Mar 31, 2014

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The Birth of the American Dream – English 5 – Essay 3

Assignment: The concept of the “American Dream” is basic to the United States Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,” including “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The American dream is based on opportunity 0 opportunity for success, upward mobility, and prosperity achieved through hard work. Modern interpretation of the American Dream includes the opportunity to pursue a career without artificial barriers, opportunity for home ownership, opportunity for one’s children to receive a good education and opportunity without restrictions limited to a person’s socio-economic class, religion, race, or ethnicity. 

You must address the following concepts in the course of your argument:

- Describe the changes that have taken place in the American economy since 1960. How have they affected the way Americans work and the work that Americans can expect to find? How does this affect the American Dream?

- Why are the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer? Examine the kinds of differences between the rich and the poor. Is the process of increasing the riches for the rich and increasing poverty for the poor inevitable?

One requirement is that you must draw from the ideas of the writers whose works we read in our “Wealth and Poverty” unit, namely Andrew Carnegie, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Robert Reich. You will also include your own ideas. Finally, you will draw from ideas of writers not included in this course whose works have influenced your thinking.

Grade: 87/100


- Your section addressing the change in the economy since 1960 is solid.

- Aim for a strong counter-argument/rebuttal when you are writing an argument.

- You have a clear, pleasing writing style.

- Errors with parenthetical in-text citations (punctuating end of signal phrases, ending period)


Gabriella Wendt

English 5

31 March 2014

The Birth of the American Dream

America is known throughout the world as the land of opportunity, where the streets are paved with gold, and one is handed limitless potential at the door – that is, when you are a straight Caucasian male.

In our classist, racist, and sexist society, the system is designed to support the privileged. I believe that the question shouldn’t be whether the American dream has ended; it should be whether or not we can have one at all.

The American dream, as it is typically glorified, never truly existed. America boasts an “equal opportunity” environment, touting a meritocracy, but conveniently disregards the intersecting systems of oppression and inequality that create its lower class.

The price which society pays for the law of competition, like the price it pays for cheap comforts and luxuries, is also great … for it is to this law that we owe our wonderful material development, which brings improved conditions in its train … and while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department. (Carnegie 487)

Andrew Carnegie’s vision is not that of “survival of the fittest,” it is one of “survival of the richest.” His attitude that, “the man of wealth thus becoming … trustee for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves,” (493) is reflected in America’s unwillingness and inability to bring the impoverished out of poverty. America’s real dream exists in the rich getting richer off of the backs of the laborers and undereducated, as well as its complacency with the status quo.

Through much of America’s history, the majority of the job market existed in production work; however, around the 1960s, that started to change in a significant way. With the introduction of computerized automation, most production jobs were either made completely obsolete, or outsourced for cheaper labor. As Robert Reich outlines in his essay about the changing American workforce:

Routine production jobs have vanished fastest in traditional unionized industries (autos steel and rubber for example)… foreign owned webs are hiring some American’s to do routine production in the United States … [but] the foreign-owned factories are highly automated and will become far more so in years to come … this fraction will continue to decline sharply as computer-integrated robots take over (520-21).

Traditionally those previously filling the low-level production positions would be, “young men entering the workforce without college education,” (Reich 520) but as jobs vanish, the senior members are protected and fewer positions are available to the unskilled laborers. The young people entering the workforce and those who have been displaced from production jobs are now moving into positions of service, an industry which is also shrinking, albeit at a more slow and uneven pace.

The future of America’s economy now rests in the hands of what Reich calls, “symbolic analysts,” those that, “solve, identify, and broker new problems” (516). Behind every machine that consumes a production job is the engineer who designed it and the marketer who sold it. From the faces on the silver screen to the voices over the radio, the scientists and programmers, and the young entrepreneurs – “almost everyone around the world is buying the skills and insights of Americans who manipulate oral and visual symbols” (Reich 526).

