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BOTD 1/27/17 "The Non-Fiction Composition" An 18 Smacked Production

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David M. Katz

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Marshall
The Non-Fiction Composition
An 18Smacked Production



Max - 14
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Your 14 year-old son, Max, was assigned a non-fiction essay for his High School freshman English composition class. You asked what his topic would be, but he simply told you that it was going to be “a surprise.” You saw him working very hard at the assignment, and you were very pleased that he had taken it upon himself with such a serious effort.

The paper was turned in on the assigned date, and a few days later, when you asked about it, he beamed from ear to ear and proudly announced that he had gotten an “A-Plus” on his paper; the highest grade in the class. You asked to see it but, with uncharacteristic evasiveness, he told you that he had “forgotten it at school.” For several days, you inquired about the paper, but he said that he, "was unable to find it to show it to you."

When you were moving his backpack from the front foyer of the house so you could sweep the floor, a piece of paper fell to the ground. You saw an A+ at the top of the page, and could not help but see that it was his English composition that he “couldn’t find.”  When you looked at what he wrote, you were shocked. He wrote about a time when he was with his father (you) at a shopping mall.  A man with three children was walking past your car, when suddenly, the man collapsed to the ground. Fortunately, his Dad knew CPR, and he quickly determined that the man’s heart had stopped. He sprang to action with his CPR-training and was able to get his heart restarted. Meanwhile, your son wrote that he had called 911 and an ambulance was dispatched to your location and the man and his children were taken away to the hospital. Your son was so proud to have a hero for a Dad!

It was an eloquently written story, and your son had truly done a superb job crafting his “non-fiction report.” There was one problem; it never happened! In fact, you don’t have a clue how to perform CPR.

So, now the question was, what is the most appropriate thing to do at this point, for him and, indeed, for you? Should he have to re-write this essay? Does it really matter if it is not a non-fiction story? And, is any punishment from you appropriate here?


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AFinch

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Sherrif
I think we're going to talk. While it would have been wrong for me to go through his things, if the paper in fact "fell out" of the backpack when I was moving it to sweep (not because I was trying to toss the room), then I don't see an issue with me reading it.

Perhaps it was meant to be a "non-fiction report", but if the point is to hone writing skills, I'm not sure it matters in terms of the purpose of the assignment. What does matter is the dishonesty, and we will talk about that, referencing at least three journalists (Jayson Blair, Brian Willliams, and Dan Rather) who lost careers over such dishonesty. I'll commend his writing competence and creativity, and I'm not going to punish him now. I will tell him that dishonesty, especially in an internet age of connectivity, is pretty much always discovered, and point out that people like Martha Stewart didn't go to jail for what they did, but for lying about. He was dishonest with his teacher, and subsequently with me. He's on thin ice. If there's a recurrence, he can expect to be punished.

David M. Katz

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Marshall
My "answer" later but I wonder why he felt the need to make up something about me? Is there a problem with our relationship that makes him feel the need to make stuff up? scratch


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AFinch

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Sherrif
That never even dawned on me, David.

True story--a previous colleague lived next door to Carlos Baerga, who was a famous player for the Cleveland Indians sometime ago. Another colleague's kids were the same age as colleague #1's, and they were playing at the house one day. They were all about 5, I think.

When colleague #2 came to pick up his kid, he asked him: "Do you know who that little girl is you're playing with?" Shakes head no. "Carla Baerga". Looks confused. "Do you know who her daddy is?" shakes head no. "Carlos Baerga" "Carlos Baerga! My favorite Cleveland Indian in the whole wide world?" "Uh huh" Kid starts to wail piteously. "What's wrong?" "My daddy is ONLY a doctor."

db105

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Trailboss
This is school, not a confessional, and the point is to hone his writing skills, so I don't care if the anecdote is real or made up, and neither should the teacher. What matters is that it's written as a non-fiction account.

However, his reluctance to let me see it makes me think that he believes he has done something wrong. I suppose he has taken it too far and pretended that it is completely factual. I will have a talk with him and we will discuss why it's a bad idea to pretend that something is true when it isn't and the complications that might arise from that in different situations. I'll explain that in this case he did not even need to pretend that it was true. Probably no punishment, but I'll see how the discussion goes.

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Jack

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Admin
My first thought about this is why the fictional account of me being a hero? Is he embarrassed by me? Is he being teased by someone at school? Is he jealous of someone else?

I'm going to tell him what happened, and see what he says. I would like to know why he chose to write this (especially when it sounds like the topic was pretty open).

I don't see this as a punishment situation, but I think he does need to be made to understand how this kind of thing can come back and bite him. I've known teachers who would be understanding and helpful about this, but I've known others as well.


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Y Lee Coyote

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Deputy
I’m unhappy with the scenario so I’m going to back it up a bit.  I’ll go along with accidentally finding the essay but reading is a betrayal of trust.  Although Max has lied, he did not want me to read what he wrote so doing so would be detrimental to our relationship.  He lying is a problem and also detrimental to our relationship.

We need a real father-son discussion to get to the bottom of things.  I think that would go better if Max knows I have not gone against his wishes.  There will be plenty of time for that after working out Max’s mendacity.

After I read it Max will be horrified to learn that it is really a failure for it did not full fill the assignment.  It’s a lot easier to write an exciting essay about a fictional hero than some real life event (which are mostly mundane).  Guess what he going to be doing this weekend and turning in on Monday.

Y.

