Monday, January 19, 2009

Student Teacher, Part 10

Now about that writing assignment…
You have to understand that this was 1971. The Red Guard had rampaged through China, severing ties to the past and destroying all that was traditional, and a much milder version of that was happening in America. We were the Baby Boomers who stood proudly on our side of the Generation Gap, thumbing our noses at our conformist parents and what they held sacred. They had God, country and family values; we had drugs, free love and communes. They had the classics; we had self-expression.

In my art courses in college, we learned nothing about drawing, or anatomy, or painting and sculpture technique. We were just told to create, and that whatever we expressed was good. We did learn silkscreen printing, however, which came in handy for printing anti-war posters and clenched fists of T-shirts.

So, maybe you can understand why, instead of instructing my classes to write an analysis of their favorite epic poem, for example, I told them to just express themselves. Write whatever you want, I said, as long as it is original, and three pages, double-spaced.

One girl in my dull class of smart kids had shown enthusiasm and talent for writing, but I was disappointed by her submission. "Mannix" was a popular TV show at the time, and she had written a screenplay for an episode.
"Why couldn't you come up with your own characters, rather than borrowing ones from television?" I asked her after class. "Try to be more imaginative."
She was hurt by the criticism, but not discouraged. "I'm going to Hollywood, and I'm going to write scripts, and this is the way it's done," she said defiantly.
Her script was good, probably just as good as anything else on "Mannix" at the time, and probably way better than some of the stuff churned out for TV today. For all I know, she probably went to Hollywood and made it big.

One of the flirts in the front row of my slow class surprised me. Knowing full well that she could get away with it, she wrote an essay on the etymology and usage, historical and contemporary, of a particular word in the English language, a vulgar Anglo-Saxon epithet… oh, we're all adults here, right? She wrote an essay all about the word fuck.

It's just as well that my adviser, Miss Tygart, never offered to help me read their papers.

1 comment:

Ellipses said...

Etymological studies of anglo-saxon words (yes, even fuck) are quite revealing as to the deep saturation of language on our identity. For example, after the Norman invasion of 1066, French was installed as the language of all things civilized. Anglo-Saxon still had a place, but it was used when the abstraction referred to something in its raw form. Look at agriculture... the words we use for the dirty, shit-covered animal are Anglo-Saxon (cow, pig, etc). Once that animal is slaughtered and made fit for human consumption (refined, if you will), it becomes "pork" and "beef"-- derivations of the french words porc and boeuf...

Of course, if her paper was focused on the incorrect etymology of the word "fuck" as being the acronym of "Fornication Under Command of the King" then it is basically an immature plea for attention.