Jumping to a conclusion too soon can have far-reaching consequences. In the middle of my freshman year in high school, my family moved to a new school district. My first assignment in the new English class was to write an epic poem in the style of classic epic poems. Wanting to make a good first impression, and having been writing my own “books” since I was 9, I threw myself wholeheartedly into the task. When I finished, I read my poem to my mother, who had always encouraged my passion for writing.
Full of enthusiasm, I handed in my poem. The following day my teacher, a young woman fresh out of college, stood up in front of the room and read my poem. When she had finished, she glared accusingly at me and began asking in rapid succession questions about how I’d written the poem without giving me a chance to answer. She then declared that the poem was much too good for a student to have written, accused me of cheating, and ripped up my poem. She also made me sit in the back of the classroom for the rest of the year and gave me an F as a final grade. As a result, I was put in a remedial English class. It wasn’t until my senior year that I was allowed to petition to be in the college-track English class. I was so traumatized by this experience that I never told my mother or anyone else what had happened. For many years after, I stopped doing any kind of creative writing and in college avoided any English or creative-writing classes.
Rather than analyzing her interpretation of my work (this was a well-written poem) and considering alternative interpretations, my teacher had jumped to the conclusion that I must have copied the epic poem from somewhere, an assumption that breached both good critical-thinking and argumentation skills. (Taken from eText Ch. 6)
Post your responses to the following questions:
1. Imagine that you were a staff member at this school and found out from another student what had happened. Construct an argument to present to the teacher, encouraging her to reconsider her hasty generalization and come to a better-reasoned conclusion.
2. Think back on a time when a teacher or other authority figure hastily jumped to a conclusion about you or something you did. How did this event influence your life goals and decisions? Discuss ways in which your critical-thinking skills might help you to put this event in perspective.