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For Your Final Projects (Due 12PM May 22)

For your final projects, please post on your blog your last (“final”) versions of your Child Reading Essay and your Personal Statement.

ALSO include a “cover letter” which gives your critique of the class, what was helpful and what was not. Be honest. One paragraph long. Please make this a seperate blog post.

In addressing the Times article, students scrutinized how the most prestigious educational institutions virtually guarantee social advantage, conferring symbolic titles legitimizing dominance.  The Clark article and the Times article juxtaposed opened students to the idea that merit is structured like a game, and also how players must develop a “feel” for the game by either receiving expensive coaching or uncovering the game through critical engagement and reflection.  Such readings and the ensuing discussions which resulted from pairings paved the way for the academic autobiography (perhaps even auto-ethnography), which for the majority of my students existed in the guise of the “personal statement.”  The statement included their interests, academic background, extra-curricular activities, and long-range and immediate goals and plans.  According to the advice offered as a supplement by our college’s Office of Honors and Scholarships, the

personal statement is perhaps the single most important element in the scholarship application. Different types of scholarships will make specific requests of applicants in terms of focusing the personal statement. For example, a travel grant may ask you to contextualize your experiences in terms of how a travel award will help you further your academic goals. Others awards may ask you to discuss your academic and career goals and to describe how the scholarship will enable you to realize these. In writing the statement, consider the audience implied through the application materials and the reading you have done on the granting agency. The personal statement should address this audience directly while creating a full picture of who you are, as a student, an intellectual and an individual. The personal statement should not be a resume in narrative form. You can, however, use the statement to explain or contextualize any gaps or weaknesses in the academic record, and do so in ways that makes these appear either as inevitable or as strengths. A good personal statement will make the committee members want to meet you; it should also induce the scholarship selectors to think of you as the perfect recipient for their award. (

Rightly so, the advice points out that students must do research into whom exactly they are writing for, whom they attempt to induce with a sense of charisma.  In a few double-spaced pages, students should be “creating a full picture” of themselves so that their intended audiences can appreciate them as students, intellectuals, and individuals—students should be able to synthesize their ambitions and goals into a few paragraphs that charm in such a way as to seem a “naturally” qualified candidate.  Students able to accomplish this do so by shrewdly positioning themselves as good candidates emphasizing and minimizing certain aspects for presentation.  At the same time students must also understand the levels of formality necessary for their addresses.  While charming committee members so as to seem likeable, they must also maintain a respectable distance.  In strategizing their rhetorical productions, students must be aware of the major criteria of importance and should do research into what the scholarship looks for in terms of requirements.  With all this, it is plain to see a great deal of critical work goes into writing these “statements,” or short academic, paraprofessional autobios (hence why some have the luxury of paying “academic consultants” to do this for their children).  This I think warranted assigning the essay for the course.

More Personal Statement Advice

From your old friends at the Purdue OWL:

Writing the Personal Statement

Summary: This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions. 

Contributors:Jo Doran, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-04-25 08:50:17 

The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories: 

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement: 

This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms. 

2. The response to very specific questions: 

Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions. 

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

  • What’s special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example. integrity. compassion. persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked 

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don’t be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story 

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you’ll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific 

  • Don’t, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle 

  • If you’re like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a “hook” is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph 

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader’s attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know 

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you’ve read, seminars you’ve attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you’re suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

Don’t include some subjects 

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don’t mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed 

  • If a school wants to know why you’re applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly 

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés 

  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

Scholarship Essay DOs and DON’Ts

DOs and DON’Ts as generated in class 6 May 2010.


Proofread—spell check, read aloud to yourself, allow someone else to read it.

Answer all the questions—be explicit: straightforward, no fluff, get to the point

Mention any courses or instructors that have been inspirational or relevant to your experience.

