Back in 2002, I was teaching a class at Fairleigh Dickinson University (Madison, New Jersey) called Freshman Writing Workshop. Professors were always encouraged to come up with interesting topics for student writing assignments. So one semester I came up with an assignment asking students to compare the 1959 Cadillacs with their 2002 counterparts. Too bad some of you CC readers weren’t in my class!
The first thing to do is create a “prompt”–a written description of what you want the student to write about:
I always like to give students a choice of topics, just in case one of them is not interesting to that individual. Then there are written sources which the student essays are based on. These are read beforehand. The student then writes the essay in class based on the sources and the prompt.
The source article for Choice #2 about the modern perils of college life was written by journalist Dan Seymour. For Choice #1, I reproduced two Cadillac magazine ads–one from 1959 which appeared in Life magazine, and one recent ad showing the 2002 Cadillac models. The idea was to compare and contrast, as described in the prompt.
I think the class was split 50/50 on choosing between Cadillac Then & Now and College Life. Luckily, I saved a copy of one of the Cadillac essays, written by a student named Carlos. I probably saved this because it was one of the better ones I received:
To make this easier to read, I have typed out the text below:
Cadillac: Then and Wow
For years, Cadillac has been the car to have if you are living comfortably and want a smooth ride to wherever your destination is. The car screams luxury when you either see it on the road or are driving it yourself. Cadillac ads have been showing the car off since the early 1900s. Well, why shouldn’t they? But things sure have changed in the last forty years. In 1959, Cadillac proved to be an elegant piece of work with ads stating “A New Realm of Motoring Majesty”. In the background an elegant couple stares at the Cadillac as if they have been waiting for the car their entire lives. A car that back then was a breakthrough and now is a classic.
In 2002, Cadillac ads are very different from 1959 ads. We’re not in the rear-side wing days anymore. Now the ads state “Breakthrough”. Now with the Cadillac XLR, CTS, and Escalade, it does not matter whether you want sporty, classic luxury, or SUT (sport utility truck), Cadillac has it all. Don’t believe me? The cars are lined up in the middle of an empty desert as if to say with Cadillac, there are no limits. “Breakthrough” written down the side of the ad shows they are not afraid to let the people of today know that these cars are now. Also the font has changed in the ads the last four decades. Instead of having the word Cadillac in script to look classy, the 2002 font is bold, simple, and gets the point across with catchy statements like “Heritage Reborn”. Finally, and probably most importantly, the style of the cars has changed . . . dramatically. The new, futuristic look is in and Cadillac did a great job to make these cars look sporty, classy, and luxurious at the same time. Today’s people want the “cool” look now. Cadillac is trying to reach all people with different likes and is doing a great job at it.
Cadillacs sure have changed in the last 40 years. But the legend stays the same. These cars are made to please all drivers, and that they do. I personally love these cars and the classic Cadillacs. But to see how far Cadillac has come puts one word in my mind . . . Wow!
It may be hard to believe, but 2002 was twenty years ago. Therefore this sample essay takes on the status of a cultural, historical artifact. It shows what a typical college student of the time thought of Cadillac and its image. The reactions seem overwhelmingly positive, contrary to many who believe that young people thought of Cadillac as an “old man’s car”–not cool. Maybe Cadillac’s edgy looks and “Break Through” marketing strategy was working. Carlos and other members of the class were 18 or 19 years old in 2002, so now they’re 38 or 39. The 2002 Cadillacs will be considered antiques in five years.
So if any readers of this post want to take a stab at comparing the 1959 and 2002 Cadillacs, I’ll read your answers below. You might even get an “A” from me–some people say I’m a pretty easy grader! And Carlos, if you’re out there, I want to know–did you ever buy your dream Cadillac?