Mid Term Easy


The essay is due Saturday, October 29th!

The essay topic

It is often argued that American society is a meritocracy in which every individual has an equal opportunity to succeed. From this perspective, those individuals who have talent and work hard end up in higher social classes; those individuals without much talent and who don’t work hard end up in the lower social classes. Each generation has a new chance to succeed, regardless of how well its parents did. The merit of individuals, then, would explain why society is unequal.

Basing yourself on the sociological arguments, data, and evidence we have studied so far this semester (not your personal opinions or experience), make an argument as to whether (or not)–or to what extent–our society is, indeed, such a meritocracy. What would be the position of Marxists and functionalists on this issue?

You must address all of these issues in order to get full credit for the essay. You must provide evidence in the form of data and citations from the course material to substantiate your points. Do not wander off into a discussion of your own personal opinions and experiences. You must not substitute an exploration of your own views for an engagement with the material we are studying. Students who do so will receive zero credit for this part of their essay.

Required sources

In answering this question, you must make use of the articles by Lareau, Anyon, Engels, and Davis and Moore, and Tumin. You may also make use of other material covered in the class. You may not use anything other than the readings, activities, lectures, etc. covered in this course to write your essay. Do not go to About.com, Study.com, Wikipedia, or any other outside source to write your essay. Making use of non-class sources and/or plagiarism of any kind will result in a failing grade of zero.

Required concepts

Below is a list of concepts that you must use in writing your essay. The concepts must be used in an accurate and meaningful manner. When you use a concept in the essay, highlight it in bold.

Social structure Marxism
Social institutions Functionalism
Socialization Social mobility
Class Cultural capital
Organic solidarity Social capital

Length and other expectations

Your essay should be 1250 words (5 pages). It must be clear, well-written, thorough, and thoughtful. You must use proper grammar and spelling. You may make use of any of the assigned readings, activities, and lecture material.


You are required to use formal citations in APA format for this essay. You must indicate the sources from which you are getting the evidence, data, arguments, and quotes you use. If you are drawing on a PowerPoint, just put the title of the PowerPoint in parentheses–e.g. (Functionalism and Inequality PowerPoint)

How you will be graded

  1. Spelling, grammar, and typos.
  • Is the essay well-written from the standpoint of these criteria? Or does it contain many errors and/or appear rushed, sloppy, and slapdash?
  1. Clarity of writing.
  • Is the essay well-written with clear and comprehensible sentences? Or is the writing awkward, unclear, and/or difficult to comprehend?
  1. Is the essay well-organized?
  • Are the arguments and the information presented in a logical manner?
  1. Thoroughness and thoughtfulness.
  • Do you address all of the issues included in the essay topic? Or have you failed to address in whole or in part one or more of them?
    1. Do explore the question of meritocracy by drawing on sociological arguments, evidence, and data?
    2. Do you discuss Marxism and functionalism, comparing and contrasting them?
    3. Do you incorporate material from Lareau, Anyon, Engels, and Davis and Moore?
    4. Do you use the required concepts in a meaningful way?
  • Do you provide relevant evidence and citations to substantiate your points? Or are you making unsubstantiated claims?
  1. Do you correctly address the topic, demonstrating a solid grasp of the material? Note: If you’re writing is so unclear that I cannot understand what you’re saying and you cannot effectively communicate what you know, you will necessarily lose points for accuracy.
  • Do you present evidence and arguments accurately? Or do you fail to correctly characterize the evidence you use and the positions of the authors you cite?
  • Do you use the concepts correctly?
  1. Do you craft the essay in your own words, thereby indicating that you have or are trying to assimilate the material? Or do you just string together a series of statements drawn from class and/or the readings?
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