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If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
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-Old Welsh Door Verse

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why I Hate My Job

"It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."

Our lesson before Thanksgiving in my eighth grade history classes was about a court case called Marbury v. Madison. In this case (1803) the United States Supreme Court declared that its role would be to evaluate laws to make sure they did not conflict with our Constitution. This sentence is part of the decision. As part of their assignment on this decision, my students were supposed to define the word "province" as it is used in this context.

Over half of them used this definition: "an administrative division or unit of a country."

It would be bad enough if they had merely gotten confused. Their mistake moved into the category of an insult because I used exactly this quote - and said incorrect definition - as an example of why it was important to look carefully at the context. "Every year students use the first definition in the dictionary for this word, " I warned. "Be careful! 'An administrative division or unit of a country' is referring to how some countries - like Canada - are divided. The US is divided into states, Canada is divided into provinces. This is not the correct definition for the word as it is used in this court decision. Keep reading the definitions and find the one that fits the context in the sentence."

And over half of them STILL used the first definition.

How long until I can retire?

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