Be believable (or lie good)

Be interesting: those points that make your situation unique





Not proofread

Be too general


Be redundant

Sound too needy

Ethnography Essay (An Alvarez Example)

Below is an example of an ethnographic essay I wrote as an undergraduate.   Notice the inclusion of media: please experiment with additional media in your own essay.

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school.  They hate you if you’re clever, and they despise a fool.  Till you’re so fucking crazy, you can’t follow their rules.

A working class hero is something to be.

–John Lennon, Working Class Hero

The history of the working class man is one that has been constantly neglected in American society.  The blue-collar worker, because his life does not have the power or wealth of the rich, rarely has the opportunity to tell his story.  Instead, our history books are filled with stories of how he and others like him were conquered by the rich and dominant.  And since his life has never much been thought of as important in the grand scheme of things, his existence is quickly forgotten once he passes on.  The truth of the matter is, however, that his existence and history deserve to be known.  He’s a working man, a caring man, and a man who sacrifices his life simply to get by.  His story is powerful, moving, and even to an extent, inspirational.

Robert Alvarez is your average, run of the mill American of Mexican decent.  He was born in a small, working class mining town.  His father was a blue-collar man, as were his grandfathers.  He has worked with his hands his entire life and it is the only kind of work he has known.  He knows what it is like to work hard for poor wages, struggle financially, and to surrender himself for the good of his family.  And it is because of all this that he is the perfect specimen of a blue-collar worker who deserves to have his story known to a world that has shunned him and his like in the past.

*                      *                      *

I met with Alvarez at his home in the rural farming town of Safford.  Outside the small house are five cars.  Only two actually run.  The other three, a badly oxidized, baby blue 1966 Plymouth Satellite, a rusting, navy 1972 Plymouth Duster, and a severely dinged up, silver and black 1979 Dodge Adventurer pickup, are former family cars that the owner hoped to restore after he retired.  Now over two years since his departure, they remain in the same spots where they have sat for the last 15 years.

Upon entering the house of the retired miner, one is taken aback by the heap of landscaping tools lying on his front porch.  After 36 years working as a copper miner at Phelps Dodge and serving as his family’s primary source of income, the aging man now works as a gardener and takes the back seat as the money earner to his wife, Anna.  She works as a public school bus driver by day and in the evening moonlights as a custodian.  For Anna, an 11-hour workday is not uncommon.  Since Robert’s retirement, however, she no longer has to work alone cleaning the Medical Center of Eastern Arizona, the Arizona State Savings & Credit Union, and the Graham County Chamber of Commerce.  He willingly lends her a hand.  “It gives us a chance to spend some time together,” she says.

He greets me as I enter and we adjourn to the dining room table.  He offers me a chair next to his.  I gladly accept.  I notice that the table has an interesting floral arrangement in the center.  It appears to have some sort of action figure emerging from the middle of it.  I take a closer look and realize that it is the black Power Ranger.  Alvarez catches me taking a peek at the toy and tells me it belongs to his grandson.  “He pretty much runs the place,” he tells me as I crack a smile.  I later learn that he was unable to be at the birth of his grandson–his first grandson.  He was gone on a two-week detail for the National Guard.   

As I search my book bag for my tape recorder, Alvarez gets up.  “Would you like something to drink?  Soda, orange juice, beer?” he asks. 

“No thanks,” I tell him.  I chuckle at the offer of beer.  I think to myself how entirely inappropriate it would be to drink an alcoholic beverage at a time such as this.

He returns to the table with what appears to be a 40-ounce bottle of beer.  I’m not able to distinguish what variety of beer it is; it’s still covered with the brown paper bag from the liquor store.  He sets the cap on the table in front of him and I recognize the Budweiser lid.  Indeed, a truly American beer.  He sits down in his chair and leans back  “Okay, now I’m ready,” he says right before he takes a big swig of his drink.

