Bildungsroman- Watch me vent with much violence
Tonight I feel like being real. That means being exactly me, and being exactly me means being excruciatingly salty. However, I closely monitor the read stats on my Medium and it does not get terrible many reads even with facebook shares, so read this and get mad and sue me. At this point I do not care too much. I am exasperated of being quiet and watching the world burn.
Currently I am listening to Verdi’s Requiem. It’s tied with Mozart’s Requiem for my favorite mass piece and it’s one of my favorite pieces of music ever written. It’s solemn, yet scary; peaceful, yet in the background haunts doom in all her dark and gloomy marriage to death. As the name obviously suggests it’s a piece that has the end of the world and the judgment as its main topic.
When I first started teaching middle school I took up 7th grade English and I was enthusiastic to say the least. I see knowledge as fully integrated. I don’t think “subjects” should be taught as individual pieces of knowledge that have no relation to each other. I’ll never forget. It was the week of Halloween and we were supposed to be doing Halloween activities. We had some tomb stone coloring pages we were going to use to “kill” words that were over used. A most charming Halloween activity if you’re in- say- third grade. I then introduced them to Edward Gorey. They didn’t get it; he was a little bit too dry for them. I get it- Gorey is odd, and he appeals to the dark side of every human- to the fact that we can laugh at someone else’s pain and feel no sympathy for their humanity. It’s a cross between delightful and scary. Naturally, I chose to put on background music; I can’t remember if I chose Verdi or Mozart or both, but it was Requiem music that I put on. It seemed excessively fitting for an English class, and given that the words are in Latin it’s mind numbingly attractive to the ears. To me it was a delight to the mind that wanted to dwell on the dark side of humanity without being engulfed in evil- we don’t ever want to be bathed in evil.
Fast forward to months later after picking up on what is relevant and appropriately understood as the proper material for middle school kids in 2016–17. A child walked into my class today and pulled out a book from his book bag. Naturally I was interested, but I felt violated when I walked over and it was a book with a cartoon dog that spoke in simple sentences and used slang like “supa” and “supa star.” When I asked what it was the kid told me he’d gotten it at the school book sale and that it was similar to Captain Underpants. People, this is seventh grade. In 7th grade I was obsessed with Redwall. I liked that the series was extended beast fable and the Medieval plot line was enticing to me. In 8th grade I was introduced to Samuel Pepys, The Illiad, The Aeniad, and sundry other works that were important not only to Western culture as a whole, but to my ability to wrestle with and understand the world around me. I read The Canterbury Tales in Middle English and wrestled with grammar that was too hard for me to read with one glance. But the thing was that I loved it- it gave me things to imagine and wrestle with. I perhaps lived in my head and was a bit more absorbed in my own thought life than most people, but I still saw others around me enjoying it.
But here I am. It’s 2017. I have a college degree in English from a good university. I wrote papers on and studied some of the greatest authors that ever lived. And a child walks into my class with a book he compares to Captain Underpants. In 7th grade. A book written in simple sentences. Subject. Verb. Maybe direct object.
So why did I mention coming of age? The Bildungsroman is one of the most important genres of literature. It is a story in which the protagonist wrestles with the transition from childhood and adulthood. The ages of the protagonists vary greatly, but shouldn’t these “coming of age” issues start being felt by a kid around 13? I remember very much sitting in my room around the age of 13 and just wondering what the heck life was and what was going on with it. Do not get me wrong. I understand that everyone is different and not everyone handles things in life, or life in general, the same way. But Ultimate Questions are such precisely because they are universal questions. Now how exactly is a kid supposed to wrestle with these things if the most he or she can read is a book of simple sentences that is written using slang language about stupid subjects like a dog in a dark room staring at a computer screen. Is this what we as teachers have allowed to happen to our students? WHY are we ok with this? And why are we participating in it? I have got to get into a place where the human mind is taken more seriously. But if these young minds are not educated, and dare I suggest the horrid idea, but are they not even educated in the basics of theology- where are they going to learn the ability to see things as a cohesive unit. I posit that only through the lens of theology and religion can anything be tied together to make any sense. So while my idea of strange and interesting weird things may not be as captivating to the mind that has been brought up on Captain Underpants, I am sure that somewhere during my short time on this planet I will find my place among the world of people who appreciate things more practical and less immensely stupid.
God forgive us for destroying the very image of God in us- the ability to use our minds.
Juste judex ultionis:
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.