Litkicks Message Board Archive

It was simply the relentless horror of having to bring

Posted to Poetry and Politics

the finest literature (my job for decades) before a group of "tv- culture" people who, as Norma says in "Sunset Boulevard" --"Just don't want you. You know they just don't want you . . .".

And they also didn't want Shakespeare, or Dickens, or Austen, or Nabokov, or even Annie Dillard, Eudora Welty or A. Conan Doyle. As one of my colleagues pointed out, it really didn't matter if you were teaching "Anna Karenina" or "The Tempest" or the essays of Walter Cronkite (!). The indifference was ubiquitous. Or to quote Yogi Berra: "Not only dat, but it was all over th'place too!"

The miasma I was in flowed generously from the effluvium of tv daily: ninety percent of your students couldn't read or write and didn't see why they should. Their parents were affluent and lived in Westlake Village. They had always had money and were always going to have it. They drove new cars and wore new clothes and had new cell phones on which they talked endlessly and said next to nothing.

They were the whites who needed a Bill Cosby-like member of the Anglo ethnic group to give them a speech.


I think I experienced what workers in nursing homes have come to call "compassion fatigue."

All this emotional onslaught, coupled with the fact that the whole canon of Western civilization, literature, history and philosophy had been "discredited" at the highest levels, that multiculturalism, "self-esteem-building" and "learning as a community" smothered clear vision and intellectual curiosity, that "B" was the lowest acceptable grade, and that, as you said, teachers were deemed completely interchangeable, not to mention that about sixty percent are now part-timers . . .well.

When "The Color Purple" is read by more students than "King Lear"--I turn you over to George Steiner for a characterization of the consequences.

Thanks for listening, and even more for understanding.

Your friend,