Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Bonus Round Redux

As a teacher, Neil Postman would deliberately use logical fallacies in order to test his students. He’d preface the course by saying that he’d do this; if sharp-minded students caught his specious reasoning or deliberate logical missteps, he’d reward them. I tried this myself while we studied political rhetoric in September and October. One student—Avery, from Period 9—caught me using a false analogy; no one else did.

Of course, this could be due to a general hesitation to call out a teacher for specious reasoning, and respect is the only rule I’ve ever set for you in here. (It’s why, in fact, watching a group or two chat and daydream and generally waste Tuesday’s student-driven reading of “Yes, Virginia” was so disheartening.) So I abandoned the tactic as probably more harmful than helpful.

When we moved into our next unit, I began emphasizing the need for you to do formative work. That refrain, begun in July, got louder. I posted this assignment. After offering you a couple of weeks and a lot of time in class to complete it, I surprised you by collecting it for enrichment credit. Here again is the post that details your failure to take advantage of that (which was the fulcrum of many parent-teacher conferences, I am sorry to say). Part of the original formative assignment was a push to email me with questions if anything confused you, seemed unclear, had a typo in it…

I’ll let one of your peers connect the dots for you:

Mr. Eure,

I just have a quick question. For the forth part of the Formative Writing Process document that you gave us, there was a subsection called The Writing Process: Formative Investment. The forth step on that investment has a typo in it, I think (I have attached the document so you can check). I’m not understanding what that step is about or what I am supposed to do.
See you tomorrow!

There was a typo in it.

The obvious error in the fourth step of that particular subsection: A clarifying example stops mid-sentence, leaving the idea incomplete and really difficult to follow. I made that error in the original copy, and I wish I could say it was on purpose; keeping it in there, however, was on purpose. After all my insistence that you read carefully, ask questions, and take ownership over your own learning, I wondered if any of you would notice and/or care that a critical step was incomplete.

This student caught the error, but it’s even more important—and encouraging—is when the email was sent: December 16 at 10:56 PM. One of your peers kept working on that formative process well past the enrichment bonus and well past the original work on the essay. He waited until he had time, and then he went back to that formative work to help himself.

As a result, I am going to help your peer. He will receive some sort of bonus commensurate with the bonus given to the one student who completed the original formative self-assessment.

The rest of you are on notice.

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