About half of my students in AP Language are on the school's winning Model UN team. This has been a real boon for the classes this year; these students are already convinced that language matters, that rhetoric is powerful, and that the world around them is exciting.
But -- here's a weird thing that happened in the last couple of weeks: I was teaching them about rhetorical fallacies, and we were going through a slew of them -- slippery slope, ad hominem attacks, red herrings, straw person, etc.
And for many of the fallacies, the Model UN girls would glance at each other and smile and then tell me, "We do this all the time at Model UN; it works really well!" So then we'd talk about how these can be really effective strategies but that they are dirty pool; the important thing is to spot when your rhetorical opponents are using these fallacies so that you can (a) not fall for them, and (b) call people on them. So the lesson wound up just fine, but I was concerned about what our Model UN folks were doing.
I asked the Model UN advisor about this, and she said that the goal is for the participants to get noticed, and that in a way being over the top in one's rhetoric is a good thing. It's all about attracting attention from the other teenagers who are all participating in the Model UN simulations.
So I'm kind of bummed that our students are actually practicing these rhetorical fallacies and are finding success in doing so. I mean, seriously, our Model UN team comes home with trophies. I was an extra chaperone on a team conference last year, and I was appalled at seeing the girls wear overly tight and short skirts and really high heels, because the more sexualized girls can get more of their motions passed since the teenaged boys salivate over them. So I was already dismayed at what the team was apparently teaching the girls. But the rhetorical fallacies business is bumming me out even more.