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Author Topic: Ralph Waldo Emerson
trpollen
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Since OSC fans are the most educated people out there, I thought I'd ask for some help. I'm starting a research paper on RWE. I going to read, critique, and compare The American Scholar and Self-Reliance. Has anyone ever read either of them? Any insight on those two essays/lectures would be greatly appreciated, along with people's opinions in general on RWE!
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Roseauthor
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First: What are your thoughts based upon reading those two works and reading the history of Emerson?

I hate to be a skeptic, but when I was a teacher, we saw a lot of kids get online and cut and paste other people's opinions and yet if you asked them a simple question, they could be easily caught in a web of deception.

My personal opinion" Emerson was one of my favorites so I've read a great deal of his works.

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CRash
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You might have better luck posting this on the other side of the forum.
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ketchupqueen
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...where they'll tell you to "do your own homework". [Wink]

I agree that I'd like to hear what you have to say first, and would be happy to ask clarifying questions and/or comments after that.

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vonk
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heh, what a coinkidink. we were just discussing Emerson in another thread here. the one about The Oversoul. But that's a different essay all together. better in my opinion.
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Noemon
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Self Reliance, Emerson's little known novel, is a daring examination of individualistic society from the perspective of a member of a collectivist society who has been dispatched by his government to study the workings of daily life in the United States. Using this outsider's perspective, Emerson is able to examine the assumptions on which his own society is built. In many ways this was a novel ahead of its time; it was widely panned by critics of the day, but has gained the respect of later scholars.

The American Scholar was conceived of as a companion piece to the unpopular Self Reliance, and as such was a difficult sell to Emerson's publishers. They needn't have worried, however, as it was easily the most widely read book in the year of its publication. In it, Emerson attempted to dissect collectivist cultures as he had individualistic cultures in his prior book, having an inveterate student, when expelled from the university at which he had long studied, travel to the far east in search of a society more accepting of him. While Emerson's insights into individualistic society were cutting, and in modern evaluation brilliant, he unfortunately knew far too little about contemporary collectivist societies to perform the same sort of analysis of those cultures. Indeed, his work was choked by the misconceptions of Japanese and Chinese societies common to Americans of that era. While this helped to insure its success in the US, it is undeniable that The American Scholar is the shallowest of Emerson's works.

Hope this helps!

[ February 28, 2006, 05:50 PM: Message edited by: Noemon ]

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vonk
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where'd you cut and paste that from?
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Noemon
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I wrote it.
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vonk
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oh, well, my bad. you should write for Cliff's Notes. Is Self Reliance really little known? i always thought it was one of his more known works.
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Noemon
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[Smile]

Sent you an email, vonk.

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trpollen
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Roseauthor, I understand where you're coming from. I, too, have seen my fellow students use others' viewpoints in projects and presentations and when people begin to ask them questions, they are utterly unprepared. However, I am not one of those students and hasten to add that I'm just trying to get a headstart with some background information on my topic. I wanted to see what other people thought, and I'll be sure to put in my two cents when I gather it.

I only really check the OSC Discussions section of the forum, and the "other side" seems like to scary a place. Anyway, I'm not interested in having someone else write my paper; I merely wanted to start up a discussion and see if I could get a better feel for my topic.

Thank you very much, Noemon, for your insight. Hopefully, I'll know enough to share my opinions on the subject soon. This is quite the coincidence that the Over-soul topic appeared at the same time mine did. When I searched the forums for mention of Emerson just yesterday, the results were rather sparse. I'll be sure to read that one in addition to the other two, as it seems to have an interesting connection to OSC!

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Primal Curve
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<snicker> Oh children, children, children.
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ketchupqueen
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*giggles at Noemon*
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Celaeno
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Dear Noemon,

You are my hero.

<3,
Celaeno

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Anti-Chris
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Out of curiousity, when's this due by? I'd be curious to check back in to hear some feedback. I don't know too much about Emerson, and would be curious to read the essay and know how well it did, if you feel comfortable posting it on the forum.
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Princess Leah
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I'd be interested to see this essay, too. Maybe even post it here as soon as you are finished, if, as the Anti-Chris said, you feel comfortable.
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Noemon
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Kq, Celaeno, [Big Grin]
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Princess Leah
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quote:
Thank you very much, Noemon, for your insight.
trpollen thinks you're pretty cool too. That's why I'm excited to see his essay.

Because I think your summaries are amazing! so refreshing!

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Dagonee
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quote:
Indeed, his work was choked by the misconceptions of Japanese and Chinese societies common to Americans of that era.
I was going to quibble with this a little. Mixed in with the repetition of many of the most common misconceptions were keen insights into aspects of Japanese society that weren't acknowledge by the Japanese themselves until after the Meiji Restoration. It's possible that RWE's commentary on timber plantation-oriented forestry in the Tokugawa Shogunate were the basis of the merging of the communal and the national forests under the Restoration.

