Dictionaries Are Supposed to Be Helpful

So, i am sitting there in independent study, correcting papers at the teacher’s desk…minding my own business, when suddenly…the faint sounds of a soft spoken person directed towards me grabs my attention. Sure enough, it is someone who wants me to help them with a problem they do not understand. I am always eager to listen to what a student has to say or help them when they need it. Remember, I have the answer key, anyway… I actually look forward to hearing what they have to say…unless a group of them want to say something “inappropriate’ at once… The times when I have a whole group at once trying to speak…not cool! But it was easy now…we were sitting ..across from one another. the room was like a library, it felt like being in one. She looked at me seriously as if she was ready to listen. She asked, “What is a nation?” I repeated her question, she nodded “yes, a nation.” Well, usually, I don’t like to seem smarter than my students, really. So, I try and see things from their perspective and be simple and direct. i do not assume i know the answer, if they do not know it themselves….

So, I said, ” In what context?” and she stared and repeated to me “What is a nation? I need to give an example of one ” “I am supposed to write the name of one.”.., she said. ” Where’s the dictionary?” We look and she finds it. She opens it up and reads it with me. The size of the print is so small…we both are reading it together to make sure we are reading it right… together we try to decipher what it says a nation means. She listens…I repeat “race, birth, ‘ and we both seem surprised. ” I think it means where you are born.” “What else does it say?” We start to read…”wow” (it says) boundaries of …” and we continue to read. In this dictionary it says something to the effect of a place with boundaries and whoever is born within those boundaries is considered a part of the same nation..or race. basically. That was the definition “number one”…almost…then it said at the last part of the “fnumber 1″ definition for the word NATION that, not only was it a a place of origin for those who were born within its boundaries…and that it determined your race…last it addedt this exception to the rule….”excluding Jews”. The term nation had nothing to do with the Jewish “race”, I guess. “Jew” was not considered as part of the meaning for the word “nation”.

I think she was more confused after looking that word up in the dictionary, unfortunately, thamn before she looked it up. I let her write her answer herself. I do not know what she wrote, she seemed content though.

I wondered why Jews were so different, and asked Paul to help me out when I got home.
He is Jewish himself, he should know. This is what he said,
“In Israel are there people who are not Jews?”
“okay, see?”
“No” I said. “Whats your point?”
“Jewish means religion. It does not mean race.”
I still don’t get it. (Wait a minute,wouldn’t the term “American” be somewhat the same as Jew, in this case? I think so. )

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