Final Exam 2006
Part One: Usage/Vocabulary (20%)
Essay on Jitney (40%)
Do middle class values serve the jitney drivers in Pittsburgh in
Beckerís faith in hard work, his strategy of accommodation with
racism, and his resolution to follow the rules have been shaken to
the core. How have the people in his neighborhood really survived to
this point, and what will happen now that the city is moving them
out? Has the role of middle class values changed over the years
between 1776 and 1978? Has the time come for Becker to re-consider
his judgment of Boosterís militancy?
Part Three: OneĖAct Play: The American Dream (40%)
Gather together in an interesting locale some characters from the
works which we have studied this year and have them debate whether
the American Dream is alive and well today. (There may even be a
Have your characters consider the following definition of the
Americans believe our society is just, despite its problems, because
our freedoms enable any citizen, regardless of race, color or creed,
to pursue and achieve success. American society is free from the
tyranny of arbitrary government. We compete on a level playing field
where winners are determined by the quality of a personís character,
not by the advantages of hereditary class and privilege.
Ben Franklin pointed to his own life as evidence that poor people
can accomplish anything in a free society as long as they modify
their behavior and develop the virtues essential to success. This
task is not easy, but success beckons anyone willing to make the
|Can you earn a good education?
Can you avoid the pitfalls of youth?
Are you willing to work long and hard hours?
Can you learn from your mistakes and revise your
Can you develop the ability to judge the character of
Can you develop the discipline to avoid debt?
And, most importantly,
|Can you project confidence and humility at the same time and so
learn to assert your ideas without antagonizing others?
If you become competent at these skills, then people will trust you,
look for opportunities to work with you, and maybe even invest their
money in your projects.
Furthermore, Franklin believed that any individual who consciously
exercises these virtues will develop the strength of will needed to
change the circumstances of his or her birth. The result is as
predictable as a scientific experiment! And thatís the beauty of
America. Freedom from the arbitrary constraints of government
guarantees opportunity! We can determine our own destiny through
sheer force of character!
However, this vision of the American Dream has a dark side. Those who fail in America have
only themselves to blame. We are morally responsible for our fate. The classical liberals of Franklinís day
(and the conservatives of our own) believe we must find our own way
through education and experience rather than depend upon government
to show us the way. Otherwise, we would not be free.
Many of the writers we have studied this year have contested Franklinís
version of the American Dream. What pitfalls in the path to success
and happiness do they uncover which Franklin may not have
|How can people be led astray by unrealistic dreams
What can go wrong if you shape your identity to please
Is success the same as happiness? Is success necessarily
Do individuals born into poverty really have similar
opportunities compared to those born into wealth? Has a
new aristocracy emerged in America?
Maybe a small percentage of the poor can escape poverty
using Franklinís method, but are the masses that remain
bemired in the ghettos really to blame for their misery?
Do we really create our destiny?
Or is it true that we are determined by the
circumstances into which we are born?
Write a play in which you dramatize the conflict of ideas between
proponents and critics of Franklinís conception of the American
Pete the Bartender