.

The significance of my preschool failures faded as I entered school, and the Failure Monster took on a slightly different role. The deep‑seated fear of being number two and the need to be number one gave the Failure Monster another way to manifest himself, perhaps more provocatively than in the past. Possibly, the need to be number one was the result of being the youngest of five children and constantly feeling as though I were competing for attention and recognition. When I look back on elementary school a picture of the Failure Monster flashes across my mind as I think about the school spelling bee. I was in third grade, and I had been chosen to represent my class in a spelling bee which included representatives from the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. It didn't faze me that I was the youngest competitor; what did matter was that I wanted to be number one so that I could move on to the city‑wide spell‑off. The special day had arrived and I had diligently practiced spelling hundreds of words until I could almost spell them backwards. The bee commenced and my name was called. Like a computer, the letters poured from my mouth, one at a time, word after word, until only one other person, besides myself, was left standing. The final word was “ostentatious” and I spelled it with a “C” instead of a “t”. My heart sank and my chin quivered and puckered as I greeted the Failure Monster while stepping down from the platform. I'll probably never forget the impact of that one event, but I do think it had an effect on my future study habits. During high school I spent a substantial amount of time concentrating on schoolwork. My parents had always emphasized the importance of good grades, and to achieve them I put in a tremendous amount of time to studying. In the eleventh and twelfth grades, one becomes eligible for the Honor Society, which is an exclusive association for straight “A” students, who have also shown their talents in other school organizations. Naturally, I was striving for this prestigious honor, but because of a “B” in one of my classes, college level calculus, I was termed ineligible for the Honor Society in the eleventh grade. So, as many of my friends went to the auditorium for an induction ceremony, I sat outside on the front steps feeling the icy touch of the Failure Monster stinging me inside. I managed to make the grade in my last year of high school and graduated with honors. Promptly after graduation, I embarked upon a college education. My parents had great hopes and expectations for me, but these were hampered by the fact that I lacked exposure to the elements outside my home. I may have seemed prepared for college level work, but emotionally I had been extremely sheltered, and I felt very insecure. I began my college career at Ohio State University where my freshman class consisted of ten thousand students. After being accustomed to a relatively small city and small high school, Ohio State seemed to me to be a fortress with walls that could not be penetrated. I tried to overcome my fear of being less than number one, but I ended up crossing paths with the Failure Monster once again as I came close to the verge of flunking out of school.

As school has had its threatening moments of failure so has athletic competition had its moments, which seemed destined to be full of the ominous presence of the Failure Monster. I swam competitively from the time I was eight years old until I was eighteen. As a member of both summer and winter swim teams, I competed with little interruption throughout the entire year. At the end of each season, there was an AAU swim meet which was a national competition for which I qualified every year. My last year on the swim team was one I would always remember with some nostalgia. To win a first place medal in the one hundred yard breast stroke event in my division was my final goal in my final meet. I was keeping my eye on the starter and shaking my arms and legs to loosen up, as I stood on the starting block waiting for the signal to go. My anxiety overwhelmed me, and I made a false start, which was not such an unusual occurrence, except that two false starts meant an automatic disqualification. I remounted the starting block, regained my composure, and waited once again for the starter's signal. I think a fear of leaving the block too soon caused me to hesitate, which resulted in a loss of precious seconds. I swam with every muscle of my body, pushed to its limit, every stroke precise and deliberate as my arms and legs cut through the water, but as my hand touched the end wall and the stop watch clicked off, I felt as though the Failure Monster was hanging on to my ankles, as though I was wearing lead weights. I had placed 2nd, and once more I felt as though I had failed.

I always felt a need to succeed in whatever I undertook as a goal, and cheerleading was no exception to the rule. Beginning in the ninth grade, I tried out every year, four years in a row, for the squad. The competition was intense, and the demands were brutal, but the one asset that seemed to be in my favor was my voice, which seemed to carry for miles. This was an important attribute for projecting cheers so the crowds in the stands could hear them. On the day of tryouts for my sophomore year, I had a slight case of strep throat. I had practiced the weekend before outside with bare feet on cold grass, so it's no wonder I got sick. Well, by the time tryouts began after school on Monday, I could barely utter an audible word much less a cheer which was supposed to be heard clear across the gym. I refused to give up, and so I did my best which, considering the number of girls trying out, just wasn't good enough. Unfortunately, my reputation of having a loud voice hadn't reached the judges at my new school, and so I had to contend with failure, feeling as though the pain in my throat was the subtle presence of the Failure Monster.

