Sample Scholarship Essays

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace Within the next few pages here I intend to address two issues. First I will try to give a personal review of what I saw this book to hold, and second I will try explain the revelence which this book has to the field of Public Administration. First try to picture children in a slum where the squalor in their homes is just as bad as that which is in the streets. Where prostitution is rampant, thievery a common place and murder and death a daily occurrence. Crack-cocaine and heroin are sold in corner markets, and the dead eyes of men and women wandering about aimlessly in the streets of Mott Haven are all to common., Their bodies riddled with disease, disease which seems to control the neighborhood. This is Mott Haven, in New York City’s South Bronx, the outback of this American nation’s poorest congressional district, also the setting of Jonathan Kozol’s disturbing representation of poverty in this country.

The stories, which are captured Amazing Grace, are told in the simplest terms. They are told by children who have seen their parents die of AIDS and other disease, by mothers who complain about teenagers bagging dope and loading guns on fire escapes, by clergy who teach the poor to fight injustice and by police who are afraid to answer 911 calls. Kozol seems to be disparage about the situation of the poor in American today, especially when more and more the poor are blamed for being poor. Kozols portrait of life in Mott Haven is gentle and passionate. Even though rats may chew through apartment walls in the homes of Mott Haven, the children still say their prayers at night.

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What seems to bother Kozol is that many people do not even want to look at this picture of America, but in Amazing Grace he dares us to recognize it does exist. Kozol spent a year wandering through Mott Haven and its neighboring communities; visiting churches, schools, hospitals, parks, and homes. Talking with parents and kids, social workers, religious leaders, and principals and teachers; struggling to try to understand how these children and parents cope with poverty and violence. Kozol trys to determine how their fellow citizens can tolerate, even demand policies that guarantee misery and death for those living a few subway stops north of glitzy midtown Manhattan. Perhaps nothing can halt the tides of social policy where citizens of this nation are allowed to live in such conditions.

If on the other hand anything can, it may be Kozol’s forecasting visions and the openness and humanity of the remarkable people whose amazing grace he so vividly shows us. In his book, Kozol tells the stories of a handful of children who have–through the love and support of their families and dedicated community leaders not yet lost their battle with the perils of life in America’s most hopeless, helpless, and dangerous neighborhoods. A profile of the impoverished people of Mott Haven, South Bronx, reveals to the reader difficult lives these people must live. Also, Kozol in implicitly posing questions about the value of such children to an unsupportive nation. Amazing Grace reveals the hearts of children who grow up in the SouthBronx–and has produced, perhaps, the most affecting book in trying to portray the problems faced by poor Americans.

Many people would like to believe in the phrase, NIMBY(Not in My Back Yard), when thinking of the poor and destitute in America. I believe that in his book Amazing Grace, Kozol has made the important point that poor children that have no opportunities for an education and the hope it can give them don’t just live in the ghettos of the inner city. They can be found in every state, in every city, town and rural area. You don’t have to go to New York to find them, it is just a matter of paying attention to your own backyard. As I read this book I thought about all of the creative and brilliant ideas that I have been expose to over the years and how I would not have the chance to benefit from them if I were a poor child, not given the chance to properly learn and grow, like those of Kozols book in Mott Haven.

As a country, we don’t seem to understand yet that each person, regardless of who they are or where they came from, has something to teach us. If the children and adults like those Kozol describes had the chance to write, sing, do scientific experiments, start businesses, just imagine what we could gain. I was thoroughly moved by the stories of the people in Amazing Grace. I can see hoe it might be possible to see this book as manipulating and only telling on part of the story. It could be argued that this book unfairly blames the government, society and particularly New York Mayor Guilliani for the problems in the Bronx. There was little discussion about how much of the situation was owned by the people in the story.

