Who can you know better?
Leada Gore, Editor
The email message from my sister popped into my inbox early on a Tuesday morning.
"Can you read over this paper and let me know what you think?" she wrote.
Readying myself for some heavy-duty English paper or a look at early European history, I opened the file and found a paper titled "Me." Her assignment, part of a introduction to social work class, was to write a paper about herself.
That shouldn't have been too hard, I thought to myself. I think I could handle a paper if all I had to do was write about myself. It's not like there's a lot of research involved or I have to find some outside sources to quote.
Still, I read on, checking for sentence structure and spelling. I sent it back to her with the words "Looks good. However, I don't think you're really 5 feet, 3 inches tall. I think you're really about 5 feet, 1 inch and that's in heels. I would give you an "F" for that exaggeration alone."
This wasn't my first brush with the "write a paper about yourself" assignment. I had read a similar paper years earlier, except this one was penned by my college roommate, a counseling major. She, too, was assigned to write about herself. It just so happened this fell at the same time as the term paper in my American history class. We both spent hours working on our papers. She studied her motivations, influences and aspirations. I studied the history of the American Indian movement. My motivations, influences and aspirations didn't matter a whit to my professor.
When we were done with our respective papers, my roommate and I swapped them. We made the usual spelling and grammar changes and then talked about the content itself.
"Kind of dry, isn't it?" she said, obviously not intrigued by the Battle of Wounded Knee.
"Rather mushy, isn't it?" I asked, wondering why she left out the part about how she never picks up after herself around our apartment.
We both went away, smug in the fact our papers were the true works of educational art.
Still, in the back of my mind, her words hung with me. Perhaps I should interject a little more of myself, a little more emotion into the paper. Inspired by her "About Me" paper, I added a paragraph at the end with glowing words about struggle, American Indians, the White Man, capitalism and colonization. I thought I had found a way to balance historical facts with inspirational emotion.
I turned my paper in, receiving it back a few days later. There was a red "B" at the top with a note: "Miss DeVaney: Good paper, though next time I would leave out the editorial at the end. Perhaps you have been watching too much of 'Dances with Wolves.'"
So much for that. My roommate got an "A." Her professor's note said she had amazing insight, though how hard can that be when the topic is yourself?