Although the Failure Monster has manifested himself in many ways throughout my life, the actual fear of failing has had a rather positive effect and a tremendous impact on my success and has caused me to work even harder for the goals I'm striving to attain. Competition in college level courses is much greater than any athletic competition I endured. In order to have the best possible chance of being accepted to U.C. Davis or U.C. Berkeley, which are my two top choices of four year learning institutions, I must first prove my competence in junior college. My particular interest is in the field of biomedicine, so I have placed the greatest emphasis on science courses. In classes such as anatomy and physiology, the competition keeps me on my toes as I strive to reach the top. The fear of failure manifests itself in such a way as to keep me disciplined and motivated to absorb as much material as I possibly can. In this respect its essence is positive and acts as a reinforcement. This particular class, anatomy and physiology, has shown me that I am capable of success. This past summer, as I thought about the upcoming fall semester, I was very apprehensive about taking anatomy and physiology, fearing that I would have trouble grasping the information. My fear of failing was compounded by the teacher's confidence in me. I not only feared my own failure but failure to live up to his expectations. With this in mind, I entered the course with a determination beyond any I had ever experienced before, and thus far I have been able to keep the Failure Monster subdued, and I have achieved the self‑confidence associated with success.

Whether it concerns success in the world, athletic competition, the self imposed pressure to be number one, or the simple trials and tribulations of growing pains in childhood, the Failure Monster is always a part of us. There are times when he surfaces in a rather provocative manner and other times when he makes his presence known in a more subtle way. As we maneuver ourselves along the ropes to success in the world, beginning with tying our shoes or potty training in childhood and moving on to the spelling bees and honors striven for in school and in athletic competition, as we move from swimming to cheerleading and finally on down the road to success in the world, the Failure Monster gives us reminders of his presence every now and then and manifests himself in everything we do. The little nudges that the Failure Monster gives us can be very frustrating at times, but his goal is not to hinder, but rather to positively reinforce us to keep stepping forward along life's path, facing and conquering obstacles on the way.

Commentary about this essay:

This is an example of a strong essay for English-Writing 300 because it has a thesis that is both clear and insightful. Support paragraphs contain personal examples, which are thorough, vividly described, and explained. The writer's ability to employ sentence variety and sophisticated (though not overblown) vocabulary gives the essay a distinct and strong voice. The essay contains few sentence and mechanical errors; those remaining do not create interference for the reader.


Adequate argumentative/persuasive essay, English-Writing 300

A Sexual Preference

It is unjust to make another human being choose a specific sexual preference. From the time I was born, until I turned eighteen, I was told I had to seek sexual pleasure from the female persuasion. At no time was I told or given the option to look for sexual pleasure from another male. So, in actuality, I was told what sexual preference to choose and not given the choice to choose for myself. Now I am an adult, and I am confronted with an issue, homosexuals in the military, an issue that I have always been told was wrong, unnatural, and evil. Before I passed judgement on this issue, I did some research and I found that homosexuality is not wrong, not unnatural, nor evil. And I found that homosexuals have always been in the military and always will be. Currently, the United States Armed Forces state that no homosexuals are allowed in the military, and I disagree with this policy. I feel homosexuals should be allowed to serve their country.

While doing my research on homosexuals in the military, I came across all sorts of shocking information. For instance, in” Gays In Arms” Jacob Weisberg states, “According to [United States] Department of Defense figures, about 1,400 [homosexual soldiers] are expelled in any given year, at a cost of some tens of millions of dollars in lost training” (220). I find this absurd. This means everyone who does and doesn't have a problem with homosexuals in the military has to pay an additional tens of millions of dollars to train new soldiers who also may be homosexuals. At the same time, “This is Pentagon policy: no official is allowed to defend the rules [letting homosexuals serve in the military] on record” (Weisberg 221). Why not? Do they have something to hide, or don't they have a good enough reason not to let homosexuals serve their own country.

