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The Dead Letter of Modern Education
Where was one to start trying to educate an adult student who thought the Great Depression began in the 1960s; who was unable to distinguish between the First and Second World Wars; who thought that Moscow was the capital of Missouri; who was convinced the native peoples crossed the Bering Strait in the 1940s (no less amazing, she believed the Bering Strait was the Panama Canal); who claimed that Christ’s parables were about “betting and gamibeling and explaining differently in alot of discussion”; who asserted that “analising a book one must lick your way to the center of the Tootsie Roll-Pop”; who reading Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose declared “This book is all about mid-evil times and the monk-persons in ministories”; who thought that Canada separated from the United States during the Civil War; who discovered that “the main characters in the story are talking among themselves by using language”; who called John Dryden, who became England’s first Poet Laureate in 1688, “a great poet and a great goaltender,” confusing him with Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens; who thought Lawrence of Arabia was a Renaissance painter; who wrote that “Christ was at the stake and had nails in certain places”; who claimed that Alexander Pope “is the head honcho of the catholic church”; or who averred, in a paper on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, that “George Orwin, arthur of The Animal Firm, was heavily into natur.” You can’t make this stuff up. Responding to a brilliant reading and lecture by Doug Jones, a celebrated Canadian poet and critic I had invited to my class, many students fell asleep. Another said: “It was a crucification.” My files contain innumerable such solecisms -- booklets crammed full of them.