The remainder of our time in Fort Lauderdale passed relatively peacefully. We worked at Horses and the Handicapped and were even treated to dinner on the third night by the former student’s parents (which gave me a chance to talk to non-students for the first time in a while; very nice!!!). I think what we did helped, which is a good feeling.
One of the obvious latent purposes to such activities is the bonding that takes place among the students. Granted, these were all good students to begin with, but as a result of this activity they developed friendships with other good students. Those new networks will reinforce their positive behaviors, in a sense enmeshing them in self-reinforcing, positive relationships. That’s definitely a bonus to this program.
Oh, and one last thing. The van had a CD player (and an MP3 player hookup, but we didn’t have the requisite cable with us). Students brought CDs, so we had music; including, as one student put it, “classics,” meaning music from the 1990s. (Yeah, I guffawed on that one.) But music isn’t sufficient to entertain me on long car rides. So, the person sitting in the passenger seat doubled as my navigator and as my unwitting debating victim. On the way down to Fort Lauderdale I destroyed a students’ dream of advocating for “natural” food and “local grown” produce by simply insisting that she: (1) define “natural”; (2) explain why “natural” is good; and (3) delineate clearly why local grown is better than not-local when the environmental impact and nutritional values are basically equivalent (I read this recently in a study). She couldn’t do any of the three. Dreams crushed!
A second student was an unwilling participant in my road trip entertainment when I asked her what she wanted to do with her life and she said her goal was to write a book about how human society is “corrupt.” Again, I simply asked her a question that she couldn’t answer and, in the process, undermined her life’s goal. The question: “What do you mean by ‘corrupt’?” She couldn’t answer it. Bye bye bestseller list dream!
On the way back I had a different navigator/debate victim. We began the trip home analyzing her global warming denialism. It turns out she actually accepts that the environment is warming and that humans are probably playing a part, but she was arguing that it didn’t matter because it was all god’s will. Through my incessant application of the Socratic method I eventually got her to admit that she was hiding behind her religious beliefs because she was unwilling to change her lifestyle to alleviate global warming (she drives a fuel inefficient BMW and does very little to conserve). After having one of her beliefs destroyed in my argument forge, she smartly changed the topic to dating and kept me preoccupied with stories so I couldn’t argue with her (with a few minor exceptions). Oh, and she bought me a Dr. Pepper. I’m happier when I sneak a guilty pleasure like a Dr. Pepper, which I only drink on occasion.
The students all said they were happy to have me along, but I guess we’ll see. If they don’t ask me to be the advisor for another Alternative Break, I’ll know my arguing was too rough…