Sunday, August 8, 2010

Teaching aid for an election year

July 29, 2010: Interviewed by Greta Van Susteren of Fox News,

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina discusses his proposal to update the Fourteenth Amendment. Senator Graham represents a state whose heritage is proudly agrarian,

and when he explains his proposed edit, his vocabulary becomes the technical language of agricultural economics.

Here's a parallel economic proposal that I sometimes use toward the end of freshman comp, when we talk about what to expect in sophomore lit and I introduce the concept of irony.

Click to enlarge the lower right corner of the text.

Swift published "A Modest Proposal" in 1729, and even in the twenty-first century I get some interesting reactions from freshmen who have read the projector's phrase "a child just dropt from its dam" for the first time, and then looked up the agricultural terms "dam" and "drop." Senator Graham's additional example wasn't really necessary; our classroom dictionary had already shown us what those words mean, and some events are hard to repeat except in the mode of "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

Still, it's the thought that counts. So thanks for "drop," Senator Graham, from a grateful constituency: me, my class, and (if I may speak on his behalf) the late Captain Gulliver.