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“The sociological imagination enables individuals to see the intimate relationship between the events of history as they occur in human societies and the events of an individual’s or family’s biography.” wrote C. Wright Mills.
In this assignment, you are to write up an Essay explaining the connections between your family biography and historical events over the past 50 years. Choose one family members of yours to focus on, such as your grandparents, you parents, your brothers and sisters, or you. Reflect on his or her life and think about how his/her life trajectory is intertwined with the historical changes in the country that you are from. The purpose of this assignment is to for you to apply the sociological imagination to analyze the profound influence that historical and societal contexts have on lives of individuals.
Please make sure that you fulfill the following requirements:
Clearly state what the personal events are. Explain how these personal events in your family are related to or affected by some of the historical events you listed. Explain in your own words what the sociological imagination is and whether/how it has helped you to better understand the life experiences of your family members. You can refer to the first assigned reading to answer these questions.
Before you start your essay, you can do the following exercise on a piece of paper. Please do not include the time line drawing in your essay! It is just used for you to better conceptualize your essay. Draw a time line that begins in the 1960 and ends at the 2013. Above the line you are to identify in chronological order three significant events and/or transitions in the life of you or your family members (such events or transitions are like births, graduations, marriages, divorces, employment changes, income changes, geographic mobility, employment changes, or other changes you can think of).
Next, think about the historical and social contexts underlying this particular individual’s life trajectory. What historical or societal events have affected his/her path or life? What historical or societal factors have influenced the important decisions he/she made in his/her life? Below the line identify in chronological order some of these important historical events. Write down the historical events and the time period it occurred or lasted. Such events in the United States include, are not limited to, World War II, the “Cold War”, the Korean War, the Civil Rights and Women’s movements, the Vietnam War, the recession of the 1980s, and etc. Please do not be limited by the events I list here. You are free to choose some historical events that are less well known (such as the development of colon technology, tea party movement and etc.) but you think are influential in your life or the life of the family member that you chose.
After you have decided which family member and life events to focus on, write an essay on the relationships between these personal events and some the important historical events in your country. Please note: I am not asking you to write what you or your family were thinking or doing on the day of 911 or the inauguration day of president Obama. You are supposed to write about how these historical events substantially shaped the life trajectory of the particular individual you chose.
Your essay will be graded based on how well you answered each question and the overall quality of your assignment. I strongly recommend you read the grading rubric in the appendix carefully before you start. Please organize your thoughts and arguments, present them in a logical manner and explain them in detail. Please proof read papers for typographical and grammatical errors.
Appendix 1: excerpts of other students’ assignments as example
The following are some examples from other students’ assignments. Please learn from them how to apply the sociological perspective to your own life events but do not be constrained by them.
(1) During World War II my family underwent some great changes. My grandmother took a second job, working in the woolen mills making army blankets. My grandfather joined the marines and moved his whole family from Ohio to California… It was during this time that my grandparents divorced. Divorces are higher during any period of dramatic economic change. Although I’m sure my grandparents blamed themselves, their divorce was a product of the economy and society. The same theory holds true for my parents. When they divorced, they blamed themselves, wondering what each had done wrong, as I did. When I look at what was happening in the economy, the similarities [with my grandparents] are easy to see. The nation- wide divorce rate was up dramatically and the economy was beginning to take a terrible turn for the worse.
(2)When people ask me why I enrolled in college a year ago, I usually answered that I enrolled because I wanted to. I realize now that my answer cannot be quite that simple. Because my family doctor believed that the “pill” was finally proven safe in 1963, I was able to plan my family. In doing so, my son and daughter are nearly raised and I am still young enough to pursue a second career. More than any other factor, though, the women’s movement probably was the greatest influence on my decision. The successes of the movement in social equality have given me the necessary courage and confidence to attempt to be more than a mere shadow of my husband’s social position.
Appendix 2: grading rubric
Sociological Understanding (40%) The essay should apply key sociological concepts, ideas, theories learned in class correctly and properly to analyze related topics. Assertions in the essay must be supported by evidence (from texts or from data) that is logically related to the thesis.
Coverage (30%) The essay must be clearly based on readings and topics related to the course. Essays that are simple summaries of sources are adequate, but will not get the highest grades. The essay should answer all the required questions in the essay guideline. If you fail to answer any questions, some points will be deducted. However, you should organize the essay in a way that it flows smoothly. Do not just list your answers to each question.
Originality (10%) The essay should be original. Originality does not mean that you must be the first to think or write something, but that you take different sources and write about them using your point of view. Originality is entailed in taking your sources and forging them into an essay in your voice. Summarizing sources will be adequate, but not very original. Papers written by you and previously submitted to other courses are not original for this course. Such recycled papers will get a failing grade. Copying directly from internet without citing properly is considered plagiarism and will result in a failing grade. What is plagiarism?
Writing Quality (10%) Words and constructions should be chosen with care. Statements should be direct and clear.w The essay should contain no errors of sentence structure, spelling, word choice, or punctuation. If you have difficulty writing or English is your second language you should tell me at the beginning of the semester. I’m not a writing teacher, but I will do what I can to help you become a better writer. You should also seek help at the Writing Center. Every paper must have a title and the author’s name, either at the top of the first page or on a separate title page. All citations and references must be in ASA, APA or MLA format. The general tone of the essay should be academic and professional. Good writing often “sounds” like well-organized thoughtful conversation. I do not want you to imitate the turgid academic writing found in some sociology journals. I want you to write with a level of sophistication appropriate for well-educated college students.
Courtney from Study Moose
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