Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below



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Prompt 1

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

It has been said that "All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." This statement suggests that people should do more than merely think about themselves and a few others, that they should feel responsible for issues and concerns that affect the larger society or community. But aren't most people already doing a lot more than "nothing" by taking responsibility for their own well-being and that of their families and friends?

Assignment: Should individuals take responsibility for issues and problems that do not affect them directly? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

Prompt 2

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

All communities and groups have reliable rules of right and wrong in the form of laws, values, and social standards. It is therefore generally assumed that most people know the difference between right and wrong and that they usually know the right thing to do. This view is simplistic, however. People often find themselves in complex situations for which no rule provides adequate guidance and the right course of action is unclear.

Assignment: Is it often difficult for people to determine what is the right thing to do? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

Prompt 3

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

When judging ourselves, we tend to consider our motives as well as our actions. If we mean to do something that will benefit others but our actions have hurtful consequences, we may feel that our good intentions are just as important as the effects of our actions. But we give our intentions too much credit. Actions can and should be judged on their own merits, regardless of what motivated someone to take them in the first place.

Assignment: Are the consequences of people's actions more important than the motives behind the actions? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.
AWPE
http://www.ucop.edu/elwr/sample.html

Exam #1

Essay Topic



Directions: Read carefully the passage and the essay topic. Respond to the topic by writing an essay that is controlled by a central idea and is specifically developed.
You will have two hours to read the passage and to complete your essay.
You may underline the passage and make marginal notes as you read. Plan your essay before you begin writing, using the "Notes" side of the blue Information Sheet. Allow time to review and proofread your essay and to make any revisions or corrections you wish.

Your essay will be evaluated on the basis of your ability to develop your central idea, to express yourself clearly, and to use the conventions of written English. The topic has no "correct" response.

Writing that appears on the "Notes" page will not be read.

Essay Topic: How does Kluckhohn explain the differences and similarities among the world's peoples? What do you think about his views? Use examples from your own experience, reading or observation in developing your essay.

Introductory Note: Clyde Kluckhohn (1905-1960) was professor of anthropology at Harvard University. The following passage, adapted from his book Mirror for Man, defines what anthropologists mean by culture and explains culture's influence on how people think, feel and behave.

    One of the interesting things about human beings is that they try to understand themselves and their own behavior. While this has been particularly true of Europeans in recent times, there is no group which has not developed a scheme or schemes to explain human actions. To the insistent human query "why?" the most exciting illumination anthropology has to offer is that of the concept of culture. Its explanatory importance is comparable to categories such as evolution in biology, gravity in physics, disease in medicine.Why do so many Chinese dislike milk and milk products? Why during World War II did Japanese soldiers die willingly in a Banzai charge that seemed senseless to Americans? Why do some nations trace descent through the father, others through the mother, still others through both parents? Not because different peoples have different instincts, not because they were destined by God or Fate to different habits, not because the weather is different in China and Japan and the United States. Sometimes shrewd common sense has an answer that is close to that of the anthropologist: "because they were brought up that way." By "culture" anthropology means the total life way of a people, the social legacy individuals acquire from their group. Or culture can be regarded as that part of the environment that is the creation of human beings.


