Saturday, November 08, 2014

You're not getting older, you're getting--oh wait, you are getting older after all!

A student pointed to a phrase in a reading assignment--je ne sais quoi--and asked me what it meant. I performed an exaggerated Gallic shrug and said, "I don't know what."

"Well, okay, then I guess I can look it up."

It took a little while to unravel that misunderstanding, the latest in a long line of misunderstandings in my classes, most of which remind me of the ever-increasing age gap between myself and my students. Here are some things my students found utterly unfamiliar in recent classes:

The Cold War.

"Fran" as a unisex name. (The fact that my parents are Francis and Frances may make me especially sensitive to this issue, but seriously: they've never heard of a woman named Fran before?) 

Chuck Yeager (despite the fact that his name is attached to an airport just down the highway).

The fact that The Godfather was a book before it was a movie.



Logical Positivist.

Sang froid.


"Not with a bang but a whimper."

And that's how I'll go out one day, carrying immense amounts of increasingly irrelevant knowledge in my woefully overcrowded brain.


Bardiac said...


I have to admit, if you'd have asked me any of those words in my first weeks of college, I'd have known "herpetologist" and that's it. (Okay, I'd have also known about the Godfather, and had some sense that Chuck Yeager was a pilot, but not much.)

I bet your students are REALLY good at bubble tests and asking for strict rubrics, though?

It's frustrating, isn't it? Especially that they don't get pop culture references I use, and I have no clue at all about theirs. Pretty much the same thing was happening when I was in college, I bet.

Bev said...

Yes, I know I miss a lot of their references, and I don't even want to know how many times I made my own professors shake their heads in despair over my ignorance. (Cue "Circle of Life.")

LJL said...

They don't know Vogons? What are these kids learning these days? I fear for our future.

Bev said...

Here is a true story: about a decade ago I taught a comedy class in which students read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and hated it. How could such a slim little volume engender such hatred? They couldn't make out the humor. You may recall the conversation when Ford Prefect tells Arthur that something or other is "unpleasantly like being drunk," and Arthur asks "What's so unpleasant about being drunk," and Ford says something like "ask a glass of water." I don't know how much class time I devoted to trying to get a certain student to twist her brain sideways enough to see the word play before I finally gave it up as a lost cause. Never again! (Although I have shown a few clips from the film occasionally.)