CHS Teacher redefining the American Dream?

Posted in the Columbia Forum

Parent

Columbia, IL

#1 Sep 17, 2012
My child's class has been reading and studying the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell. Here's just one line from the Wikipedia page about the book:

While writing the book, Gladwell noted that "the biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work."[3] In Outliers, he hopes to show that there are a lot more variables involved in an individual's success than society cares to admit,[3] and he wants people to "move away from the notion that everything that happens to a person is up to that person".[

My child says that they must write an argumentative paper in support of one of two positions and that paper must include an argument against the position not chosen. The first position is that the American Dream is possible today and the second is that instead Gladwell is correct in his theories in Outliers. My child realizes that these two are not exactly opposing views especially since Gladwell’s theories concerned only those people who were wildly successful (thus the name Outliers), but the teacher insists that there is no middle ground between the two. Faced with those two arguments, the choice may seem simple, but the teacher qualified the definition of the American Dream. She says that if a student chooses to argue that the American Dream is still possible today, they must argue that it is possible with absolutely no help from anyone or anything. My child says that someone in the class raised his hand and said that he doesn’t believe that anyone has ever claimed that those attaining the American Dream did so without any help whatsoever and so he and others in the class asked if they can ignore the kind of help that is common to many – like help with basic necessities from parents or a general education from teachers and she said no that her definition of the American Dream must be used because that is the definition that our founders would have assumed – no help from anyone or anything.

I think that my child may have misunderstood the assignment because as explained this would mean that he would have no choice but to argue against the American Dream and in favor of "luck" as the primary cause of success.

For obvious reasons, I cannot ask the teacher for more clarification, so I am asking if anyone else has a student in that class that can tell me if my student has misunderstood the assignment.

I welcome comments on the topic, but if you want to give factual details on the actual assignment I just ask that you have some knowledge of the assignment and not just guess. I do not want to jump the gun here and assume that this teacher is redefining the American Dream and forcing students into a position where they must write a paper against it. Everything points to that but I realize that my student could be mistaken.
Mom

Waterloo, IL

#2 Sep 17, 2012
Parent wrote:
For obvious reasons, I cannot ask the teacher for more clarification, so I am asking if anyone else has a student in that class that can tell me if my student has misunderstood the assignment.
Why can't you ask the teacher?
pogo

Waterford, WI

#3 Sep 17, 2012
I'm thinking that this teacher isn't interested in the in the views of a high schooler as far as his ability to absorb this in deapth kind of debate. Some teachers have them write these papers just to see how their brain is growing and their ability to provide some sort of intelligent thoughtful resonse. Don't worry, I think his/ her teacher is doing the right thing.
Ayn

Saint Louis, MO

#4 Sep 18, 2012
We all know that real life is in the grey areas between absolutism but if the teacher insists on cornering the students into a limited argument (probably just to validate her own world view)(and twisting Malcolm gladwell to do it) Read objectivism philosphy may be used to create a counter argument in this case.
JoeD

Euless, TX

#5 Sep 18, 2012
If you want her to get an A, write a paper relating to the book as a metaphor showing something completely unrelated. I did that all through my senior year of high school and the teachers always commented on how "deep" I was. On that specific paper I said the entire book was a metaphor for how Nazi Germany started. I got a 98 percent cause of punctuation but these stupid teachers really like this metaphorical stuff.
Former student

Waterloo, IL

#6 Sep 28, 2012
JoeD wrote:
If you want her to get an A, write a paper relating to the book as a metaphor showing something completely unrelated. I did that all through my senior year of high school and the teachers always commented on how "deep" I was. On that specific paper I said the entire book was a metaphor for how Nazi Germany started. I got a 98 percent cause of punctuation but these stupid teachers really like this metaphorical stuff.
You nailed it!
I know the teacher

United States

#7 Jan 17, 2013
Okay this teacher that your talking about here (if we're talkimg about the same one) is a complete nut case. I wrote the same paper for her and for 90% of the damn paper I didnt even know what point I was arguing. I think parents need to realize that she is a horrible teacher. Most of class time she isnt teaching us anything. Oh and not to mention shes a huge bitch. Not one student of hers enjoys her.
need to know

Waterloo, IL

#8 Jan 18, 2013
What is the American dream ?
hot for teacher

Columbia, IL

#9 Jan 18, 2013
good thing she is in a union. Public Unions are what makes this country great.
JoeD

United States

#10 Jan 23, 2013
hot for teacher wrote:
good thing she is in a union. Public Unions are what makes this country great.
Yeah unions are really good. Not
scared of Big Brother

Columbia, IL

#11 Jan 23, 2013
Being in a public confiscatory union is the American dream. Secured wealth with minimal work and no risk.
Melon Collie

Belleville, IL

#12 Jan 27, 2013
There are a few people who truly achieve their success on their own. Most do it with the assistance of others. Whether it was because a person was blessed with excellent parents, wealth, etc. it still should be acknowledged. And there are usually many others along the way who play smaller parts. Certainly it does take an effort to maintain or increase whatever level of success you have. But to assert that a child raised in poverty at an underfunded school has the same opportunity as one raised in say, Columbia, is ridiculous and narrow minded to say the least. Whle I believe that we should teach our kids to work hard and keep striving for success, it's a little easier climb for the kid whose parents will buy him a car on his 16th birthday or give him the down payment on his firat home.

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