This technical term has a wider meaning than the "culture" of history and literature. A humble cooking pot is as much a cultural product as is a Beethoven sonata. In ordinary speech "people of culture" are those who can speak languages other than their own, who are familiar with history, literature, philosophy, or the fine arts. To the anthropologist, however, to be human is to be cultured. There is culture in general, and then there are the specific cultures such as Russian, American, British, Hottentot, Inca. The general abstract notion serves to remind us that we cannot explain acts solely in terms of the biological properties of the people concerned, their individual past experience, and the immediate situation. The past experience of other people in the form of culture enters into almost every event. Each specific culture constitutes a kind of blueprint of all of life's activities.
A good deal of human behavior can be understood, and indeed predicted, if we know a people's design for living. Many acts are neither accidental nor due to personal peculiarities nor caused by supernatural forces nor simply mysterious. Even we Americans who pride ourselves on our individualism follow most of the time a pattern not of our own making. We brush our teeth on arising. We put on pants--not a loincloth or a grass skirt. We eat three meals a day--not four or five or two. We sleep in a bed--not in a hammock or on a sheep pelt. I do not have to know individuals and their life histories to be able to predict these and countless other regularities, including many in the thinking process of all Americans who are not incarcerated in jails or hospitals for the insane.
To the American woman a system of plural wives seems "instinctively" abhorrent. She cannot understand how any woman can fail to be jealous and uncomfortable if she must share her husband with other women. She feels it "unnatural" to accept such a situation. On the other hand, a Koryak woman of Siberia, for example, would find it hard to understand how a woman could be so selfish and so undesirous of feminine companionship in the home as to wish to restrict her husband to one mate.
Some years ago I met in New York City a young man who did not speak a word of English and was obviously bewildered by American ways. By "blood" he was American, for his parents had gone from Indiana to China as missionaries. Orphaned in infancy, he was reared by a Chinese family in a remote village. All who met him found him more Chinese than American. The facts of his blue eyes and light hair were less impressive than a Chinese style of gait, Chinese arm and hand movements, Chinese facial expression, and Chinese modes of thought. The biological heritage was American, but the cultural training had been Chinese. He returned to China.
Another example of another kind: I once knew a trader's wife in Arizona who took a somewhat devilish interest in producing a cultural reaction. Guests who came her way were often served delicious sandwiches filled with a meat that seemed to be neither chicken nor tuna fish yet was reminiscent of both. To queries she gave no reply until each had eaten his or her fill. She then explained that what they had eaten was not chicken, not tuna fish, but the rich, white flesh of freshly killed rattlesnakes. The response was instantaneous, often violent vomiting. A biological process is caught in a cultural web.
All this does not mean that there is no such thing as raw human nature. The members of all human groups have about the same biological equipment. All people undergo the same poignant life experiences, such as birth, helplessness, illness, old age, and death. The biological potentialities of the species are the blocks with which cultures are built. Some patterns of every culture crystallize around focuses provided by biology: the difference between the sexes, the presence of persons of different ages, the varying physical strength and skill of individuals. The facts of nature also limit culture forms. No culture provides patterns for jumping over trees or for eating iron ore. There is thus no "either-or" between nature and that special form of nurture called culture. The two factors are interdependent. Culture arises out of human nature, and its forms are restricted both by human biology and by natural laws.

Exam 2

Directions: Read carefully the passage that begins on the next page and the essay topic that follows. Respond to the topic by writing an essay that is controlled by a central idea and is specifically developed.

You will have two hours to read the passage and complete your essay. You may underline the passage and make marginal notes as you read. Plan your essay before you begin writing, using the "Notes" side of the blue Information Sheet. Allow time to review and proofread your essay and to make any revisions or corrections you wish.
Your essay will be evaluated on the basis of your ability to develop your central idea, to express yourself clearly, and to use the conventions of written English. The topic has no "correct" response.

Writing that appears on the "Notes" page will not be read.

Essay Topic: How does Lessing propose that we guard against the influences of our "group minds"? What do you think of her proposal? To make your essay convincing, you should discuss specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observation of others, or any of your reading -- including, of course, "Group Minds" itself.

Introductory Note: Doris Lessing (b. 1919) is a well-known British novelist. 
The following passage is adapted from a lecture she gave in 1985.

Group Minds
   People living in societies that we describe as Western, or as the free world, may be educated in many different ways, but they will all emerge with an idea about themselves that goes something like this: I am a citizen of a free society, and that means I am an individual, making individual choices. My mind is my own, my opinions are chosen by me, I am free to do as I will, and at the worst the pressures on me are economic -- that is to say, I may be too poor to do as I want.

This set of ideas may sound something like a caricature, but it is not so far off from how we see ourselves. It is a portrait that may not have been acquired consciously, but is part of a general atmosphere or set of assumptions that influence our ideas about ourselves. People in the West therefore may go through their entire lives never thinking to analyze this very flattering picture, and as a result are helpless against all kinds of pressures on them to conform in many kinds of ways. The fact is that we all live our lives in groups -- the family, work groups, social, religious and political groups. We are group animals still, and there is nothing wrong with that. But what is dangerous is not understanding the social tendencies that govern groups and govern us.

