Advanced Placement English Language Summer Reading Assignment1

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Advanced Placement English Language

Summer Reading Assignment1

Mr. Joel Neden

New Paltz High School

Out of our quarrels with others we make rhetoric. Out of our quarrels with ourselves we make poetry. --William Butler Yeats
Welcome to AP Language! This is an exciting and challenging college-level course. We will explore many different types of reading and writing. Here is a brief description of the content:
The AP English Language and Composition course engages students in becoming skilled readers of prose written in a variety of periods, disciplines, and rhetorical contexts and in becoming skilled writers who compose for a variety of purposes. Most college composition courses emphasize the expository, analytical, and argumentative writing that forms the basis of academic and professional communication, as well as the personal and reflective writing that fosters the development of writing facility in any context. In addition, most composition courses teach students that the expository, analytical, and argumentative writing they must do in college is based on reading, not solely on personal experience and observation. We will read primary and secondary sources carefully, synthesize material from these texts in our own compositions, and cite sources using conventions recommended by professional organizations such as the Modern Language Association (MLA), the University of Chicago Press (The Chicago Manual of Style), and the American Psychological Association (APA). One purpose of the AP English Language and Composition course is to enable students to read complex texts with understanding and to write prose of sufficient richness and complexity to communicate effectively with mature readers.2
Basically, we will read everything we can: essays, novels, poems, articles, short stories, memoirs, speeches, letters, paintings, graphics, signs, film excerpts, websites, et cetera. We will examine and research the ideas, issues, and values inherent in the texts. We will discover what makes a strong argument, and we will write our own argumentative essays. We will analyze rhetoric (the art of persuasive language) in all of its forms and learn to evaluate research sources and citations.
We will work together to become the best writers and thinkers we can be. I am always available to help in any way I can. All assignments are due on the first day of class.

Assignment #1: Editorial Writing

Each spring the New York Times runs an editorial contest for young writers in which high school students are asked to write about a topic that’s pertinent. See the rules, guidelines, and writing tips here (

Please review the guidelines closely. Watch all of the videos with professional writers. Read the winning editorials. Then, write your own editorial of 450 words about an issue that matters to you. You must use two sources in your argument.
As the contest states, it’s paramount that you think creatively and outside the box. Try to avoid issues that have been discussed at length or those that have dominated the news cycle. Notice that the winning writers all had a unique perspective to share on a complicated topic.
Be prepared to read from and share your editorial with the class in September.

Assignment #2: Contemporary Inquiry
Your path in AP Language and Composition is of your own volition. You will have many opportunities this school year to investigate, research, and wrestle with pertinent, contemporary questions. To prepare you for this exciting adventure, please choose a work from the list and read it. There may be an additional assessment when class resumes in the fall. But for now, please get a good book and read!
For some selections, there are copies available for you at the high school. Please visit the main office over the summer and sign out a copy of the book. You will, of course, be asked to return the book in the fall. Otherwise, you should download, borrow, or purchase your choice read on your own.
Be prepared to share and discuss your choice read in class this fall. The choices are listed below. Titles marked with an asterisk (*) are available on loan in the HS main office.

  1. *Outliers Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

  1. David and Goliath Malcolm Gladwell

In DAVID AND GOLIATH, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, suffer from a disability, lose a parent, attend a mediocre school, or endure any number of other apparent setbacks.

  1. *Freakonomics Levitt and Dunbar

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool?

What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?

How much do parents really matter?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to parenting and sports—and reaches conclusions that turn conventional wisdom on its head. Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They set out to explore the inner workings of a crack gang, the truth about real estate agents, the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan, and much more.

  1. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stephenson

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

  1. Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women, Renee Engeln

In Beauty Sick, Dr. Renee Engeln, whose TEDx talk on beauty sickness has received more than 250,000 views, reveals the shocking consequences of our obsession with girls’ appearance on their emotional and physical health and their wallets and ambitions, including depression, eating disorders, disruptions in cognitive processing, and lost money and time.

  1. The Narcissism Epidemic, Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell

Narcissism—an inflated view of the self—is everywhere. Public figures say it’s what makes them stray from their wives. Parents teach it by dressing children in T-shirts that say "Princess." Teenagers and young adults hone it on Facebook, and celebrity newsmakers have elevated it to an art form. And it’s what’s making people depressed, lonely, and buried under piles of debt.

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture.

  1. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle

We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

Assignment #3: The Essay

You will be given one of the following essay prompts during the first month of school in a 50 minute timed setting (not open note/open book). It is a diagnostic essay. Please prepare.
#1 2008
For years corporations have sponsored high school sports. Their ads are found on the outfield fence at baseball parks or on the walls of the gymnasium, the football stadium, or even the locker room. Corporate logos are even found on players’ uniforms. But some schools have moved beyond corporate sponsorship of sports to allowing “corporate partners” to place their names and ads on all kinds of school facilities—libraries, music rooms, cafeterias. Some schools accept money to require students to watch Channel One, a news program that includes advertising. And schools often negotiate exclusive contracts with soft drink or clothing companies. Some people argue that corporate partnerships are a necessity for cash-strapped schools. Others argue that schools should provide an environment free from ads and corporate influence. Using appropriate evidence, write an essay in which you evaluate the pros and cons of corporate sponsorship for schools and indicate why you find one position more persuasive than the other.

#2 2007
A weekly feature of The New York Times Magazine is a column by Randy Cohen called “The Ethicist,” in which people raise ethical questions to which Cohen provides answers. The question below is from the column that appeared on April 4, 2003.
At my high school, various clubs and organizations sponsor charity drives, asking students to bring in money, food and clothing. Some teachers offer bonus points on tests and final averages as incentives to participate. Some parents believe that this sends a morally wrong message, undermining the value of charity as a selfless act. Is the exchange of donations for grades O.K.?
The practice of offering incentives for charitable acts is widespread, from school projects to fund drives by organizations such as public television stations, to federal income tax deductions for contributions to charities. In a well-written essay, develop a position on the ethics of offering incentives for charitable acts. Support your position with evidence from your reading, observation and/or experience.

1 This document is also available online at:

2 Adapted from The College Board AP Program Course Description English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition May 2007-2008.,,151-162-0-8879,00.html

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