I got a glimpse of how a despot may come to power, and it was only through the dynamic presentation of a teenager. Let me reiterate the word: dynamic.
He or she, because it doesn't matter which (despotic power is not immune to gender-though I believe a she may do it more gently), gave their speech with the roar of a lion. The lion pounced to the front of the class and held its classmates in the stance of silence. His voice commanded attention. Her direct look into our eyes demanded rapt attention. When our speaker closed with a clever, power punching thrust, the room fell silent with respect and awe.
A student couldn't help but utter, "Now that speech will make it into the top ten finalists."
I too walked away thinking I had been among greatness--then why didn't it feel very good?
We adults gathered in a private corner of the school.
"That was great," I said, "but why didn't I like it?"
Mr. V, the young teacher of Chinese, looked sick to his stomach, "I couldn't figure out what he was saying in the middle of his speech. The end was great though."
There were a few other nit picky reasons to eliminate the essay. It was gone from the list of viable contenders.
But, it haunted me in the night, enough to wake up the next morningwith the speech on my mind. Had we been fair in dismissing it without reading? I needed to get my eyes on that speech; the written words would reveal the truth.
I read it slowly. I absorbed. Some of the writing was as eloquent and well delivered as the speech. Still, the nagging discomfort. I needed a new pair of eyes. Tony.
With no preface, I asked him to read it and tell me what he thought.
But he wasn't moved. He had that same uneasy look as Mr. V.
I stayed quiet and waited for him to process the information and articulate what was wrong, what made him uneasy.
"She makes a discovery, and then she dismisses the discovery about learning, only in the end to say that is the way to learn."
"Thank you, you nailed it."
I hurried back to the computer screen to study the essay further. Once I understood its inherent flaw, that it was indeed flawed, I could easily see the other fallacies in the writing. The paper actually espoused some grave misperceptions about learning.
Yet, we had all been captivated by the bravado, the confidence, but something just didn't feel right...and it wasn't.