Category Archives: School

The Cultural Significance of Books

(I had a dream the other night that ended up with me yelling at people about never discussing the cultural significance of books, that they only looked at tearing things apart.  Remnants of my college life still follow me…)

Speaking of college…  I remember working on my senior paper, finishing it, and being disappointed by the grade.  My adviser wished to speak to me about it, so I obliged.  In said meeting, he told me how the English department found themselves in a funk of sorts.  See, my paper was a long story, and while it was not full on fantasy, it did have fantastical elements (i.e. mysticism, journey to another realm, elves, magic, etc).  Mine was not the only one to touch on that genre; others had written in the fantastical or science fiction worlds.  According to my prof, none of the professors in the English department were really sure on how to grade sci-fi and fantasy stories; it was an unexplored genre to them.

The way he was talking, even then I thought to myself that it seemed like this entire department was under the illusion that sci-fi and fantasy were baby genres, that they did not have the high set caliber that other genres have ascertained.  All I could think about was how sci fi and fantasy have been around longer than we think, and each has respected, classic books THAT ARE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS.  We all know Tolkien and his influence, but even before him, and before C.S. Lewis and Narnia, we had the wonderful Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Jules Verne, and, for the purpose of this entry, the magnificent H.G. Wells.

I’ve known about The Time Machine for a long while, even seeing the version from 2002, without ever having read the book.  That changed one night at work out of boredom.  I wanted lights off, but I wasn’t ready to sleep.  What should I find in itunes but a free version of The Time Machine?  I devoured that novel up.

Even though it is most definitely a social commentary, it is also one of the first sci-fi books.  At least, that has lasted to critical and cultural accord.  Can you imgine where we would be without this novel?  Countless novels and novelists influenced by this novella would not exist; sci-fi as we know it may not exist.  (And I know a LOT of Syfy/Sci-fi fans…)  Our entire society would be different if not for H. G. Wells and his tales.

I loved reading The Time Machine.  I knew the general synopsis, but it was nice having the cracks filled in.  After finishing it, I instantly found a copy of another of H.G. Wells infamous novellas:  The War of the Worlds.

Even more than The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds has influenced our culture.  Without this one, we wouldn’t have had the infamous tale of Orson Welles presenting it on the radio.  We wouldn’t have the amount of adaptions.  And can you imagine our take on aliens nowadays?  Would we have all the creepy and cheesy movies of aliens vs humans?  Would we have our cult movies and tv shows?

H.G. Wells thought outside of the box.  Tonight, of all nights, when I’m lamenting how it can suck to be alienated (intended) by being outside the box, it helps to know H.G. Wells existed and his works and legacy live long after him.  And to my profs, I cannot help but think: Are you really missing a bunch of really influential novels?  Do you really not see the amount of achievement in those respective fields?  There are bars in both sections; they’ve been set high.  You have no reason not to know how to grade them.


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American Education: An Extrovert’s Standard of Excellence

This is a brainstorming post brought on by a blog post by OmarFW over at

In his blog, entitled “What Not to Say to an Introvert,” Omar said the following two things which struck a huge chord with me:

3. Don’t demand immediate feedback from an introvert
Extraverts think they have the answers but just aren’t giving them. They don’t understand that introverts need time to formulate them and often won’t talk until a thought is suitably “polished and ready to be shipped out”.

4. Why aren’t you contributing?
If you’re holding a brainstorming session or general group discussion, let the introvert prepare, or encourage him/her to follow up with his contributions afterwards.

It was like I was back in school again.

I’m an introvert. It’s pretty obvious. I can get pretty extreme, too. I will sit and listen, but my mouth will clam up and nothing intelligent will come out. And when forced to talk, there is a lot of stuttering and talking myself into holes. I just can’t intelligently argue when put on the spot. It’s not who I am. And, being in English classes in college, where a bunch of people would speak on the spot quite intelligently (and then when I thought I did well in doing that, no one had anything to say– maybe I just went over their heads?), I felt like I was wired differently, and that it really didn’t mesh with the American School system. I’ve often felt this. And then I read Omar’s blog.

