Expectations and Genre

As an avid traveler, the author has experienced many different socioeconomic classes and looks into how socioeconomic class and expectation go hand in hand in growing into the genre of attending a university. With help from rhetoric and genre professors James Paul Gee, Paul Heilker, and Kathleen Blake Yancey, the author explores how genre and discourse affect the overall desire and drive to attend a university.

As one graduated pre-school, the other graduated high school.

Graduation day. The day that high school seniors finally get to say goodbye to a place where they spent 4 years learning, growing, and making new friends. The day I graduated was a day spent anxious and excited all at once. After walking across that stage, t hough, I felt like I could conquer the world. My family and I celebrated afterwards with a lunch of Red Robin. I looked at my 5 year old cousin and said “I’m finally done! I don’t have to go to school anymore!” to which she looked at me and said “No, you still have to go to college,” like it was a requirement of sorts. This was already drilled into her head at 5 years old.

Mike Wazowski in Monster’s University, a prequel to Monster’s inc. is fascinated by the idea of attending Monster’s University. This ties into the idea that sometimes there are expectations, both external and internal, to go to college.

Growing up, people had always told me that going to university was really going to be the only thing to get me anywhere in life. Although my parents’ lives turned out all right and they made it to the upper middle-class world, neither of them went to university and they regret it. They worked really hard to get where they are now and it was really tough on everybody. My dad says that the experience is really important and that’s the part he regrets the most. Being a first generation student to go to a university, I felt like I had a lot of expectation set on my shoulders. I felt like I had no choice but to continue my education and if I didn’t get into a good school, my family wouldn’t be happy. With my career choice, getting a degree isn’t necessary, but it could be useful. That’s why I’m going to school for business marketing and management so I can apply it to the music business.

This is a signing at the Vans Warped Tour in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio in July of 2014.

Having a passion for music, I have found myself doing various promotional jobs for bands such as promoting through social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., handing out flyers and hang up posters, work signings, and basically do whatever else my management tells me to do. Through this work, I do a lot of travel, and in this work, I am exposed to new and different social classes. Since I grew up in a pretty wealthy area with Amazon and Microsoft around, most of my peers were in the same or a very similar social class as I was. My peers whose parents didn’t encourage them to go to a university and get a degree were scarce. Through traveling around the Pacific Northwest with my work, I have seen different social expectations and socioeconomic class and that has brought me to a new understanding of life experiences because I grew up in an area where expectations were similar, and in my observation, expectations set by those around a person for themselves and their peers affects how one acts and what they do in their life.

Rhetoric and genre studies scholar, Paul Heilker describes our “ways of being [and] emerging into the world” (93) as genres in his essay, “On Genres as Ways of Being.” Now, I know that thinking of the term “genres” in that way can be confusing, but look at it this way. One doesn’t take a baby to a movie. Why? Because they’ll cry. The genre of a movie theater is to go pay for a ticket, go in, maybe get some popcorn and candy, find the theater the movie is screening in, and sit down quietly for the duration of the movie. Adults know that, but babies don’t yet. The way one thinks and acts has as lot to do with the genre they’re expected to fill. Genres come in parts throughout one’s life. The genre of standing in line may be comprehended before the genre of being quiet in a movie theater. It depends on the person or the situation and how it is taught.

After graduating high school in the middle class of the United States, the genre expected is to continue to be a student. “Get a degree or you’re not going anywhere in life,” adults say, so recently graduated students go off to a university and are expected to stay in school to get a degree and to pay thousands of dollars to get it. Though that’s the case, I know plenty of successful people who didn’t continue their education. If growing up in a certain socioeconomic class creates an expectation for those within it, then how does growing up in that socioeconomic class affect one’s drive to go to college?

Issaquah High School Mascot

When someone says, “I’m a senior,” they automatically get asked “What school are you going to next year” instead of “are you going to school next year?” Because of the expectation put on us, my high school did a great job at preparing students for continued education; they helped people apply for colleges, write good resumes, had a lot of college and SAT prep classes, and had a lot of extra curricular activities that people could join to put on their applications. Our school had a lot of good funding and teachers, seeing as it was in a generally higher socioeconomic area. According to usnews.com, Issaquah High School is ranked #18 overall out of 458 high schools in the state.

In the United States specifically, college is so expensive. With socioeconomic class, sometimes it’s hard to afford to go to college. Many students must take out loans, which put them in debt. This makes it hard for students whose parents can’t afford to help them with school to attend a university, although some still attend a community college because it is cheaper. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposes a new plan to make college tuition free. Sanders says that “it is totally unacceptable that Americans are drowning in $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. It is unacceptable that millions of college graduates cannot afford their first home or their first car because of the outrageously high interest rates they are paying on student debt.” According to Gloucester Times, in a decade, student debt has risen from $300 billion to more than $1 trillion with the average student debt of $300,000.