P.S.  Writing about this might be a good topic. Smile

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18Smacked

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Cowboy
Y Lee Coyote wrote:
P.S.  Writing about this might be a good topic. Smile

If I understand correctly; you are suggesting that this might make a good story topic.

Thanks for the suggestion- I will be using several of my BOTD scenarios as story themes. DMK said th at he believes that this kind of theme has not previously been used as a BOTD. If that is that case, I am honored, since it just "sort of came to me" in my devious mind. No incident of this sort ever occurred in my RL childhood.

I have been ill lately with a bad case of bronchitis, but need to start writing again once I am recovered.

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Kat

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Editor Extraordinaire
I'm in agreement with Daniel.

The standardized test used in Texas requires -- or at least did -- students to produce a writing sample based on personal experience. In staff training, 'experts' told us to encourage kids to embellish and even outright make incidents up.

Kat

ivor

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Marshall
It could just be that Max's teacher read out some or all of his essay in class seeing that it was given an A+. If that occurred then it would be ample reason why he doesn't want you to see it because if you told him to admit his duplicity to his teacher it would then become known to all his classmates.

He's obviously proud of it though or he would have either destroyed it or done a better job of hiding it.

And as he obviously has good fiction writing talents perhaps we'll see some of his tales on MMSA in the future. He could even start by writing one about the paddling his Pa gave him when he found out about this tale.......... Smile

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Y Lee Coyote

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Deputy
18Smacked wrote:
Y Lee Coyote wrote:
P.S.  Writing about this might be a good topic. Smile
If I understand correctly; you are suggesting that this might make a good story topic.
Actually I was thinking that is would be a good topic for lad to write about.

If experience shows that essays based on real life tend to be exaggerated, then reading out in class could lead to trouble and therefore should not be done.  A good story, as opposed to a news story, will normally have exaggeration and hyperbola with only little real truth in it.

It not a clear cut case of true or false.

Y.

http://www.asstr.org/~YLeeCoyote/

Pi Beta

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RIP 9 Jan 47 - 17 June 17
In case my son has prophetic powers, I think I'd better sign up immediately with the St. John's Ambulance Service and learn CPR! Then when fiction does become fact, I'll be ready...

18Smacked

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Cowboy
Y Lee Coyote wrote:
18Smacked wrote:
Y Lee Coyote wrote:
P.S.  Writing about this might be a good topic. Smile
If I understand correctly; you are suggesting that this might make a good story topic.
Actually I was thinking that is would be a good topic for lad to write about.

If experience shows that essays based on real life tend to be exaggerated, then reading out in class could lead to trouble and therefore should not be done.  A good story, as opposed to a news story, will normally have exaggeration and hyperbola with only little real truth in it.

It not a clear cut case of true or false.

Y.

Well, in this case, there was no truth whatsoever in any of what he wrote; I do not know CPR nor did I ever use it on anyone, as his story states.

I agree he should not read it in class, but that might become hard to avoid, if all his classmates are reading in class what they wrote.

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Y Lee Coyote

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Deputy
It is certainly something that could and has happened.  It just was not you and hm but some other boy and his dad.  Just a few swapped pronouns.  The event is true.

The not reading in class was a general remark -- if such essays are frequently made up of 'alternative facts' then airing them could cause trouble and disclose private matters.  Kids routinely blab private stuff.

Y.

http://www.asstr.org/~YLeeCoyote/

18Smacked

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Cowboy
Pi Beta wrote:In case my son has prophetic powers, I think I'd better sign up immediately with the St. John's Ambulance Service and learn CPR! Then when fiction does become fact, I'll be ready...

Excellent point, Pi! (Although everyone should know this anyhow.)

When I was 12, while in summer camp, I had several dreams of my cousin marrying a man who was physically quite different than all other men that she had previously dated. I wrote my Mom and described my dream in detail.

About a year and a half later, she was engaged to a man just as I had described, and she did get married to him about a year later. So, these sorts of prophetic visions do actually happen.

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Y Lee Coyote

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Deputy
18Smacked wrote:So, these sorts of prophetic visions do actually happen.

The problem is identifying them before the fact from the billions that don't happen.

Y

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18Smacked

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Cowboy
Y Lee Coyote wrote:
18Smacked wrote:So, these sorts of prophetic visions do actually happen.

The problem is identifying them before the fact from the billions that don't happen.

Y

That is quite true, but I did not write to my mother, or talk to her about any other of my dreams at that time, (or later on) except the ones where I saw my cousin marrying someone. It is also interesting to me that she and I were not all that close, as there was almost a 15 year age difference between us. Yet, I had those dreams involving her, and felt compelled to describe them to my Mom.

I do acknowledge that my experience was unique, and others' are quite different than what happened with me.

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MemoryMan

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Sherrif
Do I KNOW that this is THE essay rather than an essay?

It is certainly an excellent journalistic report describing the scene, the event, the outcome and the reactions/emotions of those involved.  Since it was supposed to be of a real event I can understand Max's reluctance to show me.

It was however a report of an imaginary event.  So What?  It fulfilled its educational purpose and the assignment, in my view, was one of the  "What I did in the holidays?" ilk, a fishing trip to pry into the students private lives.

I'm going to replace the document and say nothing.

However this has drawn my attention to a gaping hole in my own life skills package and I am going to enrol on a first aid course to learn about CPR.  I may also mischievously invite Max to join me and observe his reaction.

Whether I eventually come clean remains to be seen.

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David M. Katz

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Marshall
David M. Katz wrote:My "answer" later

My answer is that I think Daniel has the best approach here.


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