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i had a tough one today.

a client came in with a paper in which they read different articles and picked one to agree with, and argued why that viewpoint was legitimate and the others weren't. so this client came in with articles about torture of terrorism suspects. before i read through their paper, they made it very clear that they were concerned with their personal viewpoint coming across in the paper. so keeping an open mind, i dove in...to find some really awful stuff. regardless of what their opinion was on the subject, i have a strong personal opinion on the subject as well, and i found what they had to say offensive. they basically picked the most extreme article of the three which stated that torture should be completely legal in the questioning of terrorism suspects. there were specifics in the paper that referred to torture being necessary on people even possibly connected to terrorism, regardless of solid proof of their guilt being available or not. the argument was that these people might be holding valuable information that will save many many american lives, and if it turns out that they were in fact innocent, then the outcome is better than the possibility of american lives being lost. while they have a right to have this opinion, by all means, this made me kind of sick.

the worst part was there were instances where their sentence structure and the content were very closely connected. to be completely honest with you, i half-assed this one, because i just didn't want to look at it anymore. i was afraid of telling this kid exactly why his viewpoint wasn't legitimate, not based on my opinion, but based on the fact that his arguments weren't stable. he also made clear very early in his paper that he would not refer to any of the events that were discussed in the articles. i think perhaps he should have; torture is not a subject to be taken so lightly, and maybe if he had taken the time to think about some of the things occuring, his viewpoint wouldn't have been so extremely in favor of it. the absolute worst part was where he mentioned that it is so important to torture suspects to get the information quickly, that the government should create an online system that allowed a judge of whether the suspect should be tortured or not to immediately give a decision, "to eliminate unnecessary paperwork".

i was worried about this one mostly because the line between my personal opinion and the structure of the arguments was starting to blur. so i focused on the other things he needed help with, which was reducing the length of his paragraphs (some were more than a page long). i told him he could split up paragraphs when a new train of thought is introduced, even if he is still writing on the same subject, and i also told him that paragraphs don't need to be at a certain length; some paragraphs are two sentences long and some are much longer, just based on the content and how he wanted to present it. immediately after, he went through his paragraphs and found where they looked like they would be an appropriate length. at that point, i was REALLY done with this. i knew that i would eventually come across a paper with a strong viewpoint different than my own, but i didn't realize that sometimes the argument and the opinions are very closely related, and you can't question one without questioning the other.

i hated it. i'm glad it's over.



Once again, I am going to respond to someone's frustrating experience with a happy story. Who knows what the hell is happening to me; I'm not usually so happy. Weird.

I was hanging out at the attendent's desk yesterday afternoon and this boy, who had been in the lab for at least an hour and a half, came up to check if he anything had opened up for a walk-in. He was so polite and so pleading and so obviously stressed that I volunteered to do a quick consult, even though I was off the clock.

The paper was on attitudes toward homosexuality in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." The student told me that his sister had suggested the topic because she thought it would be a learning experience for him. He told me that he comes from a small town and that if he or one of his siblings were gay, their father wouldn't allow them back in the house. He told me that, as a hockey player in high school, he used to make fun of people who were different, including gay people. At the U, he told me, he has met people from so many different backgrounds and with so many different life experiences that he feels he has really changed as a person and feels badly about how he treated people in the past. From a freshman boy. This was a regular after-school special.

The student also told me that his original draft of the paper was all summary, but that he had come to C4W several times and that our consultants had helped him so much; the paper was certainly a huge improvement over the first draft, which he showed me. Then he revealed that he had slid through high school as a star athelete without actually doing any work. More praise for our fabulous writing consultants who had helped him learn so much.

This was one of the best consultations I have ever had-- and I wasn't even gettting paid for it! It was particularly interesting as it came while I am writing my reflection paper and I am considering issues like affective concerns and teaching skills. I have been doubting myself a little bit lately, wondering if I really am making a difference in the way students approach written work. This student had so much more confidence after our consultation; I wish he knew how much affirmation he had given me. Now I sound like an after-school special. Ew.

Poor Meher and Emily! I can see where both of you are coming from. Tough sessions happen and they make me think it that it's like passing a test to see how to handle situations. Sometimes, too much is too much. People's attitude's don't help when you're already stressed-out or just plain don't know what to do in a situation. "after-school special," funny, Emily! :D I hope both of you and everyone else can get through these next few weeks! Take care

Poor Meher and Emily! I can see where both of you are coming from. Tough sessions happen and they make me think it that it's like passing a test to see how to handle situations. Sometimes, too much is too much. People's attitude's don't help when you're already stressed-out or just plain don't know what to do in a situation. "after-school special," funny, Emily! :D I hope both of you and everyone else can get through these next few weeks! Take care

I've definately had two of these types of consultations, and it was, at times, difficult, to not say aything. The first one was about pornography- it was a rather interesting paper- but I was literally sickened at not only what the class was teaching, but also that the student seemed to suck it in without thought. Her paper was absolutely horrible and made no logical argument. It was honestly just a regurgitation of lecture material. I guess we focused on that aspect, but I definately would ask questions challenging her view. She sort of just shrugged them off, but this consultation really did make me sick and I felt that I had walked the line between helping her express this viewpoint and challenging her to look at the material. But is it bad that I really really wanted to just get into a discussion as to WHY she would think these things? I should have asked her for coffee or something.

The second consultation was where a girl had to analyze the tactics of pro-life/pro-choice groups. Like most people, I have very strong opinions on this subject, but this consultation was flippin' amazing. We went onto the websites of each group(s), and looked at the colors, rhetoric, pictures--everything-- that these groups use to persuade people. I pointed out in her paper areas where she was merely stating biased information, and not really backing it up. We talked about why these groups use the different techniques they do, and how this debate is so much more than on the surface politics. She was smiling and writing, and I was so excited, I felt that I truly challenged and exercised my own right to critically think. Seriously, it was so fun. I didn't state my opinion once, but we had such good discussion about what each group is fighting for, etc...oh man. Possible highlight of the semester...it is the consultations that we get into the text and brainstorm that I enjoy the most.

WAIT- that last one was me!!!


Meher, that totally sucks that you had some offensive guy bring his paper in to you. I started to think about what might happen if someone brought in not only just a paper which I disagreed with, but one that I found offensive to me. Depending on the subject matter and such, I would think that I would have a hard time working with someone who has an offensive viewpoint. I've had sessions where I've disagreed with peoples' opinions, but really when it crosses the line and personally attacks others...
I guess I have NO idea how I'd approach it. I see myself pushing away from the desk and maybe walking away to go to the water cooler to decide how I'd deal with it, but sometimes when it comes to issues I can get hot-headed so I'd hope that I'd be able to keep that hidden.
That said, I think that, even though you were completely offended by what he was saying, you did a good job dealing with it--I would hope I'd be able to do the same, but really I'm afraid that I'd let their offensive opinion get in the way of any real work.
I guess we'll see when I actually do get that fateful client...
(sorry if this is just blather; i might be more coherent on this topic in person)