Now, one might say that social class doesn’t determine your life, you do. Your determination can take over your social class. This is where the idea of discourse comes in. James Paul Gee, a discourse analyst and professor at Arizona State University, brings in the idea that discourse is “an ‘identity kit’ which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act and talk so as to take on a particular role that others will recognize(73).” You have one primary discourse, and multiple secondary discourses. Primary discourse relates to your family and how you grew up. Your secondary discourses, however, are based on other places and groups of people. Sometimes discourses conflict (74) and this is when primary discourse, in which social class lies, may conflict with secondary discourses such as friend groups or other activities.

One of friend of mine, although not growing up in a genre with the expectation to go to college, has a drive to go to a university after high school. She is currently in her junior year of high school, so she is preparing for the next couple of years of her life. Neither of her parents ever continued their education after high school, which I think that wanting to go to a university is a result of not wanting to turn out the way they did, living off food stamps and never having a job in their lives. Another friend of mine who has been graduated for a couple years already regrets not going to college because he doesn’t have that experience or the education that he wants to have. Another one of my friends is from a similar socioeconomic class as myself and didn’t continue to go to school because he had a really great opportunity to have a steady job working with a school district and doing freelance work directing and doing what he loves instead of paying thousands of dollars to go to a university. Each person has shaped their own future in various ways because they all come from different socioeconomic classes and different genres, each with their own expectations.

When adults tell you “You’re not going anywhere if you don’t go to college,” they imply that going to college will get you a good, steady job. The goal is to get a degree and head into a job, but with the amount of degrees being pumped out of colleges every quarter, there is no guaranteed job. To get a good job nowadays, it’s important to have a good network of people that you know. This further complicates the idea that college is so important because it isn’t necessarily. A friend of mine is from a similar socioeconomic class as myself and didn’t continue to go to school because he had a really great opportunity to have a steady job working with a school district and doing freelance work directing and doing what he loves instead of paying thousands of dollars to go to a university.

Kathleen Blake Yancey, a professor at Florida State University, is also a rhetoric and composition scholar. She discusses genre in compositions and how academic and personal writing are composed differently. She discusses how your audience affects how writing is composed. People use different voice when writing for themselves than when they are writing for an academic class because the expectation is different. When writing for yourself, there isn’t an expectation to use correct grammar or spelling because only you read it and only you have to understand it but, when you write an essay for class, you must use correct grammar and spelling or you get knocked down points. The expectations in our life are based on the “audience” in our life.

Heilker explains how your way of being changes with expectations of genre. An example of this is when he was told to write the graduation speech for his graduation in high school. He had never been the kid who loved his school. He wasn’t very involved and he smoked a lot of weed, so when they asked him to do the graduation speech, he was so shocked. Heilker’s speech, though, is an example of how expectations can affect your genre. When he wrote his graduation speech, he included happy memories and ultimately changed his mindset about how his high school experience was. When you are expected to graduate and go to college, you feel like you have to go or you’ll let everyone around you down. When you graduate without any expectation from your parents, you put some sort of expectation on yourself that you set from your own morals and from those around you. Your genre all depends on the expectations around you, not just from others but yourself as well. Without expectation from you, expectation is almost pointless. I have grown up with the idea that what you put out in the world comes back to you. If you put out into the world that you will go to college and have a blast, that’s what you’re going to have. Yes, there might be some setbacks in your life, but overall, you will have fun. The same works if you think college is going to suck. There may be some good times that you have in college, but since what you put out comes back to you, you won’t have an overall great time at college. Whatever your own expectation to go to college is, it is just as important as those around you, although their expectation might affect yours too.

Expectations can also change with time. When my suite-mate from first quarter came to Western, she was very excited to be starting a new chapter in her life. However, by the end of winter quarter, she decided that college just wasn’t the place for her. She loved the experiences she had and the friends that she made and appreciated college, but she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life and she didn’t want to waste her time working on a degree that she wasn’t going to use. Sometimes that’s how things end up working out.

One’s drive to go to college is affected by expectations set when they are growing up. Sometimes you feel like you’re going to disappoint those around you if you don’t go to college and sometimes you want to go to college all on your own. Sometimes, you don’t think college is the place for you. Every one of those situations is affected by expectations set by those around you and how those expectations affect your expectations. However, once expectations are set, they can be changed. Sometimes you decide that you don’t know what you want to do with your life and so you leave college. Expectations are set and people are affected by these expectations. They mold expectations to fit their lifestyle what they decide to do with the expectations.


Heilker, Paul. “On Genres as Ways of Being.” Participating in Cultures of Writing and Reading. Boston: Bedford/St Martins, 2015. 93–103. Print.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Made Not Only In Words: Composition in a New Key.” Participating in Cultures of Writing and Reading. Boston: Bedford/St Martins, 2015. 176–200. Print.

Gee, James Paul. “What Is Literacy?” Participating in Cultures of Writing and Reading. Boston: Bedford/St Martins, 2015. 73–81. Print.

“Best Washington High Schools.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 2015. Web. 27 May 2015.

Wellington, Darryl Lorenzo. “Column: Education Should Be Free in a Free Society.” Gloucester Times. 5 June 2015. Web. 6 June 2015.

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