Gwt practice Topics

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GWT Practice Topics

  1. Select a topic from the list below, read it a few times and note what the prompt requires you to do. Make sure you complete all the tasks of the assignment.

  1. You have one hour and 15 minutes to write on the essay topic. Take a few minutes to plan and organize your essay before you begin to write. Scratch outlines, brainstorming, or clustering are often quite helpful. In this short time, however, you will probably not have time to write a rough draft and then recopy it.

  1. Try to think of specific evidence and concrete examples to support or illustrate your general points.

  1. Allow yourself enough time after writing to go back over your essay, proofread for errors and omissions, and make the necessary corrections.

  1. The essay topic is designed to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to write clearly and effectively. Perfection is not expected, but you should try to produce the best essay possible in the time allotted.

Note: After you have finished your practice essay, you may want to make an appointment with a Writing Center tutor to go over your paper. The best way to learn to improve your writing skills is to practice, get feedback, develop a revision plan, and re-write your essay.
GWT Practice Topic #1

Back to the Good Old Days

People often talk about how things were better back in the “good old days." Grandparents sometimes think that people were more polite in the past, or more respectful of elders.

Others might think that houses were built better, that cars had more style, or products were higher quality. Some people think that food tasted better, that life was simpler, and that people had better values.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

Were things really better in the “good old days”? Choose one or more aspects of human life that some people think was better in the past. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of how things were done in the past versus the present.

Support your ideas with examples from your own experience, from books you have read, movies you have seen, or other sources.

Your essay will be more focused if you choose one specific area of everyday life. For example, if you chose “communications,” you could compare letter writing with text messaging on a cell phone. A rock musician might talk about the ways in which “vintage” equipment is superior to current models. Similarly, you could choose fashion, transportation, education, etiquette, music, etc.

GWT Practice Topic #2

Do Men Listen with Half a Brain?

In a new study using a "functional magnetic resonance imaging" (fMRI) scanner, researchers studied brain activity in 10 men and 10 women listening to someone read a mystery novel out loud. The researchers found that the men used the left half of their brains while listening to the novel, while the women used both halves of their brains. "Our research suggests language processing is different between men and women, but it doesn't necessarily mean performance is going to be different," said Indiana radiologist and co-author Dr. Joseph T. Lurito. "We don't know if the difference is because of the way we're raised, or if it's hard-wired in the brain." Of course, when these results were published in the media, many women began to say, "So that's why men don't listen very well. They only use half their brains!"

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:
Do you think that women are generally better listeners than men? If so, do you think it is because of differences in brain function, differences in the way women and men are raised, or other factors? If not, why not? Support your views with examples from your

own experience.
GWT Practice Topic #3

English Only

Many states in this country have passed "English Only" laws. In 1986 the State of California amended the state constitution to declare that English is the official language of California. The amendment says, "English is the common language of the people of the United States of America and the State of California. This section is intended to preserve, protect and strengthen the English language, and not to supersede any of the rights guaranteed to the people of this Constitution." It also says, "The Legislature and officials of the State of California shall take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common language of the State of California is preserved and enhanced. The Legislature shall make no law which diminishes or ignores the role of English as the common language of the State of California."

In some cases, such laws are used to prevent or limit the use of foreign languages in signs on businesses or in government documents, such as ballots and voting materials. They are also used to oppose bilingual education, and the use of languages other than English in public schools.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

Do you agree that "English Only" laws are a good idea for our society? If not, why not? If so, do you think that ballots, voting materials, government documents, educational materials, and signs on businesses should all be in English and only English? Do you think that English proficiency should be required for citizenship?

GWT Practice Topic #4

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is one of America's most cherished rights, guaranteed by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” However, in recent years there have been a number of attempts to limit speech, such as the Federal Communication Commission's efforts to censor talk radio hosts who use obscene or racist language, speech codes banning sexist or racist speech on college campuses, and Congressional actions to control access to pornography on the Internet. Some believe there should be absolutely no limits on what people are permitted to say in public. Others argue that people should not be allowed to say things that cause a “clear and present danger” to society, such as shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire, or inciting a crowd to riot.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:
What limits, if any, do you believe there should be on freedom of speech? In answering this question use at least one specific example from your experience, observation, or knowledge.

