Susan's Blog

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Touch of Class

In English 101 we are starting our last unit, which is all about perfecting the research essay.
I tried to get my class interested in Steamboat Willie yesterday, which Ben and I think is hilarious.

I showed them this cartoon because we had just read Stephen Jay Gould’s A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse, a research essay with warm narrative components. The essay purports that Mickey Mouse physically “grew down” as he grew up; that at 50 he was more childlike in appearance, and yet, more Rated G in personality. He’s become gradually more innocent, insipid, and boring. If you watch Steamboat Willie, the original Mickey Mouse, you see something more akin to Itchy and Scratchy, minus the butchery.

I could not get my students interested in old Mickey. Most had not read the Gould, either. I tried to get them thinking about the point of the Gould, that there is an evolutionary purpose to our tenderness towards big-eyed, round-headed baby creatures. Nothing. I then bombed again by trying to get them to analyze journalistic research in an actual paper newspaper. Most had no idea what an oped was.

I don’t want to sound like those cynical types who say, “Kids these days are so poorly educated, they don’t know anything, they don’t want to think…” That is not the case. These kids know a lot, but their exposure to knowledge is limited, ironically, by the sheer enormity of the Internet. They also do like to think, but isn’t it the adult’s job to teach them the importance of that skill? I am responsible, and I want to be better at it. I want their minds turned on the way mine was in college, the way mine is.

They remind me of Nat in some way. They are the same age. They stare blankly at many things I say and seem to just want to sleep or be in their own worlds. It has been so comforting teaching freshman in spite of my occasional failures to ignite their passion for writing, because they seem sweet like Nat, and innocent and naive, even though they appear more savvy than he is.

One major difference is that I can always interest Nat in old Disney. Nat likes the oldest Disney movies, rather than the new, whereas my students spoke of how they were influenced by Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, and the Lion King. Nothing wrong with that, except when you watch Snow White or Pinnochio, you feel like you are watching a real movie, a work of art. They put so much time and thought into those movies. I’m glad that I can appreciate them with Nat, if not my college students.

1 comment

That's my problem with most of the Disney product these days. They're not films, but marketing for the fast food and product tie ins. It got really bad around Hercules, the toys were made before the script was finished. I will say that Beauty and the Beast was more of a film than any of the current crop Disney has planted.

Whatever you do, don't get me started on the Lion King.

— added by Someone Said on Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 12:02 am

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