Regardless you would still have to feel badly for the people in the book, especially the children. The fact remains that the children in this book defy the stereotypes of urban youth too frequently presented by the media. They are tender, generous and often religiously devout, they speak with eloquence and honesty about the poverty and racial isolation that have wounded but not hardened them, such as Anthony did through out the book. The book does not romanticize or soften the effects of violence and sickness. I believe that Kozol says at one point something like, one fourth of the child-bearing women in the neighborhoods, where these children live, test positive for HIV.

He also tell us that Pediatric AIDS, life-consuming fires and gang rivalries take just as high a toll on this society of Mott Haven. Several children, some 23, die during the year in which this narrative takes place. I believe that Kozol has written a amazing piece of work here. Amazing Grace asks questions that are at once political and theological. What is the value of a child’s life? What exactly do we plan to do with those whom we appear to have defined as economically and humanly disadvantaged? How cold, how cruel, how tough — do we dare be? Why do we not seem to be able to fix it? Book Reports.

Amazing Grace

Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace is a book about the trials
and tribulations of everyday life for a
group of children who live in the poorest congressional
district of the United States, the South Bronx. Their lives
may seem extraordinary to us, but to them, they are just as
normal as everyone else. What is normal? For the children
of the South Bronx, living with the pollution, the sickness, the
drugs, and the violence is the only way of life many of them
have ever known.


In this book, the children speak openly and honestly about
feeling ‘abandoned’, ‘hidden’ or ‘forgotten’ by our nation, one
that is blind to their problems. Studying the people
themselves would only get us so far in understanding what
their community is really like and why they feel this way.

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Jonathan Kozol really got to know the people individually.
We can take his knowledge and stories to try for a better
understanding of the environment in which they live. By
doing this, we can explore the many reasons why the people
have problems, what some levels of intervention could be,
and possibly find some
solutions to making the South Bronx a healthier and safer
place for these children and others to live.


Problem Identification
The environment in which we study these people can only
be defined by first taking a look at possible reasons why the
people have problems. Some of the problems discussed in
Amazing Grace have festered throughout the United States
for some time now. The high numbers of drug users in the
community, the high amounts of gang-related violence, and
the numerous cases of people who have contracted the
AIDS virus are just some of the problems that have arisen in
this ghetto. There are many differences between this
community and others in the United States, one of which is
that the government has grouped these people all together
and made a ghetto of the lowest income families. This has
ostracized them from the rest of the nation. It has given
them many abandonment issues to deal with, while also
telling them they are not worthy of living among the wealthier
population.


Environmental factors are involved in the problems arising in
the South Bronx. Pollution, for
example, could be the biggest source of the high number of
children in the community who have asthma.


Asthma is a condition in which one has trouble breathing.
Without clean air, breathing for an asthmatic is almost
impossible. A waste burner in the middle of the South
Bronx causes a lot of pollution and makes the air the people
breath, below safe levels of cleanliness. Another
environmental factor that affects the resident’s healths has to
do with how most of the buildings in these neighborhoods
are run down and infested with rats. Many of the buildings
have no working elevators. This causes people to have to
walk several flights of stairs each time they want to leave
their apartments. This is very time consuming and tiresome.
Then, when they find that there is so much violence and
drugs in the street, that it is not safe to be out there anyway,
they usually end up staying in their apartments for most of
their free time.


The cultural differences between these people and others of
higher income communities is also a
reason why they may have problems. Racism is very
obvious to the people of the South Bronx, especially
when they go outside of their district. If a woman from this
area goes to a hospital outside of her
district, a hospital that is more than likely wealthier and
cleaner, she is usually turned away and told to go to a
hospital in her own district. Others, who are admitted into
these hospitals, are put on a special floor, mainly for the
lower income or Medicaid patients. (Amazing Grace, p.


176)
Another way the government discriminates against them is
how they are housed. Most of the
residents are living in government housing where the
government pays their rent. When the government
helped the people to get off the streets and out of homeless
shelters and then put them into low cost
housing, they put all of the residents in the same area. This
created their ghetto and kept them
segregated from the rest of the world.


