Sample essays

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The following essays offer a sample of essays that fall within the various ranges of the Comp Co-op scoring guide. Two readers each assigned a score using the 6 point scale and then the two scores were added together to create the final score.

One of the essays was rated as a 12 (the highest possible rating); one was rated as a 10; one 8; one 6; and one is rated as a 4. Essays rating below 3 are rare enough that we haven’t included one; usually these essays are the result of a student “freezing up” after reading the prompt and then writing down next to nothing.

Your job is to pick which of the essays ranked where, and to discuss why you ranked each essay the way you did – why it was stronger or weaker than the others. After you turn this in, I’ll post the actual rankings given by the judges and the rationales given for those rankings.
PROMPT: There is no doubt that America is a melting pot; by the same token, there is no doubt that most members of specific races and nationalities strive their whole lives to maintain a link with their original ethnic identity and culture. The two impulses, blending into American society and maintaining ethnic identity, are not always compatible. Often, success is interpreted as total immersion in and assimilation by the new culture. Do you agree or disagree with this assumption? Argue for a lifestyle that emphasizes assimilation or a lifestyle that emphasizes the maintenance of cultural ties, and indicate which lifestyle better leads to success in the American culture. Use examples and illustrations to support your argument.

Essay 1
“When in Rome do as the Romans do.” This is a quote I have heard throughout my life. I believe that it applies when discussing the issue of assimilation into American culture. This paper will discuss why I believe that immigrants to this country should make every effort to embrace our culture.

Learning about and adopting aspects of the American culture does not mean that an individual must shun all beliefs and traditions of their country of origin. In order to be successful in this country, one must be aware of and accepting of certain American traditions and practices and how they may differ from their country of origin. For example, in America it is expected that one will have eye contact with a person during a conversation. In Chinese culture eye contact is avoided as a sign of respect. If a Chinese person were to go to an interview with an American employer, who is unaware of their beliefs, they may be seen as sneaky or thought to be lying as a result of lack of eye contact. Other actions can be misinterpreted as well. Some cultures are very gregarious and loud in their style of communication. While that behavior may be understood within their culture and acceptable in their personal lives, it may not be well accepted in the business world. Having knowledge of the fact that American businessmen conduct themselves in a more reserved manner when conducting business would benefit the individual in the business world.

Symbols can also be misinterpreted. In the United States placing the thumb and index finger together to form a circle indicates “OK” or “way to go.” It is seen as a positive gesture. In some countries this same symbol is seen as a rude gesture. If an immigrant had no assimilation into our culture and found himself on the receiving end of this gesture, I believe he would have a difficult time forming a relationship with the person who made the gesture. If this person was his boss or one of his co-workers he would have a difficult time working with them and achieving success in the workplace.
Learning the English language is also of benefit to immigrants. Failure to learn the language greatly impacts their ability to obtain higher paying jobs and isolates them. This is seen frequently with immigrants in Southern California. Those who learn English have gone on to succeed in a multitude of areas. Those who have not the language find themselves working in lower paying positions and struggling to meet their daily needs. It is not uncommon for women in some immigrant cultures to stay home, never learning English and finding herself without resources if something happens to her husband.
In conclusion, while I believe people should treasure their heritage and hold onto it, they must also take in and welcome components of the American culture. By doing so they will be more likely to succeed and have a balanced life.

Essay 2

America is comprised of the most diverse population in the world today. It is diverse in terms of its ethnic makeup and religious practices. Because of its diversity, many refer to America as a melting pot, however to say so is a misconception. The concept of a melting pot implies that America is not compromised of one distinct or significant culture or ethnicity. Instead, it is made up of a variety of cultures that when combined, looses what has made it distinct and begins a metamorphosis into something that has lost its original qualities, turning into something unrecognizable instead. America should be likened to a fruit salad, one that retains the original quality of the culture and when mixed with other cultures becomes something even more flavorful. Success in America as individuals does not have to entail the abandonment of ones cultural and ethnic identity. Retaining ones culture can be achieved while meeting the expectations of “success” in America and in many cases is the foundation on which that success is built.

