Monday, November 17, 2008

Deep Thoughts: Allegorical Interpretation

It never ceases to amaze me how incompetent people can be, or maybe they’re just lazy, I don’t know. I know what to expect from our public school system, and I know what I can expect from individuals, but I am shocked to find out what our private school curriculum is like. I know it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, considering my kids have been going to school for a while now and I’m not new to this, but it does. I’ve come to expect something from them that I’m not sure they can deliver. The reason I’ve come to expect something from them is simple, really; it’s because I pay an arm and a leg every month to ensure that they get the best possible education I can afford. It stands to reason that by the standard I’m getting, I apparently can’t afford a decent education for my babies, but that’s where I have to point out that if at the prices I’m paying if I can’t get a good, in fact, very good education for them, then maybe there’s something wrong with the schools and not with me.

I don’t think they’re inferior in everything, however when it comes to reading comprehension and material, I am sadly disappointed. This all came about last week when I had to go running out to buy a book for my son. I had forgotten to buy it a week earlier and had to run around like a she-demon out of hell looking for it. As it turns out, there is no way to walk in and buy the book. No, that would be too easy and the clever teacher, bless her heart, would be way out of line if she chose something that was in print for the kids to read. This was one of those books that had to be ordered in advance and took days to get to you. In the end I found a place that was able to get it to me in 2 days. I went running with my son in tow and guess what the book was about? I bet you’ll never guess – I know I didn’t. The book was about a broom handle. Don’t bother re-reading that last sentence, you understood it correctly – a broom handle. I suspected there might possibly be a broom handle involved in the story because the book was called, “Memórias de um Cabo de Vassoura”. I was not prepared, however, for a detailed, mind-numbingly boring story about – wait for it – a broom handle.

The teachers and educational authorities in this country want you to believe that the book is open to allegorical interpretation, a method in which the literal meaning of the text is superseded by an interpretation in which each element is understood to signify another. That's all good and well if you're interpreting scripture, but we're talking about 7th grade literature and in my opinion, the most asinine writing and subject matter. Wouldn't interpretation of this kind fall under the category of ridiculous? This is reaching, really reaching. Whatever meaning there is in the story, it is quite clear that the children will take it at face value, for which you can hardly blame them, being children and all, and therefore not corrupted by the pathetic attempts of men looking to sound more intelligent than they are and failing miserably. They will understand that the broom handle is indeed a broom handle, and the dirt on the floor is unquestioningly dirt on the floor.

Where are the good books? The well written ones with exciting stories of the days of yore and adventures under the sea? The stories that keep you coming back for more and not running for the door as once again you're forced to read a book that's silly at best and insulting at most as the writer attempts to outdo his competition by making for even more "allegorical interpretation" in order to justify the fact that he is inept and couldn't for the life of him come up with something more interesting than a broom handle. Where are the books like, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" or "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"? After looking at the selection available for children in the book store I can only conclude that all the writers were on crack. How else can you justify the flotsam and jetsam written in willy-nilly fashion just floating around for unsuspecting victims to pick up and read?

My question is; if the writer were to objectively look at his work today, clean and sober, would he be proud? Would he know what the hell he was trying to say? I can wholeheartedly say that no, no he would not. Furthermore, would he recommend it as educational reading for his child? I think not. You see, it's one thing to write this drivel and scoop it on to the masses as recreational reading, but it's a whole 'nother kettle of fish to pass it off as mandatory reading for 7th graders.

I'm sick and tired of stupid literature being ladled out to the highly susceptible minds of our young ones under the guise of artsy-fartsy psycho-babble. I for one will be taking it up with my children's school, although I am not deluded enough to believe that something will actually come of it. Never fear, dear readers, for the school's lack of interest in exposing the children to a world of real intelligence and wit will result in many cozy afternoons on the couch with the babies, reading, drinking tea, eating cookies and not interpreting anything at all.

As someone once said:

It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations…”

-Katherine Patterson

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read.”

-Mark Twain

Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”

-Mason Cooley

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

-Oscar Wilde