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Author Topic: An Essay To Pass the Time
TommySama
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Every day of the week I stagger into school 5 or 10 minutes late, sit down, and stare at a teachers mouth move. Sound pours out, and words mold into sentence's, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into concepts I supposedly need to excel in American life.

Nothing Teacher says really matters though, because Teacher is ‘teaching’ us English. Every day I take English. One class period, every year, since 9th grade (and long before that) has been wasted on English.

What, exactly are they teaching us, you ask? Sentence structure? No, we learned that in 7th and 9th grade. Hot-Words, so we can expand our vocabulary? No, they gave up on that after 10th grade. Analyzation? Not exactly.

When I go to my English class in High School, we have two objectives: read extremely dull, outdated books that don’t apply to our lives in the 21st century; mental deprecation.

For the past couple of weeks, my class has begun analyzing poetry. The mental exercise stops, however, once we realize that Siegfried Sassoon is a lame poet, whose war poems all have the same themes.

Sorry, Siggy, your poems lose affect when I raise my hand and say, “the theme of this poem is about the horrors of war, and also about the lies that the church and political leaders spread to manipulate young men to join the army.” for every poem, and am still right. Which would be about at poem two.

Last year we analyzed books. I read two of the 8 or so books we were assigned that semester. I had the highest grade in that class until I ditched it like 10 times and lost 50 points for not participating in ‘discussion’* which is a mandatory part of English IB.

Why am I and my peers suffer through this course? It is mandatory, for all four years of high school. And I wonder WHY?! My class had to be up to Geometry (or take two math credits) to graduate. We need ONE science credit, or have passed at least biology 1. In Biology 1 you learn that organisms are made up of cells; what a freaking revelation.

But in four years of English all I’ve learned is how to pick my nose in class without anybody noticing (which has it’s benefits, I must say.) Instead of being allowed to take a class I might benefit from like economics or our political science class, I have to take english and read about Wilfred Owen; and the The Bell Jar, which is one of Sylvia Plath’s most famous emotional abortions, if you aren’t already familiar.

Am I the only person who thinks High School English is a waste of time?


* Discussion is about the equivalent to slamming your face into concrete for an hour and a half.

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0Megabyte
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I was lucky.

I was able to skip two years of high school, and go straight to college.

I feel your pain. And I would feel far more had I been forced to actually go THROUGH that drudgery. My suggestion: find a way to get to college early, if you can. It's your best hope.

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KnightEnder
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Tommy I've said before that even though I started reading voraciously at 9 reading Silas Marner and Great Expectations nearly ruined it for me. I can only imagine the horror they present to people who don't even like to read. And poetry. I know one completely, by Edgar Allen Poe cause it was in a John Wayne movie.

KE

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TomDavidson
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*laugh* I was an English major. [Smile]
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Tom Curtis
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You all have been at Ornery longer than I, but still, You are wrong!

I spent my last two years of high school reading "To Kill a Mocking Bird", "The Importance of Being Ernest", "MacBeth", "King Lear", "1984", "Brave New World", Keats, and Coleridge. I couldn't get enough. Not only did I read my set texts, but those of my sister the year before me, not to mention a fair swag of Dickens for enjoyment (and everything by Asimov and Heinlein).

The final two years open up the world of English literature in an opportunity you will probably never have again. It is an opportunity to learn English expression as an art from the masters. It is an opportunity to look into different worlds and see how your ethics would apply in them (because if they don't, their no good for the world as it stands). It is also an opportunity to learn to view our current world from a new perspective, because the greats really are timeless.

It's a shame if you have a drab and uninspired teacher; but how hard have you tried to not be a drab and uninspired student? Put a little effort in, and you'll get a lot out in return. If you read Dickens, use the internet and library to research the social conditions in England at the time, then compare those conditions to third world, and first world industrial conditions today.

With Sassoon, get a chronology of his poems, and of Robert Graves. Find out which battlefields he was on when he wrote each poem, the course of the battle, the number of deaths in his unit. Learn a little about his early life. Then use that to understand his imagery, and how his poetry developed with time. See if you can find where he influenced Graves and vice versa.

Do this and if you have an ounce of imagination, Sassoon will come to life for you.

But if you only visualise his poetry within chalk dust and still air as a class room fights of boredom, no wonder his poetry is dead to you.