Alvarez is not like the average retired copper miner, if one can argue such a thing exists.  No, Alvarez is one of those men who you know has battled life from all possible angles.  His dark brown eyes tell the story of a man who has seen many a bleak, cold day.  His white hair is an indication of his age and acquired wisdom.  His dark, weather-beaten skin exemplifies the many hours he has spent working in the sun and the laborious work he has subjected his body to for the majority of his life.  He lifts up a cigarette and presses it between his lips.  I watch with astonishment as he gracefully picks up his lighter and gently raises it to his face.  His big, bulky fingers move with the greatest of ease.  They look strong, stronger than, I think to myself, any one of my arms.  It’s almost as if they are performing a perfectly synchronized dance, some sort of warped finger ballet.  With his right dancers he grips the red lighter loosely but still firm.  His thumb works as the resistance on the wheel of the lighter and with one stroke, a perfect quarter-inch flame is born.  With the cast of his left hand he creates a symmetrical half-dome shield to block any wind from extinguishing the flame.  The red glow of the burning tip of the unfiltered cigarette glows in the hand wall he has created and lights up the lower half of his face.  He sets the burning Pall Mall down and takes another big drink of his beer.  It doesn’t phase him a bit.  He looks at me, “Let’s get this started.”

Alvarez was born in Bisbee, Arizona.  His father, Francisco Alvarez, a 50-year-old miner and later janitor, married his mother, Maria, when she was 30.  Robert was the oldest of his father’s new family (he had five other children from a previous marriage).  His two brothers, Jim and Ronald, were nothing like their elder sibling.  Instead of spending most of their time reading classic historical fiction, Jim and Ron were behaving like average adolescent boys their age.  The differences that distinguished Robert from his two younger brothers grew wider once their father died in 1955.  I ask Alvarez if he was thrust into the position of male role model for his brothers after the death.  “Definitely not,” he tells me.  He fails to elaborate any more on the subject, and I, instinctively, decide not to follow up on it.  Something tells me not to press too deep into the subject.  It appears he is not comfortable speaking of it.  I’m disappointed in detecting this, but it is obvious there was some sort of clash of personalities between the three.  To this day, the brothers seldom speak to each other.

See full size image 

Little Robert Carlos Alvarez was born on March 14th, 1943.  From an early age, he was recognizably intelligent.  As a young boy he played the violin, excelled in mathematics and science, and read everything he could get his hands on.  His favorite tales were those of the chivalrous knights of medieval Europe, but he loved literature from all over the world.  The book case near the entrance of his house is filled with a diverse collection ranging from Dostoyevsky to Dante to the Bhagavad-Gita.  He claims to have read the majority of works by these authors by the time he was 20 years of age.  These authors gave him a view of a world that was much bigger than Bisbee.  And because of this, they were his passports to the rest of humanity.

 At the age of 17, Alvarez enlisted in the Army.  His mother urged him not to leave, but he insisted.  He needed to see the world, he told her.  All the books he read as a youngster stirred his imagination.  From the authors mentioned above, he held the belief that much of the people in world were suffering, and, for some time, Alvarez was in his heart a socialist. 

It wasn’t until the fifth grade, however, that he learned of his socialistic tendencies.  “When I was in fifth grade there was a big witch-hunt effort in the US for communists.  They were looking under every rock for them.  Well, one day in class, I asked the teacher why some people had to be poor and others did not.  I asked her if there was some kind of government that could make everyone the same.  She told me there was and it was called communism.  I almost shit!  I thought communism was something bad.  It really wasn’t bad.  People just didn’t understand it.  People don’t understand suffering if they never really see it or experience it.”

  Once in the military, Alvarez’s idea of suffering changed.  “It was like the writers wrote but worse, way worse.  The worst thing was the hunger.  Starvation is a long, horrible process.  I saw people dying in front of me.  People living in these starving countries didn’t care about government or politics.  They just wanted to survive.  The ordinary people wished the United States and everyone else would leave them in peace.  They didn’t want to be bothered by political things.  They were more concerned about eating and staying alive.” 

