October 1, 2003

Dead Tyrant’s Society

There is a terrific scene in the film Dead Poet's Society where prep school English teacher Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) has his students read aloud from a bloviating essay called “Understanding Poetry” by J. Evans Pritchard.

If the poem's score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal of a graph and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness."
Mr. Keating tells his bored and timid students what to do with it.
I want you to rip out that page. Go on. Rip out the entire page. You heard me. Rip it out. Rip it out! Go on. Rip it out! [...]

Keep ripping, gentlemen! This is a battle. A war. And the casualties could be your hearts and souls. Thank you, Dalton. Armies of academics going forward, measuring poetry. No! We'll not have that here. No more Mr. J. Evans Pritchard. Now, my class, you will learn to think for yourselves again. You will learn to savor words and language. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

Yes, indeed.

Little kids in Iraq will get the same sort of lesson this year, only on a much grander scale.

New Saddam-free textbooks are being printed, but they are not expected to be available until November. So students will open their books and face a variation of that old test question: identify the object that does not belong with the rest. The correct answers will require tearing out full-page pictures of Mr. Hussein and drawing lines through the paragraphs about the Baath Party's Great March.

"We want the exercise to teach students and teachers that the days of fear are finished," said Fuad Hussein, an adviser to the Ministry of Education, who has been supervising the de-Baathication of every textbook, from first-grade readers to high-school physics texts.

Rip them out, kiddos. I want to hear nothing but ripping!

(Via Who Knew?)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2003 2:11 PM
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