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.


A Gator’s perspective.

“Who cares about college football?”, you may be asking yourself. Well I’m glad you asked.

Imagine college football gameday. Its an image that comes easily to me. You are in a relatively small college town that seems to double in population six weekends every fall. On Friday, the school campus begins to resemble a K.O.A. Alumni and students gather to discuss past glory and the triumph to come. On Saturday morning you awake earlier than normal (for a Saturday), with anticipation not unlike a small child’s on Christmas morning. . . kick-off is near! You make your way to campus as the afternoon approaches. As you near your destination, more and more people join you on your chosen path. You arrive at the stadium, eager to see your school take on one of it’s bitterest rivals. You feel a combination of anticipation, confidence, and doubt; but you won’t admit to the doubt. From the moment of the opening kick-off until the final second has expired from the clock, each play is agonized over until its result is known. The agony of anticipation grows with each play as the game gets closer to its end, but the outcome remains in doubt. Suddenly, from the rhythm of the game arises the “big play.” Pent up nerves are released into the depths of despair, or the heights of exhilaration. Tens of thousands of people screaming in unison are either silenced in that instant, or released into joyous pandemonium as the outcome of the contest SEEMS to become clearer. But more often than not fate is not so easily coaxed from the closet, as the so called “big play” alternately plays the champion for each team, toying with the crowds emotions before the outcome is clear. And when when the last seconds finally tick past, the crowd is left either with the hope that next year will bring better returns, or bragging rights for another year.

That brings me to a little get together that happens in Tallahassee this year. It’s an attractive city to be sure, but it’s not a college town – in the purest sense. I can’t fault the fans. A fine school and a fine team share a north Florida city with our state’s capital. While our rivalry with them is not considered our biggest, it certainly has gotten hotter of late. Our fortunes against them never seemed lower than the “the choke at Doke.” However, a little contest that decided a national championship a few years back more than atoned for that sin.

I am young, my experience is slight, and my knowledge of the history of my alma-matter’s rivalry with FSU is shamefully lacking. But this I know: we have won more often than we have lost. I say this not because we should rest easy on our laurels, but merely that it is easy to do so.

The gauntlet has been thrown down. A line has been drawn in the sand. It’s time to play the game.