Tuesday, May 02, 2006

O Captain, my Captain

Last week, my students (not these, but a slightly more advanced bunch) were reading about the Vietnam anti-war protests and I asked them to write their opinions on protesting. Should people have the right to protest in a time of war? Does protesting help the enemy? It was a bit of a stretch for my little angels, but I couldn't resist the temptation to see what in the good lord's name they'd produce.

I worried that I had already somehow broadcast what I believed to be the correct answer, and they'd all just play to what I wanted to hear. But clearly I was ascribing far too much subtlety to a bunch that had turned in their last quizzes with the exact same responses on each question, as if I'd chalk it up to a cosmic coincidence of the monkeys-typing-Hamlet variety. My dears, said I, if you're going to cheat at least be clever about it.

But today the topic was protesting. Salome spoke up first. No, she said. Americans should not have the right to protest because it helps the enemy by sparking the situation and the president cannot concentrate on the war when people are protesting.

Sopo, what do you think about that? "I agree with Salome." Of course you do, pet.

Thanks, Salome, I said. Now tell me this. What would you think if Georgia started a war with Russia tomorrow? Would you support this war? "No." No? Do you think you should have the right to protest and tell the government what you think? "Yes, I should." Will that help the Russians, though, if you do that? Do you know, one can actually see the lightbulb when it goes on. Salome smiled knowingly. It seems she caught on to my sneaky little trick. Why do you have the right to protest, and the Americans do not?

She thought and thought. "Because there are too many americans and the situation will be complicated. There aren't so many Georgians so they can't make so much trouble." Leave aside the logic problems, leave aside the fact that all you need is half a Georgian to make trouble. This answer pleased me more than if she'd just caved and changed her mind. Because it's a reason, and she thought of it on her own. My classroom standards are high and lofty.

In other news, this nearly made me weep for joy:


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