RWE - much influenced by Thoreau's much more naturalist bent - praised the recognition of the fragility of natural resources inherent in the plantation and timber conservation of the Shogunate, but quite cleverly skewered the solely economic motivation of the plan. His genius in recognizing how far ahead of America Japan was made more impressive by his vision of how much further even Japan could go with regards to environmental respect.

The American Scholar was not unknown in Japan after Perry opened up sea trade with them, and the attempt by the Restoration to protect the forests not only for economic exploitation but also as a bastion of the land itself may have been suggested by Emmerson's writings. The shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji was in fact a forest; it's possible that this is the indirect result of The American Scholar.

[ March 01, 2006, 12:02 AM: Message edited by: Dagonee ]

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Icarus
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That's fascinating! I had always heard Noemon's more orthodox view; this is totally new to me!
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Roseauthor
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I would have said the opposite! HDT was more influenced by RWE. Emerson is the one who seemed to silence Thoreau's stance by paying the taxes and if HDT really was standing against the government, why did he not remain in obscurity at Walden's pond?

Now please know, I lived this paragraph: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I have not lived.” I LOVE Thoreau!!!! NOT Like.. LOVE!

I still think this is the soul of who I am!

However, to simplify Thoreau's, (seeemingly bi-polar) writings into merely being a naturalist is absurd to me.

He was a diamond.. multi-faceted person which I think would be insulting to define him in such singularity of his beliefs/writings.

Maybe I read too much into your post Dagonee: I'm not trying to go to the extreme! (I've seen others do this and I'm betting I'm guilty right now!) [Smile]

However, throwing Thoreau into this is a whole new ballgame! I'd love to have coffee with you one day and just argue for fun!

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Dagonee
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quote:
However, to simplify Thoreau's, (seeemingly bi-polar) writings into merely being a naturalist is absurd to me.
Um, where did I say Thoreau was "merely a naturalist"? I merely said HDT had a more naturalist bent than RWE and that this influenced RWE.
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Scott R
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Emerson's writing had a much more powerful draw in Japan than I think you realize, Dagonee.

At the end of Scholar, Emerson concludes that the studious classes (priests and scholars, for example), by merit and demand of their intellectual capacity, MUST live apart from the common man. RWE notes that their burden is "such that the librarian stoops as lowly as the farmer at the end of his life." The Japanese took this foreigner's words to heart, and the classism that was so prevalent before the arrival of this text was strengthened.

I don't like Emerson. He dresses his ideas of the master race in mysticism and (IMO) shoddy philosophy, but comes down to it, he's just another rich white man who never got dirt under his fingernails.

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Dagonee
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Scott, that's very interesting. I'd never heard that before.

Did you get that from Okimoto's work?

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Scott R
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Yep. I snuck into one of my wife's classes at BYU to listen to Robert Benson talk about American influences in post-Perry Japan. Emerson was one of his smaller points (and really, there weren't a LOT of American influences in post-Perry Japan), but previous to that, I'd been an Emerson devotee. I think all high-school AP literature students are-- it's like wearing black, and using words like 'insipid' and 'fecund.'

Anyway, Benson mentioned Okimoto's critique of Emerson, and I checked out Pine and Gunpowder from the library. Eye opening, really. To this day, I can't see the words 'American Scholar' without foaming at the mouth.

Dangit-- now I need a napkin.

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trpollen
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The paper is due April 7th. Obviously, it isn't the sort of thing that one can wait until the last minute on, so I'll be posting as soon as possible. As these essays are highly controversial, I will be reasearching and discussing all sides of the argument and using multiple sources (6). When I get the final grade, I'll be sure to tell everyone. I'm delighted with the response I've gotten thus far and the interest everyone has taken. Thank you!

By the way, Thoreau was something of Emerson's protégé. To simplify, when RWE ran out of his own ideas, he began to help HDT develop his.

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Bob_Scopatz
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quote:
I think it's apalling that no mention of the great Hindu cleric Ravi Shan-kar (no...no relation the more famous modern musician of that name) is being made here. Both Emerson and Thoreau (not to mention Melville and even Whitman) came under his spell. There would have been no Japan and China links with out the soulful direction of the great Ravi!

Of course, it's a bit difficult to find modern references to this great mystic, especially in the English language. But some scholars have found veiled references to his name in "acrostic-style" deliberate word choices by each of these prolific authors. Whitman is known to have composed 13 separate poems in which the first lines of consecutive stanzas begin with words that spell out "Ravi" (or some variant thereof). Less well documented are the lines from Theroux's collected letters in which (when published in the folio edition, the words "Shank," "Ravi," and "Ravinana" (a diminutive familiar-form nickname of the holy one) appear on the pages at the exact center of the book. Emerson's works are thought to include even subtler nods to his favorite mentor.

