February 16, 2014

A New Species of Thesis: Delayed Thesis, Equation Thesis, and Anti-thesis

Uncertainty as Opportunity

Of course, this phrase could be applied to a business strategy, philosophical treatise, spiritual discipline, or medical diagnosis. But in this case it was a blog post from this Valentine's weekend and stirred me to write on my blog for the first time since October. November was mom's health declining. December was her dying. January was the estate lawyer divining. 

This high school girl in the blog post has a paper due that requires a "delayed thesis" - which simply means that she has to write some introductory gobbledy gook and then....drum roll: the final thesis statement in the first paragraph. Nothing new under the sun there, except that I have never heard that term.

Delayed has a slightly negative association with it. 

And the phrase's fancy-ness makes it seem harder to master, in the mind of a high school sophomore.

The blog post is not particularly focused on the delayed thesis part, but rather on risk-taking, which I harp on as a teacher, and, in addition, that we should let students meander in the unknown of what it is to be a writer and not make them too attached to what the teacher wants.

Writing is an act of risk-taking on so many levels, emotionally, academically, personally, grammatically, artistically. You are on stage, improvising, constantly refining your craft, without any sense of the audience and how they are responding.  And if I am going to follow Common Core Standards, then I absolutely must set-up and introduce this quote from the blog that I am referencing, lest the quote police drag me away to those dark and punitive essay catacombs. This is what the author wants us to grapple with in his writing on uncertainty:

"How might we create the conditions in our conversations with young people so that they see it’s okay to try something new, to feel like they have a legitimate stake in what they are trying so that the uncertainty and struggle is worth it?"

And then there is the "equation thesis" where teachers literally take points off if your thesis does not wear the clothing of a math equation, where FACTS plus your ARGUMENT are woven eloquently together in a sentence that in my opinion ends up too long. 

And the antithesis is when you are presenting a counter-argument.

Here is the wording from my ballerina blonde very dyslexic high school junior's teacher:

"Your essay is a deficient argument if it does not address antithetical evidence. You should anticipate the strongest objections to your argument, and expound their merits and limitations. Your antithesis should make clear how this idea would contradict or qualify your thesis. You should give evidence in favor of the antithesis, followed by analysis. You should always explain how this antithesis, if valid, impacts your overall thesis."

Right now I have learned more about certain Civil War history and the Nazi sympathizer rocket scientists of the Cold War than I ever knew before. 

Did every black person agree that slavery should be ended? How can we know? 

Were most of the ground-breaking bomb makers and rocket scientists aware of what the Nazis were really up to, as they toiled in their laboratories with geeky but Hitler-loving fellow engineers?

Thesis-itis. I tell students we write with thesis statements but we never talk with them.

And then I surprise them with a personal truth:

I Did Not Learn All of This Until College.