I Was a Teenaged Smart Aleck

So, one of the fun parts of teaching at the high school where I went to school is that some of the teachers still remember me as a student, and one of my teachers recently showed me a worksheet of mine he’d saved from my senior year in high school, over 20 years ago now.

This worksheet was asking students to make a thesis statement from a given generalization. Most of these I performed in a reasonable way, but then there was this:

Generalization: Cocaine is the rich man’s aspirin.

Thesis: Rich men pay way too much for aspirin.

I don’t remember writing it, but it looks like an authentic document; it’s got my teen-aged handwriting and whatnot. So, yeah, I guess I gotta own up to it — I was a smart aleck.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, really, since I still make snarky, smart-alecky comments. Just a week ago, after a colleague emailed many of us to say she had figured out a way to “mass email” our students’ parents, I responded to all with:

I’d be more interested if you found a way to email mass to our students’ parents.

And so, as I realized that I hadn’t matured in 20 years, I also thought that maybe there was something in my sensibility, going back even to age 17, that was aware of language as something that is slippery, that is fluid, that may always suggest multiple meanings. Even before I could have identified my joke as playing with meanings, before I was aware that was what I was doing, I was doing it.

Perhaps other people accused of being smart alecks may also have this loose relationship with meanings? Perhaps smart-aleck students become poets and/or relativists?


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