I think the next essay I've assigned is a fool's errand on my part. There is an implicit flaw in my planning it. You see, the essay type is "proposing a solution." It's perfect for starry-eyed idealists, for students who have some sort of passion, for students who, well, care about something. Or anything. I'd settle for that right about now.
The book leads them toward finding local solutions. And good of them, too--I told my students that if world problems could be solved in Comp. I essays, they wouldn't be issues. However, what they'd probably find is that they might be able to make small changes on the local level, which could possibly, somewhere down the road, have bigger repercussions. I steered them in the direction of thinking of issues faced by groups they're involved in, campus issues, problems faced by perhaps their religious institutes, or maybe they could branch out into an issue they cared about.
Campus issues? Well, they hate the parking. They hated it in my day, too. If they can propose a viable solution, shoot for it. But what about student groups? Anybody involved in some of th-- I glance up to see shaking heads. "We have student groups?" someone asks. The joys of a commuter campus... They don't know what they're missing out on.
Religious groups? Nope. One guy comes up with an issue whose solution has already been implemented. I toss out the idea of raising funds or drumming up membership, plans they might have some say in. No apparent takers, which is surprising for the Bible Belt. Quite a few students have found ways of bringing religion into their papers in the past.
Any other groups people are involved in or are connected to? A few takers here--people who have friends with small businesses, an aspiring musician facing venue issues, someone into drag racing and looking to address crowd management issues.
And then I make a fatal mistake--what sort of larger issues do you care about? I toss out as an example one we discussed in my evening class--youth voter awareness, trying to get people into the polls by implementing a community plan, or maybe something through a high school, or... That class was gung-ho about it. This one...?
In a beautifully ironic twist, when I was calling on individual students and asking what sort of topics they could come up with, one girl told me point blank, "I don't really care about anything." No embarrassment, and there were nods of agreement.
"Well, I appreciate your honesty," was the only civil response I could come up with (the same one I give to "I didn't read that essay"). I guess I forgot apathy was fashionable.
I wrote, "implement program to fight youth apathy" up on the list of possible topics. The only drawback? It's far, far too vast a topic to be handled in comp. class.
And they wouldn't care, anyway.