An UnMachiavellian Essay

Laura Fortney

March 1, 2003

"But, Laura, I just can’t," my brother went on.

"Why not?" I asked, raising my voice this time. "It’s the right thing to do. She just can’t DO this!!"

"I know, but I can’t get a bad grade. I have to pass this course."

I took a deep breath and chose my words carefully. "Alright," I consented. "So what are you going to write about?"

My brother and I have always been close. In fact, I can only remember one quarrel we have had since he was about five and I told him to wash the dirt off his Barry Larkin rookie card under the sink. I will not mention the reaction my parents had as he cried about the soggy, deteriorated face and stats. The reason we never fight is because we are too different to be able. I am uptight and precise. He is laid back and easy-going. I get up early to face the day and run. He likes to play Sony Play Station until 4 in the morning only to rise at 2 in the afternoon. I bring this up for one simple reason: this is why the dialogue began.

As my brother drifted out of the household and into college life, he decided to start e-mailing me drafts of papers in order for me to edit them. He, unlike me, has never been one to relish in the ability of knowing how to use a colon properly. Usually, it has just been a comma here, a period there, or an improvement in word choice. Yet, after I got the second poorly constructed paper in a month, unclear even as to what he was trying to say, I decided to sit down with him over a break and talk about his writing. I suggested outlining and being more precise about organization. That was when he dropped the bomb.

"I wrote this really great piece about the L.A. Riots, but I can’t use it. Every paper I turn in has to be an argument about women’s rights. I just don’t like what I have to write about."

If I had been raised that using expletives was acceptable, I think my response would have included them. This was a required freshman English class. He could not opt out of it or ignore the assignments because he had to pass the class to graduate. Maybe I am just naive to think that an English class will focus on teaching grammar and writing rather than the horrible fate of women. I must be completely sheltered here at Ashland to think that an English class might actually read something worthwhile, like Shakespeare or Austin. My parents often remind me when I complain to them about Ryan reading what textbook author "David Masters" thinks Plato said rather than actually reading Plato himself that I have a rare education at Ashland indeed. Reluctantly, I have learned to bite my tongue and try to be patient with the "standard" state school education. This, however, is unacceptable.

I could go on and on about the women’s movement and how it has been pushed beyond any reasonable limits, but I will save that argument for another day. Instead, I want to talk about the ramifications of this "teacher." She is teaching eager minds that women are oppressed. Young women will believe that they are being dominated by male power-seekers trying to destroy them, not letting them find their own place in society or to be protected by them. She is teaching impressionable young men not to hold doors open for women and to let the female population fend for themselves. For those few enlightened souls that are above corruptibility, like my brother, she is teaching them to hate English and writing. I am only writing today because I have always been encouraged to say what I think is right and true. This "teacher" is not giving these students this chance.

What I am even more concerned about is what this says about education in general. Apparently, "teachers" are more concerned with promoting a politically correct society than giving students the tools they need to be successful in jobs and as a human being. Some say the solution to the educational problem is school choice. "Competition will increase the quality," they say. From this recent experience, I have come to disagree. Instead, "teachers" need to be taught to become teachers.

What I mean by this is simple. In The Prince, Machiavelli makes reference to many princes, some of which he wants the reader to understand are not princes at all, in fact. Yet he argues this subtly and between the lines. I will not be so Machiavellian. Those that use an educational setting to indoctrinate young minds are not teachers, even if those may be politically correct views. This is why I do not refer to my brother’s English professor as a professor or even as a teacher without quotation marks. She is not a teacher. A teacher points a student toward the truth and allows him to draw out his own conclusions. A teacher directs a student in learning how to think, not what to think.

I wish I could say I talked my brother into writing one of these argumentative papers on why the current women’s movement is absurd, leading to such stupidity as these assignments. Yes, I wish I could say that, but as he told me he needed a good grade. The fact that he has to write supporting her views for an "A" infuriates me even further, but I understand why he made the decision he did. I probably would have as a freshman too, before I learned the value of being able to think for myself.

What I got out of this is a pessimistic attitude about education today. I plan to be very active in following what my children are being taught, making sure that they have teachers and not just "teachers." If I have to, I will teach them myself. Beyond that, I plan on writing my brother’s English teacher and his state school as soon as he finishes her class. If enough people begin to be actually taught, maybe they will join me in the letters and it will someday make a difference.

Laura Fortney is a senior from Van Wert, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and Economics