Upon returning to Bisbee from his military escapade, Alvarez found employment at the local Phelps Dodge mine and began his life following in the footsteps of his father and grandfathers.  He applied for a position on a whim.  “Well, I really don’t know why [I applied].  I just did.”  For Alvarez the prospects of becoming a laborer for the mine increased when he learned that the man in charge of employment knew his father.  “He said ‘I’ll take your application and give you a call.  Don’t even bother coming down.’  A couple of days later he called me at home.  ‘Come on down here and we’ll get the paperwork’.  Easy as that.”

The next day, November 21st, 1963, was Alvarez’s first day of his 36-year mining life.  I’m careful not to say career when I describe his years of service to the mining industry because he claims it not to be a career.  “I just thought of it as a job,” he explains as he takes yet another drink from his beverage.  “All my life I never worked at a place where I thought of it as a career.  I just worked and made the best of it.  A job’s a job.  As long as they keep paying me, I don’t give a care.”  And Phelps Dodge did continue to pay him.  At 20, he was earning close to $500 a month.  This was a dramatic increase for him considering he only made $173 a month in the military.  The increase in money prevented Alvarez from re-enlisting in the army and it kept him for the time being in Bisbee. 

The $500 a month wages he received, however, came at a price.  Alvarez worked underground for ten years in Bisbee.  “It’s the dirtiest work you ever seen,” he tells me.  “There’s mud, heat, water.  It’s hot.”  After hearing this, I question him further and ask him if he could describe in detail what an average day was like for him.  He answers me, “a day in Hell.”  I think he’s joking and I giggle.  Alvarez’s face is void of emotion.  He takes another drink from his beer.

His time as an underground miner has paid its toll on his health.  Even today, 26 years after he left Bisbee, his hearing is very bad and he smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.  Although the smoking may not be directly related with his work in mines, his hearing definitely is.  Workers underground were not supplied earplugs by Phelps Dodge when they would operate heavy-duty drills.  Not that the earplugs would have made much difference.  He refuses to wear a hearing aid.  He prefers that people speak up to him instead.  Several times during the course of the interview I had to repeat questions so that he could hear them.  Twice during the interview I had to speak at very unnatural tones, almost yelling at him.  It seemed like my uncomfortableness in doing this humored him.

Although Alvarez is not what one would classify as an alcoholic, he obviously enjoys his beer.  Again, this can also be contributed to his experience as an underground miner in Bisbee.  Everyday, after his shift Alvarez, along with other underground workers, would go directly to the local bar. 

“The bars would have what they called an after-shift drink, free.  You’d go in, and as soon as you got in, they gave you a shot of whiskey . . . Of course, they gave it to you so you would start drinking more.  You’d stay in there with the old timers.  A lot of us got there at about 3:30.  We’d stay there till about 5-6:00.  Except for the die-hard ones, they’d stay there half the night.

“The miner’s drink was called a boilermaker.  It was a shot of whiskey and a beer.  We’d have quite a few of those.  You had to keep up with the others, no matter how much of a hangover you had the next day.  You had to drink like Hell.  The next day at work you’d damn near die sometimes.  But, if you could keep up with them, you were one of them.  You were a part of them.”  Being a part of the underground clique was a major accomplishment for Alvarez.  The pride is evident in his disposition when he speaks of these miners.  His eyes light, and his voice picks up.  He produces a smile.  He even sets his beer down.  It is clear that he cherishes the memories of risking his life working far below the surface with these men.  “They were a different breed.  They were like the infantry in the Army.  The infantry was supposed to be the tough ones who could take anything.  That’s what the underground miners were.  They could take anything.”  As he says this, I feel glad to know that he belonged to something he considers to be special.  Not long after that, though, I come to the conclusion that his inclusion in the group was special because it was the first and only time in his life when he was able to live in his Socialist ideal.  All the men were equal.  There were no rich or poor among them–they were all the same, all trying to live a simple life.  Each person took care of themselves and everyone else.  Why it came to be this way, I do not know.  Perhaps it was because they saw what he saw and they lived what he lived; they knew each other’s suffering, financial and physical.  Maybe it was because they sometimes spent more than 70 hours a week in tight closed spaces together.  Who’s to say, but one thing is for sure: They were blue-collar men destroying their bodies for a company that could care less about them as individuals and more as a commodity.  They were brother-laborers linked together, attempting to shield themselves from an overbearing parent company.  When I think of it like this, Alvarez’s drinking, smoking, and hearing don’t seem like problems to me.  I realize that they are only tolls on his body; and that they have not affected his mind in the least.  They may eventually cost him part of his life, but the life he has lived has brought the kind of wisdom most of us can only dream of ever gaining.  He knows life and he knows how the world does and should work.  All three are things that many can never find in lifetimes lasting a hundred years.