It made me realize: the American school system seems to be built on a sense of extroversion. You can be at the same, if not higher, intelligence level as an extrovert, but since you are an introvert, you are penalized. Why? Two reasons: Forced socialization with a lot of people, and class participation. (I HATED seeing that on the syllabus grade. Oddly, I spoke when there was less pressure to speak and no grade on participation.)

Let’s face it. A lot of school classes– especially in the college level– insist on participation. Yet they do not take into account the variety of reasons people don’t speak in class. I’m awkward and I just can’t come up with things on the spot. I don’t respond to pressure well. Maybe that’s me, but maybe it’s an introvert thing. Maybe introverts just don’t respond to pressure well and the more introverted you are, the more you are penalized.

Let’s face it (again). Our society thrives on extroverts. They thrive on people who can talk bull and sound intelligent when put on the spot. They don’t have patience for the introverts that want to mull things over (Remember when everyone accused John Kerry of being a flip-flopper? I always wanted to believe that he just found new info and changed his mind. But our society can’t accept that). Further, our society lately, in this technological age/boom, is all into networking. And who generally are better at networking? The extroverts. And where do we learn to network? At school.

So as introverts, we are out of our comfort zone to begin with when in a class of 30+ people we don’t know very well. Add in on the spot thinking and being forced to talk, and we begin to fail. Schools and, to an extent, grades are based on extroversion. Maybe it’s time we, as a society, look into this and start realizing that not everyone reacts the same way.

We aren’t all cut out to be efficient government workers or cogs in Marxism’s machine.

(I’m new to this Introvert/Extrovert thing (aside from knowing the stereotypes), so please correct me if I’m wrong. I’d appreciate it).

Cross-posted to

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We interrupt our normally schedueled programming

This blog has been spurred on by the postings of both The Sparkle Project and Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog.

Oh Censorship. Whatever would the world do without you? Oh, I know. Exist.

So what book is under attack this time? Well, several of them. Most particularly for this entry is Speak.

I was first introduced to Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson) in 8th grade. It was a gorgeous spring day and my school let out around noon. Since it is common knowledge that I’m a voracious reader, past teachers have handed me new arrivals and had me read them before anyone else. On this day in eighth grade, my then-Language Arts teacher handed me Speak.

On that nice spring day, I opened the windows in my room, curled up on my bed, and finished the book in an afternoon. I was enthralled.

Speak was the first book we read in ninth grade English. I remember everyone enjoying it, except for Melinda, the main character. I related to her– even others see it. I understood her emotions, even though are pasts are about as different as night and day. Despite the means it took, we both felt ostracism, and loneliness. I understood Melinda in a way that no one else in my class seemed to understand. Perhaps that is why I enjoy the book as much as I do.

I’m not going to talk about the view of rape as soft porn. Others have talked about it more powerfully and eloquently. I highly disagree with him, and the view of sex and rape in our society (I should mention now that I’m currently reading Burgess’ Clockwork Orange, the movie version of that book being banned in some places in the past for spurring on rape). I have a lot of problems with our sex-obsessed culture (and not in a healthy way), but my thoughts on it are scrambled and too long for this entry.

I am the girl who relates to the ostracized victims. I related to Melinda. While I hated feeling out of place in my class, I wouldn’t change that experience for the experience of never having read the book. I support the freedom of voices, even if I strongly disagree with what they say. Who we are is greatly influenced by what we hear and read. Having read Melinda’s story, I have absorbed her emotions, her strength, her will to survive into myself. I am Melinda. And she is me.

Everyone has a book they relate to, that they feel the most connected to. To block books and not allow people to discover who they are is a shame. Even if it is supposed “filth,” every book has a purpose, whether it be to show us what to do or what not to do. Everything is influential.

This is how I feel about literature. And I cannot by any means condone censorship in any way. I have to stand up for books, even if it is by reading them, recommending them, and bringing instances of challenges and censorship to others’ awareness.

And now, on a positive note, here is the power of Speak. My friend who read that book in 9th grade English is teaching it this year to her 8th grade students. Despite the naysayers, the power of a good, influential book can always overcome the obstacles.

That, and challenging books makes kids want to read them more. I know I wanted to read all of the banned books when I was in middle and high school.

