Where Memory meets Therapy and lives happily every after.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
old;or, the death knell of my cultural literacy (1972-2009)
Yesterday, in a one-on-one conference, I told a student that her essay was like an ABC After School Special. She stared at me blankly. I said, "You don't know what that is, do you?" She said, "Nope." I just laughed. And then I explained, even taking the time to retell the plot of one of my favorite ones..."And then the kid from The Wonder Years throws Candace Cameron from Full House--who is also Kirk Cameron's little sister--in the bottom of a lake, and the lesson was to tell someone if you are being abused." She said, without any hint of irony, "And you watched these after school?" I returned to talking about her essay, just a little bit sadder than I was a moment before.
In a separate, and much more serious conversation, I asked a student to "Help ME, Help YOU!" and without a flicker of recognition he said, "Just do your thing, and I'll do mine." After I pointed out that "his thing" was resulting in a D, I couldn't help it, even in one of the most difficult conversations with a student of my entire career, I had to say, "Jerry Maguire? You haven't seen Jerry Maguire? Tom Cruise yelling at a naked Cuba Gooding Jr in the shower? Really? He won an Oscar..." I think I was more taken aback by the fact that he didn't know what I was talking about than the fact that this student was refusing my help. Much later in this conversation, even as he walked out on me--also a first for me--as I offered a weak and tired, "Just remember you are the one who is walking out." I was still thinking, really? Not even Jerry Maguire? Huh.
Now, it would take a pretty good bit of manuevering to classify Gulliver's Travels as pop culture, but still, my students have NO idea. At all. I said something about Yahoos, I may or may not have called my class this, I neither confirm nor deny this. Anyway, in explaining what the term meant, I asked about Gulliver's Travels. One girl had seen a film in her high school english class and described it as "This freaked out movie where all these weird and terrible things happen." I stopped her mid-sentence, with a perhaps overly harsh, okay, thank you Megan. After I explained about Hounyhnhms and Yahoos and Jonathan Swift and Gulliver and Satire they nodded and a few of them said,"That sounds like a cool story." And I just said, "Yeah, it is."