In developing your response, you may want to compare freedom of speech in the United States with free speech standards in another country with which you are familiar.

GWT Practice Topic #5

Does the Law Protect the Weak?

"Law is the protector of the weak."

--Frederick Schiller

It has been said that "justice is blind"—that the law treats everyone as equal, whether rich or poor, black or white, young or old. If that is true, the weak can certainly see the law as their protector. However, some people argue that the law, as it is practiced in the United States, is actually the tool of the rich and mighty. They argue that the person who can afford the most expensive lawyer wins the case.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

Does the law in the United States protect the poor and weak or does it serve the rich and powerful? Support your position with examples from your own experience, or from the media.

GWT Practice Topic #6

Are Video Games Dangerous?

Video games are a controversial part of our society. Many people think that fantasy violence in video games can cause players to commit real violence in the real world. Concerns about violence and sexual content have led to a ratings system for the games, similar to movie ratings. However, even with an “Adults Only” rating, some stores have refused to sell some games. Another problem is that some people play video games for 24 hours or more without eating or sleeping, and there has been at least one case of a person dying after playing for 51 hours without a break. This has caused physicians to debate whether video game addiction is a real mental illness similar to other addictions such as drugs, smoking and alcoholism. Even for people who are not addicted, video games sometimes interfere with work, study, and relationships.

Others say that video games reduce stress and are just another form of entertainment, like movies or TV, except that they offer a more interactive way of telling a story. Video games can also contain historical, literary, or even scientific content, and can be used to teach reading, math, and other subjects.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

Do video games have a positive or a negative effect on your life or the lives of people you know?

In answering this question, you may want to discuss particular games, or particular things that people who play video games do. You may also want to discuss policies, rules, or laws that might be used to make the effect of video games on society more positive, such as the rating system.

GWT Practice Topic #7

Portable Electronic Communications

With cell phones and laptop computers with wireless connections, we can be connected to our jobs, our families, and our friends 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are connected wherever we are, whatever we are doing. We can conduct business while washing clothes, talk to a lover while shopping, discuss plans for surgery at the airport lounge. Does this electronic lifestyle make us more efficient? Does it make us happier? Does it cause more stress?

In a well-organized essay answer the following question:

Are there times when we should just turn off our devices and be out of touch? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of being connected to work, family and friends 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Support your ideas with specific details from your own experience.
GWT Practice Topic #8

Preserving the Past

In Europe it is not uncommon to find buildings in use that are 200-300 years old. There are bridges over rivers that still rest on pilings built by the ancient Romans. In Southern California, however, it is rare to find a building much over 100 years old, so we sometimes have arguments about whether a building is a historic treasure or just a broken down maintenance problem. For example, recently there was a controversy in Los Angeles about the fate of St. Vibiana's, a historic Catholic church in Little Tokyo which was severely damaged in the Northridge earthquake. Church leaders wanted to destroy the damaged building, which was unsafe, and build a more modern structure, while others thought that the old church should be repaired and preserved. Such controversies often arise when old buildings stand on ground that modern planners feel could be better used for other purposes.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

In your opinion, which is more important—preserving historic buildings or encouraging modern development? Explain your position, using reasons and examples based on your own experiences, observations, or reading.

GWT Practice Topic #9

School Violence

Violent acts by teenagers and even younger individuals seem to be increasing in America. While some people blame parents, schools, and the young people themselves for this behavior, others identify movies, television, video games, the internet, the availability of guns, and/or other factors in America life as primary causes.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

What is the major cause or causes of violence among young people? What you think might be done to help reduce it?

GWT Practice Topic #10

The Private Lives of Public Figures

In the past, the news media tended not to report about the private personal behavior of public figures. For example, it is now said that President John F. Kennedy had many different girlfriends, but at the time it was considered impolite, and irrelevant, to report about it. People admired him for his political accomplishments and for his ability to inspire people to work for change in the country, and forgave him for his private faults. Today it is very different. The news media report every fault and human failing as soon as it is discovered, so that only those who live the most blameless and perfect lives (or who are very good at hiding their faults) can run for public office. Movie stars, athletes, and other celebrities find their personal relationships, drug problems, traffic tickets, and financial dealings on the front page of the newspaper.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

Do public figures such as elected leaders and other celebrities have a right to privacy? Under what conditions does the public have a right to know about their private lives?

