ME: Here’s what the writer is doing.
Student who paid attention in high school English: I disagree.
ME: You’re wrong. Here’s why. [NOTE, in case my tenure committee is reading this: I say this very kindly, taking advantage of a teachable moment, making sure that the student understands that his/her participation is valued and feels both validated and enlightened.]
STUDENT: My HS English teacher said there are no wrong answers about literature as long as you can defend your ideas.
ME: Your HS English teacher was wrong. There are plenty of wrong answers about literature. What your teacher meant was that there are also plenty of defensible potentially right answers too.[LONG PAUSE]
STUDENT: So are you saying there are wrong answers in literature and that my HS English teacher, who was my personal role model and who died last week after a heroic bout with cancer, was wrong about everything?[LONG PAUSE]
ME: I’m sure your teacher was a remarkable person.
STUDENT: A remarkable person who was wrong about everything.
ME: Probably not about everything.[PAUSE]
ME: Just about this thing.[At this point, some people are crying in the back of the classroom.]
ME: Let’s move on, shall we?
Dear HS English teachers,
Please stop teaching my future students wrong (read: oversimplified) stuff. They get enough of that from TV.
the guy who will have them as college freshmen