[ October 08, 2006, 03:03 PM: Message edited by: Tom Curtis ]

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Chael
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If you think you'll have to take English in college also, and you're bored to death at present (it certainly sounds that way), I suggest you look into dual-credit courses at your local community college. Basically, you can take your college English early, perhaps even /learn/ things, and avoid the classes of which you were ranting. [Smile] At least where I live, a high school student can take two dual-credit classes free each semester.

Or you could just try to get into college early, as has already been suggested. [Smile] Having been homeschooled, I'm afraid I don't know the pain of which you speak.

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DaveS
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quote:
...Analyzation?...
Um, you should stick with it a little longer.

I also was an English Major in college (back when some of those dead writers were still alive). Now I are a Engineer. If I could go back and choose again, I would go into Cognitive Science (whatever that is). Fast forwarding, I imagine myself merrily grazing among engrams and memes, the very stuff from which English Literature and all ideas are made, trying to understand how we think. BTW, I hated English class in HS as much as you.

If you want to read somebody who bridged science and literature (and music), try Lewis Thomas (The Lives of a Cell, etc.). He is an inspiration.

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DaveS
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Great post, TC.
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Tom Curtis
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Thanks Dave. I try.
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TommySama
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"I can only imagine the horror they present to people who don't even like to read."

I love to read. I just don't love analyzing why I love to read, it is wearying.


"But if you only visualise his poetry within chalk dust and still air as a class room fights of boredom, no wonder his poetry is dead to you."

I appreciate his work and I recognize his mastery at poetry, it's just that our teacher happened to chose all the poems of his that had the same meaning, so we read 40 different poems that all had the same themes, and moreover used the same techniques to convey these themes. So maybe the boredom I feel with Siggy is more a reflection of my teachers poem choices, rather than his work as a whole.

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Jesse
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Would it be appropriate for me to rant about Menapausal "English" teachers who think the world of literature began with Hawthorne and ended with the Sisters Bronte?

It's not about living or dead to me...it's about outdated and overly verbose romantic nonsense that is very limited being passed off as "classic" literature.

Show me the 10-11 year old boy who doesn't love reading the Call of the Wild, or Huckleberry Finn, and I'll show you a kid who just isn't ever going to like to read.


Doing a huge unit on one poet isn't appropriate to a high school english class. Far better to expose them to a range of poets, and give them as many doors to walk through as possible.

I was raised by a published poet, I spent a lot of my early childhood sleeping under tables in coffee shops while self indulgent idiots droned. I had little use for the stuff untill someone handed me a copy of Gary Snyders "Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems".

From there, I actually developed an intrest, and started looking for other poets I could appreciate. That never would have happened if I had been limited to the exposure the public schools gave me to poetry.

I can't remember who made this comment about "critical analysis" but...

You can learn a lot about frogs by disecting one...the thing is, the frog tends to die in the process.

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DaveS
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Robert Graves, Gary Snyder, sniff, I love you guys...
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TommySama
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"Doing a huge unit on one poet isn't appropriate to a high school english class."

We have now moved onto Wilfred Owen, and, *ahem*, he's different only stylistically.


"You can learn a lot about frogs by disecting one...the thing is, the frog tends to die in the process."

Exactly.

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Jesse
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Here's the other thing...

The question "What do you think the author is saying?" doesn't have a wrong answer.

I mean, provided it's an answer which shows the student actually read the material.

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TommySama
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lol.

No you don't need to show you read the material. Note, I had the highest grade in my class and I didn't read most of the material. Mostly I just read the blurb on the back of the book, and listened to everybody in discussion, than I argued with their interpretations.

"The question "What do you think the author is saying?" doesn't have a wrong answer."

Basically my theory in english class. You can argue anything as long as you make it convincing, or apply a moral the author didn't intend to be used.

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TommySama
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That's basically how I did the papers as well. Except than I go through the book (randomly open up to pages) and find quotes that support my ridiculous claims.
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KnightEnder
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Tom C, I love to read. Always have. I still read two books a week. (Reading "The Travelers" by John Twelve Hawks right now.) But have you read Silas Marner?

I'm proposing that if you want to get kids hooked on reading, which makes you more intelligent, then you should start with something they will enjoy. Say; "The Tales of Narnia" (Even though I'm an atheist I loved the books) or "The Outsiders" or anything by S.E. Hinton, and then move on to "The Great Gatsby" or even "Great Expectations" but never "Silas Marner"!