This "Indian Influence" on these authors was so well known in their day that several contemporaries have commented on it and wondered (out of jealousy?) whether these men were just in it for the Kama Sutra, and the drugs. A scurilous slander that actually caused a rift in the tight-knit community of Concord and ended only with the lengthly departure of both Emerson and Theroux.

Letters home from HDT discuss this event in a family code. There is some talk of a "broken engagement" for example... References to "the Hindoo" are sprinkled throughout letters to HDT written by his sister and other family members.

It is no wonder, then, that RWE and HDT became known as "the Tigers of Concord" among their circle of friends.

Hmm...maybe that'd be a good title?

I'm not sure where I got this.

[ March 02, 2006, 12:07 AM: Message edited by: Bob_Scopatz ]

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T_Smith
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Might I point out, TR, that using an online forum as a reference, while great to get opinions and viewpoints, shouldn't be used as a firm resource of information?
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Roseauthor
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I think TR is aware of that.. however, I've seen students cut and paste forum ideas as their own. I would fear that more than I'd fear them using a forum as a resource.

I'm not aware of Japan's interpretations of HDT or RWE.. so I'm enjoying the enlightenment on this subject.

Dagonee-I acknowledged the fact that I felt I was perceiving your comment in the extreme regarding naturalism. I knew you must think deeper than a simple post.

I'm going to sit by and do my lurking.. this has remained an enlightening/thought provoking thread.

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Noemon
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Trpollen, I've got to come clean here. I suspect that you are already aware of this, but quite a few of us have been pulling your leg, starting with me. It isn't uncommon for people in high school to come here looking for others to do their homework for them, and I initially took you for one of them. I think I misjudged you, and I apologize.

I probably read "The American Scholar" and "Self Reliance" in high school, but I don't have any memory of what they're about. Virtually everying in my post summarizing the two "novels" is, to put it politely, fiction. As far as I'm aware, Emerson never wrote a thing about Japan, and unless I'm mistaken he didn't publish any novels, period.

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Icarus
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Which makes his influence over there all the more startling!
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Princess Leah
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Aw, I wanted to read the paper!

(Shoot. I think with that comment I've undeniably proven myself a horrible person. [Frown] )

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Roseauthor
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NOE: you killed my lurking now! Feel bad.. crawl under a table!!!!

I was gathering data in my lurking because I thought you were serious! I was going to send it to my aunt (who really is from Japan!) LOL

I think the joke was more on ME now! tee-freak'n-hee.. [Smile]

However, I will conceded with some of what you said. We are, by nature skeptics when it comes to people coming and asking opinions without giving their own first.

I'll still hold fast to this skeptic persona. But I think yall got me on that one more than you got him.. [Smile]

[ March 02, 2006, 03:37 AM: Message edited by: Roseauthor ]

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ketchupqueen
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I can't believe you broke it, Noemon!
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Celaeno
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Aww...this was the only thread on this side of the river that I read. I'm going to miss it now that it's broken.

Despite it all, Noemon, you can still be my hero.

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Bob_Scopatz
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You know, I was having some trouble confirming that last post of mine, then I ran across some stuff in a site about Joseph Campbell (the guy who writes about the recurrence of hero stories in our collective "mythology").

Turns out RWE went by a pseudonym while in India. He chose a literary name, and transmogrified it a bit. Started out as Lord D'Erby (originator of the derby hat, btw). But he changed it to D'Erth (get it? "of the earth?" ha ha). In honor of his new-found faith, he took the last name Vedic, but changed that too -- RWE was a compulsive tinkerer, to be sure.

You may have heard of D'Erth Vedir?

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Noemon
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[Smile] Thanks Celaeno!

Roseauthor, sorry you got sucked in--I wasn't sure whether you were playing along or buying into it.

[Laugh] Bob

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Dagonee
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Noemon, thanks for the kicking off the fun and also for letting everyone in on it before too much research time was wasted.

For the record, most of the stuff about forestry in Japan is based in fact; none of the RWE stuff is.

Also, Okimoto is a Japanese author who has written on American influence in Japan. I have no idea if he ever wrote on RWE, but my wife says RWE is actually pretty popular over there.

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Roseauthor
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I thought about pulling the same trick but decided to start off thread with my honest skepticism instead.

However, I was going to send a link to my aunt to get her opinions on what yall wrote and then do a little research! At least I didn't spend hours on research!! [Smile]

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trpollen
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A cleverly played joke. Really! It's just too bad that you all severely misinterpreted my intentions. As members of the OSC forum, I would like to think that discussions could be carried out in an adult manner, as compared to acting on harsh stereotypes. It's unfortunate that I had only very briefly skimmed the replies made to my original post when I then gave my thanks.

