Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oh my gaw...

Scene: Small office-turned-tutoring room in a tutoring center. High school senior and teacher sit across from each other at low tables, working on the essay portion of the SAT. Teacher introduces material in book presenting different ways to provide evidence to support your thesis. Book provides a sample outline to complete, so teacher asks student to take a side on the prompt, which is "Is violence ever justified?"

Teacher: OK, so can you think of a historical example that might help prove your thesis that violence is sometimes justified?

Student: a war.

Teacher: Good, okay. Which war?

Student [shrugs]: Any war.

Teacher [thinks]: Oh My Lord. [gulping down her terror, says] Well, pick one. Remember we want to be as specific as possible in our examples.

Student: The Iraq War.

Teacher [growing increasingly frightened]: OK, so why was the Iraq War justified?

Student: Because of New York.

Teacher [crying inwardly]: OK, what about New York?

Student: The planes.

Teacher: OK, I think I see what you mean. But can you explain better? Remember we have to be specific.

Student [looking at Teacher like she's an idiot]: Because the terrorists.

Teacher: So, because terrorists flew planes in New York, we went to war with Iraq? How is that justified?

Student: Because they're from the Middle East.

Teacher [momentarily stunned. Students' words hang in the air].

Teacher [gathers her wits]: So, because they live in the Middle East, we should go to war against them.

Student: Al-Qaida?

Teacher [seeing a light at the end of the tunnel]: And what does that have to do with Iraq?

Student: They were... there?

Teacher [grasping the thread of hope, whatever it may be]: OK, now we're getting somewhere. So the Iraq War was justified because terrorists from al-Qaida, which was responsible for violence in New York, were hiding in Iraq. See how we had to make those very specific connections? You can't assume your reader is going to know what you mean!

Student [relieved. Writes down connection in essay's outline]

Teacher [decides to suppress the innumerable frightening things about what just exchanged]


I didn't bother to set this kid straight because A. she's one of my lower-achievers and needed a little encouragement, not nit-picking. B. we clearly didn't have time for a history lesson. Hell, a modern culture lesson. She later in the session had no idea what a "jihad" was, which seems unbearably sad considering she is a teen in this millennium. Of course, in her defense, when asked "What might any world religion or group of people have to say about 'violence is sometimes justified'?" She didn't come up with the Crusades, Inquisition, "eye for an eye," or Cherokee war games either.

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