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1. Read all the articles Chapter 19 2. Determine a claim you want to support around this topic of American colleges. Remember that a claim must be arguable. It can not simply be a statement of fact. 3. Determine three reasons you want to advance — reasons why the reader should accept/adopt your claim. 4. Pull from the articles in this chapter at least one piece of research to support each of your reasons. (Said another way — you need at least one piece of research for each reason and the research must come from the articles in this chapter.) 5. Think about the opposition to your argument & your rebuttal. What would those you oppose your claim say to rebut you? 6. Study the outline that I have provided you as a guide as to how you can organize your essay. Do not use my claim or reasons. 7. Write and revise your essay. Your essay should be 850 words at a minimum. 8. Review the rubric to make sure you have addressed all the necessary components. (See separate assignment). 9. Review the Creating a Good Title document. 9. Create a Works Cited page (MLA) that lists all the articles from Chapter 19 from which you pulled research
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CHAPTER 19
America’s Colleges:
Issues and Concerns
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T
o say that the issues in education are both numerous and serious is certainly
an understatement. Clinton wanted to be the “education president.” Bush
had his No Child Left Behind initiative. Obama has his Race to the Top plan
and continues to emphasize the need to give everyone an opportunity to attend
college. And yet criticism continues amid only a few voices defending U.S.
schools. America’s best schools and colleges attract students from around the
world. However, the variations in funding, facilities, teachers, and test scores
from one school to another should be unacceptable to politicians and parents—
and the students—who lose out to inferior schools.
The vast differences become noticeable at the college level. On the one
hand, Harvard students such as Mark Zuckerberg drop out to form companies
and become rich and famous, leaving some to argue that the most talented
young people are wasting time in college classes and should, instead, be immediately funded to pursue their creative plans. On the other hand, up to onethird of the freshman class at many quality colleges is taking at least one
remedial course, with the percentage higher at community colleges. The average completion time for a four-year degree is now six years, and the completion
rate of those who start college is less than 50 percent. Do these numbers spell
failure for a goal of universal education—or is college work inappropriate for a
majority of people? If an undergraduate degree is an unrealistic standard for
most people, then how do we compete in a global economy with a workforce
requiring brainpower, not brawn?
These are questions in need of contemplation by all involved, including
current undergraduates. The chapter begins its exploration by looking at the
still-uneven access to college and then moves to a debate on the worth of college, given its costs. When we question the worth of a degree, we also are raising questions about what college is for, why it should—or should not—be
valued. The chapter ends with authors examining two campus concerns, cheating on exams and speech-code restrictions that might be considered censorship.
These concerns closely tie to the broader debate of what it means to have a college education.
PREREADING QUESTIONS
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
How do you account for the weak showing of U.S. students on international
tests in math and science? Should we, as a nation, be concerned?
What are the biggest obstacles to getting into college?
What should students want to get from a college education? Do students, parents, and the business community have differing perceptions on the purpose of
college? Should they?
Should the United States develop better vocational training and apprenticeship
programs? If so, how?
Why do good students cheat in college?
Are speech codes and guidelines to control harassment forms of censorship? If
so, is this okay, or is it a problem?
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SECTION 5 A COLLECTION OF READINGS
5 MYTHS ABOUT WHO GETS
INTO COLLEGE
RICHARD D. KAHLENBERG
A senior fellow at the Century Foundation, Richard Kahlenberg is an expert on K–12
schooling. He is the author of four books on education and the editor of seven more,
most recently Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income Students Succeed in College
(2010). His articles are widely published, and he is a frequent guest on TV talk shows.
The following article appeared in the Washington Post on May 23, 2010.
PREREADING QUESTIONS In preparation for reading, glance at the five myths the
author will examine. Which, if any, myths do you think are accurate? Even if there
is just one that you thought was an accurate statement, is that sufficient reason to
study Kahlenberg’s analysis?
