Thursday, September 15, 2011

To Quote My Grandmother: "Why Are Teenagers So Stupid?"

I promised myself that I would not use this site as a teenager-bashing forum. But, I just can't resist putting this up.  It just happened in one of my senior English classes.

Currently, we are reading Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; we are seven chapters into it. This is one of my favorite unit to teach: I read it aloud to the students with plenty of dramatic flair, I am really good at connecting the protagonist's experience to theirs (and with teens, if you make it about them, they are in), and using it as a tool to build their skills of analysis.

This is the cover of their copies.

They've taken a couple of quizzes, we've had discussions, and they have had a copy checked out to them.  At this moment, the students are working on completing some analysis questions for those chapters we've read. I always preface these questions with the statement, "These are not recall questions. This story is not that hard to follow. These questions require you to think of the significance of what's happening in Holden's life."

Students nod, either to acknowledge an appreciation for their budding intelligence or because they just want me to shut up so they can figure out where they are going to get wasted this weekend.

I go to my desk to input attendance and to email my sister. Oh, and to check in on the blog.

I see the blur of a white T-shirt in my peripheral as a student approaches me.  "Uh, Ms. Vance, who is Salinger."

Without shifted my eyes from the computer screen, I throw out the side of my mouth, "The author of the book."

A few minutes later, an second student asks me the same question. Much to my chagrin, I realize that students are getting stuck on question #3: "Compare and contrast Ackley and Stradlater [characters in the novel]. Why do you think Salinger has Holden interact with them?"  To try to waylay further irritation, shuffled over to my podium so that I am at the center of attention and announced to the class: "J.D. Salinger is the author of the book."

A chorus of "Ohhhhhhh"s fills the room. I smile, give them a curt nod, and return to my computer.

One young lady, who is very pretty and therefore very popular and therefore, therefore hasn't seen the need to develop her brain says, "Oh my God, this is a biography?"

I peer from around my computer screen, "No, honey. Make-believe stories are written by humans too."

She blinks at me, and then to save face, flicks her hair back. I think two boys who sit across the room from her swoon. Fluttering her beautiful green eyes to the ceiling, she says knowingly, "Oh, so then he's one of the characters. But, which chapter was he in?"

Holy shit.  And it's only 2nd period. I have two more periods of seniors ahead of me.

For 3rd period, I decide to nip this in the bud. As soon as I pass out the questions, I tell the class to look at question #3 and then say, "Salinger is the author of the book. I just wanted to make sure you all knew that before ten of you ask me and I flip out because several people last period asked me who he was."

This time, I get a chorus of, "Who doesn't know that? What dumb-asses [I think the exact word they use is  'fuck-tards' but I find that really offensive and dumb-ass means the same thing]," but then I notice a few of their classmates studying the cover of Catcher, as their shoulders roll forward, they hunker down a bit, and then glance up nervously to see if anyone else noticed that they were one of those "dumb-asses."


  1. LOL! Oh my heck, that is just sad! So glad you took a moment to bash. After that - I think they deserve it. Especially little miss popular. They obviously don't like her for her brain! hahaha

  2. I weep for the generation of stupids that our country is raising. Education cutbacks and the destitute payscale afforded teachers is backsliding the country. Someday, kids will think that Twilight was a biography and wonder why vampires aren't around anymore.

  3. Oh. My. God. What?

    That's impressive!

    As much as I laugh, please tell me you have some jewels that blow you away with their literary analysis. Or y'know, by knowing that Salinger is the author.

  4. So much bashing.
    So much bashing on that poor, green-eyed girl.
    I want to be that girl.

  5. *shakes head*
    Hang in there, Holly!


  6. And this is why you became a teacher, right? Thanks for sharing.

  7. I feel for you. I have to say that Michael's comment made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

  8. I was laughing so hard after reading this post! How did this girl pass elementary school? Or even kindergarten? How old is she anyway?! If I was one of her classmates and if I was sitting next to her, I would slap the backside of her head. But I would probably get into trouble, won't I? Seriously, this girl is the reason why people think teenagers are dumb. I also feel for you.

  9. I won't be wrong. I'm sorry? He's the AUTHOR? what did I say? I WON'T BE WRONG!


    You are a brave soul.

  10. *Shakes head* Wow. Just wow. I would laugh if it didn't make me feel so sad for the world at large...

  11. OH my goodness. I loled so hard at this. Then I facepalmed. I hear so many funny stories like this from my teacher friends, but in the end it IS so sad.

    Kudos to you, for being a teacher! It is one heck of a hard job!

  12. Hi Holly, just wanted to let you know that I gave your blog the Liebster Award today! =)

  13. I've awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award! Here are the details: I hope you're pleased. I've enjoyed visiting your blog and want others to do so. Thanks!

  14. This post cracks. me. up. I've been back at least three times since first reading it. And I've shared it with my daughters - who found it hysterical.


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