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Stop Making Sense


As we mentioned the other day, Yr Dok Zoom used to teach college English, and so to give Our Valued Readers an idea of what the job is like, we thought it would be worth evaluating a couple of brief personal narratives submitted by promising students. The first is by an honors student we'll call "Hillary C":

Instructor comments: A vivid, cohesive narrative, Hillary. You use effective details to convey the tension of the situation, and the examples of what the men were yelling really give a clear impression of the stakes, for you and for them. The detail about keeping your head down and wishing a proctor would show up is one that many readers can identify with! The shift from narrative to explication is handled smoothly, and clearly relates the anecdote to who you are today. The insight and introspection help round out the story and bring it forward into the present. Excellent work!

Ever the overachiever, "Hillary C" submitted a second writing sample a few hours later, this one more of an expository piece:

Instructor comments: A very effective piece, Hillary. The first lines do a lot of work here: they both set you apart from and connect you to the male politicians you mention, and also set up the larger contrast you develop in the rest of the paragraph. Nicely done! Your discussion of "how hard they work to appear natural" might be stronger if illustrated with a brief example -- what's something they do that's practiced and natural-looking? I like the way you very clearly illustrate the idea of a double standard for men and women in politics without actually using the term "double standard" -- it's a fine example of "show, don't tell." Good work! Also, I should note that you've now maxed out your extra credit for the semester; I'm happy to keep reading your extra work and giving you feedback if you want to turn it in, but I can't give you any more additional points, OK?

Our second sample is by a student we'll call "Donald T," who frankly has been struggling in the class. We must confess it's been a challenge to get him to stay on topic, although we'll certainly give him credit for attempting to address complex ideas. On the whole, we're not even sure how he got into this class, which is supposed to be for advanced students; the rumor on campus is that he's a legacy. In any case, here's his sample, creatively framed as part of an interview with a religious broadcaster:

David Brody: “Who is God to you? What are some of your thoughts on this? Clearly, you’re a smart man, you’re a smart businessman, you’ve contemplated this before or have you contemplated this?”

Donald Trump: “Well I say God is the ultimate. You know you look at this? Here we are on the Pacific Ocean. How did I ever own this? I bought it fifteen years ago. I made one of the great deals they say ever. I have no more mortgage on it as I will certify and represent to you. And I was able to buy this and make a great deal. That’s what I want to do for the country. Make great deals. We have to, we have to bring it back, but God is the ultimate. I mean God created this (points to his golf course and nature surrounding it), and here’s the Pacific Ocean right behind us. So nobody, no thing, no there’s nothing like God.”

Instructor Comments: Donald, this is very difficult to follow. You appear to be trying to say something about God, but then you stray off into random, unrelated details about real estate transactions. It's almost as if you're suggesting there's something supernatural about the fact that you purchased the tract of land, which may be something you want to discuss with a theology professor. In any case, it's not at all clear what the connection is you're trying to make between the beauty of God's creation and "making great deals." This will need complete revision; please see me during office hours.

Note: "Donald T" resubmitted the paper, unrevised, with my comment "X"ed out and the word "LOSER!" scrawled across it in black Sharpie. Below my comment, he had written,

Shut up you obviously don't know anything about writting [sic]. You're only an adjunct, and my tuition is PAYING YOUR SALARY. I worked hard on this and make much more money than you, LOSER.

I have referred "Donald T" to the Dean.

Also, I have to confess -- don't tell! -- that I shared "Donald T's" piece with a couple of the other instructors on the faculty listserv (with his name removed, of course) and they agreed it was pretty bizarre. One commented "So Michelle Shocked was right: God is a real estate developer!" and another wrote, "What if God was one of us? Had a fantastic view of the Pacific from the 14th green like one of us?"

I swear, sometimes, if it weren't for my colleagues and the occasional bright student like "Hillary," I'd quit this lousy job and go write dick jokes for a living. Ha! Like I'd ever get paid for that!

[Humans of New York on Facebook / Humans of New York / CBN News via Patton Oswalt on Twitter]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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