Rise in TV Engagement Proves That English Teachers are Doing Too Good a Job
All English teachers, can I have your attention please? There’s something you need to be aware of: you’re doing your job TOO WELL.
Sure, most people can’t decide which their/there/they’re to use, nobody knows how the hell to use a semi-colon, and words are being replaced by emojis without prejudice, but the analysis! Everywhere you turn people are using the critical thinking skills you were extolling, oftentimes to scarily complex and intense levels.
I know, this might come as a shock given how middle and high school students respond when we ask them to think analytically about a text. Remember when we told them the conch was important in Lord of the Flies? Remember when we asked them to pay attention to the first mention of rabbits in Of Mice and Men? Remember how they scoffed?
“Oh, come on!” they pleaded, with a full body eye roll. “Do you really think the author was thinking about all of these things when he wrote the book?”
We were just over-thinkers, sent to suck the life out of good story. Then the Golden Age of television came, and all of those former students want to sing the praises of analytical criticism.
There are chat forums dedicated to the use of Stevia in Breaking Bad. There was a summer of intense debate about a t-shirt being worn in Mad Men, and George RR Martin being a terrible proof-reader of his massive novels has lead to rampant speculation about why certain character’s eye color shifts. There’s even the theory that Breaking Bad is actually a prequel to Walking Dead. If you can think of an “out of the box” piece of analysis, chances are somebody has already broken it down and written about it.
On behalf of all English teachers: we told you so.
Now, have fun, but remember that, as with most things, analytical criticism is best when used in moderation. It’s just as easy to have too much analysis as it is to get too drunk or eat too much at Thanksgiving. They all leave you with similarly regrettable feelings. Dive in and have your fill, but also remember to be healthy and avoid over-indulgence.
Also, perhaps most importantly, as we told you back in class: if somebody sees a story in a different way, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong; there are a multitude of ways to analyze just one line of text, let alone one scene. Get as much evidence as possible for your theories, but if your girlfriend, best friend, or colleague doesn’t want to believe that Dr. House is a grown up Doogie Houser, or that Jon Stark is actually Ned Stark’s sister’s child (thus the bastard of Rhaegar Targaryen and Danyres’ brother), then it’s best not to berate them and tell them how stupid they are. Your opinion is only as good as how effectively you can defend or express it.
So, have a blast carving up and piecing back together this new era of television. Just remember, when your kid is complaining about how the English teacher is making him/her annotate in the book and analyze symbols, that Sunday nights of Mad Men and Game of Thrones would be a lot less fun if you’d never learned how to think critically.