Response Essay Assignment
Response Essay #1:
For Monday, February 28, write an essay that responds to and/or uses and cites Jennifer Boylan’s essay on summer jobs. 2-3 pages double-spaced. This essay is an exercise in essay structure as well as the use of a reading. Your Essay should be a reflection on work and incorporate your own experiences or observations. Talk about life as you know it. Don’t make stuff up!
Essay Structure: While the content of your essay is obviously your own, the structure of your essay should be very similar to the model essay you’ll find below. The structural key components are indicated in color. Feel free to color-code your essay as well. Not required, though.
1st paragraph: Introduction with thesis (central idea, in purple).
2nd paragraph: Summary of the reading (blue) with in-text citation (green).
3rd-4 or 5th paragraphs: Your response points. Each paragraphs begins with a Topic Sentence (orange) that states the idea that paragraph will discuss. Use specific examples from your own experience (red) and cite Boylan whenever you quote or paraphrase her ideas.
Last paragraph: Conclusion that recaps the main idea and possibly adds a little observation or recommendation.
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Model essay below. It’s called “Service is the Rent we Pay for Living”
Service is the Rent we Pay for Living
I don’t remember where it came from, but I like that quote. At a time when people talk a lot about self-care and pleasure, I may sound like the Grinch when I declare that the meaning of our lives is not derived from what we do for ourselves or what others do for us, but that a life’s worth should be measured by what we do for others, and apart from loving our families, partners, and friends, that service for others typically takes place at work. Work is the central way in which the social web all of us are a part of is formed, and it allows individuals to make contributions to society, which in turn creates feelings of self-worth. Children should learn that work is valuable early in life, and one way to teach that lesson is by encouraging teens to get summer or weekend jobs while they are still in school.
In the short New York Times essay “The Value of a Mindless Summer Job,” Jennifer Finney Boylan reflects on the summer jobs she had as a teenager in the 1970s—selling hot dogs on the Jersey Shore, mowing lawns, working as a teller at a bank—and she worries that her sons might be missing out by doing major-related internships instead. She wonders “whether their summer jobs are as likely to build their characters as their résumés” (Boylan 2). She doesn’t quite spell it out, but I assume she is talking about traits such a perseverance, resilience, and kindness. I am sure some of the customers at McDonald’s are annoying, but working there one would learn quickly how to be able to treat all customers with respect and not take rude behavior personally, important life lessons.
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Another important issue Boylan addresses is social inequality. She feels that working an entry-level job makes people aware of class privilege, which is why it is especially important for teens from privileged backgrounds to work. We live in a society characterized by enormous socio-economic inequality and even full-time employment doesn’t guarantee a comfortable, safe life, especially for people with families to support. Lots of people who work full-time remain poor while a few individuals are paid astronomical sums for their work. CEO Tim Cook’s pay was over 1,400 times the average Apple worker’s in 2021. And then we have these co-called Social Media “Influencers” who don’t work at all but make millions for posting trivial, absurd, misleading, or obscene “content” on the Internet. While a few CEOs and celebrities are paid astounding salaries, lots of people work back-breaking jobs on construction sites or in restaurants and hospitals for just enough money to pay the bills. What’s troubling, in my experience, is that most people who have cushy jobs or are lucky enough to be supported by their parents or a spouse don’t think that’s a problem.
This inequality and lack of respect for workers might have to do with the fact that work per se is not valued. The only careers that are respected are those of highly skilled, well educated, successful professionals: doctors, lawyers, software engineers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and performers, but I suspect that we admire them only in part because of their qualifications. I think we admire them because they are well paid. But what about all the other not so well-paying jobs all of us depend upon in our day to day lives? Not everyone can or wants to go to school for years and years to get a fancy degree. And not everyone is a maverick with a special gift. I don’t see anything wrong with that, and I think mowing the lawn and selling hot dogs are a perfectly
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legitimate pursuits. I agree with Boylan that such “so-called stupid jobs” aren’t stupid at all (Boylan1).
Not every service that is important requires special skills; but if it is important, then we should value the person who does the job. The other day I had to get groceries from the store even though there had been a snow storm and most of the sidewalks were still covered by a foot of snow. Halfway to the store there was a young man from the Parks Department shoveling snow adjacent to a City playground. As I walked past him, I thanked him for shoveling—work that doesn’t require an education or special training but can be very exhausting. He looked surprised. If he had not been there, I might would have ended up in the snow. The way I see it, anyone who does something useful should be treated with respect, earn a living, and get opportunities to grow. I doubt that young man will be shoveling snow five years from now, but if he did, I’d still think that he performs a very valuable service and should get paid a decent wage.
The sooner teenagers learn that work is not an annoying chore to be avoided or something we do solely for money, the better. I am in favor of youth employment programs for everybody and applaud our new mayor, Eric Adams, who wants to build such programs.
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