Have you ever thought you would like to write newspaper editorials for a living? If you have, let's play a game.
I will lay out a set of facts. You write an editorial comment based on those facts. The next day, pretend you have just read your published editorial. Compose a letter to the editor attacking it.
The editorial should be written with compassion, understanding and balance - qualities that are mandatory for intelligent editorial comment. The letter to the editor attacking your editorial should be passionately intemperate, scornful and uncompromising. You will probably find that the letter of criticism is a lot easier to write than the editorial.
Here are the facts on which you will base your editorial and your rebuttal:
A clergyman founds a school in which children will be required to adhere to strict codes of conduct.
Some parents choose to send their children to the clergyman's school, but the children do not always conduct themselves outside the school as they are required to behave inside it.
Just before graduation day, three students are expelled for dancing and drinking beer in a discotheque - activities forbidden to students of the school.
The parents of one expelled lad, the valedictorian, obtain a court order forbidding graduation exercises to be held if their son is excluded.
"I started this school and I started my church and I've fought for these beliefs and for these rules for 14 years," the clergyman says. "I can't compromise my beliefs now, not for a boy who is a disgrace to his class." In an era of immorality and permissiveness, he stands like a fortress against sin (as he defines sin).
The clergyman is quoted in a newscast as saying that other seniors would not want to graduate with a student guilty of such conduct. A student says the clergyman did not ask seniors for their views.
Several parents tell reporters they thought the rules applied only to activities inside the school, not to conduct outside the school.
The class salutatorian says she thinks the boys have already been punished for something she doesn't consider wrong. She says that if the rules apply to outside conduct, only one senior might be free of taint.
To date, no reporter has told us why students or parents think it is proper to require students to conform to a moral code inside the school that does not apply outside.
To date, no reporter has surveyed the families of the 21 seniors to ascertain how many fathers and mothers will admit to having danced, smoked a cigarette, kissed or sampled a glass of beer by the time they were 18.
Of those who identify themselves with a religion, some decline to be bound by all of their faith's precepts, but we don't know what the percentage is. Sometimes with guilty feelings and sometimes without, they disobey rules they don't like.
Of those parents who admit to having danced, smoked, kissed or drunk beer, we do not know how many now believe such activities were crimes that should have been harshly punished.
As you can see, your editorial would be on a sounder footing if you were given more complete data on which to base it. Nevertheless, there's enough here to get you started. The real fun will come tomorrow when you attack your own "published" moralizing.