The United States military gives several reasons on why homosexuals should not be allowed in the military. In illustrating these reasons, Jacob Weisberg quotes Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger as saying:

Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence of such members adversely affects the ability of the Armed Forces to maintain discipline, good order, and morale; to foster mutual trust and confidence among the members; to ensure the integrity of the system of rank and command; to facilitate assignment and worldwide deployment of members who frequently must live and work under close conditions affording minimal privacy; to recruit and retain members of the military services; to maintain the public acceptability of military services; and, in certain circumstances, to prevent breaches of security.  (222)

I can refute all of these reasons in one sentence. Homosexuals have always been in the military and they have already shown that they can accomplish every one of these issues that Caspar Weinberger says they cannot accomplish. Look at Colonel Margare, the Cammermeyer: “The chief of nursing for Washington State's National Guard, who won a Bronze Star for her 14 months' service in Vietnam, was honorably discharged from the military [after 16 years of service) in June because of the Defense Department's policy against homosexuality.” (Decorated RN 65). It is a humiliation that our Secretary of Defense cannot even see this.

The assertion that if homosexuals were in the military they would “adversely affect... the ability of the Armed Forces to maintain discipline, good order, and morale” is ridiculous (Weinberger qtd. in Weisberg 222). The United States Armed Forces have a Code of Conduct to maintain discipline, good order and morale. When females were finally allowed to serve in the United States Armed Forces, it did not disrupt discipline, or good order, nor did it bring down morale. It boosted the moral when females were allowed to enter into the military. We won the Persian Gulf War with them, didn't we? just the same, allowing homosexuals to go public with their homosexuality would be no different. I strongly believe it would do just the same as it did with females, and boost morale. As for discipline and good order, the military has Codes of conduct. Currently, if a heterosexual harasses or makes unwanted sexual passes at another heterosexual, he or she is disciplined through the military code of conduct. These Codes of Conduct would also apply to homosexuals. For instance, if a homosexual male made an unwanted sexual pass at another heterosexual male, while taking a shower, he would be disciplined by using the military code of Conduct.

I can understand why the United States military is so opposed to allowing homosexuals into the military. It is because they were taught not to accept homosexuality.

It is time for a change.

I, myself, am a heterosexual, and I also was brought up on the same beliefs about homosexuals. Yes, at first, I also opposed homosexuals being in the military, but then I did some research on the issue and found that homosexuals have always been in the military. This is something that can never be changed. So then I asked myself, why make them hide their sexual preference? I could not come up with a justifiable reason.

In Canada, allowing homosexuals into the military has caused little problems: “It has almost been a nonevent. The decision . . . to end all barriers to, the enlightment and promotion of homosexuals in Canada's armed forces has barely caused a stir” (Little Trouble p1). It is time to change. Another country has made the change and allowed homosexuals into their military and nothing came of it. Now there is proof that it can be done and work. Let's step forward and allow homosexuals into our military.

In conclusion, I don't see any good reason why a homosexual should not be allowed in the United States military. John Garvey put it best when he wrote, “My own opinion is that a reasonable compromise here would be to drop the question, and enforce a code of conduct that would make any unwanted sexual advance, from or toward people of either sex by either sex, a reason for disciplinary action, and otherwise forget about it and leave people alone” (9). I don't think anyone could have said it better than John Garvey. Just think, if we allow homosexuals in the military, we can put those “tens of millions of dollars in lost training” to educating our children and controlling crime (Weisberg 220).

Works Cited

"Decorated RN To Fight Military Discharge” American Journal of Nursing. Newscaps. August 92. Volume 92. Issue 8. 65. 1/5p.

Garvey, John. “Prejudice or Disagreement?” Commonwealth February 26, 1993. 9.

"Little Trouble in Canada When Its Gay Ban Ended.” New York Times. January 31, 1983. Volume 142. Issue 49228. Section 4. 1.

Weisberg, Jacob. “Gays in Arms.” Motives for Writing. Ed. Robert Keith Miller and Suzanne S. Webb. Mayfield Publishing Company. 1992. 220‑26.

Commentary about this essay:

This English-Writing 300 essay is adequate because it features a clear thesis. Support for this thesis is somewhat convincing yet, overall, uneven. While the writer does show an awareness of audience by anticipating counterarguments (paragraph 3), his refutation of these opposing views and his support for his own reasons lack the unity, coherence, and logic of a stronger paper. Some assertions (paragraph 6, for example) aren't supported at all. Most sentences are correct and easy to read although sometimes word choice is inexact.