The trouble with being a symbolic analyst is that it typically calls for higher education and some level of luxury to pursue ones passions. Despite what the American dream claims is possible, those born into the rural or urban slums are not afforded such opportunities.

The most important characteristic of insular poverty is forces, common to all members of the community, that restrain or prevent participation in economic life at going rates of return. These restraints are several. Race, which acts to locate people by their color rather than by the proximity to employment, is obviously one. So are poor educational facilities. (And this effect is further exaggerated when the poorly educated, endemically a drug on the labor market, are brought together in dense clusters by the common inadequacy of the schools available to blacks and the poor.) (Galbraith 504)

A common response to this issue of insular poverty is to simply, “help [only] those who will help themselves,” (Carnegie 487) as, “a poor society … had to enforce the rule that the person who did not work could not eat” (Galbraith 506). It is also too often believed that those in positions of poverty are simply not trying hard enough, but, “the most certain thing about this poverty is that it is not remedied by a general advance in income. Insular poverty is not directly alleviated because the advance does not remove the specific frustrations of environment to which the people of these areas are subject” (Galbraith 505). However, by nature of its success, our society has a moral obligation to assist our impoverished members. “An affluent society that is also both compassionate and rational would, no doubt, secure to all who needed it the minimum income essential for decency and comfort … nothing requires such a society to be compassionate. But it no longer has a high philosophical justification for callousness” (Galbraith 506). To remain a world leader, America must demonstrate compassion and finally address its poverty problem.

I believe the solution lies, as outlined by John Galbraith, in providing quality public services for the impoverished youth.

If the children of poor families have first-rate schools and school attendance is properly enforce; if children, though badly fed at home, are well nourished at school; if the community has sound health services, and the physical well-being of the children is vigilantly watched; if there is opportunity for advanced education for those who qualify regardless of means; and if, especially in the case of urban communities, housing is ample and housing standards are enforced, the streets are clean, the laws are kept, and recreation is adequate – then there is a chance that the children of the very poor will come to maturity without inhibiting disadvantage. (507)

If America doesn’t invest in its urban and rural ghettos, they will only continue to grow and perpetuate the issues of unemployment, lack of education, poor health, and unhappiness. “Poverty is self-perpetuating partly because the poorest communities are poorest in the services which would eliminate it” (Galbraith 507)

Within the poorest communities, individuals may possess the desire to upset the vicious cycle and escape, but rarely is that possible. Not only is the majority of one’s time spent working to survive, if such work is even available, but there is also a dearth of opportunities which combines with generations of oppression to create an atmosphere of hopelessness. “In the United States, the survival of poverty is remarkable. We ignore it because we share with all societies at all times the capacity for not seeing what we do not wish to see.” (Galbraith 508)

The American dream is the idea of true inclusion paired with opportunity for all without restriction, but we cannot begin to claim it as reality until society helps those it had previously oppressed. In making “the investment in children from families presently afflicted,” (Galbraith 506) America can ensure its continued success and economic future. Where previously, only swiftly disappearing production or service jobs were available, the youth of America’s impoverished would have the opportunity to achieve roles as symbolic analysts.

Works Cited

Carnegie, Andrew. “The Gospel of Wealth.” Jacobus 481-495.

Galbraith, John Kenneth. “The Position of Poverty.” Jacobus 499-508.

Jacobus, Lee A., ed. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Boston:

Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.

Reich, Robert B. “Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor, Poorer.” Jacobus 513-529.



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Mar 10, 2014

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The Morality of Treason: Edward Snowden – English 5 – Essay 2

Assignment: What constitutes morality, that is, moral principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior? Is Edward Snowden a moral patriot or a traitor?

In the first section you will define what constitutes morality. One requirement is that you will draw from the ideas of the writers whose works we reading our “Ethics and Morality” unit, namely Henry David Thoreau, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Michael Gazzaniga. You will also include your own ideas. Finally you will draw from ideas of writers not included in this course whose works have influenced your thinking. 