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Self-Esteem: The Literary and Public Sphere

(Part Two of Two on Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within).

The first chapter I read in the book was the chapter on Unlearning, on how we’re expected to memorize X amount of information from various sources that we honestly don’t need to know.  I took calculus, but when (except when I’m being a geek and reading Foxtrot) will I need to know things like the derivative of numbers, much less the integral *?  It’s just a bunch of useless information for the majority of us who don’t plan to use it in jobs and who don’t plan on going on game shows to make a quick buck (though it is really really really tempting when faced with student loans…)
(Having spacing issues)
Further, a lot of the material covered still is white-male oriented.  To get out of it, we have things like Women’s History Month; Black History Month; Women’s and Gender (emphasis on women’s) studies; Africana Studies; Native American Studies. You get the idea.  If you want to learn the non-OK’d version of history, well you best not take the generic classes. Oh wait. In elementary through high school, there’s a little thing called being forced to. Nasty thing, that.


I’m not saying white-male oriented should be overlooked; I’d rather we have more say in our education.  If I want to study the women’s impact on the Revolutionary War, then I should be allowed to.  I shouldn’t have to sit through learning the same material year after year when I won’t need it and when I think most of it just clouds and confuses my mind in the first place.  I want to know things; but I want to know what I want to know. And I wish education was more geared towards that.

And actually, I know a lot of English classes will look at writings through “lenses” such as the “Feminist Lens.”  Can I just say that the form of the feminist lens we learn doesn’t even begin to cover feminism?  It generalizes it so much.  You could probably take the same story and analyze it with biological feminism, third wave feminism, and ecofeminism, and come up with three completely different conclusions.  Yet, feminism is so simplified in non-women’s study classes. It’s a shame as there is so much out there.  So much out there for everything that is part of the human existence.

Now onto the part that I may be yelled at/massacred for.  If anyone finds this blog, that is.  In her book, Steinem does a wonderful explication of the lack of self-esteem in Wuthering Heights and how self-esteem is important to the plot of Jane Eyre.  (I will admit, one of my favorite parts of this section is that I’d read all of the books that she mentioned. It made me giddy. Because I am a geek).

Anyway, her explication got me thinking about modern-day writings, namely a certain phenomenon that will only be named in this entry (and no where else in my blog): Twilight. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?)

Many people who read that-which-shall-not-be-named (and yes, I have read it. And its sequels. Don’t get me started on them.)  make a comment about how Bella is a doormat who cannot live without Edward.  Steinem was talking about how that’s not a healthy relationship, that you are lacking in self-esteem and it’s more romance than love.  What love is, according to Steinem, is when you can live without a person, you are whole without anyone else in your life, but you choose to commit yourself to a person (or more).  In Bella, as the second book shows oh so well, this is not the case.  She needs males to complete her.  Going by Steinem’s theory, she has insanely low self-esteem.

Now this is where I really began to think.  As everybody says to every budding would-be writer, “Write what you know.”  Most writers claim, as well, that they write what they know.  I actually think everyone does, especially what the subconsciously know/feel.  So assume this is true of Stephenie Meyer.  Many people already accuse Bella of being a Mary Sue, of basically being a thinly veiled Stephenie Meyer.  Going on her writing what she knows, could it be the case that she, do to her society or reasons I cannot fathom as I do not personally know her, have lower self-esteem that is thus mirrored in the character of Bella?

My theory increases with the readership.  It is well known that we American women have shitty self-esteem. (It’s hard with all those stick-thin models and growing up in a culture where you need to be that thin, and number one in everything).  So maybe, just maybe, the reason that everyone resonates with Bella and Twilight so much, and wants Edward, is that they are dealing with their own low self-esteem.  It’s like a low self-esteem support group, if you will, but instead of helping each other out, the stories are just reinforcing everyone’s already-poor image.

Now I’m not a psychiatrist/psychologist (though I did take general psychology 3 years ago :-p), but it’s just a theory that could help explain the popularity of Twilight.  So many people feel inadequate and feel that there is one person out there who could make them feel worthy, who could give their life a sense of validation.  Despite my dislike of it, I will acknowledge that Twilight resonates with people in that way.  It may not be healthy, but it is there.  And it’s something to think about.

