Everything’s an argument

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Everything’s an argument.” My introduction to AP Language and Composition was encapsulated by this sentence, delivered with gusto by Mr. Curnett. Over the year, my peers and I delved into the diverse realms of meaning implied by this statement.

Mr. Curnett began by using the example of a clock — a standard wall-mounted piece issued to every classroom — that I had stared at countless times throughout the year. Ostensibly, it was a piece of plastic hardware that tracked the seconds, minutes and hours of the day, but he made it count for so much more. He called on us individually to define it through our worldview. The class pragmatist went first, saying it wasn’t a clock we were looking at, “it was time.” Our resident Socrates responded with “time obeys no one” to the materialist’s claim that “Seiko makes good clocks.” I pointed out that the clock represented different mechanisms working in tandem; having even a single component out of sync would produce an error that would compound over time. Like the number of hours in a day, Mr. Curnett obtained 24 different answers from us, leaving me enthralled by the gradations that exist all around. Language allows us to articulate these nuances.

The allure of AP classes are that they teach high school students to navigate the academic expectations they will face in college. Like in college, these classes seek to ingrain in us skills and thought processes, rather than rewarding just the regurgitation of information. They teach us how to think, not what to think.

Of all the classes that I have taken, AP Language is the one that most broadened my perspective. This sentiment was typified by a debate on advertising, which generated many heated arguments fueled by our respective social and economic ideologies. Though I found several compelling, the argument I eventually spoke in favor of emphasized the deterministic effect of advertising on our perception.

Language is what imbues things with meaning, be they inanimate objects or abstract ideas, enabling us to build upon and express our individuality. AP Language remains my favorite class because it has empowered me to examine my own beliefs, flesh out my rationale for them and convey them with clarity in a way that effectively contributes to discourse. Every lesson left me astounded by the innumerable facets of our world — be they as pervasive as advertising or as inane as clocks.

A month and a half into working for The Daily Californian, I sit at my computer and try to remember this lesson. Every word, comma, period, exclamation point, semicolon, headline, subhead, caption and so on has a purpose. Regardless of whether the article I am editing covers a new café opening in Berkeley or the upcoming ASUC election, I ask myself one question: What is the writer arguing?