In his trailer for his readings of Oscar Wilde’s short stories, Stephen Fry (funny man) manages to explain language in a way I can never do. This is what I want my students to understand: the power of language. However, given some of them don’t like music, we might have to change the comparison to – God help me – the power of numbers?… the power of video games?
I’ve decided that most of my work with high school students is nothing but a bandaid on the belly of a hari-kiri victim. Albert Cullum was right in suggesting children are never too young to be exposed to Really Good Literature (he went straight for Longfellow and Shakespeare), but we do grow too old for it. There comes a time when our perspectives, our interpretations of language are just too set, too jaded. I will never be able to enjoy The Berenstain Bears And The Big Road Race the way my son did (and does), because I just can’t take the subject matter; to my son, the words “and the little red car wins the race!” are still some of the most definitive words ever written. I’m not too sad about not liking The Big Road Race. I am sad no one else sees the brilliant humour in the Albus Dumbledore quote: “Wool socks. One can not ever have enough wool socks. Yet another Christmas has come and gone, and I didn’t receive a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” Are J.K. Rowling and I the only ones young enough to see how funny wool socks are?
So, should I give up on the teenagers and start teaching the younger kids, so they’ll love words and literature the way I do? Maybe. But then what do I do about all those gaping wounds in the wanna-be engineers?