Level of Intervention
If we look at these people through an exosystem, or “a
setting in which a person does not participate but in which
significant decisions are made affecting the person or others
who interact directly with the person,” we would ask the
questions “are decisions made with the interests of the
person and the family in mind?” (Social Work and Social
Welfare, p.79) Did the government really think of the
people of the South Bronx when they grouped all of the
sick, troublesome, and low income families
together in the same community? What kind of opportunity
structure can people have when the government puts them
into never ending situations such as giving them only enough
money to get by, but not enough to get out of poverty?
Some people say that it is not the government’s responsibility
to get people out of poverty, but then whose fault is it that
they got there in the first place? No one asks to be poor, no
one asks to be homeless. Cultural differences are an excuse
some use for treating people of different backgrounds
differently. But can the government also participate in this
obvious form of racism? Our nation has tried for many
many years now to stop racism and prejudices, but the
problem is still prevalent in communities all over the world.


We could also look at the people and their problems using
a macrosystem, or the “‘blueprints’ for
defining and organizing the institutional life of the society,”
(Social Work and Social Welfare, p.79) to
decide if some groups are valued at the expense of others
and do these groups experience oppression? As
we have seen, the people of the South Bronx feel
abandoned, this is a type of oppression. They are
pushed away from the rest of society, where the only place
they can turn is to this community that is
filled with crime, violence, disease, and poverty. The
residents have shared assumptions about what the
government wants and expects from them. The
government’s attitude towards these people is such that the
residents feel devalued and not worthy of being seen or
heard. Without much hope of financial stability, many have
turned to selling and/or using drugs. Selling drugs is seen as
an easy way of making some money, and using drugs keeps
a person on a high so they do not have to face reality. This
just continues the cycle of problems they face since selling
drugs to others keeps those others high, and staying on a
drug induced high only prolongs the problems.


Discussion and Recommendations
Because of all the trials and tribulations they go through, you
would think that everyone in this
community would lose hope. This is not true for many of the
children that Jonathan Kozol talked to and
became friends with on his many journeys into their
neighborhood. The children speak of their problems
with great maturity. Many of these children are far older
than their years on Earth, for they have felt
true abandonment by our nation. Many of the issues they
have had to deal with are not ones which we
think of as children’s issues. AIDS, for example, is not
something that many think of as an issue that
children talk about or even think about. For the children of
the South Bronx though, it is a major
issue. With “one-fourth of the child-bearing women in the
neighborhoods where these children live
testing positive for HIV,” (Amazing Grace, inside cover)
pediatric AIDS takes a high toll. The numbers
of children who have had one or both parents die of AIDS
in the South Bronx and surrounding areas is the highest
among the nation. If the government keeps sending the low
income and troublesome families into these neighborhoods,
“it is likely that entire blocks will soon be home to mourning
orphans, many of whom will follow their own parents to an
early grave.” (Amazing Grace,
p. 194)
The government’s placement of a waste burner in the South
Bronx is another prime example and a
reason why the children feel like they are being “thrown
away.” Many residents believe that the waste burner is to
blame for their health problems. Many children in the
community are only able to breathe
with the use of a breathing machine because their asthma has
gotten so bad.(Amazing Grace, p. 170) Why
then would the city decide to put one there? Did the city
have the residents in mind when they built the
waste burner in this community? The residents do not have
much of a say in city, state or governmental
issues. Positions in government are held by wealthier and
more powerful people who more then likely have no first
hand knowledge of life in a low income ghetto. How can we
change this?
To change a whole community involves much more then
direct practice with individuals. Counseling
people on an individual basis gives individual responses.
The problems of the South Bronx are not with the individuals
themselves, but rather community organizational problems.
Changing the social policy of the community is of utter
importance in making it a better place to live. The norms for
the people in
these neighborhoods have gotten to be that of violence and
drugs. These are not healthy norms. To
change them, the communities could use more education on
social issues in the schools and communities to
help the people learn to live healthier lifestyles, to get the
word out that violence and disruptance are
not all right, and to help the people obtain some community
unity. Getting some of the well known
community members involved in politics is another way they
could get their voices heard and let the
government know their needs and desires. Support groups
held for people with AIDS, for people who have lost loved
ones, and also for people who just need a place to talk
about
their emotions and get their frustrations out, would help the
community as a whole and get more people
involved in the healing process of that community. If the
people in the South Bronx would act as a
community bound together to help themselves and each
other, there would be less tolerance for deviant
behavior among it’s members. Then the ones who act
defiantly could be out-numbered, and the good
citizens of the South Bronx could reclaim their homes and
their lives.

