“It is an indisputable fact that…”

First, as a back-to-blog special, I have to share this post (AND COMMENTS) from Humans of New York—a real Mondegreens festival!

And now, for something like what we’ve been doing for the past two years.

My first-year students wrote their first essays on a subject I thought they’d bring a lot of personal experience to: electronic communications. Instead, most of them tried to give me vast, sweeping surveys of the history and variety of electronic-communications media.

When a student starts off with the assured observation that something is an “indisputable fact” (as opposed, presumably, to those disputable facts*), the reader braces for something impressive, but usually impressive in a way not intended by the student. This student did not disappoint:

“It is an indisputable fact that technology has an extensive presence in technology and continues to evolve.”

I suppose this would be a lot like saying that I have an extensive presence in myself and continue to evolve. Well, perhaps that is an indisputable fact, but it strikes me as more of a sentence that got lost somewhere. Most likely my student began his sentence with the intention of saying that technology has an extensive presence in our culture and that presence continues to evolve. Perhaps that’s what he did write at some point, but then revised a couple of times and in the process lost some words. If so, didn’t he think about reading the final version?

And does technology itself evolve? I’ve always thought of evolution as a self-driven process, not the result of thousands of technicians/creators in labs experimenting with new ideas. Aren’t Creationists dead-set against the theory of evolution?

I ask students to begin their essays with a claim that they believe most readers would agree with, then move into a more specific claim that requires demonstration and defense. My student began his essay by daring his readers to disagree (“It is an indisputable fact”) and then making a claim that in its current form is either self-evident or ridiculous, depending on the degree to which it is analyzed.

Be careful what you ask for!

_______

* such as the sun revolving around the earth, etc. But I don’t think my student had such things in mind; certainly his essay didn’t, as we say, “go there.”

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

4 responses to ““It is an indisputable fact that…”

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