It’s going to be an interesting semester.
One of my classes is attended by a student who is secure in his knowledge that he is correct in all his opinions (much like this gentleman from last term). He has the unique characteristic, however, of failing to see nuance in language; he thinks that “pretty” means exactly the same thing as “beautiful” and “stunning” and “breathtaking” and “gorgeous.” I told him on Tuesday that one of his tasks for the term is to either learn to appreciate nuanced language or, failing that, to recognize that pretty much everyone else DOES see distinctions in tone and term, and to respond accordingly.
We had it out today over something the President said in his State of the Union address; that there are “no American troops in Iraq.” My outspoken, opinionated student is also a combat veteran, and stated unequivocally that this was A LIE. That led us to a discussion about what constitutes a “troop” – his definition was ANY military personnel, while the rest of the class understood the term to mean a member of the military who’s actively engaged in combat (though, to be fair, the President did not say “there are no COMBAT troops in Iraq”). It IS true that there ARE military personnel in Iraq, but it is also true that there are no COMBAT troops in that county; if we’re going by my student’s definition of a “troop,” then we’re at war in every country in which we have a guarded embassy.
After the class was over, another student stopped me to express dismay at how this conversation went down – and to complement me for maintaining my cool throughout. I told him that it’s easy to be cool when I’m confident of my facts and in control of the language we’re using to describe those facts. He admitted that this was going to be both his favorite class and the one where he’s likely to struggle the most; he’s fine with having energetic conversations, but not so fine dealing with people who refuse to admit when they’re on shaky factual or rhetorical ground.
My opinion boy also parroted the far-right line that the President is “breaking the law” and “going against the Constitution” when he announced on Tuesday that he’d be issuing some executive orders. When I asked him to produce evidence that this behavior is either illegal OR unconstitutional, he blathered for a bit about nothing that made any sense to me. I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I DO know that executive orders have been issued by literally EVERY president we’ve EVER had, and that precedent is often a basis for legality, but I’m going to spend a little energy doing some research. I can pretty much guarantee that opinion boy won’t do that.