Amazing Grace

Ancient Egypt
The civilization of ancient Egypt is significant in several ways. Egyptian
influence on other peoples was also significant. Ancient kingdoms of the
Sudan adapted its HIEROGLYPHIC writing system and other cultural
elements. The two last regions and the Bible are the most important
antecedents of the modern western world that owe something to Egypt. The
western alphabet is derived from a Phoenician one possibly modeled on
Egyptian hieroglyphs; Egyptian ideas are found in some parts of the Bible;
and Greek sciences and especially, art were originally influenced by Egypt.

Finally, archaeology and historical writing have made Egypt a subject of great
public interest, stimulating many books, novels, exhibits, and movies. The
image of Egyptian history moves continually closer to reality as new facts are
discovered and new kinds of research-anthropological and
other–supplement more traditional archaeological techniques. Egypt’s well
preserved pyramids and cemeteries on the dry desert, and sturdy stone-built
temples, have been studied by archaeologists since the early 19th century, but
river-plain town mounds and all sites in densely settled northern Egypt now
receive more attention than previously. Funerary and temple inscriptions
survived well, but they paint an idealized, oversimplified picture of history and
society. PAPYRUS exists and pottery fragments are rarer but more realistic.

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They now are better studied and are supplemented by new types of
archaeological analysis. Environment strongly affected history. In a largely
rainless climate, Egypt’s high agricultural productivity depended on a long but
very narrow floodplain; on average 19.2 km (11.9 mi) wide, it reached a
maximum of 248 km (154.1 mi) in the Delta and was formed by the Nile’s
annual inundation. Periodic, long-term decreases in its volume might create
social stress and political and military conflict; increases in volume increased
food supplies and favored stability and centralized government. The deserts
to the east and west had valuable stones and minerals and helped protect
Egypt from much external attack or infiltration. Continuity was very strong.

Egypt’s religion, its concepts of social order, and its system of strong
monarchical government remained fundamentally the same for over 3,000
years. Environmental stability helped, as did ethnic and linguistic continuity;
unlike other areas of the Near East, Egypt did not periodically have to absorb
large new populations with languages and ideas different from those already
established. Equally important did all Egyptians share a powerful and
tenacious worldview–an orderly cosmos, enfolding gods, humans, and
nature, had been created in complete and perfect form at the beginning of
time; its perfection held off the destructive, chaotic forces that surrounded it.

Adherence to traditional forms of belief, politics, and culture was believed
necessary to maintain perfection and prevent the collapse of the universe.

Egyptian art and religious architecture (temples and tombs) closely followed
established conventions of style and content because their role was to depict
this ideal order–and thus be one of several means ritually integrating Egypt
with the cosmos. Change and innovation nevertheless occurred, sometimes
violently. Egypt’s periodic interludes of disunity were politically disorderly and
economically painful in part because inherent problems and contradictions
(for example, obvious weakness in “perfect” institutions such as kingship)
came to the surface and demanded solutions. Less obviously, change also
took place in more stable periods. Bureaucracies were periodically reformed
or restructured in the interests of both royal power and fairer government.