*Yes, I had to look this word up.

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Self-Esteem: The Personal and Private Sphere

(Note: I’m not quite done with this book, but as I feel I have a lot to say, I figure I can type this up now and do another entry covering other stuff I have been thinking about later.  This is part one of two– for now– on Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-EsteemAbout a week or so ago, I wasn’t sure if I could finish this book. Now, I’m glad I kept reading.)

*Gets on Soapbox*

When I was in fifth grade, we learned about the American Revolutionary War.  Included in the reading was a brief profile of Molly Pitcher— a woman who would bring soldiers water (during battle) and who, after her husband was shot, took over his cannon. When we did the book company’s accompanying worksheet, Molly Pitcher and every other woman of influence (and those no one knows but whose courage played big roles) were missing.  I wrote on the top of the worksheet “Where are the women?” I didn’t understand why all the men were pinpointed as important enough to remember for a worksheet, and the women were forgotten.  Oddly enough, can’t tell you a single man on that worksheet. But I can tell you about Molly Pitcher. Yay public schools! I failed at your prerogative once again!

The next day, my teacher mentioned this in front of the class.

“My husband,” she said, “was helping me grade papers last night when he came across one that was odd.  He asked me what to do with it.  Ikkalee,* what did you write on your paper?”  Since the textbook had overlooked the women, and I had brought it to her attention, she in turn brought it to our class’ attention and made us wonder why the women– of whom several were important– were forgotten on our worksheet.

I am the girl who, in eighth grade, went through every profile in our history book (and the sermons at my church, but that’s another topic) and counted the number of mentioned men versus women, then wrote to the book’s publisher when it was greatly lopsided to the favor of men.  My eighth grade history teacher encouraged this.  If I wrote in the middle of the assignment “What is up with this treatment? It’s horrid!” she continued the discussion with me by writing back.  When she was out with kidney stones, a long-term sub who filled in did not approve.  When I voiced my opinion in the middle of a written assignment, she wrote back that it was inappropriate to do so.  It is this lack of being allowed to voice an 0pinion that I have had issues with other teachers, college included. (Oh college, how I still wake up muttering how much I despise you!)

It was sometime between thirteen and sixteen that I began to lose myself. I “matured” and by college, I refused to call myself a feminist. (I hate labels. I don’t want to be put into a box, so I went through a stage of eschewing all labels).

So what does this have to do with Gloria Steinem and Revolution From Within? Everything.

My self-esteem is high in some aspects, low in others.  I’m a mat that gets trod on so much.  I apologize for things when they aren’t really my fault. [Let’s put it this way: I read rule books.  Then I apologize when someone makes me do something that is not listed in the rules (i.e. I wear a bandanna and get told it’s not allowed when it said nothing about it in the rules), saying it’s wrong.  I know the rules, so why do I apologize for breaking them and subsequently feel horrible about breaking them, when it was not said to be against the rules in the first place? Shouldn’t it be posted better?]

In her book, Steinem makes a comment about when she was escorted out of a place she had every right to be in.  She took it.  And I realized, the exact same thing happened to me, when there was no notice or sign closing the place, and I just took it.  Maybe I lacked self-esteem.  Maybe I just felt too awkward.  Maybe my awkwardness is a result of low self-esteem.

I want to be nice, flexible, accommodating, but I’m too much at times.  I need to demand what I need when I’m being walked all over.  I need to point things out when I see them as wrong instead of simply taking it.  Yes, I have done it before.  And, ironically, the time I got in the most trouble was in a Woman’s History class in high school by a teacher who claimed she wanted to empower us.  But that’s a long story that I’m not going to get into today. Just gotta say though, how much do you love Public Education? (And its hypocrisy!)

This is what the book made me think about my own self-esteem.  I have it high in some places (I fail at conforming. And I like it) but low in others (aforementioned mat that I seem to become at times).  It’s a lot of things put into one, self-esteem is.  I have it too strong in some areas, too weak in others.  This book made me realize– or at least forced me to think about– some of these issues.  I need to be a feminist.  I need to be creative.  I need to be Ikkalee.

