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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Not merely the validity of experience..."

The NYC Ministry of Truth Department of Education wants a long list of words banned from standardized tests, to avoid making students "uncomfortable" or "jealous." Some of these words (or, more accurately, the activities and concepts they refer to) already don't make sense as things to put on standardized tests -- why would you have a question about pornography or abuse of people, alcohol or drugs on a test designed for school-aged children? And don't get me started on the Georgia testmakers who had slavery word problems. But not wanting to trigger trauma is not the same as not wanting to bring up the fact that there are people who adhere to different religions, or celebrate holidays you don't. And the way to address our society's class inequalities is not to take "swimming pools" off of tests (though, as with the long-ago yacht example from the SAT, questions probably shouldn't require personal experience of how long a swimming pool is).

What's the line, here? Even if we all agree that a random question about divorce might be unnecessary or insensitive, will we all agree that dancing is out, except for ballet? Or that music is fine, as long as it's not rap or rock and roll? And how far do we take it? Should we remove all references to light, to keep from making the migraine sufferers uncomfortable? Should we remove all mention of parents, in case anyone taking the test has ever had an argument with theirs? What about dogs -- surely someone is afraid of dogs. Or clowns or spiders or heights. You know what? We'd better ban use of the word "people" as well, since they're known to case so much of the distress in the world.

More seriously, what happens when people who don't want "disturbing" things, like evolution or religious difference, in the classroom use their exclusion on the test as a precedent?

Sorry for the screed. I just think there are so many more important things the Dept. of Ed. could be focusing on. Like actually teaching students the skills they need to succeed in the world, which include learning to think and live well in a world that will not simply edit itself for your comfort.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Burton/Depp Dark Shadows is dead to me.

Years ago, when I heard that Johnny Depp was interested in making a Dark Shadows movie, I was thrilled. THRILLED! How could I have known? Who could have predicted that, by the time that dream came true, it would be a Tim Burton-ized nightmare? Even when I heard that it would be another Burton/Depp collaboration, I had hope. Maybe this would be the chance for Burton to run with the fantastically dark and ease up a little on the anvilicious whimsy? Then the first pictures of Depp as Barnabas came out, and I knew for sure that this would not be the Dark Shadows for me. Today, a friend sent me the trailer, and it is the proverbial nail in the coffin (or the chains around it, given the source material). How bad does it look? Note that I'm not providing a link to it. It looks like Burton, Depp, et al. have made Dark Shadows via The Addams Family, and it doesn't even look like a funny version of that. Too bad, I think, and a waste of a stellar cast.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Once upon a time...

500 New Fairytales Discovered in Germany

I think this is awesome. The story linked from the article (The Turnip Princess) doesn't completely make sense (I wonder if part of the narrative is missing?), but I'll definitely want to check these out when the translations are released. Honestly, this is the first time I've wished I'd learned to read German. This article says there is some overlap with more familiar collections, but also some that are not collected in other places. Exciting!

This reminds me that I've been wanting to reread some of the fairy tales I already know, and to read more of the ones I don't. Also? It's been way too long since I went full nerd on a new (to me) mythology. Any recommendations? A lot of us go through a good bit of the Greco/Roman stories, but what other mythology have you read that you'd suggest? And, if you're a fairy tale reader, what's your favorite? I honestly don't know what my favorite traditional fairy tale is -- that's why I want to reread them. It occured to me when Disney's Beauty and the Beast was rereleased that I couldn't actually remember the source material. My favorite fairy tales are actually adaptations of fairy tales: 1) things based on Beauty and the Beast and 2) Sondheim's Into the Woods. For the former, Cocteau's 1946 La Belle et la BĂȘte left a lasting impression (I think Beast's human face at the end is a nice touch); Disney's Beauty and the Beast (which, in my opinion, gets Beast's human form TOTALLY WRONG) is, hands down, my favorite Disney movie; and my beloved Gargoyles (also, surprisingly, Disney) is, at the very least, Beauty and the Beast adjacent, even going so far as to put Elisa Maza in Belle's dress for part of an episode. Yeah, it was corny. And by corny, I mean awesome.

Into the Woods 
mashes up and fractures Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella (and features amusing cameos by a couple of other recognizable fairy tales). I wonder how long it wil be before people start to fracture these new fairy tales.