Sunday, November 17, 2013

A CM Flashback. Three Years Ago Today. Stella & Jesus & Essay Topics.



Dear Freshman Comp Student:

You don’t like this topic. I can tell by the way your nose is scrunched up. And you’ve made a voluntary expedition to my office to tell me you would like to write on a different type of essay on a topic of your own choosing.

But wait--before you regale me with your justifications, please understand that there are several reasons why I doled out the assignment you so want to avoid. Firstly, I assigned an evaluative essay, because frankly that’s the easiest sort of argumentative essay for freshman to complete. Secondly, I saw to it that the scope of the assignment is small enough so that none of you would try to solve some sort of impossible problem in 2000 words. I don’t care how smart you think you are. You can’t come up with a solution for global poverty in eight pages. What I have asked you to do instead is to evaluate something to do with the town in which you are currently attending school. You’re a freshman. You should learn something about where you are living.

I can see by your face you don’t give a fig about the town in which you are living. I sympathize. I’m not remotely interested in this town, either, but God damn it to hell if I had to find out shit about it because I fucking work here, you have to as well. So there.

Sigh. All right. What are you interested in writing about? Wait…let me guess…you’re a dewy freshman here in Biblebeltia, so doubtless you want to compose some screed on how sex should be saved for marriage. No? Okay. I get another guess…you want to write an essay about how being gay is a choice and that allowing them to marry would destroy the American family as we know it. No? Hmm…one more guess. Let’s see…you think we should all pray to Jesus in the public schools. No? Wait, give me a second...

Oh, Dear God, please tell me you’re not a pseudo-intellectual, and you want to share how Ayn Rand changed your life or some such garbage. I had to deal with that last semester. Objectivism is just the kind of thing that appeals to narcissistic 18-year-olds, kind of like Sylvia Plath. But no one takes that shit seriously after the age of oh, 25 or so.

No? Okay, thank you Jesus... Well, I’m out of guesses. Do go on.

(long pause)

You want to write about what? You want to prove what? That God exists? Oh. Hmm. Well, hmmm…that was going to be my next guess. Hmm… Have you ever heard of Thomas Aquinas? No? Well, would you like to read what Thomas Aquinas had to say about it? No? You don’t want to read Thomas Aquinas? I don’t blame you. So, how are you going to prove God exists? What’s your proof?

(long pause)

Oh, your proof is that you survived a traffic accident. You are alive, and therefore God exists.

(long pause)

Come here, little girl…have a seat by me. Firstly I should start by saying that I like Jesus fine. But in general I figure that he probably didn’t put his specific Jesus finger on you to save you from that accident, because after a quarter of a century of teaching I’ve taught at least 50 students that have perished young, and some of them fairly horribly. Liver cancer. Creaky La Quintas with no sprinkler system and no second means of egress. Suicide. And, of course, the parade of them that have met their deaths on our nation’s roadways. So you’ll pardon me if I don’t consider it sufficient proof that God exists just because you yourself got into an accident and didn’t get bisected and sprayed all over I-75.

Now, you need to do what I fucking told you to do, and stop afflicting me with your bullshit. I gave you a general essay topic to evaluate something you might be qualified to judge. An essay on something of concern and interest to you, but something relatively inconsequential. Decide where to find the best coffee within walking distance of campus. Decide what’s the best non-chain or fast food burger in town. Figure out which is the best place to go for the cheap junk students need. The most romantic spot on campus. Or, write about donuts.

Donuts. You can handle that, can’t you? Write about donuts. And don’t take this the wrong way, but get the hell out of here.


  1. I, too, miss Stella (and like both her pedagogy and her theology -- both nicely grounded in reality).

  2. Me, too. Great choice for a flashback. She was and is a firecracker. We all have good and bad days but she was more often a really valuable part of the page.

  3. I really like this assignment. I might steal it.