Religious concepts became increasingly rich and complex. Styles in art and
architecture changed subtly to meet new needs and tastes, but all successful
innovation required adherence to basic, traditional norms. Predynastic Egypt
Egyptian history is usually divided into periods roughly corresponding to the
30 dynasties of kings listed by Manetho, an Egyptian chronicler of the 3d
century BC. The period before c.3100 BC, a time for which no written
records exist, is called the Predynastic era. Well before 5000 BC many
communities of Paleolithic hunters and gatherers lived in the Nile valley and
across savanna lands stretching far to the east and west. As rainfall
decreased, especially after 4000 BC, the western lands became arid deserts
and human settlement was confined to the valley and its fringes. However,
here exotic fauna such as elephants and giraffes persisted as late as 2300 BC
before finally retreating southward. Annually inundated, and with natural
irrigation basins that retained floodwaters, the Nile valley was an ideal setting
for Mesolithic economies with incipient agriculture to evolve into Neolithic
ones based on sedentary agriculture, with domesticated crops and animals.

The process is hard to follow in Egypt because major Predynastic sites, on
the floodplain, are inaccessible or destroyed and most data come from
peripheral settlements and low-desert cemeteries. In northern Egypt,
however, the development of Neolithic life can be traced at Merimdeh and in
the Fayum (5000-4000 BC); there and elsewhere in the north the pervasive
northern culture emerged, characterized by monochrome pottery using
incised and applied decoration. The earliest Neolithic phases of southern
Egypt are not yet identified, but two cultures existed there by c.4000 BC: the
Tasian, influenced by the north, and the Badarian, which originated in the
eastern desert. The former evolved into phases labeled Nakada I (Amratian)
and II (Gerzean), representing a material culture very different from that of
the north. In the south, among other differences, pottery is more varied in
fabric, often has a black top, and favors painted decoration (white on red and
red on light-colored desert clays). Historically significant patterns can be
discerned. Political elites developed, supported by agricultural surplus, partly
through control over valuable resources that were beginning to be used in
new technologies. Originally, tools and weapons were made of stone and
organic materials, but in southern (and slightly later in northern) Egypt copper
and precious metals became increasingly important. By Nakada II times,
larger, more efficient river ships were built and trade along the Nile was
expanding. These and other factors stimulated the emergence of an elite class
whose graves are larger and richer than normal, and ultimately regional
political leaders are identifiable by “chieftain’s tombs” at several sites.

According to later traditions, by late Predynastic times (c. 3300 BC)
chiefdoms had coalesced into two competitive kingdoms, northern and
southern. Gradually, the characteristic material culture of the south had been
spreading, and it replaced the once different one of northern Egypt in Nakada
III times. Throughout the period 5000-3100 BC foreign influences were
significant, but direct ones are hard to distinguish from indirect. Domesticated
grains and some domesticated animals may have come via Syria and
Palestine, perhaps at the time of Merimdehs’s earliest phase, which shows
influences from these regions in material culture also. Both northern and
southern Egypt traded with Syria, Palestine, and northeast Africa throughout
Predynastic times. Particularly striking and so far found mainly in southern
Egypt (Nakada I and II) are Mesopotamian-style cylinder seals, pottery, and
artistic motifs, but these may have come through intermediaries rather than by
direct contact. Predynastic architecture, using wood, matting, and mud brick,
is best attested in cemeteries, where pit graves were lined with wood or brick
and roofed with matting or stone slabs; eventually, some graves had small,
solid superstructures of brick and rubble. Some settlements have been
partially excavated; and a possible Predynastic temple was recently found at
HIERAKONPOLIS. Art was well developed but small scale. Figurines and
statuettes of individual humans or animals, some modeled realistically, were
made in mud, pottery, and ivory; slate cosmetic palettes might be in bird or
animal form; and painted designs on pottery placed humans, animals, and
boats together in sometimes complex designs. Most of these art forms were
from tombs and were magical or religious representations. Battles, hunts, and
ceremonial scenes were favorite motifs. In all areas, conventions typical of
historical art were emerging. Such art, appearing realistic, actually followed
conventions that were to remain dominant for millennia thereafter. In painting
and relief, human and animal figures are always drawn according to a set of
fixed proportions, and reality is ignored so as to present the most
characteristic aspects. Humans, for example, always have heads, legs, and
feet in profile but eye and torso presented frontally. Figures were scaled
according to their importance, and perspective was ignored. Landscapes
were depicted in schematic form, but architecture was rarely attempted.