1
This spring, more than 3 million students will graduate from America’s high
schools, and more than 2 million of them will head off to college in the fall. At
the top colleges, competition has been increasingly fierce, leaving many high
school seniors licking their wounds and wondering what they did “wrong.” But
do selective colleges and universities do a good job of identifying the best and
brightest? And is the concern about who gets into the best colleges justified?
2
1. Admissions officers have
figured out how to reward merit
above wealth and connections.
A 2004 Century Foundation study
found that at the most selective
universities and colleges, 74 percent of students come from the
richest quarter of the population,
while just 3 percent come from
the bottom quarter. Rich kids can’t
possibly be 25 times as likely to be
smart as poor kids, so wealth and
connections must still matter.
Leading schools have two
main admissions policies that favor
wealthy students. The more glaring
of these is legacy preferences—an
admissions boost for the children
of alumni. Legacy preferences
increase a student’s chances of
admission by, on average, 20 percentage points over non-legacies.
Schools use such preferences on
the theory that they increase donations from alumni, but new research
by Chad Coffman questions that These students enjoy one another and their
premise. Those universities that beautiful campus.
3
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CHAPTER 19
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America’s Colleges: Issues and Concerns
have abandoned legacy preferences—or never used them—have plenty of alumni
donors. Examples include Caltech, Texas A&M and the University of Georgia.
Less obvious is the role of the SAT, which was, when it was introduced in
1926, supposed to help identify talented students from across all schools and
backgrounds. Instead, it seems to amplify the advantages enjoyed by the most
privileged students. New research by Georgetown University’s Anthony
Carnevale and Jeff Strohl finds that the most disadvantaged applicants (those
who, among other characteristics, are black, attend public schools with high
poverty rates, come from low-income families and have parents who are high
school dropouts) score, on average, 784 points lower on the SAT than the most
advantaged students (those who, among other things, are white, attend private
schools and have wealthy, highly educated parents). This gap is equivalent to
about two-thirds of the test’s total score range. If the SAT were a 100-yard dash,
advantaged kids would start off 65 yards ahead before the race even began.
4
2. Disadvantages based on race are still the biggest obstacle to
getting into college. More than race, it’s class: The effects of racial discrimination are increasingly dwarfed by the impact of socioeconomic status. Take
that 784-point difference in SAT scores between the most advantaged and the
most disadvantaged students. All other things being equal, the researchers
found that there was a 56-point difference between black and white students.
Most of the rest of the gap was the result of socioeconomic factors. To truly
even the playing field, the system would therefore need to provide a lot of
affirmative action to economically disadvantaged students who beat the odds
and a little bit of affirmative action based on race.
Yet colleges and universities today do the opposite: They provide substantial preferences based on race and virtually none based on class. According to
researchers William Bowen, Martin Kurzweil and Eugene Tobin, at highly selective institutions, for students within a given SAT range, being a member of an
underrepresented minority increases one’s chance of admission by 28 percentage points. That is, a white student might have a 30 percent chance of
admission, but a black or Latino student with a similar record would have a
58 percent chance of admission. By contrast, Bowen and his colleagues found,
students from poor families don’t receive any leg up in the process—they fare
neither better nor worse than wealthier applicants.
5
3. Generous financial aid policies are the key to boosting socioeconomic
diversity. In response to the growing scarcity of poor and working-class students
on campus, roughly 100 universities and colleges have boosted financial aid in
the past several years. But these programs have not been enough to change the
socioeconomic profile of these schools’ student bodies. At the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, a generous financial aid program, the
Carolina Covenant, was instituted in 2004. Under its terms, low-income students
are not required to take out loans as part of their financial aid packages.
According to research by Edward B. Fiske, the program has been successful in accomplishing one important goal: boosting the graduation rate among
low-income students. Traditionally, low-income and working-class students
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SECTION 5 A COLLECTION OF READINGS
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drop out at much higher rates than do higher-income students, as financial
worries and jobs with long hours distract from their studies. Fiske found that
the Carolina Covenant raised the four-year graduation rates of low-income students by almost 10 percent.