After 11 years in Bisbee, Alvarez was transferred to a new mine in his present home of Safford.  As for the reason for the move, he says, “I got chosen to come over here.  The big producers got chosen, the ones who put out the most tonnage.”  Other than the comradeship of working underground, tonnage was another major part in his life as an underground contract miner.  Tonnage is a slang term describing the amount of copper a miner digs out.  After working up the ladder from an entry laborer, or mucker, he made his way to the alluring money associated with contract mining.  Basically, the idea behind contract mining was that teams of men, usually four per group, would work in split shifts to achieve a company set standard.  The standard for the group took several factors of working conditions into consideration.  Things like underground temperature, how far ore needed to be moved, how many times ore needed to be moved, how far underground the mining was being done, and if there was the possibility of the shaft caving in were all accounted for by the company in its decision of a standard. 

For Alvarez, a common standard set for his crews was 80 tons per day.  Each man was responsible for 20 tons each.  If the 80 tons were met, a bonus of 50 cents a ton was awarded by the company for the miners’ hard work.  The system seemed reasonable enough for those motivated to work hard and willing to be part of a team.  However, problems often did arise in the arrangement.  “Sometimes you got teamed up with some other crew that didn’t want to work.”  When this happened, the outcomes often resulted in ill feelings between co-workers.  “It used to get bad to where the day shift guys would go into the bar and start drinking and at eleven o’clock they’d be waiting outside for the other guys to get out.  They’d start fighting.”

The selection of Alvarez for the Safford mine was a wise one.  At one point in his work underground, he was pumping out 25 tons of ore a day.  This is when he says he was making the best money of his young life.  “I was making really good money.  That in itself was motivating me to work harder,” he says. 

The money wasn’t everything, however.  During this time, he met his first wife, Alice.  He was 24 and ready to settle down.  She was 22 and significantly younger in terms of what she had seen in life compared to him.  The two were married March 21st of 1967.  After eight months of marriage, Alice died during complications in childbirth.  Alvarez, destroyed and distraught, was also out of work.  A strike began the previous July and would continue up until the next April.  He remained out of work until then.  “It was a bad time in my life,” he says as he takes another drink from his beer.

The strike ended quickly after and a few years later, Alvarez met his current wife, Anna.  The two instantly fell in love.  Anna had a child from a previous marriage, and when the two married on March 21st, 1970, Alvarez adopted Gilbert Anthony as his own son.  “I always thought of him as my boy. He was born the same day my wife died.”  Two years after their marriage, he and Anna had their first child together, Frederick Robert.  Ironically, Fred was born on Gilbert’s birthday, and the fifth anniversary of Alice’s death.  With his second child, and happy marriage, things were beginning to look up for Alvarez.  Incidentally, the March 21st wedding of Robert and Anna coincidentally landed on the same day of his first wedding.  Both weddings fell on a Saturday, Alvarez’s day off from work.

*          *          *         

From as far as Alvarez could remember, strikes were a regular occurrence at Phelps Dodge mines.  “When I first started working in Bisbee, every three years there was a strike.  Every three years, never failed.”  He pauses to take a drink of his beer.  “Every three years the union would call a strike to negotiate contracts.”  The union was something Alvarez never cared much for.  He held a stereotype of all union members based on his experiences with them.  Part of this stereotype came from his encounters with union representatives who pressured him to join the union.  “The union guy would come over there and try to sign you up.  When you signed up, they finally would leave you alone.  As long as you sign, they can take that money out of your paycheck.  They used to take about $10 out.  After that, they don’t bother you and you don’t bother them.  I never made a union meeting in my life.” 