Strong argumentative/persuasive essay, English-Writing 300

Blood on Our Hands

As a child, I was taught that it makes no sense to respond to a wrong by committing another wrong. To carry out an act of revenge is to place oneself on the level of the offender, merely compounding the wrong by carrying it one step further. I was taught, simply stated, that two wrongs don't make a right. At 6:10 A.M. on the morning of April 21, 1992, the cyanide pellets were dropped into a container of acid, and the chamber in which convicted murderer Robert Alton Harris was confined, strapped to a chair, began to fill with a deadly vapor. Approximately ten minutes later, Harris was dead, the victim of a heinous act performed in response to a heinous act. He himself became the subject of a merciless killing, a killing carried out by the citizens of the state of California in the name of “justice.” Harris was found guilty of taking life with “malice aforethought,” and we punished him for that crime by taking his life with “malice aforethought,” exacting revenge under the pretext of pursuing justice and fairness. No matter what the pretext and no matter who the perpetrator, killing is killing. We are guilty of the same crime for which we punished Robert Harris.

The eighth amendment to the Constitution of The United States protects U.S. citizens from cruel and unusual punishments. Though it may not be unusual in this country, the practice of confining an individual in a place called “death row,” informing him/ her of the time, place and method of his/her execution, and the subsequent carrying out of the death sentence is certainly cruel punishment. The former cellmates of Robert Harris who remain on death row could tell us something about cruelty when they walk past his empty cell and envision the fate that now awaits them. Among the truths held to be self‑evident in the Declaration of Independence is the truth that people are endowed with the inalienable right to life. To take one's life is to deprive one of that “inalienable” right. No amount of rhetoric can change this truth.

The law clearly reflects our collective feeling that the act of maliciously taking a life is monstrously repugnant and absolutely inexcusable, yet we continue to exterminate human beings ourselves, our punishments systematically meted out in gas chambers, before firing squads, on gallows, and at the ends of syringes filled with poison. We are among the relatively few nations on Earth which still engage in the practice of executing our criminals. In this barbarism, we keep company with the likes of Iraq, Iran and Vietnam, while other countries of the world, among them Great Britain and Canada, have come to realize that this system of “justice” is really nothing more than a system by which we take revenge, a system which has little to do with justice. For, if this is justice, why do we not then subject the rapist to rape, set the arsonist afire, or fill the drug dealer's veins with his own poison? Because to do so would be inhuman and unthinkable, and we know it.

Most of us can appreciate the tragedy of murder victims' families and friends whose lives are shattered in the wake of the loss of loved ones. Many of these survivors go through each day asking why their loved ones were taken from them and why the killers are yet allowed to live. Enraged, frustrated and broken, they cry for justice. For many of these people, justice is revenge, and nothing short of revenge will satisfy them.

While it is easy to sympathize (and even to concur) with them in most cases, not even these passionate feelings can alter the truth about killing; to have even the blood of a murderer on one's hands is to be stained with the blood of a human being, no matter how inhuman that person may seem. Often, the executed will also be survived by family and friends who will in turn be touched by the tragedy of senseless killing, and another link will be added to the seemingly endless chain of violence, death and heartbreak.

We have made laws which forbid the killing of human beings. When then, is it right to kill another? It would seem, in looking at our system, that it is deemed right to kill when a large enough number of individuals concur that it is so. For the relative of a murder victim to take the life of his/her loved one's killer is called murder. But for a large group of people, let us say, the citizens of the state of California, to take the life of the same killer, for the same crime is called justice. So, how many voices in favor of killing someone are necessary to change the nature of killing from murderous to righteous? Hundreds of thousands of Nazis were in favor of exterminating the Jews during World War II. Thousands of Ku Klux Clansmen applauded the death of the Mississippi man who, depicted in the now‑famous photograph by Gordon Parks which appeared in Life Magazine in 1937, was chained to a tree, tortured with a blow torch, and lynched by the Klan. They truly believed that this man deserved to die, so they committed one of the foulest murders imaginable.

There is no alchemy that can change the fundamentally wrong nature of killing. The analogy of the murder of an innocent black man to the execution of a murderer may perhaps seem questionable, but the point of the analogy should be clear: if a course of action which would be considered wrong for an individual to take is undertaken by a group of people, it may gain support, but the fundamental nature of the act is not changed; what is wrong for the individual must be wrong for the group of individuals. Those who look to scripture for the justification of execution tend to interpret the words of the Bible in ways which suit their purposes, and the words of scripture may indeed be interpreted in many ways. But the passage concerning retribution which is perhaps the most plainly stated and the least open to interpretation is the fifth commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” It does not say, “Thou Shalt Not Kill unless you think you should,” or “Thou Shalt Not Kill, but you may interpret this commandment any way you wish.” The words of the fifth commandment are very clear and need no interpretation. Thus, those who live by the word of God as set down in the Bible could not possibly condone capital punishment, and anyone who both supports capital punishment and claims to live by the word of God is deluding him/herself. Those supporters of the death penalty who call themselves Christians should ask themselves if Christ would have pulled the trigger to execute those who crucified him. Anyone who answers yes can be said to have missed the point of what his/her religion states was Christ’s mission on Earth: forgiveness of sin.

