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Student Reported To Parents For Writing An ‘Unpopular Opinion’ Essay In Defense Of Gossip

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Some students follow assignments so much that it backfires. But, students should be rewarded for being thoughtful and putting in a lot of effort.

Redditor introubleatschool2 encountered this very issue with their parents. So they turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for moral judgment.

They asked:

AITA for writing an essay for school that I knew would be controversial and strongly against my parents’ and teacher’s beliefs?

The Original Poster (OP) explained:

“My English class had a project to write an essay with the point of persuading people to agree with an unpopular opinion.”

“My family is Christian, most of my community is, I was raised that way but am no longer faithful. But they still are, and say gossiping is sinful.”

“I thought it would be interesting to write an essay saying that gossip is good.”

“I came up with a bunch of arguments that I’ll give you for context.”

“Gossip acts as a warning and helps people protect themselves. For example I wouldn’t date anyone who I heard was cruel to their exes.”

“Gossip can reveal other people’s values and help determine social compatibility. For example if I met a person who gossiped nastily about LGBT people I would know to keep away.”

OP had a point.

“Gossip can be a bonding experience between friends, it is cathartic to vent about emotional events rather than stew in silence.”

“‘Gossip’ is a gendered term, men’s talk is rarely called gossip.”

“Perhaps the reason that talk is seen as negative for women but neutral for men, is that women’s voices are often undervalued and demeaned.”

“Also, some people fear the impact of women sharing their experiences and thoughts freely.”

“When conversations are called ‘gossipy,’ it can often be out of suppression rather than kindness. For example, when the Church discourages negative talk about religious leaders, that is dangerous.”

“Yes, some talk is hurtful. But it should be called bigoted, racist, or something specific.”

“Not simply called gossip, because calling it gossip minimizes it.”

OP’s teacher was not entirely into the idea.

“I turned it in a little nervous about how my English teacher would react because I felt like I picked a really unpopular opinion. She’s always telling students not to gossip, so I was worried she might also take it personally.”

“Today, my teacher told me that she and the guidance counselor wanted to discuss my essay in a meeting after school this week.”

“I asked why and she said we’d talk in the meeting. I asked about my grade and she said she hadn’t assigned a grade yet.”

“My parents were also called, and when they found out I wrote an essay called ‘In Defense of Gossip’ they were mad. I wanted to read them the essay but honestly they were so mad I didn’t think they’d listen to 15 pages.”

“They said they didn’t raise me this way and that I was encouraging bullying, and saying that I was being provocative on purpose.”

“I feel that’s kinda unfair, my teacher told us to defend an unpopular or controversial opinion and now people are mad I followed the assignment earnestly?”

“I guess I can see where my teacher is coming from a little, because it might feel like a personal attack since she hates gossip. And my parents too, it might feel like I never listened to the stuff they taught me about kindness.”

“But I feel also like I was honest.”

“AITA for writing that essay?”

“I had a feeling it would be controversial.”

Redditors gave their opinions on the situation by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors agreed OP was not the a**hole.

“NTA but welcome to adult hypocrisy. Do as I say not as I do.” ~ Miskatonixxx

“If you haven’t done it already, I’d suggest looking into places outside of school where you can submit the essay. This actually sounds really interesting and could also work out for scholarships if you win anything or help with college applications.”

“ETA: Thanks for the awards! And OP, check out some of the replies below; they gave great advice on where to submit the essays as well! Plus you can always check online papers, writing contests, magazines, etc.” ~ DebateObjective2787

“I would highly recommend that OP sends their essay to associate professor Chad Bennet at chad.bennett@utexas.edu. He taught an amazing honors gossip class at UT and wrote a book on the topic as well.”

“All the points you covered in your post were covered in our class – the fact that you constructed such a strong and nuanced argument shows that you are exceedingly intelligent and deserve a safe learning environment!” ~ Sexy_Chocolate

OP argued.

“I think, to be fair to my teacher, it might have come off as a really personal attack. She’s always chastising students against gossiping, and some of my points were…”

“Linking a dislike of gossip to a gendered double standard, where men’s social talk is seen as just hanging out, and much of women’s social talk is seen as gossip.”

“And when accusations of ‘gossip’ are only aimed towards women, it indicates a double standard and perhaps a lack of respect towards what women have to say.”

“That silencing ‘gossip’ can enable abuse.”

“That gossip is useful in identifying and avoiding people who present a genuine danger or potential emotional harm.”

“Calling hurtful words ‘just gossip’ actually minimizes the real hurt words can cause, and it’s more helpful to chastise people about why specifically they did wrong, like to say ‘what you just said is racist, we don’t allow that here’ then to frame it as ‘just don’t talk behind their back like a gossip!'”

“I can see how that could come off as accusations she’s sexist, enabling abuse, not helping women protect each other, and not actually being effective in shutting down hurtful comments.”

“And honestly… Her double standard with only telling women off for gossip… Or for calling things gossip, when I see them as looking out for my friends and warning them about stuff…”

“Does get on my nerves. She’s far from the only person doing it, so do my parents, church leadership, other teachers, etc. But she was one of them, and the essay was touching on something personal.”

“I can see how that could be a hard thing to read, especially to someone who really values not talking behind other’s backs and tries to teach others to do the same…”

Gossip can be good.