The weekend flew by in a flash. I woke up Monday morning bleary eyed and groggy. I crawled out of my bed and as my feet touched the floor I shot up like a rocket and jumped on top of the bed.
Not the best way to start Monday morning.
The cold did it’s job and woke me up. I got dressed quickly, my stomach reminding me the whole time that breakfast was waiting downstairs and I had to hurry before classes started. I had a great idea for a class plan and couldn’t wait to get it started.
“what makes classic fiction?” or something, maybe more like “Why are some books covered in school and some just read for fun?
Maybe that was better.
I really was no good at this lesson planning thing. I knew the curriculum by heart due to all of the time i’d spent perusing it. I needed to find away to actually get the kids of participate. And so I had decided on a discussion. In truth I was hoping it would turn into a debate of sorts. But first: Breakfast.
Quickly I got into the like for the hot food and pilled my plate with hash browns and a fried egg and took it to the staff table.
I ate breakfast alone, I guessed that many of the staff members were sleeping on Monday morning, or doing last minute preparations for their lessons. It seemed that the students were in a similar mode, skipping breakfast Monday morning to get those last few minutes of sleep. I dropped my tray off at a receptacle and hurried to the class room where I wrote the question of the day on the board.
“Books in School, why some, not others?”
No sooner did I write the words, did the bell ring. Students began filing in. It was the freshman class, they were a bit quieter than my other classes. I turned to them and asked my question, I got a few blank stares, one of them was drawing, the others were staring at their closed text books.
Ok, maybe this class isn’t the right one to try this on.
After some coaxing the kids did participate in the discussion, but it did not get the reaction I was looking for. When the bell rang the class and I simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe the next class would be better.
As the second bell rang a few familiar faces walked in. I didn’t think I would ever forget that first night’s lake adventure. Eve strolled in first, with Naomi and Makenna close behind. All three girls seemed to be talking to each other about something. Something involving… Possession? I shouldn’t eavesdrop on student conversations. Al walked in a few feet behind the girls, Flynn was no where to be seen and I had to wonder where he was.
I couldn’t spend too much time thinking about it, I had a class to teach. As the class settled into their seats I clapped my hands together. Still no sign of Flynn, maybe he would show up later.
“Ok class, time for discussion, here is my question: Why are some books studied in schools and some not?” I held my arms out to the class. “Please, I want to hear all of your thoughts.” Unlike the previous class, I got some thoughtful looks instead of blank stares. Eve and Al raised their hands at the same time. I spoke to Al first,
"Yes, Mr. Phonse, please just shout it out,”
“Relevance?" Al asked. I smiled, surprised at the eagerness he was exhibiting. I was really pleased with the way this had started.
I"m so glad to see everyone participating!” I said, though saying everyone was an exaggeration. “Go ahead Eve,” I nodded in her direction.
"Plus some texts have opinions contrary to the beliefs of the school, government etc.” She continued on Al’s thought, and speaking of Al’s thought, I looked at him.
“Please clarify what you mean by relevance Mr. Phonse,” Then I looked at Eve. “Whats an example of that Ms. Ward?”
Al continued on, surprising everyone I think. “Certain books hold no relevance to the lessons the teachers teach, such as action novels and the like, so we focus on those who write works with important information. Like Durkheim and Poe.” He sat back in his seat after one of the longest speeches I’d ever heard from him. My mind began to drift to the conversation I’d overheard when they walked in and wondered what it was about, then snapped my mind back to class as Eve explained her thoughts.
“Well, throughout history there have been occasions when certain texts have been banned,” She took a deep breath, then continued. “Like texts suggesting black members of society were anything other than lesser than white, or like in Korea currently where anything that could suggest another, better way of living is banned. D.H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned for explicit sexual content when nowadays we have Fifty Shades of Grey and hardly anyone bats an eyelid."
Al, and everyone else in class looked at him, impressed.
Eve raised in eyebrow in Al’s direction. “What? You think you're the only one with brains round here?” A grin spread across her face. I felt a similar look cross my face as I stepped in.
“Many books that are taught in schools are actually banned books, in fact many books sold are banned. Does that mean we shouldn't study them?” I knew of several books that I’d read in school that were banned for controversy and sexual content, though it had been nothing like 50 shades, from what I’d heard. And I’d been schooled in the church.
Makenna decided that it would be a good time to step in. “Part of it is culture. We're more open to a lot of things that were horribly scandalous not even a century ago.” I nodded at her, she had made a good point.
Eve looked at her, a defiant look in her eyes. “No, it means the people banning them don't want us to. Governments are always trying to control people, just enough to keep the power to themselves.” Where did that come from? Something against the government? Well she did have a point. I looked at Al, sure he would have something to respond to that, but his previous confidence seemed to shrink as he slouched in his seat.
