Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bad English Classes Make You Sick

^This is a book that is Good and Nice.

A recent quirk of mine is that I love books that have notes in the margins. Steph Bowe, a YA author, has this to say about margin notes:

"I love it when you borrow a book from the library for school and all the relevant passages have already been underlined, all the pages you’re meant to read are dog-eared, and there are notes in the margins that match the questions you’re meant to answer.

It’s like someone knew you were going to pick it up. It’s like we’re all connected a little bit, if it’s only through notes in the margins of library books, notes and lines that shouldn’t be there, that librarians forbid, but are." (from
this post.)

I bought a used copy of Fahrenheit 451. It was definitely owned by another high school student, once. And, when I look at the aimless, highly annoying pencil scribbles on the front cover, I sense that this high school student didn't want to read Fahrenheit 451.

There are notes in the margins, though. As strange as it is to say, they are the wrong notes. These margin notes make me angry.

There are specific paragraphs with specific words underlined, and in the margins it says things like, "alliteration" and "parallel structure" and "the phoenix is an analogy for man" and I can just imagine this bored, straight-A student reading and hating this wonderful novel, and scribbling her English teacher's words verbatim onto its pages, and opening the book in the evenings to get to her notes, and trying to memorize key words and important bits so that she can regurgitate them on a test. And then she gets an A, and I hate that, I hate that A more than anything, and I hate my copy of Fahrenheit 451.

I don't hate her. The girl, I mean, or maybe it was a boy. I understand why Bradbury's poesy did not touch her. The pressure to regurgitate words verbatim tends to stress people, and stress makes us immune to beauty.

It's not always like this, in English class. English class is the reason why I love Shakespeare and Harper Lee and Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. It's specific teachers, teachers I've had, who insist upon making students not learn and appreciate, but rather vomit all over lined sheets of paper.

Notes in the margins are nice, but not if they've been written by fatigued, careless, sloppy readers whose souls are withering due to the constant need to burp out, "Alliteration!"

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