Other than the greed Alvarez saw in unions, the other part of the stereotype he held involved their indolence.  “A lot of the union members were the lazy guys,” he says.  He claims the union also prevented him from outputting tonnage by the number of rules and regulations it set up.  “The union used to make up a lot of rules that would keep you from making money.”  I ask for an example.  “Like at lunchtime.  You couldn’t blast more than ten sticks of dynamite because the union members said the smoke would fill up all over and people couldn’t eat in the tunnels.  It would be too much smoke for them.  For a lot of the real workers, the smoke would not bother them.  Lunch was to eat not enjoy.” 

Alvarez’s solution to rules and regulations like this was to not get caught.  “At lunchtime I would use 50 sticks of dynamite but only say I used 10.  I wasn’t going to get less tonnage and lose my money for them.”  Alvarez was turned in a number of times by the union and was dealt with by PD.  “They just told me to stop,” he says.  He didn’t stop, however.  “I’d just cool it down for a while.  Then, the next chance I got, I would do it again.”

Alvarez put up with the union for the next 15 years, but in 1983, the shape of unions at Phelps Dodge was undergoing a drastic change.  More specifically, the company was in the process of eliminating them.  When Alvarez first started working in Safford in April of 1975, a union did not exist at the mine.  “They didn’t have a union in Safford.  PD didn’t want a union, so there wasn’t one.  The union was still around and real strong in Morenci, though.”  Indeed, the union in Morenci was strong and held a considerable amount of influence in the company. 

Morenci is a 45-minute drive east of Safford.  The town was, and still is, completely controlled by Phelps Dodge.  The overwhelming majority of people who live there work for the mine.  The union had to be strong in such circumstances.  Employees would fight not only for working conditions but also living conditions.  Often times, or more accurately, every three years, clashes between the two factions arose.  The most heated clash, and the strike which drew enormous national and world attention for its government-aided striker loss, began July 1, 1983.  It eventually ended led to the fall of the union in Morenci.

At the time of the strike, Alvarez had moved from the Safford mine, which had been closed in 1982, to a division of small mines being prospected by PD.  However, for the two weeks preceding the strike up to the first day of the strike, he was working in Morenci as a loan from small mines.  “I was loaned by small mines to Morenci to clean copper out of a furnace.  There were a few of us.  We had to drill and blast it out.  The first day of the strike was the last day I worked in Morenci.  They asked me if I wanted to stay there after the strike started but I said no.  I left the mine, and outside thousands of people were lined up.  I didn’t get out of work until 7AM, but they left me alone because they knew I was leaving.  If they thought I was a scab, they probably would have killed me.  I didn’t want to be a scab.  I just wanted to go back to small mines.”

Alvarez did go back to small mines, but did not stay there long.  “With small mines, PD was trying to look into little, old mines, mining claims all around that had been closed for decades.  They were leasing them looking for ore.  The first place I went was Gallup, New Mexico.  We went around looking in the hills looking for ore.  PD thought that the old time prospectors had missed a lot of ore.”  PD was wrong.  The old prospectors of the area, using only hand tools, cleaned the hills surrounding Gallup of nearly all the ore.  “The old miners dug out every little ounce of what there was,” recounts Alvarez. 

