Definition Understood

A class and I were arguing with each other today about what the word Traitor means, because we’re looking at the events that led to Julius Caesar becoming Dictator-for-Life of the Roman Republic. And their assignment is to answer the question (with quotations from the text) as to whether Caesar is betraying the Republic or not.

And the class began arguing whether he’s a little bit of a traitor and a little bit not.

I waved my hands in a gesture of negation. “No, no.  I want you to take sides.  Traitor is not a neutral word.  It’s digital.  It’s on-off.  He’s either one or the other.”

The class began objecting. I finally said, “Look, either you’re willfully trying to overthrow the government or not. You can’t be a almost-traitorous in the same way that you can’t be almost-pregnant.”

They all laughed.  They got it. Then they chose sides. They’re almost equally divided between the “Caesar is a traitor” party and the “Caesar is trying to restore the republic.”

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Julius Caesar’s CIVIL WARS with this class. We’re going to have fun.

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