I’m working on a story for the BarkAroundTown. com blog about a student at a high school in Virginia* who was given the assignment to write a paper on why people should not own pit bulls.
It’s possible the teacher didn’t know that the student and his mother are actively involved in pit bull rescue. Possible.
As you can expect, the mom and student both objected to the assignment, which didn’t give students the option to defend the pro side of the issue. They’ve spoken with the assistant principal and the teacher, who replied:
“Yes, this is the paper asking students to use the topic “People Should Not Own Pit Bulls.” When we began this project, several students mentioned that they owned pit bulls. I said that they didn’t have to BELIEVE people should not own pit bulls, but for the sake of this four paragraph research experience, I wanted them to use the four articles/sources I provided to discuss two reasons why owning pit bulls could be dangerous.”
The issue is a hot button on Facebook today, and I’m sure the school is getting their fair share of phone calls and emails, since the mom shared the story on her rescue’s FB page and asked people to contact the school.** Because the Bark Around Town blog is about sharing information and I try to be more objective, I’m waiting to hear back from the principal and the student before I post over there. But here on my personal blog I want say that I think the teacher dropped the ball on this one.
I understand that teachers occasionally ask students to do an assignment like this – defend an issue they don’t agree with, and I assume it’s to help them understand how to research, how to look for supporting facts for one side of an issue, etc. But in this case, taking the popular view (ie: pit bulls are dangerous) doesn’t really help the matter. If that was in fact the goal of the assignment, the teacher should have assigned the pro pit bull view, or asked students to write on why breed specific legislation is bad. Asking them to defend a popular view doesn’t stretch their research ability or their ability to craft an argument for an unpopular opinion.
So let me ask you this: if your student was assigned this topic, what would you do? Would you protest? Tell your student to write the paper? And if you’re an English teacher, maybe you could shed some light on why a teacher might assign something like this, to defend one side of an issue even if the student doesn’t agree with it?
Stay tuned to www.BarkAroundTown.com; when I hear back from the principal and student I’ll post a more informative story there.
* I’ve removed the name of the school until I can confirm it
** I just learned that the FB page where this letter appears is NOT the page of the mom who wrote it. I’m trying to confirm the information with the student’s mom.