You may want to develop your arguments in this essay by referring to particular cases. For example, the details of the private life of one public official might not be relevant to his or her performance in office, while the private life of another might be very relevant.

GWT Practice Topic #11

Sex and Violence in the Movies

Sex and violence in the media has been an important issue in a number of presidential campaigns, and the issue remains important. Concern about sex and violence on TV and in the movies is not new. In 1930, faced with threats of censorship by the federal government, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America created the Movie Production Code, also called the "Hayes Code," after Will H. Hayes, the organization's first director. Here are some quotes from the Hayes Code:

  • The sympathy of the audience shall never be thrown to the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin.

  • The technique of murder must be presented in a way that will not inspire imitation. Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.

  • Adultery and illicit sex . . . must not be explicitly treated or justified, or presented attractively.

  • Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures are not to be shown.

  • Complete nudity is never permitted.

  • There must be no scenes, at any time, showing law-enforcing officers dying at the hands of criminals.

In 1968, the Hayes Code was replaced by a rating system similar to that in effect today. The Hayes Code was designed to make all films suitable for any audience. The new rating system was designed to restrict children and adolescents from seeing "mature" films.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

In your opinion, do sex and violence in movies and television, even under our current rating system, have a harmful effect on our society? If so, what should be done about it? Should we return to something like the Hayes Code? If not, why not?

In supporting your view, you may want to describe movies you have seen and your reaction to them, or the reactions of others. You may also want to suggest changes in the rating system, or a new movie production code. Another approach would be to describe policies about movies and television that exist in another country with which you are familiar.

GWT Practice Topic #12

The Purpose of College

At another CSU campus, American scholar Joseph Epstein lectured on the question, "What is the point of a college education?" Many students think that the purpose of college is to prepare for a career. However, Epstein argued that students should go to college to achieve intellectual growth, and to discover universal values through a study of the past.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:
What do you think the purpose of college should be?
Write an essay in which you explain your views, and discuss whether you think Cal Poly Pomona (or another institution you are familiar with) fulfills that ideal. Support your views with specific illustrations from your knowledge or experience.

GWT Practice Topic #13

Virtual Lives, Virtual Places

Today you can create a virtual version of yourself called an “avatar” and interact with other people’s avatars in virtual worlds where you can buy land and objects, create businesses, make dates, and do almost anything you can do in the real world. You can choose your gender and appearance. You can be a human, an orc, an elf, a wizard, or a monster. You can be as beautiful or handsome as you want to be. You can go on a quest, slay dragons, conquer a country, join an army, steal cars, murder bystanders, do anything you want. You can even put on a headset and goggles and walk through the streets of Rome as the Emperor Constantine saw them.

However, even if you stay away from fantasy worlds and multi-user dungeons, in discussion boards and chatrooms, people can pretend to be whoever they want to be. Even in everyday life, a lot of reality is not quite real.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

Do you think that living in online fantasy worlds and making up new identities is harmless entertainment, a foolish waste of time, a dangerous obsession, or something else? If it is harmless now, what will it become in the future?

In developing your response to this question you may want to describe online fantasy worlds and games you have experienced. Another way to develop this would be to discuss behavioral changes in individuals you know who participate in these fantasy worlds.

GWT Practice Topic #14

Stress Can Be Fattening

A recent scientific study says:

The fat on your belly may be there because of stress in your everyday life, and researchers think they may know how to get rid of it. Studies of mice and monkeys show that repeated stress and a high-fat, high-sugar diet release a hormone, neuropeptide Y, that causes a buildup of abdominal fat, researchers from Georgetown University reported Sunday.*

University students often have a lot of stress and bad diets, so it would seem that they would be particularly susceptible to this hormonal effect.

In a well-organized essay, answer the following question:

What are the best strategies for being a good student while minimizing stress and living a healthy life?

You may want to consider answering this in a negative way. In other words, you might try arguing, “Don’t do what I do because I am always stressed and eating bad food.” With this approach to the paper you could describe all the things you do wrong and why not to do them.

*Thomas H. Maugh. “Stress can be fattening, study finds.” Los Angeles Times 2 July 2007

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