Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


Catholic school all the way here, too. And bad Latin teacher, too, though not as bad as yours. And as for taking PE anywhere near boys - forget it. We had a PE teacher who specialized in dance! But I am glad for my education experience overall.
I applaud your willingness to tackle tough projects (books that aren't easy reads). I read for entertainment and therefore don't really want to work at it. Lazy, I know.

By Blogger Linda, at 10:36 AM  

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004  

I knew we were having a busy summer at work, but it ramped into hyperdrive yesterday. I haven't checked the back stats, but it just may have been our busiest day ever. We're not quite a one horse operation but we limp like one. My assistant was doing a puppet making workshop in the early afternoon and when she came back at lunch and saw the crowd waiting for her she almost turned around and walked back out. Only half the crowd was future puppet-masters, though, the other half was comprised of younger siblings, infants, and mothers, so she knew I had equal share in the crowd control.

Well, it's nice to be a success - and we always have a slow day thrown in sometime during the week. (please?!?) Just not today, since today is Wednesday, and Wednesday means story hour.

My knitting and spinning are all taking a back seat these days, to a favorite activity BD and I share - reading out loud to each other. Both of us like the listening and the reading, but this time I'm doing all the reading. It began with a series of lectures on tape from Recorded Books that the library just got in - The Modern Scholar. The one I'm listening to is called Monsters Gods and Heroes: approaching the epic in literature. The lecturer is Timothy B. Shutt of Kenyon College. He has a good voice, a little gravely, but passionate - the way scholarly people can sound when they're really having fun. He covers the two Homers, the Aenead, Beowulf, the Divine Comedy, The Faerie Queene, and Paradise Lost. I've read the first two, Beowulf and parts of the DC and PL. BD read big chunks of FC to me about a year ago when he tackled it. (Not my cuppa’, though I'm usually the fairy type) But somehow I never read the Aenead. We have both the Dryden translation and a modern one by Robert Fitzgerald, (BD was, and still is, a classics scholar) and of the two, the Fitzgerald is better for reading out loud. Or at least, I can catch the cadences better with this one. The Dryden reads delightfully to myself, but makes me stumble when I try to read it out loud.

Anyway, after listening to the tapes, I suddenly had this lust to get to know Virgil. My own brief brush with anything remotely classical was 2 abysmal years of high school Latin, taught by an ancient nun who evidently held enormous power within the convent, though she was not the school principal. She had been a debutante (so she claimed) in 1910, so presumably she was born about '92. 1892. She taught Latin and beginning French to little clutches of Catholic girls in green uniforms, certainly as late as 1970 - perhaps even longer. Or should I say, she suffered us to crowd her space as late as 1970. The year she taught my class freshman Latin, she merely had us correct the second year class' homework. Evidently we were supposed to soak up the mysteries of grammar and vocabulary via osmosis. We didn't. The next year, when it came time for Caesar, we were in hot water. Nobody knew a thing. To make it worse, we had her twice a day, first period for French I and third period for Latin II.

It may not have been so bad, had we not also had phys.ed. 2 days a week in between those two classes - and PE was taught at the boy's school a few blocks down the street, in the only gymnasium available. Those teachers insisted, rightfully, that a healthy body was as important as a healthy mind, but not an adult in that school could coordinate clocks. Invariably we were late getting back down the street 2 days a week - and late arrivals were not allowed into Latin class. So on Monday and Thursday, girls whose last names began with A-K stood out in the hall, and on Tuesdays and Fridays, the M-Z gals loitered.

There was a little trepidation when the first report cards came out, but we found that as long as you handed in one page of Caesar every day, and filled in all the blanks on the tests with something, (truly anything at all) you got a C. The translated pages didn't have to be unique, either. You would hand in one page on Monday, another on Tuesday, when you got Monday's homework back, and on Wed, you erased the date and page number on Monday's returned page and offered it up as legitimate. When the pages got too grubby, you had to come up with a new one, but someone was sure to have an older sister who would help a tangled scholar and it was considered only sporting, if you had a new page translated, to give it to everyone to copy. It was also the job of the students who made it into the classroom to see that the hall lingerers' homework was handed in along with theirs.

One day, in the middle of the school year, the principal noticed a group of us standing in the hall, walked down towards us, black habit fluttering, witchy shoes clicking loudly. 15 throats gulped as she neared, but she only peered into the classroom through the doorwindow, made a sort of sighing sound, turned and clicked back down the hall. At the end, she flicked on the light.

I don't think a single parent believed our complaints about this situation and, like the cynics most teens are when it comes to adults, we soon accepted this weird situation. I think back on it now and am appalled - but not actually surprised. I suppose it was an object lesson in the inefficiency, wastefulness, and stupidity of institutions - be they government, religion, or business. Anything that's really big, that is structured in such megalithic, Byzantine hierarchy, is bound to be 50% sham. It survives purely by it's monolithic size. It's death is assured, sooner or later, not as an enormous collapse, but as a slow inner decay.

On record, I learned Latin. In fact, I did not. It’s not a good idea for grownups to display such hypocrisy and falsehood to teens. Every adult; parents, teachers, and administration, let us down big time, all to appease a turf war in a commune. It really turned me off to group activities of any sort and convinced me that, if everybody is going along with it, it’s probably a hoax.

Of course, much, even most, of my Catholic School experience was extremely good and I don’t even really mind the loss of a classical education. I am a naturally lazy woman when it comes to obeying others, quick to slack if I can find a way to stay out of trouble, and in my book, that is mostly what school was - obeying others. Heck. It is mostly what I thought the whole of childhood was. I do regret that Caesar isn’t taught - in English, please - to everybody. What I managed to decipher from my cursory efforts was really interesting.

But hey - it’s never too late to correct that sort of omission and that’s what I’m doing now. I’m so enjoying Virgil I begin to suspect that, at last, in my 5th decade, I’m ready to tackle long poems. An entire genre lies open before me. Pretty darn good, I’d say, for someone half way through the journey!

posted by Bess | 5:41 AM