I offer no solutions to the problems of crime, and I have no simple answers for those who have suffered the loss of someone dear to them. This issue is one which is perplexing and upsetting for most of us, and simple answers are not to be found. I do believe, however, that we dehumanize ourselves when we kill a fellow human being. Anyone who supports the death penalty should be willing to perform the act of execution himself, looking his victim in the eye, because the weight of the killing is on everyone involved, whether directly or indirectly. Very few of us would have the stomach to tie the noose, pull the trigger, give the fatal injection, or release the lethal gas, yet by allowing this to go on in our country, we are all made executioners.

Commentary on this essay:

This is an example of a strong paper written for English-Writing 300. The attention-getting introduction leads to a provocative thesis, which controls the direction of the essay and is highly worthy of development. Also, the supporting points made in the body paragraphs are thoroughly developed using clear, vivid examples. The paper is unified and coherent, featuring analysis of the subject that is logical, clear, and smoothly communicated. Moreover, diction is thoughtful and precise, and the tone and persona used by the writer are appropriate and effective. Sentence structure is varied (often showing stylistic flair) and correct, and scarcely any errors in mechanics exist.


Adequate essay, English-Writing 301

Afflictions of Her Own

In Joyce Carol Oates' “Shopping,” the “disheveled” woman that Mrs. Dietrich and Nola encounter may seem unimportant but on the contrary, her role is of great significance in understanding the main character, Mrs. Dietrich. The woman represents the reality that Mrs. Dietrich is unable to deal with. Although Mrs. Dietrich and this complete stranger appear to be opposites of one another, they are strikingly similar on the inside.

Mrs. Dietrich is a lonely, divorced upper‑middle class woman. When she is not practicing her shopping ritual at the mall with her daughter, Nola, she is longing for Nola's return home from school. This ritual brings Mrs. Dietrich much happiness, fulfillment, and of course, companionship; everything her life lacks when she is alone. At the mall, she is completely overwhelmed by the “busyness on all sides” and the “attractive items for sale, “ so that she seems to forget about the afflictions in her life. She disregards the fact she hates being alone and that she drinks her problems away.

When Mrs. Dietrich and Nola encounter the “disheveled” woman, they see her as a pitiful, unkept loner, a hopeless case “smirking and talking to herself.” This woman may in fact be out of touch with reality, but Mrs. Dietrich is certainly one in the same. Mrs. Dietrich is a loner as well. She acts as if she is satisfied with her life, yet she spends her time in solitude, feeling sorry for herself. Instead of admitting her unhappiness, she is in constant denial.

Even while she is being “intimate” with Nola, she is unable to be herself. Apparently, Nola, senses this but she is unable to confront her mother. Mrs. Dietrich is in so much denial that it is impossible for Nola to get through to her. Like Mrs. Dietrich, the “disheveled” woman seems impossible to get through to. It is blatantly obvious that other shoppers are offended by the women's presence; they make a “discreet berth around her.” With the attention that she gets, it would seem as if her trance would be broken. But, unfortunately, it is not.

There is no mention as to how or why the “disheveled” woman is in the state that she is. The only known factor is that Mrs. Dietrich has seen her before and that the woman is known as an “outcast of an affluent society.” Although Mrs. Dietrich tells Nola that the woman is harmless, she keeps her distance. It is almost as if Mrs. Dietrich knows in her heart that the woman poses a threat to her.

On the exterior, it is obvious that Mrs. Dietrich would never want to see herself in that position; she is a woman of affluence and high standards. But on the contrary to what she may think, she holds that same position. She is just as pitiful as the woman she looks down upon. When she spends her day at the mall with, Nola, she speaks of nothing that may make the situation uncomfortable or depressing. She is superficial, suddenly content and ready for some “serious shopping.” This is an obvious indication that she is unable to deal with reality. Like the “disheveled” women who sits alone holding conservations with herself, Mrs. Dietrich is in a world of her own.