In America today, many people are leading successful lives as a result of maintaining their cultural beliefs and identities. And although the struggle to become a functioning individual in America may be difficult, holding on to beliefs rooted in culture have made it possible for many people to make it. When families have come from Vietnam or Mexico, language is an instant challenge for them. Although learning a new language is a challenge, it can be done. And when that happens, even more doors or possibilities are opened. Even though language can be an issue the values and benefits of such Mexican and Vietnamese families are what helps individuals to succeed in learning the language. Mexican and Vietnamese families work together to support one another to ensure that all members of the family succeed. Support can include money, housing, transportation and even food or help with translation. The families work together to become “successful” in America. This idea of family supporting one another without question is a deeply rooted belief in such cultures.

A specific example of how holding on to culture identity leads to success in America can be seen from the example of the Vietnamese family that comes to America in pursuit of a better life. When the family first arrives in America, they may live in a small apartment with another family. As children enter school and begin to learn the English language, parents are working at any job they can find to provide food, clothing and shelter for everyone in the household. The family continues to celebrate traditional Vietnamese holidays and eats traditional foods from their homeland. As work for parents increases, each family begins to move out on their own, while still maintaining the support of the others. As families become even more financially independent, they help other family members who are still in need. As children grow, education is highly valued and as each child gets through college and becomes employed, they too, look back at other family members to offer support to them so that they too can achieve “success” in America. All the while, the family continues to celebrate their Vietnamese traditions, food and language.

The core beliefs of this such culture and many others in America are the backbone of the success of individuals. The idea that success in America is determined by the individuals loosing that sense of culture is unfounded. For many, maintaining the link to culture has helped them to become successful which involves knowing who you are and where you come from. Continuing to speak their language, dress and eat foods and maintain their belief rooted in their culture does not prevent success, and instead helps it.

Essay 3

The American melting pot metaphor has of late shifted to images of stew, salad, or fruit salad. With our evolving cultural sensitivity, melting is no longer an accurate depiction of American society. When ingredients melt, they “assimilate” into one uniform substance. Interestingly, while those who concocted the image of the melting pot intended to demonstrate the Statue of Liberty-like open arms to anyone from anywhere in need, they unwittingly exposed the underbelly of our land of immigrants – success came to those who adapted and assimilated into the beliefs and traditions of the upper middle class WASP population. However, the original intent of this country was freedom, specifically political and religious freedom, and liberty to engage in free enterprise. In this American “salad,” preservation of ethnic identity and culture leads to success not only financially, but within social and familial units.

One could argue that a certain amount of assimilation to a new country is required for financial success. Learning the language, respecting common dress codes, learning acceptable and unacceptable phrases and gestures, and acquiring a taste for local foods will all facilitate the conducting of business. Someone can more easily communicate in a meeting, present an appearance conducive to success and even attend power lunches. Nevertheless, to simply prescribe assimilation can be dangerous. The very foundation of America rests on freedom of expression. A Muslim-American woman should retain the right to cover her head in a business meeting and if a Scots-American man chooses to run his shop clad in a kilt, he should and could still have a good day in sales. There are many pocket communities in America where the entire business day is conducted in Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, etc. It is rare to stand in the line at a supermarket in urban areas across the country and be surrounded only by people speaking English. Indeed, maintaining cultural traditions can even ameliorate the family’s finances. In many American sub-cultures, two or three families may share a home, each member working and contributing to the financial support of all, and adult children remain in the home until marriage (and sometimes after), adding their financial contributions. Immigrants have been coming to this country from all over the world for over 400 years to better their lives and they have found financial success while still retaining their original language and culture.
Success encapsulates areas other than financial; many define their success by their quality of life and by what they feel matters the most. There are unhappy rich people who could be deemed ultimately unsuccessful in life. Happiness comes in various packages and often involves contentment with family, and family unity and support are often achieved through maintenance of ethnic customs. Many cultures have multi-generational households, refusing to give way to the American practice of putting the elderly in assisted living situations. Grandparents participate in the raising and loving of the children and also provide valuable contributions to the household by passing down stories and traditions. The children become bilingual, which enhances their opportunities and their abilities to communicate in cross-cultural settings. Oftentimes assimilation can lead to strife within a family as the generations argue over lifestyle choices. Maintaining and observing cultural traditions with regard to marriage practices, dress, and the role of education enhances success in family harmony.
Most importantly, immigrants who maintain their traditions enjoy the success that comes with freedom. They are free to practice their religions, enjoy ethnic meals and celebrate holidays important to their culture. No one who believes in America’s foundation would want to see mosques, temples and churches of a myriad of denominations removed from our streets. We can all share in the diversity bred of the multiple cuisines of Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, French, German, Middle Eastern, and on and on restaurants. Families derive joy from traditional holidays, traditions that may not include the typically Christian American holidays. These traditions can then be shared with people from other cultures and every American can experience a richness in life that would be destroyed by complete assimilation.
The American social landscape continually evolves as more and more people seek refuge in this country. Gone are the days when success was defined by a quiet life in the suburbs eating Wonder bread. We are a nation that has become more sensitive to and appreciative of differences, hence the change in metaphor from melting pot to salad bowl. Assimilation is no longer a prerequisite to success.

