On Dropping Babies and Mistaken Assumptions

November 12, 2014 § 2 Comments


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Renée E. D’Aoust

In the “My Favorite Essay to Teach” section of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, Renée D’Aoust explains why she loves introducing students to J.D. Schraffenberger’s “Dropping Babies” from Brevity 39.  Yes, we’re biased.  Still, it’s a great discussion of teaching a controversial essay and how mistaken assumptions can interfere with close reading.  Here’s an excerpt followed by a link to Assay:

I love teaching J.D. Schraffenberger’s “Dropping Babies” because it thrills me to receive reading response papers that insist Schraffenberger should be arrested. Immediately. Often half the students insist that “the authorities” should be called: the students are concerned, stating, “The mother is crazy.” I interpret “the authorities” to be some kind of nebulous parental enforcement panel, though a few students do name Child Protective Services as the agency to phone. These students miss what I consider deeply nuanced honesty in the essay. To my relief, the other half of students attest to how Schraffenberger’s reflection resonates, recognizing those times when we are all questionable. One student wrote that she had “done this, too” while another wrote, “Schraffenberger is human. I wish I had those words when I was frustrated with my baby at three a.m.”

Read Renée D’Aoust full essay at Assay.

 

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§ 2 Responses to On Dropping Babies and Mistaken Assumptions

  • jeffstroud says:

    Is that what writing is all about? Moving people, getting them to “feel” and discuss what the writer is seeking to convey! I follow this piece back to “Dropping Babies” and then to the second blog! I am sorry I read other peoples response first, it took the challenge out of the reading. Yet reminded me of of myself and my Mom with Alzheimer’s, finding out who you are in all times of the day and night!

  • Sammy D. says:

    Super! I, too, made the mistake of reading comments first, but tried to filter that while I read ‘Dropping Babies’. I wouldn’t have ignored the cultural tradition and I wouldn’t have suggested calling Child Services.

    Perhaps some students lack enough personal experiences, especially as a sleep-deprived caretaker.

    If we are honest with ourselves, can any of us say we haven’t crossed a line that put us on the wrong side of a moral or legal action or put someone else in harm’s way? If there was a hint of a developing child abuse pattern or lack of recognition for what had occurred, I’d say call Child Services. I interpreted the writer’s action as a seminal moment of awakening – the magnitude of which precluded ever repeating that behavior.

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