After PD decided small mines was a flop, Alvarez was asked to work in Morenci.  By this time, the strike was over a year old.  He started in August of 1984.  “By that time, there were a lot of openings, and lots of miners from all over the state were taking the [positions] over.”  Demonstrators still lined the gates of the mine, and they continued to yell and spit at scabs entering the compound, but Alvarez paid no attention to them.  Initially, Alvarez felt compassion for the strikers.  “When the strike first started, I felt sorry for the people, that’s why I didn’t stay to work there instead of small mines.  I didn’t want to take their job away.  They were just ordinary workers fighting for their cause.”  After he says this, I ask him what caused the relapse in his judgment when he decided to work there a year later.  To this he replies, “the people changed.  I didn’t feel sorry for them anymore.  A lot of the pushy, union strikers ended up going back to work a year later.  The one’s who made the most noise were some of the first ones to come back.  The strikers were outnumbered.  Most of them went back to work, and they weren’t as solid.  They got hungry.”  He takes another drink of his beer.

Alvarez was called a scab but it did not disturb him a bit.  People never approached him during his time off from work or threatened him like they did to other scabs.  “I don’t give a damn about people or what they think of me.  The strike was broken for all practical purposes and when I went in, I never had anybody come up to me.”  Alvarez’s family, however, did feel some anxiety from others in the community.  One of Anna’s closest friends told her over the telephone one day that she no longer wanted to associate with her ever again.  Debbie, Alvarez’s next child after Frederick, claimed to be threatened on the playground many a time at school by children of strikers.  Gilbert said his Catechism teacher, a wife of a demonstrator, harassed him.  All this did die, however, as the strike came to an end and his life amid the strike that was famous for failing went back to normal. 

Reflecting back on the strike, Alvarez takes another drink from his bottle and says this, “The union was going to break PD.  It was too strong.  No one was able to work because there were so many rules and regulations.  That’s why they got rid of it, and they went into a lot of debt to get rid of it.  Looking back on it, though, I think PD had it all planned out for years.  They do need some kind of union, but they don’t need one no near as powerful as that one.  Under the new PD, it’s to the point to where they can’t form a union.  The still need someone to stick up for the ordinary worker.  It was just too powerful at that time.

“PD more or less dictates everything now for the worker.  But, I think this was planned a long time ago.  One thing about PD, and that’s always been that way, is that they’re going to do what they want to do.  It’s take it or leave it.  You don’t like it, tough.  You either keep working and not like it or you find another job.”

Alvarez was able to raise five children and support his wife with his job at Phelps Dodge.  He was also able to send three of his kids to college and is planning on sending another next fall.  He bought a house, 14 cars, and never missed a payment.  He built a life with the money he earned at Phelps Dodge.  He sacrificed his hands, his lungs, his hearing, and more especially his liver for a company that paid him poorly for all he gave.  Alvarez never complained about his job and still doesn’t.  “I made a living off of it.  If they go broke tomorrow, I don’t care.  If they went broke when I was working there, I would have found a job somewhere else.  I never thought of it as a career.  I’m not the type of person who is ambitious.  I’m not trying to come out ahead.  I’m just trying to make a life, that’s it.”

After Alvarez tells me this, he takes another drink of his beer.  As I watch him, I’m left breathless.  I think to myself that the man sitting across from me is the living quintessence of what the beaten up workingman is.  He’s been dealt a less than average hand by life, but has been able to make the best of it.  He’s a fighter who refuses to give up.  He’s independent and never depended on a union or anyone else to stick up for him.  He’s a family man who sacrificed himself to provide.  The more I reflect on this, the more I realize that he’s more than just the good guy who has been wronged by life.  He’s a hero.  But he’s a hero for more than just the workingman.  He’s a hero for anyone who knows what it is like to work hard and get paid softly.  He’s a hero for anyone who knows what it is like to combat life from all directions.  He’s a hero for all those who can relate to the education life gives.  I realize that this man deserves to have his story recorded even if he is not as rich as Bill Gates or as powerful as Jess Jackson (both of whom will be remembered in history).  His story needs to be shared, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my father.  He’s my hero too.

My father and I

Scholarship Essay/Personal Statement Guidelines

See the following link for the details:

Also note the following link which provides tips for applying for schoalrships.  There’s a small portion about Personal Statements that’s worth taking a glance at.

