English class isn’t about English anymore.
It really isn’t.
So far this year, we have watched around six movies, written five movie reflections, one essay, read (sort of) Macbeth, a stackload of translated literature, and several psycho-analytical seminars on the characters in books.
Oh yeah, we read Catcher in the Rye. And as we all know, while Catcher in the Rye is good in concept, its narrative is mind-numbingly simple. It’s like Jackson Pollock — hailed as genius because he thought of it first.
(Jackson Pollock is the guy who splats on a canvas and calls it art, by the way. Father of abstract expressionism.)
We did NO GRAMMAR whatsoever. No literary devices, journalism, different styles of writing…
Really. Macbeth was very shallowly touched upon. Catcher in the Rye discussion turned into whether Holden Caulfield was psychotic (of fucking course he was.)
Movie reflections were mostly “what were the main similarities between the two characters?” or “what do YOU think can be improved upon in the movie?” How do you go marking something like that?
And what is the other class doing? Something a lot more sane. One class is reading, writing short fiction, learning about poetic devices, all the good stuff.
Another class … is doing something less sane. They are making videos to a music piece about crimes against humanity.
No wonder Canadians never pass the SATs. We all fail in the grammar section. The last time I remember doing grammar in school was in grade seven (something about clauses?). The last time I did poetic devices was in grade … nine. I think.
To drive my point home, this is usually what happens in my English class. I will not name names.
Pretend my teacher’s name is Georgia.
[Bell rings. Students are seen entering the room at an astonishingly slow rate. Lighting is low. After ten or so minutes, the class settles down.]
Ms Georgia: Hello [insert witty nickname of the day here]. How was your weekend?
[Several shouts from the students. Most murmurs. Some yells about some dumb romance comedy they saw that was apparently sooo goood]
Random Student A: I saw the 40 Year Old Virgin todaii! Eet waz sooo gud!
Random Student B: OMgzzzz! Liek totalley!
Ms Georgia: Really? I haven’t watched that. I was busy editing scripts with the screen arts students (THEY WOULD DROWN IF WITHOUT MY EXPERTISE). BY THE WAY you folks should go to the play the drama majors are putting up. It’s really good, I think you’ll all enjoy it.
[We've been to their dumb shows. They're bad. Stories are so PG it hurts. They realized that somewhere last year and decided to go hippie avant-garde indie bullshit instead. Which just ended up as a two really overly dramatic people on stage talking about their abusive parents or something.]
Mrs Georgia: So [insert previous nickname here], today we are going to read this excerpt from [insert post modern German/Argentine/Italian/Swiss/Japanese/Puerto Rican/Spanish/Serbian/F arose/Islandic/Latvian/Antarctican/Any Nationality that doesn't Speak English writer here]. Student C, read please. [Turns to Student C and grins]
Bob: [Student C will be talking a lot so let's call him Bob. He starts reading for a few paragraphs before stopped by Ms Georgia.]
Ms. Georgia: Isn’t that funny? I find [insert some philosophy argument here with holes in them. The philosophy topic must be one that doesn't really have an answer. ie: Is reality real?]
Bob: Yes, but [points out really obvious hole in her argument]
Ms Georgia: You’re missing the point though, [points out something totally irrelevant in Bob's statement that contributes to nothing. ie: you're only stating your opinion.]
Bob: That’s not the point of what I’m saying. I’m saying that … [ tries to restate his argument.]
Ms Georgia: I’m not getting what you’re saying dear. You need to construct your sentences better. [Restating sentence: failed]
Student D: [Let's call him Rob] Ms Georgia, what he’s trying to say is [insert an absurdly simple explanation that any toddler should be able to understand]
Bob: Yes! That’s what I said!
Ms Georgia: That’s not what he is arguing.
Rob: Yes it is! He just said it is.
Bob: It is.
Ms Georgia: No no, you’re both missing the point. You may think thats what he’s arguing, but he’s not.
Bob: I am arguing that!
Rob: but– but– [gives up.]
And so goes the rest of class. The other twenty-eight or so students in class are ignored. No English is actually done. Plenty of philosophy though, as skewed as it is. Most of it redundant as with grade elevens, everyone has either encountered most of the philosophy riddles or thought of them extensively already.
How do you grade something like that? I mean seriously. How do you grade something so incredibly vague? How do you objectively grade the students when one class is writing a short story and the other is making an audio-visual representation of an over analyzed character’s psyche?
One more thing — this year’s theme? Crimes against fellow man. Or something along those lines. If you were in my class you’d think the theme was about Death.