When we're in a group, we tend to think as that group does. It is the hardest thing in the world to maintain an individual dissident opinion as a member of a group.
It seems to me that this is something we have all experienced -- something we take for granted, may never have thought about. But a great deal of experiment has gone on among psychologists and sociologists on this very theme. If I describe an experiment or two, then anyone listening who may be a sociologist or psychologist will groan, Oh no, not again -- for they will have heard of these classic experiments far too often. My guess is that the rest of you will never have heard of these experiments. If my guess is true, then it aptly illustrates my general thesis, that we -- the human race -- are now in possession of a great deal of hard information about ourselves, but we do not use it to improve our institutions and therefore our lives.
A typical experiment on this theme goes like this. A group of people is taken into the researcher's confidence. A minority of one or two is left in the dark. Some situation demanding measurement or assessment is chosen: for instance, comparing lengths of wood that differ only a little from each other, but enough to be perceptible, or comparing shapes that are almost the same size. The majority in the group -- according to instruction -- will assert stubbornly that these two shapes or lengths are the same length, or size, while the solitary individual who has not been so instructed will assert that the pieces of wood are different. But the majority will continue to insist -- speaking metaphorically -- that black is white, and after a period of exasperation, irritation, even anger, certainly incomprehension, the minority will fall into line. Not always, but nearly always. There are indeed glorious individualists who stubbornly insist on telling the truth as they see it, but most give in to the majority opinion, obey the atmosphere.
When put as baldly, as unflatteringly, as this, reactions tend to be incredulous:

"I certainly wouldn't give in, I speak my mind. . . " But would you?

People who have experienced a lot of groups, who perhaps have observed their own behavior, may agree that the hardest thing in the world is to stand out against one's group, a group of one's peers. Many agree that among our most shameful memories is this -- how often we said black was white because other people were saying it. People who have been in a political movement at times of extreme tension, people who remember how they acted in school, will know this guilt anyway. . . . but it is one thing carrying a burden of knowledge around, half conscious of it, perhaps ashamed of it, hoping it will go away if you don't look too hard, and another saying openly and calmly and sensibly: "Right. This is what we must expect under this and that set of conditions."
Imagine us saying to children: "In the last fifty or so years, the human race has become aware of a great deal of information about its mechanisms; how it usually behaves, how it tends to behave under certain circumstances. If this is to be useful you must learn to contemplate these tendencies calmly, dispassionately, disinterestedly, without emotion. It is information that will set people free from blind loyalties, obedience to slogans, rhetoric, leaders, group emotions. You must be on your guard against your own most primitive reactions and instincts." Well, there it is.


Exam #3

Directions: Read carefully the passage that begins on the next page and the essay topic that follows. Respond to the topic by writing an essay that is controlled by a central idea and is specifically developed.

You will have two hours to read the passage and complete your essay. You may underline the passage and make marginal notes as you read. Plan your essay before you begin writing, using the "Notes" side of the blue Information Sheet. Allow time to review and proofread your essay and to make any revisions or corrections you wish.

Your essay will be evaluated on the basis of your ability to develop your central idea, to express yourself clearly, and to use the conventions of written English. The topic has no "correct" response.

Writing that appears on the "Notes" page will not be read.



Essay Topic: How does Gould attempt to shake our belief in the credibility of what we see or remember seeing? To what extent does his essay convince you to doubt what people perceive and remember? To develop your essay you should discuss specific examples from your own experience, your observation of others, or your reading -- including "Some Close Encounters of a Mental Kind" itself.

Introductory Note: The following passage is adapted from an essay by Stephen Jay Gould, who teaches biology, geology, and the history of science at Harvard University.

Some Close Encounters of a Mental Kind
   Certainty is both a blessing and a danger. Certainty provides warmth, solace, security -- an anchor in the unambiguously factual events of personal observation and experience. But certainty is also a great danger, given the notorious fallibility -- and unrivaled power -- of the human mind. How often have we killed on vast scales for the "certainties" of nationhood and religion; how often have we condemned the innocent because the most prestigious form of supposed certainty -- eyewitness testimony -- bears all the flaws of our ordinary fallibility.