In-Class PIE Example

An example PIE paragraph generated together in class.  Notice how the E section uses words from Lareau’s quote to help explain the passage.

          Like most families, the working class and poor want better opportunities for the next generation.  Because they have limited economic resources, they strive for the best they can under challenging circumstances.  Due to their limitations, they endure long hours of work to make ends meet, leaving less time for family leisure activities.  Working class and poor parents enforce harsh discipline ensuring that their children learn to behave on their own without adult supervision or presence.  According to Lareau:   

The limited economic resources available to the working class and poor families make getting children fed, clothed, sheltered, and transported time-consuming, arduous labor.  Parents tend to direct their efforts toward keeping children safe, enforcing discipline, and when they deem it necessary, regulating their behavior in specific areas.  Within these boundaries, working class and poor children are allowed to grow and to thrive.  They are given the flexibility to choose activities and playmates and to decide how active or inactive to be as they engage in these activities. (66-67)

In working class families, finances come to the fore. For Lareau, “limited economic resources” contribute to a sense of constraint and the manner in which parents “regulate” their children’s behavior.  Regulating behavior implies constant monitoring and discipline, but as Lareau points out in her study, working class parents often leave their children to schedule their own leisure activities.  Working class and poor parents prioritize providing and satisfying life’s basic necessities for their children.  These parents have to deal with “arduous labor” both at work as well as at home, having minimal time for themselves for resting or relaxing.  As a result, working class parents, unlike middle class parents, have less time to be involved with their children’s activities.

Revisions for Essay 1 (part 2)

 1. PIE paragraphs: rule of thumb: for every ONE line of “I” there should be TWO lines of “E”.

 2. Fix titles–   Talking Discpline : Language and Natural Growth According to Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods 

 3. Make sure to have correct formatting for your BLOCK QUOTES

 4. MLA Heading

 5. Don’t use ETC

 6. Make sure you have a correct WORKS CITED

Unequal Childhoods Videos

Again, here are some videos that might be helpful to review regarding some of Lareau’s ideas:

Definitions to Include in Your Revisions to Essay 1

Terms to be Added to “Essay 2”

Pg. 2: Concerted Cultivation

• parents making certain that children have certain experiences, in institutional settings to help them develop their skills, to benefit themselves in the future..

• developing / laboring / and using advantages (finances, cultural capital)

sense of entitlement cultivated by parents

to become successful, to be “better” than the competition      MIDDLE CLASS

• highly organized leisure activities

• produces more institutional advantages

• talk to adults like equals

Pg. 3: Natural Growth                                    WORKING CLASS / POOR

•form of child rearing where sense of constraint is adopted by children

• more time to choose their own activities

• grow up independently, beyond adult supervision

• parents set firm boundaries for children to grow up independently

• produces less institutional advantages

Pg. 4: Dominant set of cultural repertoires

• Widespread agreement discussed and agreed upon by parents and professionals and experts on how to raise their children.

• generally accepted guidelines on how parents should raise their kids based on expert opinions.

Pg. 5: transmission of differential advantages

• different forms of rearing reproduce different advantages that can be useful in different situations

• developing skills while interacting with authority figures

Pg. 6: sense of entitlement

• individual preferences and managed interactions in institutional settings

children of concerted cultivation: parents monitor daily interactions and activities of children: producing prepared children for institutions (middle-class hallmark)

• qualified to receive special treatment

Sense of constraint

• children accept authority (working class and poor), children hold back on what they can achieve and do, society makes them hold back, confined, can’t freely do what s/he wants, limited liberties, bound by necessity as opposed to luxury, accepting the given limitations

Pg. 7: cultural capital

• skills an individuals acquires that add value that can be brought to use in various institutions / language: interaction as in job interview

            “profits”                        “activation” use skills at right place in right time 

              gain from labor                      

Pg. 8: inequality / social stratification

•  How society makes borders between classes to separate them

                        gets layered into various groups of social class

                        groups with unequal resources

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