My head hasn’t exploded over this one yet, but I am in extreme pain.
A teacher at North County High School in Maryland assigned her students to write essays that would embody a contemporary satirical solution to a societal problem, emulating satirist Jonathan Swift’s famous 18th century essay, “A Modest Proposal,” in which the author proposed, tongue firmly in cheek, that poor Irish folk sell their children as food, thus solving both a population glut and a food shortage.
One student fully embraced the spirit of Swift by suggesting that America should consider deporting African-Americans to the Sahara Desert to address U.S. racism.
A perfect execution of the assignment, wouldn’t you say? The “proposal” is outrageous and offensive; it would indeed address the problem, and, as with some in Swift’s time, literal-minded reflex hysterics won’t understand that the suggestion is satire! Give that student an A!
Or, in the alternative, make him a pariah who wishes he was dead, and may be at risk to be so soon. For other students were offended and complained, and instead of using the incident as a lesson in political satire, the school system turned on the student who had done exactly what was assigned, and sided with the Political Correctness Mob, with Bob Mosier, speaking for Anne Arundel County Schools saying,
“The student chose a subject matter that was clearly insensitive and struck a nerve with students here and staff members here. And so, they have been meetings today where the staff has tried to allow students to express their opinions and say why they’re hurt, why they’re angered.”
Oh, he chose a subject matter that was insensitive, unlike, say, selling and eating children, it that the school’s official position?
I can save the school the trouble of all the meetings, because I know exactly why the students are “angered.”
They are angered because..
…they have been acculturated to mistake feeling for thinking,
…because poorly trained and badly educated teachers don’t comprehend the implications of their own lessons and assignments,
…because, as the wise student at issue understands, race trumps every other consideration, including fairness and common sense as well as history and irony, in Barack Obama’s America, and
…because public schools prefer to indoctrinate students as social justice warriors rather than teach them critical thought.
Now, the students should be angered, as should be their parents, for other reasons, such as the fact that the young are having their intellectual abilities stunted by fools masquerading as educational professionals. This episode could have been used a true teaching opportunity, enlightening students about the value of satire in exposing harsh truths and the weakness of toxic ideas, like bigotry and simple-minded nostrums. Such a discussion could have brought the school community together, but administrators would prefer to see it torn apart so they can avoid challenging progressive taboos and receive their allotted left-wing weenie points.
They also lack the intelligence and skill to manage such a discussion. Why can’t Americans talk honestly about race? This is why.
Here’s the part that almost caused my head to blow. In a letter sent home to parents, North County Principal Julie Cares ( yes, that really is her name—imagine what Jonathan Swift could do with that. Or Abbott and Costello…) said:
“Just as one could argue that the content of [the original] piece was ill-advised and insensitive, such is the case with the content of the student’s piece.”
A teacher gives an assignment. A student delivers exactly what was assigned. Because it is exactly what was assigned, the school erupts with indignation, and the school administrators blame the student, while noting that indeed, the offensive essay was no more offensive than the model it was specifically designed to emulate, per the assignment.
People who think like this should not be trusted with the education of children, and yet communities are struggling to pay for even these reckless and cowardly incompetents.
I propose that all of the current teachers and administrators in Ann Arundel County be fed to the students, and then, using the lunch budget savings, more competent ones be hired.
But I’m not kidding.
Pointer and Facts: Reason
35 thoughts on “Why Public Schools Are Too Incompetent To Be Trusted To Teach: The Swift Assignment”
Oh I fear that you’re going to get some nasty letters from NEA. Still, your proposal is funny as hell.
Nah! The NEA only writes nasty letters to people who suggest that teachers should actually, you know, TEACH. Oh, wait…that’s…oops! Never mind.
Could this be another early competitor for a Curmie Award?
I’d say it warrants a nomination, but the final ballot are far worse. (More horrifying that a horror novel)
Beginning to dig into this story now, but at first glance one thing I wonder is what happened to the teacher who assigned it in the first place?
Surely if you’re going to blame a kid for following an assignment (and admit that he did), you would discipline the teacher as well, at minimum?
Also, not sure if you are bashing the assignment itself in this article, but I like it. The kid should get an A, of course, I’d like to read what he turned in as well.
To be clear, I think it’s a terrific assignment, but only if the teacher understands it as well as the student.
This, an actual post from from a North County High student on the school’s face book page, is a direct result of the schools cowardly response to this incident. They’ve branded him a racist by their refusal to lead/teach their students. And, at least some of their students, through the ignorance that North County High has created, believe it. What kind of people treat children this way?
Thanks for that, and yikes. If a teacher assigns something like that, the teacher better be ready to stand up for the student and take the heat.
This was almost like a trap.
As I read through this, I kept thinking, “I’ll bet that the teacher didn’t understand that the Jonathan Swift piece was political satire.” Sure enough. How do these people get hired as teachers? Even someone as under-educated as my son knows that A Modest Proposal was satire. I’m ashamed to admit that this high school is in my state. I’m thinking of moving to Jack’s backyard for sanctuary.
I was thinking the same thing!
Jack, is your garden shed rented?
No, but I need to replace the door…
Careful; eating people passes along brain eating bacteria. Such a shame for the students to eat the incompetent staff to pay for the competent staff, and end up no better as a result…
Not to worry: the incompetent staff cannot possibly contain brain-eating bacteria, for reasons which I trust are entirely self-evident.