I think I have just enough common sense to know not to paste other people's opinions from an online forum into a formal research paper, anyway. If anyone wants to comment seriously on RWE and the two essays in question, they're more than welcome.

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vonk
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I have never read American Scholar, but Self Reliance is an excellent essay. I liked The Oversoul better though.

There try to use that you cheater! you can't fool me into giving you actual information. i know you, oh yeah, i know.

hehe, i'm kidding.

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MrSquicky
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Dude, what part of do your own homework do you not understand?
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Primal Curve
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quote:
As members of the OSC forum, I would like to think that discussions could be carried out in an adult manner, as compared to acting on harsh stereotypes.
Ha!

quote:
It's fortunate that I had only very briefly skimmed the replies made to my original post when I then gave my thanks.
Fixed that for you.

quote:
I think I have just enough common sense to know not to paste other people's opinions from an online forum into a formal research paper, anyway. If anyone wants to comment seriously on RWE and the two essays in question, they're more than welcome.
I don't think that's going to happen. We're not here to help you with your homework in any way. We're not citable sources. What possible use could our commentary be except as a source for you to borrow thoughts and ideas that are not your own? You're writing this paper yourself, do your own work.
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Dagonee
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I don't mind discussing ideas with people writing a paper - assuming it's within their honor code.

Many people have discussed homework projects here. If you want to know why your request made us skeptical, it's because you didn't share your thoughts on the subject. There was no evidence that you had invested any mental effort on the subject.

We don't participate in such discussions because we like to help people with their homework. We participate in them because we like discussing certain subjects. We like seeing new ideas about topics of interest and we like to share our ideas on those topics. The best outcome is when two people combine their ideas into a whole that is more than the sum of the individual ideas.

This isn't possible when you don't share your ideas with us. And, since it's a homework assignment, there's at least a chance that you're not interested in sharing ideas but only receiving them.

The best way to avoid such skepticism is to share your current thoughts when posing the question.

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Ender12
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Yes, I would hope that we would help a student asking for advice if he/she shared their thoughts with us.
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Icarus
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quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
Trpollen, I've got to come clean here. I suspect that you are already aware of this, but quite a few of us have been pulling your leg, starting with me. It isn't uncommon for people in high school to come here looking for others to do their homework for them, and I initially took you for one of them. I think I misjudged you, and I apologize.

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Classy.

quote:
Originally posted by trpollen:
As members of the OSC forum, I would like to think that discussions could be carried out in an adult manner, as compared to acting on harsh stereotypes. It's unfortunate that I had only very briefly skimmed the replies made to my original post when I then gave my thanks.

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Chill, dude.

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Bob_Scopatz
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tr...

You would have no way of knowing how often people come here looking for help on homework assignments and how quickly the usual thread is simply shut down by the other posters. You should know that several of the members here are teachers. Many more are students.

When someone posts questions about what is clearly a school assignment, the usual response is to simply tell them to do their own work, and (as RoseAuthor did) invite the person to share their thoughts.

So far, your contribution to this thread has been to ask for other people's opinions, thank them politely for stuff that (had you bothered to read your assignment) was pure poppycock -- though brilliantly funny, and then get upset because you didn't spend the time to uncover the ruse before issuing your thanks.

In other words, you still haven't read the material, have you? At least you haven't given us any opinions on it that would indicate a grasp of the topic. Sharing your thoughts would ultimately give us something we can legitimately help you hone. It's been 5 days since you were invited to share your thoughts and yet...nothing.

If you really want an intelligent conversation about this (or any topic), I suggest you start it not by fawning over the folks here, but giving us your honest thoughts on the topic first.

As it is, I suspect you're pretty lucky that Noemon is a decent enough human being that he exposed his ruse himself before you wasted any time on it.

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trpollen
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Maybe no one caught this, but I haven't started the project yet. Having little prior knowledge, I have no way of giving my own opinion. In light of this, maybe the other posters should have just "chilled" and waited for me to get a grasp on the topic so we could have a logical discussion, as compared to wasting their time unsuccessfully trying to teach me a lesson.
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Primal Curve
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quote:
Maybe no one caught this, but I haven't started the project yet.
No, no. I don't think you understand. We aboslutely did realize this. It is what prompted the entire discussion to begin with. Do you have some reading comprehension issues?
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El JT de Spang
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quote:
as compared to wasting their time unsuccessfully trying to teach me a lesson.
Then you're a slow learner. If you can't give your own opinion, maybe you hold off on starting a thread meant to give you a jump start on your assignment. If you want to discuss RWE, go learn something about the man so you'll get the joke when people B.S. you about him. Don't get all huffy cause your thread got used as an inside joke, cause doing your due diligence would have put you on the inside.
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