Primates are visual animals par excellence, and we therefore grant special status to personal observation -- to being there and seeing directly. But all sights must be registered in the brain and stored somehow in its intricate memory. And the human mind is both the greatest marvel of nature and the most perverse of all tricksters.

Eyewitness accounts do not deserve their conventional status as ultimate arbiters, even when testimony of direct observation can be marshaled in abundance. In her sobering book "Eyewitness Testimony" (Harvard University Press, 1979), Elizabeth Lotus debunks, largely in a legal context, the notion that visual observation confers some special claim for veracity. She identifies three levels of potential error in supposedly direct and objective vision: misperception if the event itself, and the two great tricksters of passage through memory before later disgorgement -- retention and retrieval.
In one experiment, for example, Lotus showed 40 students a 3-minute videotape of a classroom lecture disrupted by 8 demonstrators (a relevant subject for a study from the early 1970s!). She gave the students a questionnaire and asked half of them: "Was the leader of the 12 demonstrators ... a male?"; and the other half, "Was the leader of the 4 demonstrators ... a male?" One week later, in a follow-up questionnaire, she asked all the students: "How many demonstrators did you see entering the classroom?" Those who had previously received the question about 12 demonstrators reported seeing an average of 8.9 people; those told of 4 demonstrators claimed an average of 6.4. All had actually seen 8, but compromised later judgement between their actual observation and the largely subliminal power of suggestion in the first questionnaire.
Thus, we are easily fooled on all fronts of both eye and mind: seeing, storing, and recalling. The eye tricks us badly enough; the mind is infinitely more perverse. What remedy can we possibly have but constant humility, and eternal vigilance and scrutiny?
At the age of fifteen, I made a western trip by automobile with my family: I have specially vivid memories of an observation at Devils Tower, Wyoming (the volcanic plug made most famous as a landing site for aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind). We approach from the east. My father tells us to look out for the tower from tens of miles away, for he has read in a guidebook that it rises, with an awesome near-verticality, from the dead-flat Great Plains -- and that pioneer families used the tower as a landmark and beacon on their westward trek. We see the tower, first as a tiny projection, almost square in outline, at the horizon. It gets larger as we approach, assuming its distinctive form and finally revealing its structure as a conjoined mat of hexagonal basalt columns. I have never forgotten the two features that inspired my rapt attention: the maximal rise of verticality from flatness, forming a perpendicular junction; and the steady increase in size from a bump on the horizon to a looming, almost fearful giant of a rock pile.

Now I know, I absolutely know that I saw this visual drama, as described. The picture in my mind of that distinctive profile, growing in size, is as strong as any memory I possess. I see the tower as a little dot in the distance, as a mid-sized monument, as a full field of view.

In 1987, I revisited Devils Tower with my family -- the only return since my first close encounter thirty years before. I planned the trip to approach from the east, so that they would see the awesome effect -- and I told them my story, of course.
In the context of this essay, what follows will be anticlimactic in its predictability, however acute my personal embarrassment. The terrain around Devils Tower is mountainous; the monument cannot be seen from more than a few miles away in any direction. I bought a booklet on pioneer trails westward, and none passed anywhere near Devils Tower. We enjoyed our visit, but I felt like a perfect fool. Later, I checked my old logbook for that high-school trip. The monument that rises from the plain, the beacon of the pioneers, is Scotts Bluff, Nebraska -- not nearly so impressive a pile of stone as Devils Tower.
And yet I still see Devils Tower in my mind when I think of that growing dot on the horizon. I see it as clearly and as surely as ever, although I now know that the memory is false.
Of course we must treat the human mind with respect -- for nature has fashioned no more admirable instrument. But we must also struggle to stand back and to scrutinize our own mental certainties. This last line poses an obvious paradox, if not an outright contradiction -- and I have no resolution to offer. Yes, step back and scrutinize your own mind. But with what?

Exam #4

Directions: Read carefully the passage that begins on the next page and the essay topic that follows. Respond to the topic by writing an essay that is controlled by a central idea and is specifically developed.