Over 30 years ago, when I was teaching argumentation and debate,at a small college in Kentucky, I differentiated between various kinds of Negative arguments by discussing an Affirmative plan to solve the problem of poverty in Appalachia by nuclear annihilation. If there are no people in Appalachia, there are by definition no poor people in Appalachia, and therefore no poverty. Thus, the Negative cannot adopt a Plan Meets Needs argument, and must argue a Disadvantage to the Affirmative plan.
Something tells me I might not have fared well at North County High School.
And Curmie is WAY behind in his writing, but this one is worthy of consideration.
Something tells me you are right, but your poverty plan is certainly Swiftian. Donald Trump might hire you as an advisor.
I floated something similar to Rick, in high school. I don’t remember it as well as I would like, but it, too, was Swiftian. And it was about poverty…yes, that was it: I said, in Civics class (sure that almost all of today’s high-schoolers will see that word and think “Fukizat?!”), in a fit of frustration about the course of classroom discussion, “We have a war on poverty? Well then, let’s win it! Let’s have a death penalty for being poor!” Yes, I was prescient about today’s authoritarian governments in the U.S. And I was rapidly developing that razor – no, that nuke – of sarcasm.
Why does the school promote cannibalism of children who are irish? Child protective services should be called in!
(I hope I don’t have to explain that to the hard-of-thinking)
Having taught high school English, I think that was a really dumb assignment. I’m not even sure “A Modest Proposal” is a very good candidate for a general population high school reading list. Maybe AP but probably best left for college. I just don’t think most high school kids are able to process genius of Swift’s magnitude. I’m not sure I really got “Gulliver’s Travels” in college. Have them stick to light weights like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. And the writing assignment, even though the kid in question executed it to a ‘T’, was tantamount to pouring gasoline on the floor and giving all the students a book a matches.
This is the same problem as underlies the high school production of “The Producers.” This teacher thinks he or she is teaching a graduate creative writing seminar at the University of Iowa, not high school English. Just get your kids able to competently write a sentence, or a paragraph, or a single page composition. Or maybe explain the virtues of the active voice or “subject-verb-object” and let them go their way.
You’ve convinced me. I had a Sixth Grade teacher in an experimental class who got into Swift then, and I loved it, but that was a strange and wonderful group. They also had us reading and doing projects on King Lear and Moby Dick in Junior High, and those two works seemed clearer then than now.
I was thinking the same thing. I “believe” I read Swift in Honors English in high school, but it might have been college. And, “write like Swift” is a bad writing assignment for kids of that age.
Just a few quick observations
This, as Frank Zappa once said, is the crux of the biscuit.
All these are derivatives of the first point of incompetence. If the teachers were actually capable of teaching their students to think rather than just vomit emotion at every provocative stimulus, points 2-4 would be moot.
I think the dreadful reaction of the so-called adults is more distressing than the reaction of the kids. The kids at least have the excuse that they’re just high school kids.
I see references to the story being “controversial” on social media, but can’t find a single link to it or source that’s reprinted it. It never ceases to amaze me how often the media will report on “inflammatory” speech/rhetoric/social media nonsense, without providing any context.
If it’s offensive, post it with a short disclaimer and let people be offended for themselves.. On the flip side, I do find it interesting that so many others are flocking in support of the student without having read it either.
The blind are leading the blind on both sides.
You want a high school kid’s essay that was used as a “gotcha!” political correctness trap to be published, so all sorts of crazed offense-bullies can harass and threaten him too? Good plan!
The media shouldn’t get a whiff of the actual piece unless the author specifically releases it. Tell me, in the context of the assignment, what could the student possibly write that would deserve any kind of opprobrium?
The public knows exactly what the parents and the community knows, and we know enough to know that the school is in the wrong.
You’re dating yourself — It’s already BEEN published. How do you think the furor started? Five minutes of googling is all it took me — are ABC, CBS, and CNN really keeping him safe by relegating it to search engine back pages?
Tell me, in the context of the assignment, what could the student possibly write that would deserve any kind of opprobrium?
If the essay was nothing but pages of “Kill the darkies for sun screen! Make them pay for crimes against the white man! Hitler Rulz!” would definitely come close. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time someone had use the excuse of satire to say hateful things while giving themselves and easy out. I’m not suggesting that IS what happened, only that it’s possible.
That’s nice…don’t send me the link or anything.
I don’t search for things that shouldn’t be published. I’d sue the pants off of the school for that, if it was my son. The content of the essay is completely irrelevant. Unless the description of his essay is completely false, he followed the assignment to a T and is being shamed for it, so as I so often do with your queries,. I must ask: what do you think your point is? Who or what are you defending, or think you are defending, or are you just playing “gotcha” again?
And how can you say you “found” the essay and still be unsure what was written????
It amazes me you still look for points in anything I write (despite repeatedly telling you not to) as though I have actual beliefs in anything. I’m but a leaf on the wind; watch how I soar.
You just made coffee come out my nose.
I found one direct quote, in the Post, and googled that to find the text. “Corralling said Negroes back to the Sahara desert, and using a high-ordnance nuclear missile to wipe the cesspool of filth some call a ‘race’ from the earth.” I got the Post story.
I’d like to see the whole thing out of curiosity, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter if the last part is deemed too harsh for safe satire—the point is that it was designated satire by definition, and under that heading, literally anything goes…and if it misses, well, its an assignment, and the idea is to talk about where it hits, and where it is excessive, not to condemn it.
The student was suspended.
So you say. I need a source for that, and if true, it is outrageous, and if his folks don’t sue, I offer him adoption.
See Facebook: north county HS movement