In the second section, you will present your argument proving that your claim that Edward Snowden is a moral patriot or that Edward Snowden is a traitor.

Grade: 90/100


- Effective practice of using King and Thoreau as lenses.

- Your argument is based on solid, logical points and you provide ample persuasive detail.

- You write w/ clarity and precision.


Gabriella Wendt

English 5

10 March 2014

The Morality of Treason: Edward Snowden

                Morality is often defined simply as what guides right and wrong behavior. Some people believe that morality is intrinsically driven, and others believe morality is established by a higher power. Regardless of its origins, universal and cultural moral concepts influence and drive governments and laws across all nations.

Throughout the last few weeks, we have closely examined several respected perspectives on the concept of morality, but for the purposes of this paper, I will draw specifically from the ideas presented by Martin Luther King Jr., Henry David Thoreau, and Michael Gazzaniga. Their ideas closely reflect my own in the belief that morality is an inherent responsibility. Gazzaniga illustrates this by writing “Evolution is saving the group, not just the person” (426). Investing in one’s own best interest, in the long run, does not benefit anyone, even oneself. It is the welfare of the group that affects the individual’s success, and I believe that Edward Snowden understood this.

In June of 2013, Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and contractor for the NSA, released thousands of classified intelligence documents to the media. He claimed it was an attempt to alert America and the world to what he believed to be crimes committed by the United States government against its people. These crimes included secretly accessing cell phone metadata, surveillance, wiretapping, bypassing encryption and privacy controls all without the peoples’ knowledge. When Snowden revealed himself as the source of the leak, the United States declared him a fugitive and charged him with espionage and theft of government property. Snowden then obtained temporary asylum in Russia after fleeing the US. Past whistleblowers, such as Chelsea (Bradley) Manning who is currently serving a 35 year prison sentence, have not been so lucky (Knowlton).  In the case of Edward Snowden, it is clear to me that he is a moral patriot; his “crimes” against the United States government were driven by his own conscience and the desire to help his fellow human beings.

Both Thoreau and King approached morality from the standpoint of duty. If one finds something to be morally unsound, it their moral obligation to do something about it; they both believed complacency to be one of the worst moral crimes. Thoreau asserted that “The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right” (306) and “It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong”(310). King agreed on this concept: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (382). Thoreau also went on to state that “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist the government when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable” (308). I am certain that these two great men would celebrate Snowden’s actions and in turn would help fight the uncovered injustice.

After making his initial discoveries, Edward Snowden tried to give his government the benefit of the doubt, but found that after a time he could wait no longer. In their profile on Snowden, the BBC reported that “Mr. Snowden said he had considered going public earlier, but waited to see whether President Barack Obama’s election in 2008 would change the US approach.”[Mr. Obama] continued with the policies of his predecessor.” Snowden believed that the actions the government took did not have the consent of the people of the United States. As Thoreau states “The authority of government … to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed” (323).

Edward Snowden’s actions, though condemned by the United States government, were celebrated by the majority of American voters. A Quinnipac University National Poll showed that 55% over 34% believed that Snowden was a patriot rather than a traitor. This belief was consistent regardless of political affiliation, gender, race or age.

Anthony Romero from the Huffington Post acknowledged “As a whistleblower of illegal government activity that was sanctioned and kept secret by the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government for years, he undertook great personal risk for the public good. And he has single-handedly reignited a global debate about the extent and nature of government surveillance and our most fundamental rights as individuals.” Snowden listened to his conscience and took action; Thoreau and King would have found that to be the only reasonable option. Politico reported that “These actions have been accompanied by a sea change in public opinion about surveillance. Poll after poll has shown that for the first time ever, Americans think the government has gone too far in violating their privacy, with vast majorities believing the NSA scooping up a record of every phone call made in the United States invades citizens’ privacy.”

