Class day. I’ve been trying to inspire students by empowering them; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. My prompt this time around uses Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking as an example of satire to examine the form’s efficacy in argument, commentary, and persuasion. Mostly, anyway. I mean, that’s the idea, at least. Really, the point of the prompt is the point of the class (and it’s very nearly the point of the movie): any intelligent person should be able to acknowledge every complex issue as beyond issues of ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ and realize that every argument has its counter.

Today, one of my students surprised me. We had a speaker-series evening this week, where a Democrat and a Republican were meant to discuss the mobilization of young voters but which actually became a debate about technology and its efficacy. Which wasn’t bad, exactly, but seemed to be the wrong issue. The Republican called this “Politics for the iPod Generation,” and effused about how great technology is. At one point, he mentioned Live-Aid and how excellent it was that it had increased awareness of how many people in the world were starving.

I wanted to get up and say, well, perhaps, but how many of them are now eating.

Because awareness is all well and good, but should not be confused with action.

One other thing I mentioned was this iPod thing; not everyone has one, certainly. USC is smack between Compton and Watts, in Los Angeles; we get reports from the Department of Public Safety everyday, concerning muggings and etc. And I asked how many people around us actually had iPods, or access to the technology.

And my student raised his hand and said, sure, but one might wonder whether those people vote, anyway.

And it stopped me. Brilliant.

It brings up whole other issues, of course, but that’s beside the point. I was just thrilled to catch them thinking (rather than, you know, sleeping, which has occurred a few times this semester, now).

One thing I’ve noticed is that I think some of these students feel like those people who don’t vote. They seem to continuously seek “the right answer,” while the whole point of the course is that there isn’t one; there’s only their answers. Their papers don’t depend on what they say but how they make their case.

I think they’re getting it.

Here’s hoping.

By the way, new pictures over at Imagery.