Defining the New American Dream
Background: This assignment is what is referred to as a “definition essay.” What this essentially means is that there are particular concepts or ideas that are not so easy to define in a sentence or two. In order to really understand such ideas, we often need a more extensive treatment of their definition, especially when scholars or other authorities do not completely agree on how to define them. The American Dream is one such idea. Especially since the Great Recession, our economy is changing attitudes about what kind of careers we can expect and what we might want to get out of them (financial security, job satisfaction, a chance to contribute to a particular cause, to name a few things). In addition, the demographic make-up of our country has changed and will continue to change, prompting many to call for a rethinking of the American Dream and what it should be about–and whom it is for. Over the past several weeks we have read numerous contributions to this conversation. You will want to choose at least two of the articles (but you can discuss more) as a source for evidence of what the new American Dream is and what it looks like.
Essay Prompt: What is the new American Dream? Based on the readings you have done over the past weeks, there is a sense that the American Dream is in peril. While some might say that it was only ever a dream, there is certainly growing consensus that it is changing. Basing your discussion on the articles we have read concerning the American Dream, put together an essay that defines and explains the new American Dream as clearly as possible. In doing this you want to consider how Hsu, Zakaria or Meacham discuss the American Dream, both in terms of what it used to be and what it is now becoming. Based on what they say and what you agree/disagree with there, what is/should be the new American Dream?
–Start with a brief, working definition, based on how the term usually is defined and what its defining characteristics are typically understood to be (introductory paragraph), based on the course readings or some other authoritative source.
-Look at some of the problems with that definition or how it might have changed by bringing in at least two of the readings and taking a close look at their concerns about the American Dream or the American reality. Work with the readings closely and often; you should be making reference to a reading in each and every paragraph, quoting, paraphrasing, and/or summarizing pieces of their discussion you find most relevant to your discussion. Specifically you want to be working with 2-3 quotations in every paragraph, even in the introduction. For this essay, though, make sure to limit the size of each quotation. For this exercise, a quote would be 2-10 words (no more than 10 words per quote).
–Based on what you discuss and how you discuss it, make a point (ie. argument) about the definition concerning either how it has changed or how it needs to be changed (this can be something you bring up early on in your essay, but that you come back to as you explore your sources. Definitely revisit your main point in the conclusion, stating it as strongly and clearly as possible.