Did I call it, or WHAT?
Last week, I left my speech students with an assignment to watch a speech on YouTube and respond to it. Since I have a bit of crossover in the classes, I asked them to watch different speeches – my early class got Bono’s acceptance of the Chairman’s Award from the NAACP and my later class got a commencement speech delivered by Bill Clinton.
My goals for the assignment were manifold; I want to get a feel for their writing voices, I want to see how well they listen, and I want to try to learn a bit more about who they are and what’s important to them by what they choose to highlight about the speech they were assigned. It would be great if some of them can use the chapters (they were supposed to have studied) in the text to analyze the construction of these speeches, but I’m not expecting anyone to get quite that far.
Remember my Ebonics kid? I woke up this morning to find this in my inbox from him regarding the assignment (and, as usual, please note that no corrections have been made by me):
dear mrs. Schilli
sorry to say but i cannot CANNOT listen to Bono’s NAACP speach. To me its a perosnal thing but i do not have a likeing for bono, for me to hear some one like him who put him self out there to get his good name out when he clearly knows nothintg aobut anything and say hes a god guy and he’s getting involve with politic and other worldly events. I can give two crap about him because last semester i had to do a topic about him at UNH and i was to do a speech about him, many minorities including my slelf and my dad do not see that his action are clear. I undertsand that hes atrying to get the word out but hesd doesn’t know jack crap baout what the hell is going on in the world today you just run his mouth and put his two sense in and throw money out like hes a nice guy . i know his intention is good but you’re a gawd damd musician do what you’re best at and shut the hell up …
sorry for this, excuse me for my outrageous rant i just don’t beleive a guy like him deserve anything that is prestiges please give me a another topic and ill be more than oblige to do so for me i have HIGH respect for the NAACP and oi take that campaing seriously because they help many minorities such as my self and other during my high schol year about slef awareness and our future as a whole .So please undertsand what i’m trying to saya nd give me a nother assignment so i can replace this one . thank you
I’ve not responded to the kid yet because I’m still in a state of shock and can’t quite muster the professionalism that will be required for me to tell him that I don’t give a damn that Bono upsets his oh-so-cultured sensibilities. There are going to be a lot of things we’ll read this semester that a lot of people aren’t going to like – one of the prominent pieces of speechwriting we read is from an admitted Nazi; a repentant one, but a Nazi nonetheless – and that part of being an educated citizen is being able to be open minded enough to listen to messages that may be coming from distasteful sources.
I’ll compose something sufficiently stern, yet professional, in the shower after breakfast.
I KNEW this kid was going to be a problem. I was fully willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I was hoping against hope that my first impressions of him were wrong, but CLEARLY they weren’t.
I still can’t believe it…
**Edited to include the response I’ve crafted for the kid. I’m running it past my boss before I send it to E-boy, but I think it adequately hits the mark for which I was aiming:
While I appreciate that you have strong feelings about Bono, I am not willing to alter the assignment to suit your wishes.
It is highly likely that there will be instances in life where you will have to deal with people you find distasteful. In fact, it is likely that there will be material that we will investigate in class that will rub a lot of people the wrong way – one of the primary texts I use in many of the classes I teach is an essay by an admitted and convicted Nazi. The point of the assignments I give is NOT to promote or endorse the ideas from the speeches or essays – or the people who speak or write them – but rather to expose my students to a wide range of ideas, styles, and issues, and to generate thoughtful analysis of them.
George Bernard Shaw wrote that an education is “a succession of eye openers, each involving the repudiation of some previously held belief.” Being an educated citizen means, among other things, being able to listen to a range of voices and ideas, and being able to give them thoughtful, reasonable consideration – whether or not one likes where they come from. Your discounting of Bono, while perhaps appropriate to what you’ve thus far been taught, is inappropriate for this class. I do not expect you to like the man; I do expect you to listen to and consider the message, however, and to participate meaningfully in the discussions his work generates in our class.