Subject matter is also highly selective, for an idealized world is shown; aging,
disease, injury, and death are omitted, except for inferior beings such as
foreigners and animals. Statuary was intended at all times mainly for temples
and tombs, and consisted of representations of gods, kings, and deceased
individuals. Complex compositions were avoided, although sometimes two or
more figures might be shown side by side. Life-size statues were not
uncommon, but most were smaller; colossal royal figures embellished
temples. As in painting, set conventions were closely followed in statuary;
whether seated or standing, figures are always facing forward, with arms and
legs in standardized positions. Technically, the carving was often superb,
although many clumsy works were also produced. Materials included hard
stones, softer stones such as limestone, and wood; statues were often painted
in bright colors. Sculptors depicted the ideal human; true portraiture in any
form was hardly every attempted. First Intermediate Period and Middle
Kingdom Centralized rule began to break down under the 7th dynasty. In the
ensuing First Intermediate period (c.2181-2040 BC), the Memphite
monarchs were powerless to prevent provincial warlords from fighting each
other over territory; eventually two separate kingdoms emerged, one ruled by
the 9th and 10th dynasties from Heracleopolis, the other by the 11th dynasty
from THEBES. They tried to dominate each other but were impeded by the
semi-independence of provincial rulers, and they also had to be
simultaneously aggressive against foreigners to protect their rears, secure
trade advantages, and recruit or compel the valuable services of Palestinian
and Nubian warriors for the civil wars. Finally, in the 20th century BC, the
11th dynasty conquered the north and rebuilt a centralized monarchy,
inaugurating the Middle Kingdom. The intensity and causes of these
disruptive events are uncertain. Later Egyptian writers, appalled by the
deviation from accepted norms, exaggerated the revolutionary aspects; they
also described an imaginary environmental deterioration, actually a poetic
cosmological counterpart to social disorder. More significant were external
pressure and internal political instability that long endured; even the 11th
dynasty may have been ended by a coup, and the victor, AMENEMHET I
was himself later assassinated. The 12th dynasty, which he founded (1991
BC), worked hard to restore royal prestige, seriously damaged by civil war
and periodic famine. Its kings, living near Memphis, reduced provincial
power and developed a loyal central elite, using subtly propagandistic
literature to encourage recruitment and transform the royal image from
insecure war leader to confident, semi divine ruler. The external situation
remained dangerous. The northern Nubian and Sinai buffer zones were
reoccupied and, for the first time, heavily fortified. Foreign trade and
diplomatic contact expanded, but Egyptian activity was more restricted than
in the Old Kingdom. Social change was considerable. People had become
more conscious of their individual rights, and royal policy had to both satisfy
and temper this. Religion was affected; funerary beliefs and rituals once
largely restricted to kings now spread throughout all classes. First
Intermediate period Egyptians had felt less dependent on the state, stressing
their economic self-sufficiency, and even under the 12th dynasty royal
policies encouraged the growth of a middle class, buried in well-furnished
tombs and active at cult centers such as Abydos. OSIRIS, formerly a royal
funerary god, became accessible to all. Architectural remains are now more
varied. At Kahun, a large town was divided up into zones of better and
poorer houses, reflecting socioeconomic differences; superbly designed
fortresses were built in Nubia; and the ground plans of several temples have
survived. Funerary remains continue to be the best source of art forms. The
pharaohs of the 12th dynasty, anxious to be identified with the autocratic Old
Kingdom, revised the classic complex pyramid but included unusual
subterranean elements evoking the mythical tomb of Osiris. Royal statues
were often idealized, but some depicted a care-worn and more realistic
figure. The elite continued to be buried in mastabas and rock-cut tombs,
decorated first in awkward but striking styles reflecting the breakdown in
centralized stylistic norms, but later returning to more sophisticated, traditional
modes.
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