Essay 4
There is different nationalities in America as well as many people from different culture that have different lifestyles. For example, there is many Latinos that are from the same race, but their religion is different. All of the people and there living condition is not the same eventhough they come from the same nationality.
I believe that most of the people want to blend into a society and feel welcome. I still do not understand why people care a lot about fiting into a society when we could all create our own. If the people would not care for religion or nationalities America would be a better place to live without discrimination instead of caring to fit in a better society, we all should care for better things.
I think that people feel more comfortable hanging or talking with people from their same culture because they have more things in common. For example, Latinos speak the language Spanish and most of them are Catholic; therefore, I feel each nationality feels a better communication between each other.
There is many nationalities that helps each other in many different ways and there is some that do not care but only for themselves. One good example of a nationality that creates a society in which they help each other is the Chinese and Koreans. When they all come to America they lend money to other people from their culture to buy or open a business. That’s why I agree that lifestyles have to do with culture but people choose the way they want to live.

Essay 5
Success in blending into the American society is by assimilation to the new culture. Maintaining cultural traditions and lifestyle here in America often causes conflict with the second generation and depression for the first generation.

For example, in 1972 my family who’s native to the Phillippine Islands arrived here in America with hopes and dreams of a “better life.” The family consisted of mom, dad, and seven children. The oldest child was 13 years old and the youngest was 6 months. I was the oldest of seven.

Discipline, obedience and education was drilled and embedded to us children by our parents. This is true to our culture and most Asians. A report card that is less than excellent or an A is unacceptable. I remember a time when I was a freshman in High School and I received a B in advanced algebra class. I was afraid to go home. My school Counselor rehearsed a speech with me to explain to my parents that taking seven classes, working after school and then taking care of my younger brothers and sisters made it difficult to get an A in a very advanced class. The advise sounded reasonable. I was taught that teachers were always right. I went home and executed the advise that I received. My parents was so furious that I thought I would never see tomorrow. To my parents, my defense was disrespectfulness and my grade was laziness.

Every teacher and parent conference my parents was grieved for the school was teaching us to be disrespectful by expressing our opinion in class to get a “satisfactory” grade in citizenship. They were disappointed and concerned everytime the teachers told them that a grade less than an A was “ok” as long as the student have done their very best.

As time passes, my parents continued to struggle with the Western culture of raising children that expresses their opinions and points of view. This became a conflict with us children with our parents. We, the children adapted the western ways, not only to be accepted by the society but to be able to understand others and coexist in harmony.
My parents suffered depression because of culture shock, homesickness in speaking their native tongue and isolation from their families and friends.
Another insult to my parent’s depression is that all of us children married outside our culture. Not one of us married a Filipino. My parents were viewed as “bad” parents by their relatives in Phillippines because they could not control their children.
Shame and guilt is what my parents carry with them today because of traditions and culture. Acceptance of the culture allows us children to adjust and enjoy the “better life” that my parents intended for us to have here in America.

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