When questions get harder

Beth wanted advice on a homework assignment for a writing class she’s taking at college this semester. Her professor wants the class to come up with two topics for a possible upcoming assignment: write a persuasive essay taking a side of an issue relevant today.

I thought to myself, “yeah sure, possible. Like it’s possible I might take another breath before the end of the semester.”

So far, so good?

Here’s where the fun began. He gave a couple examples, one of which was: “climate change is a liberal myth perpetuated by a liberal media.” Beth explained she wanted to turn her professor’s example around and argue the opposite for one of her topics.

Ho-boy! Where do I begin?

First of all, I tried to stay calm – a feat made easier by a muscle relaxer taken an hour earlier to calm down some neck pain. I didn’t want to say something like, “Man, it sounds like your professor is a f…ing idiot.” She’s smart enough to come to this conclusion herself. Plus, I didn’t want to encourage an adversarial relationship with someone responsible for giving her a grade. I went that route my freshman year at UF and it didn’t turn out well.

I’m trying to cut down on my swearing. So lets just say, I had English teacher whose head was stuck pretty far up someplace that’s usually inaccessible to one’s own head.

It was one of the few times I got less than an A in a class at UF, and I started the semester a seventeen year old, know-it-all teenager. She’s a fifteen year old, know-it-all teenager, who hasn’t graduated from high school yet, and an average of four years younger than the rest of the class. I feared she might not fare as well.

My next thought was, should I give the guy some slack? Maybe he was playing the role of provocateur to get some neurons firing, rather than being an ideologue trying to push an ill-informed worldview ON MY DAUGHTER!

Finally, I tried to find a middle path. She knows how I feel on the subject, as we’ve discussed it many times. I told her I was proud of her desire to take up the cause, but this wasn’t the right place. Plus, I didn’t think it served a possible purpose of the exercise: to write a reasoned essay defending a position on an issue that might not be familiar (now), or one she might not even hold. Giving the guy the benefit of doubt, I thought it could turn out to be a good exercise in critical thought.

Plus, I thought merely taking his example and turning it around lacked creativity. There are LOTS of problems in the world worthy of a little persuasion.

I’ll tell you one thing. It makes me yearn for her early years when the questions were easy, like explaining redshift.

The astronomical phenomenon, in case you were wondering.

Give the gift of words.