Ever notice a recurring pattern in your dreams? Every few months, I dream that I’m back in high school. The latest dream in the series occurred a couple of nights ago. I dreamed that I was coming back to school after being out six days – an entire week, and a Monday. So in the dream it was Tuesday morning, and I really didn’t want to go back.
In this dream – and in quite a few others I’ve had – I had a term paper due for English class. The term paper to me symbolizes the ultimate in useless, waste-of-time busy work. When I was in 12th grade we had to write a 20-page term paper on a subject in British literature, and it couldn’t be about Shakespeare. We had to form a thesis, make three supporting points, and draw a conclusion.
If I had my way, the thesis I probably would have used was, “Making high school students write a 20-page paper about British literature is a sure way to make them hate British literature for the rest of their lives.” Of course, being a senior I was worried about keeping my GPA up, getting into Rhodes and all that crap. So I did what was expected of me and wrote a paper on the development of the King Arthur legend.
I can honestly say I do not remember thing one about that paper, other than the topic. And I can honestly say that I learned absolutely nothing about writing by doing that assignment. I was already a pretty good writer by that time. Know how I learned to write so well? It damn sure wasn’t from anything I did in English class. I became a good writer because, in junior high and high school, I was addicted to professional wrestling. I subscribed to all the magazines – The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and Sports Review Wrestling – and read them over and over again. Whether I realized I was doing it or not, I incorporated the columnists’ writing style into my own.
Of course, pro wrestling wasn’t what I was “supposed” to be interested in. I was supposed to be into Dickens and Beowulf and Jane Austen. That was what the school system deemed important. Trouble was, I HATED that stuff. Oh, I knew how to work the system – I read 22 pages of Pride and Prejudice and some of the Cliffs Notes, inserted a few quotes from the book because I knew the teacher liked that, and got an A+ on the paper we had to do on it. One of my classmates wrote the paper I dreamed of writing – he gave it an honest review, said he hated it and that writing a report on it was a waste of his time. The teacher called it a “temper tantrum on paper” and gave him a D. Schools reward students for conforming, not for original, critical thought.
What’s my point in writing about this? …Hell if I know. Just wanted to write something in my journal, I guess. How’s that for a conclusion paragraph?