“Animals don’t talk.” This I know, or at least accept. I can, however, handle a marsupial or small canine with a speaking role in the realm of fiction. I mean, it’s fiction, right? Well, evidently it’s not that easy. Creative license be damned, talking animals would appear to be the biggest hurdle with the freshmen, who have just finished reading Animal Farm. “Animals don’t talk.” I guess it bears repeating, because he said it again. I’m thinking, however, that their gripe isn’t with animals talking so much as with the pig getting the lead. I suppose they’re the same people who boycotted Charlotte’s Web in elementary school. Unless I missed something in biology, spiders don’t spell. Not to mention that ridiculous ogre and his donkey sidekick who just received Oscar nods (well, the movie did). And don’t look now, but 13 nominations just went to that epic they waited so long for, which stars a hobbit, some fairies, a wizard a centenarian many times over, and a ring that harnesses the powers of evil.
“I could handle it if they were just thinking it, but it’s dumb. Animals don’t talk.” Oh, I get it. It’s not the portrayal of cattle and swine as sentient beings (who’s to say they’re not?), but give them lines and all is lost.
Obviously, you can forget about trying to discuss the importance of the novel (novel meaning fiction) as social commentary (“How can a book be important?”), or the arguably more important work its author would later write. “Animals don’t talk.” Yeah, I get it. Was it because the barnyard extras in the movie weren’t union?
Freshmen = kids, and we know how I feel about them.
So, when do they outgrow the “hit me as hard as you can, I bet it won’t hurt” stage, which follows on the heels of, if not coincides with, the “feel my bicep” stage, and enter the “I’ll do it the night before it’s due, don’t worry, Mr. Hindes” stage? I only ask because I expended no small amount of energy trying to get a student to work on a paper during class the other day, as opposed to putting it off until “I’m at home and can put on some music, watch TV, and get it done.” Because that’s an environment conducive to paper writing. But, now that I think about it, I think the “feel my bicep” thing may be lifelong. I know guys in their 20s still telling people to feel their biceps—which, if you think about it, is a really weird thing to ask someone. Although, I think it safe to say I could leave them in a room with a faucet and not come back to find it flooded. There seems to be a general fascination with running water in the science class—that’s the one taught by Superman. The class is in a combo classroom-lab, which, naturally, has faucets at each station. It started off slowly. You know, Superman would be at the board explaining the intricacies of, oh, what the hell, krypton, and then you’d hear it. And then someone would be wet. And, come to think of it, it’s not just the freshmen in Superman’s class, it’s juniors, too, in English classes with bottles of water and unsuspecting friends sitting in front of them. You’d think living in such close proximity to the seventh-largest lake on the continent that water wouldn’t be such a mystery to them. And then I wonder if I could use this to my advantage. Just hold a bottle of water up whenever I wanted to get their attention. I’ve noticed that the students don’t have any qualms about just walking into the faculty room whenever they want to get ours. Case in point: Yesterday during my extended lunch (I figured I should set up the intern to do the algebra review, lest I do a disservice to the students by leading it myself) a student walked right up to the table, with no less than six faculty and staff engaged in conversation, and just started talking. He must have been rambling for nearly a minute before I had the wherewithal to ask him to whom he was speaking, since he’d never said excuse me or even called any of us by name.