Monday, December 31, 2007

Conrad for Dummies



I used to teach my freshmen English students an essay by William Golding called Thinking as a Hobby. In it Golding ranked humans into three categories. Grade 3 thinkers never really think. They follow the herd, they shout the herd's slogans, they absorb without processing, their appetites and whims control their actions. Grade 2 thinkers see contradictions and tear things down and critique everyone and everything without ever doing much else. Grade 1 thinkers are original and smart and seek Truth. Golding positioned himself, of course, into this final category, and included Albert Einstein as well. At the end of the piece Golding subtly indicates the tongue-in-cheek nature of his essay by describing a not-so-intellectual meeting with this other Grade 1 thinker.

Before I started discussing the essay with my classes, I'd always ask if they'd read The Lord of the Flies in high school. After the inevitable chorus of affirmatives, we'd get down to business. I went through a long period wondering why it was that my mom had read this in school, and that I'd read it in school, and that now my students had read it in school. Wasn't there anything new to teach 9th graders?

I just revisited The Lord of the Flies for the first time since 9th grade, in preparation for the Praxis II teacher test. Now I understand full-well why English teachers still use it. The themes are enormous and easy to tackle; the symbols are potent and Biblically lush; the story is violent and fun and easy to discuss. Heart of Darkness too tough for your Grade 3 brain? Try The Lord of the Flies.

4 comments:

ellen cherry said...

i really want to be a Grade 1 thinker, although i suspect i may be grade 2 or worse. i know plenty of Grade 2 and i care about them, but they drive me crazy with their inaction.

okay, off to drink and party and basically destroy all those Grade 1 cells in my brain and prohibit them from their true potential. yay!

ps. i got some Zizek to take with me to the beach next month. maybe i can develop some Grade 1 skillz by then.

fernie said...

I remember spending an entire semester on the book. Artwork on the bulletin board and discussion upon discussion. I think I'll revisit it to see what it's like to read it as an adult. Thanks for the suggestion, Son!

Nyarlathotep said...

EC--I know what party you're off to! At least I think I do, if the Evite is accurate. We're hanging at Fogo di Chao.

ge said...

good thinking, mon! good to know that thoughtful books and thoughtful blogs are not mere trends ~ come now... get back to the others and we'll forget the whole thing...