SHIP’S (MORAL) COMPASS (above Bridge)
Today I battled manfully, again, with the task of getting a somewhat irregular student to become interested in reading more. I have been working on this task for quite some time. She and her older sister go to a (middling fair) English private school, so you would expect more drive and curiosity than is present there, but they are kind and well-meaning girls even if only lightly-burdened with information about the world’s great issues of the day, and their only wish is to look and act like “celebs” as often as they can get out of school uniform – then of course, everyone will be happy.
I pressed for some minutes, and finally elicited that in “English”, the younger girl’s class have spent the first 6 weeks of term investigating the significance of a book’s “cover illustration” and “what it can tell us” about the “story”. ” (She is 13.) Then, during November, I revert to direct quotation here;
“Well, we’ve been looking at a book, it’s called “Whispers in the Graveyard”, and it’s like it’s about this boy, he’s called Solomon, and like his dad isn’t very nice, and he has dyslexia, so every evening he goes and sits in the graveyard, then so far it’s threse two men, they are from the council, they want to dig it up. (Ed;” do you remember why?”) No. And it’s been found that they buried people there who had smallpox…(Ed; “where’s the boy’s mother in this story?”) Oh, it’s er like his mother’s left him and the dad…..(Ed; “who’s this book by?”) Er, I don’t know, I can’t remember. (Ed; “what is the opinion of others in your English set, of this book?”) I think we quite like it….I’m ot sure…(Ed; what is your teacher’s avowed purpose in class-readng this book for the last 5 weeks?”) I think we are finding like similes and stuff….(Ed; “you mean, figures of speech, such as “metaphors”…) Yes, and humour, and oxymoron……….erm. (Ed; “how far have you got in the book?”) We’ve only read six chapters so far……………..
I’m sorry. For those of you who are still on the compass-deck and have not gone off in boredom, this is typical of the literary fare that English teenagers are fed, even in the “better” schools. I will return to the pretentious nonsense, masquerading as great literature, that they get rammed down their throats in state schools in due time. If you know of better ways of putting semi- or partly-socialised teenagers from an excitement-filled, post-industrial, powerful 1st world country off the great literature of their forefathers, which could help root them to their chairs for a few minutes and concentrate on some idea worth articulating (any idea!) then please convey it to me!
I want to put a proposition to those of you still on this deck. Becuase I want to do something for these wretched, miserable, deprived, robbed teenagers.
Suppose that you had a 700Mb CD-Rom, an ordinary, cheapo unleaded one, and you had to fill it with the world’s greatest and grandest and most exciting literature? Written with either the most soul-shaking prose: Or containing the finest language that Man could utter: Or painting the most noble pictures of heroism in the face of unguessable odds: Or telling an ordinary story in extraordinary ways?
What would you put on MY CD-Rom? What do YOU think would inspire these poor Lancashire adolescents?
I already plan to give them the complete Shakespeare (BUT, it’s searchable for anything INSTANTLY! So they may even go for it. It’s only 6Mb and I have prepared it.) How about, for example, the King James Bible? (They won’t even think of opening it yet, but in time.) The Principia Mathematica? The entirety of the Lord of the Rings, WITH the Silmarillion and “Unfinished Tales” which are the background that make the rest of the work worthwhile? And of course the Periodic Table?
What would any of you add? I’d love to know.
My wife said “The Ten Commandments” and “all information on how to cure any sick-people”.
There’s plenty of room, so please suggest!