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GRE Issue 77: The Most Effective Way To Understand Contemporary Culture - With A Free Essay Review
The most effective way to understand contemporary culture is to analyze the trends of its youth. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
The statement claims that the most effective way to understand contemporary culture is to analyze the trends of its youth. It is true that contemporary culture composes a lot of components possessed by youth, such as popular songs, hip-hop dance or graffito. These latest trends of youth have indeed influenced greatly on cotemporary culture. However, for the sake of understanding current culture comprehensively, it is impossible to just analyze the trends of youth without taking traditions into account.
It goes without saying that the trends of youth impact contemporary culture profoundly. The fashion created by young adults is not only pervasive among them, but also is accepted by adults who are altered by this fad. As a result, this fashion is popular among society and finally becomes an indispensable component of contemporary culture. Pop music is an excellent example of this point. At the beginning, only youngsters are fond of this novel kind of songs with strong cadence and lyrics which give a sense of rebellion. Due to its popularity among youngsters, adults also began to contact with this new genre of music. Consequently, quite a few adults interested in these crazy songs are eager to attend live concert, dancing happily and crazily with young people. Nowadays, we could hear pop music everywhere, ranging from shopping malls to universities. Hence, when it comes to contemporary culture with respect to music, no one would deny that popular music play a crucial role in the development of music at present. Most importantly, the trends of youngsters affect the growth of popular music to a large extent. Hence, for the purpose of knowing present culture, it is important to analyze the trends of its youth.
However, even though the trends of its youth have made great contributions to contemporary culture, we still could not obtain a comprehensive understanding of it. A large amount of kinds of fashion, though popular for the time being, would not last for a long time. Studying of these transient trends might lead to a partial understanding of current culture. For instance, some bizarre costumes and offbeat hairstyles which were once popular among youth ultimately disappeared in the mainstream culture. Therefore, analysis of trends of its youth might lead to a wrong answer to contemporary culture.
In addition, we could not ignore the traditional culture when we want to understand culture at present. Traditional culture passing from one generation to another has its unique value, such as representation of history of a society. Actually, contemporary culture in every society consists of traditional culture. For instance, lots of festivals, ranging from Thanksgiving Days to Christmas, are traditional culture, not to mention the etiquette the adults teach to their children. All traditional culture coupled with the trends of new culture compose the contemporary culture. Thus, we are unlikely to get a full knowledge of current culture unless we analyze both the trends of youth and traditions.
In conclusion, in order to understand contemporary culture, it is necessary for us to analyze the trends of its youth. However, without analysis of traditional culture, we could hardly gain a comprehensive knowledge of culture at present.
I hate prompts like this because the thing you are being asked to discuss (contemporary culture) is so poorly defined that it’s not immediately clear what it means to “understand contemporary culture,” which makes it all the more difficult to clarify what role analyzing “the trends of youth” ought to play in such understanding. “Culture” is one of those terms that everyone has a different definition of. For that reason I think an integral part of any response to this prompt has to be a clarification of how “culture” is being understood. That will have a crucial impact on how the argument develops.
Although you don’t begin with a definition, it is clear when you say something like “contemporary culture in every society consists of traditional culture,” you’re offering a definition rather than making an argument. The argument is what follows: given that contemporary culture includes traditional culture, analysing the trends of youth alone will not give a complete understanding of contemporary culture. I think for this type of essay one ought to start with the problem of definition.
Doing that will allow you to justify talking about popular music and fashion, which would more usually be part of what one calls “popular culture.” “Culture” can mean the intellectual and artistic elements of society, or it can means the customs and values and institutions and, as you say, traditions. It’s a bit of catch-all term. So one’s answer to this prompt will very much depend on just what one means, and in such cases, as I say, I think one needs to define what one means at the outset.
Finally, I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, and possible more than once in response to your essay, the value of articulating your arguments in their most general form, before introducing the details of the argument. In the previous paragraph, I noted that much of what you mention would normally be called a part of “popular culture.” Implicitly, the distinction between popular culture and general culture, or between popular culture and contemporary culture, plays an important role in your essay. Your essay would be stronger if that role were explicit, and you can make it explicit by clarifying the general form of the argument. For instance, you say that sometimes the popular music that the young listen to ends up everywhere, with even “quite a few adults interested in these crazy songs.” But you also note that sometimes trends among the young are transient. Could one then say that while the trends of youth dominate popular culture, popular culture only sometimes becomes an important element of contemporary culture as a whole?