Monday, July 17, 2006

In "Philosopher's Stone," letters from Hogwart's to Harry Potter are addressed, "Mr. H. Potter, Cupboard under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, England" to which we can add, "Western Europe, European Continent, Planet Earth, Sol System, Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy, Known Universe."

How does a postal delivery officer know which mailbox to place one letter and not another? The information on any address is arranged from the smallest possible unit that needs to be located (the person) to the most reasonably large locus where said person is most likely to be found, in ever-widening concentric circles.

So any terrestrial post office can easily locate the intended receipient of a piece of mail by country, then by state or province, then district, then street, then housing unit, (then in Harry's case, by specific room in the house) till finally the mail reaches the right person. The additional information might be useful for perhaps an inter-galactic mail courier, but it follows a similar narrowing procedure.

Whichever layer of our address we physically occupy determines our view of the world in which we live. We wish for our GP students to at least live as citizens at the national (country) level and to write from that perspective. Better yet, if they could feel like they occupy a much larger space, on the regional or even the global level, the scope from which they write would be so much wider.

Unfortunately, most of our students still write as if they only live inside their "Cupboard under the Stairs," cooped up within the confines of 4 dim, dusty walls with no window to even look out of. And they wonder why despite so much work they undertake to do better in GP, they still find difficulty getting a satisfactory grade.

Open the door and step outside. The world is bigger than your comfy bedroom.

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