Yet the proportion of low-income students at UNC-Chapel Hill remained
flat between 2003 and 2008, because the university has not given such students (those eligible for federal Pell grants, 90 percent of which go to students
from families making less than $40,000 a year) any break in the admissions
process. A few other institutions, including Amherst and Harvard, have begun
to consider a student’s socioeconomic status in their admissions decisions;
these schools provide a promising example. At Harvard, the percentage of
students receiving Pell grants has shot up from 9.4 percent in the 2003–2004
school year to 15 percent in the 2008–2009 school year.
4. Selective colleges are too expensive and aren’t worth the investment.
A selective institution with a large endowment may indeed be worth the money.
The least selective colleges spend about $12,000 per student, compared with
$92,000 per student at the most selective schools. Put another way, at the
wealthiest 10 percent of institutions, students pay, on average, just 20 cents in
fees for every dollar the school spends on them, while at the poorest 10 percent of institutions, students pay 78 cents for every dollar spent on them.
Furthermore, selective colleges are quite a bit better at retention: If a
11
more selective school and a less selective school enroll two equally qualified
students, the more selective school is much more likely to graduate its student. Future earnings are, on average, 45 percent higher for students who
graduated from more selective institutions than for those from less selective
ones, and the difference in earnings is widest among low-income students.
And according to research by Thomas Dye, 54 percent of America’s top 4,325
corporate leaders are graduates of just 12 institutions.
10
12
5. With more students going to college, we’re closer to the goal of
equal opportunity. The good news is that students are going to college at a
higher rate than ever before; the bad news is that stratification is increasing at
colleges and universities. Much as urban elementary and secondary schools saw
white, affluent parents flee to suburban schools in the 1970s and 1980s, less
selective colleges are now experiencing white flight. According to Carnevale
and Strohl, white student representation declined from 79 percent to 58 percent
at less selective and noncompetitive institutions between 1994 and 2006, while
black student representation soared from 11 percent to 28 percent. American
higher education is in danger of quickly becoming both separate and unequal.
Source: Washington Post, May 23, 2010. Reprinted by permission of the author.
QUESTIONS FOR READING
1.
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What numbers demonstrate that selective colleges are not rewarding merit
above wealth and connections? What two admissions policies favor the rich?
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CHAPTER 19
449
America’s Colleges: Issues and Concerns
2. What is the biggest obstacle to getting into college? Why are racial minorities
not the most disadvantaged in the college selection process?
3. Why has increased financial aid not changed the socioeconomic mix at most
colleges? Which colleges have begun to consider socioeconomic status in the
admissions process?
4. For what three reasons is the cost of highly selective colleges possibly worth the
price?
5. In spite of the increase in the numbers of students attending college, why is this
not a sign of equal opportunity in higher education?
QUESTIONS FOR REASONING AND ANALYSIS
6. What kind of evidence does Kahlenberg provide in support of each of his
arguments counter to current views regarding college admissions?
7. What is the author’s purpose in writing? To expose myths about changes in
college admissions is, ultimately, to write what kind of argument? Write a claim
statement that reveals Kahlenberg’s purpose in writing.
8. Is the information convincing? Why or why not?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND WRITING
9. Are you surprised by any of the statistics? If so, which ones? If not, why not?
10. To embrace the five myths about college admissions is to see American society
going in what direction? Presumably we would agree that this direction is good
for our society. So, if these myths don’t hold up to the facts, then what should
we be doing to correct this problem? What are your suggestions—or the suggestions implied in much of the essay—for making a college education more
available to all who wish to attend?
WHAT’S A COLLEGE EDUCATION
REALLY WORTH? NOT ENOUGH
NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY
When an editor and writer for the Wall Street Journal, Naomi Riley covered education, religion, and culture. She is now a freelance writer who appears in a number of
newspapers and on her blog. She is the author of The Faculty Lounges: And Other
Reasons You Won’t Get the College Education You Pay For (2011) and ‘Til Faith Do Us
Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America (2013). The following article
appeared June 5, 2011.
PREREADING QUESTIONS Do you think a college education is worth the cost? If
not, why are you in college?
