Monday, October 30, 2006

Let's play writing professor

I guess I could get arrested, or at least in big trouble, for doing this. But I can't resist. I'm sitting at my desk grading papers. And I come across this opener. It's so good, I decided to sponsor a contest on this blog (for you 2-3 readers out there). How would YOU respond to this in a student paper? (Respond to the concept, not to the poor writing.)

"When someone is asked to define the word family most people would consider those who are relatives. Nevertheless those who are related by blood are just the people who randomly become family at birth. At birth there is not an extensive assessment that is taken in order to find what people would be ideal for someone. With an expression as important as this it should be a person's choice who they define family as rather than it being assigned. (emphasis added.)

Who does the student think the audience is: Deity?


Stephanie said...

I'm assuming they realize that you have influence with the highest of all forces. Vernon P.

jeremy said...

Here is my response:

"You are partially correct, in that many of those who are asked to define family would consider those who are related. Those who would do otherwise are, of course, those who don't own a dictionary. That, or they are a member of that other class in society who feel empowered to make up their own definitions for words: the Supreme Court. Those whom you choose to spend your time with are known as your friends, another term with a seemingly uncomplicated definition. Note that the two groups are not mutually exclusive.

Your mention of randomness indicates an interesting viewpoint regarding the process of procreation. My research indicates that most new life is the result of deliberate action; as yet, there has been only one recorded example of 'spontaneous' birth. That example, however, is the Christian idea of immaculate conception, but Christians would argue even that was deliberate.

You express concern over the ability of an individual to express themselves in defining who their family is. As described in the previous paragraph, each individual chooses part of their family. You state that the rest is 'assigned,' and imply that such an assignment is less desireable than individual choice. As noted previously, words have meaning to everyone but the U.S. Supreme Court; you are free to choose your friends, but you are not free to change the fundamental meaning of words, no matter how upset you are at your own family or the supreme being that 'assigned' you to them."


mbhaley said...

I would counter with a comment about the validity of assuming such assignment -- the statement requires a whole treatise on fate vs. free will, self-determination vs. predestination, determinism vs. chance ... As a thesis statement, it is far too broad and makes assumptions the writer is certainly not sage enough to make.

Plus the kid needs to get acquainted with your friend and mine, THE COMMA!!!

Ecthelion said...

I must disagree with Jeremy. Words have very important meaning to every member of the Supreme Court. Allow me to explain.

For Stevens, words have multiple meanings and those meanings can change depending on the decade, his mood or what he had for breakfast. For Ginsburg, they mean what they mean unless they inhibit a woman's right to choose what they mean. For Breyer, they mean what they mean unless they take power from the federal judiciary. For Souter they mean what the latest law review articles say they mean. For Kennedy they mean what his own tortured view of history states they mean. For Scalia, they mean what the dictionary said they meant at the time they were written in light of longstanding tradition that the government can kill you if you're bad. For Roberts, they mean what they mean as long as you spell them correctly and use them in a grammatically sound sentence. And Alito, well, let's just say it's too early to tell. :)

cath said...

and on the "unintellectual" side, i feel the need to i agree with the desire to expand the definition of family. despite birth into an established famly unit (however odd it may be!), we do choose with whom we will perpetuate the family tree. sometimes we need to include grafts from other people's families in order to give our trees enough strength to stand. i, for one, and very grateful for the boyer branch of my personal family!!