Only after collecting my sophomores’ proposals for their persuasive research papers today – in other words, only after it was too late – did I remember this post. I swore a year ago that I would adopt (read: plagiarize) John’s rules. And then I forgot all about it.
Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with papers about porn addiction or the lingerie industry (the sophomore who asked if she could read FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY for a literary analysis research paper notwithstanding). But I have had to deal with far too many essays about abortion, gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, the death penalty, etc written by sheltered teenagers with tunnel vision.
That said, if just one of my students can give me cause to reflect in the manner Wegner does here, it might all be worthwhile.
In my English 1302 course, my students have to write a research paper and I allow them to choose any topic that interests them. Except abortion, Elvis sightings, the death penalty, and UFOs: “No one, especially a first year college student,” I tell them, “can separate belief from opinion, fact from fiction, or faith from rationality with regard to any of those topics.” More important, these are such highly charged and emotional issues that students too often assume the grade is relative to whether I agree or disagree with them. Any potential learning goes out the window when they assume they failed because I am either 1) a liberal pinko communist sympathizer or 2) a conservative right wing nut job.
In other words, my life is much easier if we just avoid certain topics. Plus, half the students in…
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