Did Peter Thiel pop the bubble? That was the question on the minds of parents,
taxpayers and higher education leaders late last month when the co-founder of
PayPal announced that he was offering $100,000 to young people who would
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SECTION 5 A COLLECTION OF READINGS
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3
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stay out of college for two years and work instead on scientific and technological innovations. Thiel, who has called college “the default activity,” told USA
Today that “the pernicious side effect of the education bubble is assuming education [guarantees] absolute good, even with steep student fees.”
He has lured 24 of the smartest kids in America and Canada to his Silicon
Valley lair with promises of money and mentorship for their projects. Some of
these young people have been working in university labs since before adolescence. Others have consulted for Microsoft, Coca-Cola and other top companies. A couple didn’t even have to face the choice of putting off college—one
enrolled in college at age 12 and, at 19, had left his PhD studies at Stanford to
start his own company.
Of course, Thiel’s offer isn’t going to change the way most universities do
business anytime soon. These 24 kids represent the narrowest swath of the
country’s college-bound youth. (Though it’s important to note: When we talk
about America having the greatest system of higher education in the world,
these are the kind of people we’re bragging about.)
There’s not much reason to worry that this program is going to produce a
nation of dropouts, contrary to the fears of some wags such as James Temple,
a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Temple called the premise of the
fellowships “scary” and worried about the broader message they send.
However, as a country, we are still creeping along toward President Obama’s
dream of universal higher education. Obama sees this not only as a way for all
individuals to have the opportunity to reach their full potential but also as a
key to the nation’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.
But Thiel put a dollar figure on something that certain young people may
already have suspected was true. A friend of mine whose son, a budding Internet
entrepreneur, just graduated from Yale told me about a conversation that her
son reported having with another somewhat successful start-up founder. The
latter had dropped out of Harvard Law School to launch his business, and he
advised my friend’s son to drop out of Yale—venture capitalists would know that
he was serious if he was willing to give up that Ivy League diploma. My friend
was a little horrified, having already dropped somewhere around $200,000 on
her son’s education, but it does raise the question: For a smart kid from an
upper-middle-class family who went to one of the top high schools in the country, and who already has a business going, what does a college diploma mean?
Colleges have long been engaged in an odd deal with students and their
parents. Paying for a college education—or taking on a huge amount of debt to
finance an education—is a transaction in which most of the buyers and most of
the sellers have fundamentally different understandings of the product.
Think about it this way: Suppose I start a print newspaper tomorrow. I
might think I’m selling excellent journalism, while my “readers” are actually
using my product to line their birdcages. It might work out fine for a while. But
the imbalance in this transaction would make it difficult to talk in general terms
about improving the product or whether the product is worth what I’m charging. I might think I should improve my grammar and hire more reporters. My
customers might want me to make the paper thicker.
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CHAPTER 19
America’s Colleges: Issues and Concerns
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In the college transaction, most parents think they’re buying their kids a 8
credential, a better job and a ticket, economically speaking at least, to the
American dream. Most college professors and administrators (the good ones,
anyway) see their role as producing liberally educated, well-rounded individuals with an appreciation for certain kinds of knowledge. If they get a job after
graduation, well, that’s nice, too.
The students, for the most part, are not quite sure where they fit into this 9
bargain. Some will get caught up in what they learn and decide to go on to
further education. But most will see college as an opportunity to have fun and
then come out the other end of the pipeline with the stamp of approval they
need to make a decent salary after graduation.
So does Thiel’s offer suggest that a university diploma might be most use- 10
ful lining a birdcage? Yes and no. He has certainly undermined the worth of a
credential. But it is universities themselves that have undermined the worth of
the education. It is to their detriment that they have done so, certainly, but it
is to the detriment of students as well.
In the recent movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg is shown devoting 11
endless hours in his room to computer programming. He goes to a few parties,
but mostly he is engaged in his new business venture, “the Facebook.” How is this
possible, one might wonder? Was he flunking out of his classes? No. Thanks to the
wonders of grade inflation and the lack of a serious core curriculum, it is possible
to get through Harvard and a number of oth …
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