I saw Naomi turn around in her seat to look at Al, but she turned back around without saying anything, slouching in her seat too.
I needed to encourage this further.
“If a school is teaching out of a banned book, should they get into trouble for it?” I had to ask, because if Eve was correct in her thinking that the government banned books to get power, the schools were funded, most of the time, by the government and should not teach from those books.
Al opened his mouth to say something, I looked at him expectantly. I saw him glance at Naomi though, before he shrunk further down in his chair.
“The government isnt all out to get us, Eve. Its just a bunch of stuck up scholars who think we shouldnt read certain books. We don’t listen to them.” Makenna looked at Eve also defiant. I could tell a debate was close at hand.
Eve snorted. “I was using them as an example, and I don't necessarily mean our own government.” She crossed her arms, looking at Makenna. “But it is true that the people who ban the books are withholding them to stop the masses from getting certain ideas. I mean look at the modernism era. They specifically tried to make books difficult so that the 'common people' couldn't develop the same literary merit that the scholars themselves had. That's why we're now stuck with Ulysses.”
I couldn’t remember what he’d written, but I nodded, reminding myself to look up his books and read through a few before I seemed to illiterate to teach this class.
“Within an organic society, many people strive for power and close it off from others... “All muttered to his desk.”t's just basic sociology.”
“Al?” I raised a hand to my ear dramatically. “Do you have something to say? Please speak up we want to hear it”
Makenna spoke up, ignoring me and Al, talking directly to Eve. “Who's withholding the books? Some of the books on the banned books list are international bestsellers. Even the greek stuff is still relevant. Cultures might change, technology might change, but people, people never change.”
I nodded, that was true, we still taught the greek tragedies as powerful archetype lessons.
Al raised his voice a little. “Um… Well... I was just saying organic societies, unlike the mechanical societies of old... Tend to have a lot more people wanting to be in control…” He looked uncomfortable, I let him slouch back into his seat.
“I agree with Al, but I think you might be limiting people a little there Makenna. People can change. Maybe not everything, but some small things, they can.” Eve turned in her seat to look at Makenna.
Naomi turned as well, obviously not looking towards Al. “literature isn't really a small thing though, I mean, it hasn't changed, the whole archetype thing and story lines, they're the same from Oedipus to, I don't know, 50 Shades…” Her voice faded on the last few words, she went back to her slouched position. I shook my head, with Al and Naomi, the posture in this class was terrible.
“Maybe, but throughout history, people have always been stubborn.” Makenna was showing off her own stubbornness. “Thats why we study the old stuff, so we don't repeat the mistakes of ancient times.”
“We can't make all the mistakes ourselves, so we learn from others.” Al piped up, straightening in his seat again.
Naomi was still slouching. “... doesn't work well does it.” she muttered.
We were getting off topic. I stepped in “Now, we aren't talking about the stubbornness of people, we are talking about books,”
Makenna looked chastened. “Sorry Professor.”
Everyone else mimicked her statement, looked down at their desks and stopping all discussion.
“its fine,” I said, hoping to continue the conversation. “But lets get back on topic. We are talking about why certain books are covered in school, and we've discuss why they aren't, but why would we choose certain books to read in class? Forget class curriculum for a minute, lets focus on the traits of the books”
Eve piped up again. “Well most books that are covered are because they're in the literary canon; Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Rossetti etc”
I nodded. “Thats a good point, lets look at that closer, Why are those authors in that canon. Think about it: the content, for say, shakespeare is the same as for another example, Anne Fortier or J.K. Rowling,” I named a few popular authors, “Love, fights, blood, etc.”
“It could be not really what is written, but the skill in which it is written….” Al spoke up, quietly.
“It's about how the texts reflect the opinions of the time, how they differ from those opinions, how they reflect the state of society and how they affect those who read them.” Said Eve.
Suddenly, the door burst open. Flynn stood in the doorway, he looked at his watch. ”Oh. Um... Sorry I'm late..." He lowered his voice, making it older and gruff. ”I was... delayed”
Al laughed at something, but he wasn’t looking at Flynn, so I had to wonder what it was. I looked at Flynn, not enjoying the display.
“No need to make a scene, please take your seat.” I tried to salvage the mood from before the door had opened.
“Thanks for showing up, Flynn.” Makenna said to Flynn. He flashed a smile and sat down in an open seat.
Unfortunately for the discussion the interruptions had cause enough disruption that I couldn’t get the enthusiasm from the students as much as before. I had been prepared for this, however, and launched into a lesson based on the merits of books studied in school and books that are not. I had decided that for homework, each student would choose a book that wasn’t in the curriculum to describe in a scholarly manner. Describing why it should be studied or not. I thought it was a lesson well done. When the bell rang I sat down at my desk, feeling quite satisfied by the way it had gone. The students filed out, discussing what books they would choose for their homework. Yes, a lesson well done indeed!