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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Advice for Young Teachers: Brace Yourself for Weisenheimers

Yesterday, I reviewed the grading criteria for my students' final essays.  One criterion is that students avoid using "slang and a conversational tone."

"But, Mr. Solipsist, we're allowed to use a dictionary, right?"


"OK, but, what if I--I've seen these--they have these slang dictionaries, right?"

"Well, yes--"

"So, OK, what if I look up a word and it's IN the slang dictionary?"

"What about it?"

"Well, then I can use it, right?"


"But it's IN the dictionary!"

"But it's in the SLANG dictionary."

"But if it's in the DICTIONARY, then it's not slang, right?"

"No.  If it's in the SLANG dictionary, then, quite literally by definition, it IS slang."

"I disagree."
"What part of this do you disagree with?"

"If words are in the dictionary, I should be able to use them."

"So. . . if you bring in a Sanskrit dictionary, I should let you write the essay in Sanskrit?"

"Well, no, I mean--"

"Actually, I think that's a fantastic idea.  You're going to write your essay in Sanskrit.  And you can use as much Sanskrit slang as you like.  Make sure to bring your dictionary."

That'll learn 'em.

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