Mrs. Dietrich's inability to cope with her problems is symbolized by the “disheveled” woman. The woman's role is important because she represents characteristics that Mrs. Dietrich is afraid to admit she has. Like the “disheveled” woman, Mrs. Dietrich is lonely and full of despair. She longs for companionship and drinks to “fill the void.” She is only one who can control her destiny, but because of her inability to deal with life, she is a victim of her own afflictions.

Commentary about this essay:

This is an adequate essay for English-Writing 301 because it makes good points about the topic, and it is grammatically sound. However, the body paragraphs of the essay need to be developed further with more specific details and analysis. For example, according to the last sentence of paragraph five, “Mrs. Dietrich knows in her heart that the woman poses a threat to her.” The writer needs to support this statement by first explaining why it is true and then, most importantly, by referring to the story to provide evidence that the statement is true. There are several such unsupported ideas throughout the essay. (The last sentence of paragraph six is another example.) Backing up these ideas with specific details and thorough analysis would make this essay more informative and convincing.


Strong essay, English-Writing 301

Vitae and Mori

In “Paul’s Case,” Willa Cather shows us the life of a boy being forced to fit into a life not of his own choosing, instead of living his own life. Cather seems to support Paul's efforts to escape his Procrustean bed; indeed, it is better for Paul to die than to live the life that his father and teachers want him to live, a life without art. The setting of this story contributes directly to understanding this major conflict. Pittsburgh is a place that tries to force Paul to fit into preconceived notions of who he should be. New York, on the other hand, is a place where Paul can truly live, free from the overbearing society that attempts to force him to live a dry, passionless life.

To begin to understand Paul's dilemma, we need to look at his house in Pittsburgh. Paul's home is the place where society tries its hardest to mold Paul; indeed, his home is tangibly a place of oppression. “ [H]is father in his night‑clothes at the top of the stairs, explanations that did not explain, hastily improvised fictions that were forever tripping him up"—these are the human manifestations of the oppression symbolized in the physical setting: his upstairs room and its horrible wallpaper, the creaking bureau with the greasy plush collar‑box, and over his painted wooden bed the pictures of George Washington and John Calvin and the framed motto, “Feed my Lambs,” which had been worked in red worsted by his mother, whom Paul could not remember.

Starting with the imperious figure looming over Paul, and going to the jaundiced wallpaper that coats the walls of his bedroom, we are given a foreboding sense of society's influence and power. Two stirring examples of society's power are the framed pictures hanging over Paul's bed. George Washington is a larger than life symbol of the established government; he embodies the rules and regulation of the country. He also is omnipresent as the face on the one dollar bill, suggesting a concern for material, nonspiritual values, not Paul's values. Washington, combined with John Calvin, a religious leader of the puritanical Protestant religion of Calvinism, form quite a pair as they hang over Paul while he sleeps. They form a definite image of a hard‑working, pleasure denying establishment requiring absolute dedication. A final part of the horrible oppression in Paul's house is the very street he lives on. It mocks his ideals of life: “Paul never went up Cordelia without a shudder of loathing... The moment he turned into Cordelia Street he felt the waters close above his head.” The honest name of “Cordelia” is twisted here into a dark irony. When Cordelia told her father, King Lear, the truth of her love for him, she was banished. In Paul's case, the truth of Cordelia Street banishes him. And just like Cordelia, Paul, too, will be killed.

Cordelia's Street and Paul's house also play an important role in showing us just what the home is trying to subjugate Paul into believing:

It was a highly respectable street, where all the houses were exactly alike, and where business men of moderate means begot and reared large families of children, all of whom went to Sabbath‑school and learned the shorter catechism, and were interested in arithmetic; all of whom were as exactly alike as their homes, and of a piece with the monotony in which they lived.

Life in society is made up of conformity and of an endless drudgery that fails to include anything truly wonderful such as art or the orchestra; in fact, life such as society deems appropriate revels in its sordid ordinariness.

On this last Sunday of November, Paul sat all the afternoon on the lowest step of his stoop, staring into the street, while his sisters, in their rockers, were talking to the minister's daughters next door about how many shirtwaists they had made in the last week, and how many waffles someone had eaten at the last church supper.