You will have two hours to read the passage and complete your essay. You may underline the passage and make marginal notes as you read. Plan your essay before you begin writing. Allow time to review and proofread your essay and to make any revisions or corrections you wish.

Your essay will be evaluated on the basis of your ability to develop your central idea, to express yourself clearly, and to use the conventions of written English. The topic has no "correct" response, but you must respond fully to all parts of the topic.

Please Note: You may use the "Notes" side of the blue Information Sheet to plan your essay and you may request blank paper from the test supervisor to prepare a draft. These materials will be collected separately from your essay booklet; the readers of your essay will not see them. To be scored, your final essay must be written on the pages of this booklet.



Essay Topic: What conflicts does Watkins describe as separating her from members of her family, and what sources of connection does she describe as linking her to them? In what ways, if any, does her analysis of these opposing forces help you to understand families that you know about? To develop your essay, be sure to discuss specific examples from your own experience, your observation of others, or any of your reading.

Introductory Note: Gloria Watkins, who uses the pen name "bell hooks," teaches at Oberlin College. The following passage is adapted from an essay in her 1989 book "Talking Back".

Keeping Close to Home
   In the distance the bus approaches. Just before I board the bus I turn, staring into my mother's face. I am momentarily back in time, seeing myself eighteen years ago, at this same bus stop, staring, into my mother's face, continually turning back, waving farewell as I returned to college-that experience which first took me away from our town, from family. Departing was as painful then as it is now. Each movement away makes return harder. Each separation intensifies distance, both physical and emotional.
To a southern black girl from a working-class background who had never been on a city bus, who had never stepped on an escalator, who had never traveled by plane, leaving the comfortable confines of a small town Kentucky life to attend Stanford University was not just frightening; it was utterly painful. My parents had not been delighted that I had been accepted and adamantly opposed my going so far from home. At the time, I did not see their opposition as an expression of their fear that they would lose me forever. Like many working-class folks, they feared what college education might do to their children's minds even as they unenthusiastically acknowledged its importance. They did not understand why I could not attend a college nearby, an all-black college. To them, any college would do. I would graduate, become a school teacher, make a decent living and a good marriage. And even though they reluctantly and skeptically supported my educational endeavors, they also subjected them to constant harsh and bitter critique. It is difficult for me to talk about my parents and their impact on me because they have always felt wary, ambivalent, mistrusting of my intellectual aspirations even as they have been caring and supportive. I want to speak about these contradictions because sorting through them, seeking resolution and reconciliation, has been important to me both as it affects my development as a writer, my effort to be fully self-realized, and my longing to remain close to the family and community that provided the groundwork for much of my thinking, writing, and being.
My parents' ambivalence about my love for reading led to intense conflict. They (especially my mother) would work to ensure that I had access to books, but they would threaten to burn the books or throw them away if I did not conform to other expectations. Or they would insist that reading too much would drive me insane. Their ambivalence nurtured in me a like uncertainty about the value and significance of intellectual endeavor that took years for me to unlearn. While this aspect of our class reality was one that wounded and diminished, their vigilant insistence that being smart did not make me a "better" or "superior" person (which often got on my nerves because I think I wanted to have that sense that it did indeed set me apart, make me better) made a profound impression. From them I learned to value and respect various skills and talents folk might have, not just to value people who read books and talk about ideas. They and my grandparents might say about somebody, "Now he don't read nor write a lick, but he can tell a story," or as my grandmother would say, "call out the hell in words."
Open honest communication is the most important way we can maintain relationships with kin and community as our class experience and background change. It is as vital as the sharing of resources. I do not know that my mother's mother ever acknowledged my college education except to ask me once, "How can you live so far away from your people?" Yet she gave me sources of admiration and nourishment, sharing the legacy of her quilt-making, of family history, of her incredible way with words. Recently, when our father retired after more than thirty years of work as a janitor, I wanted to pay tribute to this experience, to identify links between his work and my own as writer and teacher. Reflecting on our family past, I recalled ways he had been an impressive example of diligence and hard work, approaching tasks with a seriousness of concentration I work to mirror and develop, with a discipline I struggle to maintain. Sharing these thoughts with him keeps us connected, nurtures our respect for each other, maintaining a space, however large or small, where we can talk.

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