One could argue that when Snowden sought asylum in Russia, it was a sign of his crimes and treason, one might continue by saying that he should have been willing to submit to trial in the United States if he believed his actions were reasonable and just. King insists “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty… an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law” (384). But King also claims that “Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber” (385). However, in this case, the secrets stolen from the NSA do not make Snowden the robber. We the people are the robbed, we are the violated and the United States is the robber. Snowden was simply trying to open our eyes to the injustice of what was happening behind our backs. He is one of us, and thus should be protected as one of the robbed.

Based on the presented moral reasoning’s of Thoreau, King, and Gazzaniga, it is clear that Edward Snowden was acted on his conscience and that the United States government behaved in ways that were not sanctioned by its people. It was a moral responsibility to release the classified documents to the public and that is why I believe that Edward Snowden is not a traitor to our country. Rather he is a patriot and a hero.



Works Cited

Brown, Peter. Snowden Is Whistle-Blower, Not Traitor, U.S. Voters Tell Quinnipiac University

National Poll. Rep. Quinnipiac University, 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 3 Mar. 2014.

                Gazzaniga, Michael. “Toward a Universal Ethics.” Jacobus 415-431

Jacobus, Lee A., eds A World of Ideas Essential Readings for College Writers. Boston:

Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.

King Jr., Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Jacobus 375-392

Knowlton, Brian. “Senators Differ Sharply on Penalty for Snowden.” The New York

Times. The New York Times, 05 Jan. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.

“Profile: Edward Snowden.” BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation, 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 6

Mar. 2014.

Romero, Anthony D. “Edward Snowden Is a Patriot.” The Huffington Post., 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” Jacobus 301-324

Timm, Trevor. “Edward Snowden Is a Patriot.” POLITICO. POLITICO LLC, 8 Oct. 2013. Web.

06 Mar. 2014.

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Mar 8, 2014

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State of the Union (of Brie)

I’ve been radio silent for a few weeks now, but it’s because things have been busy, and good.

Firstly, this has been the first week of the NASA Systems Engineering course. Being able to take part in this has been super exciting. Adam also linked to this Caltech Science of the Solar System course that’ll start at the end of the month which I’ve just signed up for. I’m excited to see what I’ll get out of these as they are structured like normal classes, with quizzes and a final and the ability to pass or fail. I’m hoping that as I’m hunting down internships, it’ll be a nice thing to throw onto my resume for related coursework.

Secondly, this last Monday I got to visit Agilent Technologies with my engineering class; it was an amazing experience. We were there after hours and had four different guides for different parts of their building(s) on a tour that lasted well over an hour. I only really understood about 10% of what they talked about, but it was so fascinating. A lot of the other students were annoyed about how long the tour took (it went over the end of our class by about 40 minutes) but I wish we could have stayed longer.  It was a lot of walking though, they have four building that are extremely large with varying floor levels. I think I might have walked two miles following the guides around.

Thirdly, my first math test was a couple of weeks ago, I got a 91%, and though that is still an A, I felt ashamed that the mistakes I made were easily avoidable; classically I was just moving too quickly. However, the instructor keeps insisting that this is the hardest test of the class, that this is the one that people do the worst on. I find it hard to believe, but hope that it will prove to be true.

Fourthly, I’m almost at the end of the table drafting course. It’s been a lot of fun, but this couple of weeks we’ve moved into the AutoCAD lab to start exploring the program, and then after spring break I’ll start the actual AutoCAD class. I did really well on our first project which was just basically exploring the controls of the program. I finished it in less than 10 minutes, and then spent the next 10 helping my poor lost classmate.

Fifthly? I lots to do. I have an essay due on Monday and lots of reading plus other projects and math homework… But, today was nice, it was my brother’s birthday and we walked the Golden Gate bridge and then had Extreme Pizza for lunch. I had a headache from my moment of waking though and it just grew and grew, so after we finally got home I took some more meds and crawled into bed to try to nap it off. It was successful and I was able to get together with my Qwerty crew for delicious homemade tacos/burritos.

Everything is Awesome!

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