I can’t let myself be a mat on society’s kitchen floor any longer.

*Just so we’re clear, Ikkalee is not my real name.  Since I’m using that handle to reply to comments and post to this blog, I figured for clarity and privacy sake, I’d insert it whenever my actual name was called for.

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What can grad school teach me?

I’ve been thinking about if I should go to grad school or not lately. I have been reading books, and thinking more about implications and social stigmas and other intelligent-sounding ideas lately. I have also been creating classes in my head. And through it all, I realize: I’m being more critical, more curious now than I ever really was in college. Now why is that?

Part of me thinks I should go to grad school as college was a disappointment and I feel I’m owed an amazing education. And then I realize that me + American Education are not friends. As far back as second grade, I was having issues with school and the other kids in my class. Fourth grade sucked. Fifth grade was alright. And then I hit middle school. There is little redemption after middle school.

So if I’m so unhappy with formal education, why subject myself to more? I didn’t even really want to go to college, but I did. And I was less than thrilled. Even my mom thinks that my best semester was my last one. That’s not saying a whole lot for that school.

I don’t know. I’m at a loss. Is grad school worth it? Or should I meander through life, picking up knowledge on the way in a way that better suits me? I just don’t know.

Maybe I’ll just move to a deserted island. Anyone know any available?

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Thoughts on my Major as Graduation Draws Closer

I often think about how I should have gone to a different school. I assume I would have been happier, had not had to deal with the poison that courses through my veins while I am here. Even beautiful days cannot save me from the tides of moodiness, the emotions that refuse to rise up into a faint little smile. I do not fit in here. I do not care about poetics, about new age interpretations of Shakespeare and his ilk. I wish to learn and to feel—but I do not feel as though I belong here.

Days in class go by and my mouth clams up. It dries out and the words choke. I’m gasping for air as my brain ceases to function and my mouth—it will never open. Not here, not now, not ever. They speak around me. I choose not to listen. My mind wanders, flitting off down a path where nothing in ever right, though nothing is ever wrong, either.

“I think Shakespeare meant to say this,” one girl says, for the classes are always full of girls. Girls whose icy stares catch at your heart, stop the warm cascade of thoughts that course from head to toe. You think Shakespeare meant what he meant to say and that we all read too much into it; but you do not dare to say it. Shakespeare was a male chauvinist and Shakespeare was a feminist. Shakespeare cannot be put into a box. You do not say this. Your mouth dries up even further and your lips begin to meld together.

They sit around with their coffee flasks, sipping and discussing, sipping and discussing. One professor called a literature class a glorified book club. You don’t drink coffee. And you don’t belong to book clubs either. Besides, you reason, book clubs don’t grade on participation, don’t glare you down when they think you are wrong. Leaders of book clubs don’t ask your opinion and then mark you wrong. This isn’t a glorified book club; this is a societal prison. You have choice of where to go and what to take. But you still have to do the time.

Everyone around you is high achieving, always speaking. There are three of you who remain silent. You are not comfortable speaking in class, people seem to think. But have they ever asked you why? Have they ever asked about your first semester of college in the first week, being preyed on with hungry eyes and chomping mouths when you held an opinion that was far different from their own? You spoke then, but society told you to shut up. There was no way around it; you listened.

How did you feel when you read this? you want to ask, to throw your classmates for a loop. Do they feel anything about literature, or do they look at the basics of it, the makings and nothing else? You feel a lot. Every book you’ve read, every article you’ve skimmed and claimed to be reading has worked its way into you, pages and pages of letters and letters that now make up your blood. You are a walking library. You feel every emotion, every pain. You cry when Catherine is forced to marry Linton. You rejoice when Darcy weds Elizabeth, and Jane weds Bingley. Every time Agnes smiles, you smile. Every time the little mermaid gives up her prince, you give part of your self away, too. And when Dracula kills Lucy—you want to kill him in return.

The important things are never discussed and the books keep spinning themselves into your blood. With literature coursing through your veins, you wander. There is no place to go, no place to return to. You are here—and here is not where you need to be.

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