How shirtwaists and waffles can be topics of discussion will never be understandable to Paul. Such a life seems distinctly horrific to him. As a final word on this setting, there is even a master copy of whom Paul should become, a young man who is faintly reminiscent of Paul: “This young man was of a ruddy complexion, with a compressed, red mouth, and faded, near‑sighted eyes, over which he wore thick spectacles, with gold bows that curved above his ears.” This man shows us what Paul might be in a few years' time. The man still has some redness (life) in him, but his eyes are no longer brilliant; no, sadly enough, they are weak. The man's wife, too, wears glasses, and so do all four of their children; the entire family has lost what Paul has, if they ever did have it, they will forever be small cogs in a gigantic motor larger than they will ever comprehend. Whereas Pittsburgh stands for an endless drudgery masquerading as life, New York stands for the exact opposite. The city is a place of passion, of roseate champagne, red carpets, and flowers in vases; it is a place of opera and fired senses. While seated in a dining room in the Waldorf, Paul is affected by his surroundings: The flowers, the white linen, the many‑colored wine glasses, the gay toilettes of the women, the low popping of the corks, the undulating repetitions of “the Blue Danube” from the orchestra, all flooded Paul's dream with bewildering radiance. Here there is gaiety and sophistication; here life flows constantly with no dams to bar its way. The most poignant scene of Paul's paradise in New York occurs when he goes to Central Park on his first day. While riding up Fifth Avenue in his carriage, his roving eye spots the display windows of the stores: Here and there on the comers whole flower gardens blooming behind glass windows, against which the snow flakes stuck and melted; violets, roses, carnations, lilies of the valley—somehow vastly more lovely and alluring that they blossomed thus unnaturally in the snow.  Paul is one of those gorgeous flowers; he too unnaturally burned with life in defiance to the coming winter, exquisitely did he match the flow of red, of blood, and of life. Paul fulfilled himself:

He saw everything clearly now. He had a feeling that he had made the best of it, that he had lived the sort of life he was meant to live, and yet like a rose on display, Paul too would die as a newly opening bud, “and for half an hour sat staring at the revolver."

New York is where Paul can live; he fits in the city like a hand in a glove. Expanding on this simile, clothing is importantly used in the setting to show the idea that not until arriving in New York is Paul allowed to live a life that fits him. Before that time, Paul's clothes represent a Procrustean bed that he must wear, and following that myth, we can foresee him eventually being cut in some damning, decaying sense to fit those clothes. During Paul's conference with the faculty, it is abundantly dear that he does not fit within their standards of acceptability. Using the tool of setting, Cather communicates the idea with Paul's ill‑fitting, worn out clothes. We are told that “His clothes were a trifle outgrown, and the tan velvet on the collar of his open overcoat was frayed and worn.” A second mention of clothes (lifestyle) not quite fitting Paul occurs as he dresses to usher the symphony at Carnegie Hall: The usher uniform “was one of the few that at all approached fitting, and Paul thought it very becoming—though he knew the tight, straight coat accentuated his narrow chest, about which he was exceedingly sensitive.” Here, in a concert hall, Paul is much closer to living his life the way he wants to, yet it is still not quite the life for him. Although he is experiencing art, it is not quite at the level of spiritual purity that he needs. Finally, in the setting of an expensive, tasteful, men's furnishing establishment in New York, Paul fits: “He spent upward of two hours there, buying with endless reconsidering and great care. His new street suit he put on in the fitting‑room; the frock coat and dress clothes he had bundled into the cab with his new shirts.”

Paul is able to have his clothes tailored to his individual, spiritual needs. His outward lifestyle at last matches his inner fire: “Everything was quite perfect; he was exactly the kind of boy he had always wanted to be."

In closing, it needs to be stressed that life is not exclusively held by New York. Indeed, there are two places, in, Pittsburgh where environment and setting pulse strongly with Paul's kind of life. Both Carnegie Hall and the theater beat with this life. Therefore, although the physical location does matter, it is not what is eminently important. Instead, a dull, material, passionless death of the soul is symbolized by Pittsburgh and is starkly contrasted to the shining, soulful, passionately burning faggot in the tempest symbolized by New York by Cather's masterful use of environment and setting.

Commentary about this essay:

This paper is excellent because the writer not only clearly focuses on a subject that addresses the assignment, but does so in a way that relates this subject to one of the themes in Cather's story. Each body paragraph develops one aspect of the subject and uses significant examples and intelligent analysis to support the student's opinions. Lastly, the diction and the manner in which the words are arranged make the student's ideas clear and reveal a first‑rate mind at work.