I was so far ahead of my classes and we didn't have AP courses back then that I spent two classes every day working in the library and I read every book by Faulkner, Heinlein, Asimov, Matt Christopher, and every book I could get my hands on, but I wanted to slit my wrist when I was forced to read "Silas Marner".

I'm tempted to go back and read it now to see if my pov has changed, but I'm scared I'll slip into a deep depression.

KE

[ October 08, 2006, 04:40 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Clark
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My senior year of HS I learned that AP English was very useful. I could get all sorts of other homework done in that class. My teacher was actually a pretty good teacher, but my friend Kenny and I just didn't care. We didn't read the books, did just fine on everything and picked up our As each quarter. Being able to calculus and chemistry in English class was a boon; I didn't have to do calculus and chemistry in calculus and chemistry. Those classes had teachers that would allow me to play tetris on my calculator or talk to my friends.

Life is long. High School is, comparatively, short. Kick back, relax, and enjoy it while life is easy. Doodle, write in your journal, or take a nap.

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TommySama
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"The Great Gatsby" is probably the only book I've enjoyed reading that school has assigned me.

Actually, it's one of my favorite books of all time.

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Tom Curtis
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KE, no I have never read "Silas Marner".

I agree with you about getting kids hooked on reading. I encourage my girls to read the Narnia serries, Harry Potter, and The Hobbit. I also set a requirement that they have read certain of those books before they can play some computer games, and the that they have read the Lord of the Rings before they can watch the Lord of the Rings or play other computer games.

I particularly like the Harry Potter series, because I now have three children firmly convinced of the maxim, the book is better than the movie [Smile]

But that is what I recommend for children aged 7 to 10.

I expect my children when they hit 15 and 16 to be broadening their literary horizons.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I had little use for the stuff untill someone handed me a copy of Gary Snyders "Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems".
Gary Snyder! w00t! [Smile]

Seriously, I don't quite understand why high schools have yet to introduce Snyder and Kerouac and Ginsberg to the curriculum.

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DonaldD
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You don't? I note a surprising lack of imagination, Tom. (not that I disagree with the sentiment, mind you)
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KnightEnder
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Tom,

I used to get in trouble in class for reading in class instead of doing my assignments. Or more often doing my assignments fast and then reading. One teacher (a coach) said "If you want to read go to the library!". I stood up and went to the library. I was kind of a smart ass back then. Not like now. [Wink]

KE

[ October 09, 2006, 10:21 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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KnightEnder
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O' Gaily bedight
A gallant knight
In sunshine and in shadow

Had journeyed long
Singing a song
In search of El Dorado

And when his strength
Failed him at length
He met a pilgrim Shadow

Shadow said he
Where can it be
This land called El Dorado?

Over the mountains of them moon
Down the Valley of the Shadow
Ride boldly ride
The Shade replied
If you seek El Dorado

(Edgar Allen Poe)


Mississipi says that to John Wayne (Cole Thornton) in the movie "El Dorado". And then he says:

"I always like that song. It always makes me wanna..."

John Wayne interupts him: "Ride boldly ride?"

Mississipi: "Yeah, I guess."

John Wayne: "Well it don't work out that way!"

Mississipi: "I'm leaning that!"


Best movie ever made. (People make a joke out of John Wayne movies and the swagger and all, but they teach honor and honesty and fighting for what's right. No "drive by's" in a John Wayne movie. Kids should be forced to watch them in school. Or listen to John Wayne's recording about "America" and God. (Yes, God in school. I'll make an exception for the greater good.) Hypocrite? Maybe. But "my hypocrisy goes only so far." (Doc Holiday played by Val Kilmer)

And the El Dorado poem is even better if you know the story of how the Indians kept telling the Spanish "Knights" that just a little further West there was a town made of gold (so the Spanish would leave their village in search of the Golden City that didn't exist).

KE

[ October 09, 2006, 10:36 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Jesse
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Heh, KE, same thing here.

I actually had a referal to the office on which the teacher wrote "Refused to stop reading".

I really confused that poor Vice Principal.

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KnightEnder
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LOL "Refused to stop reading" classic.

KE

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