Learn Something Everyday

In the course of grading my midterms for Popular Culture in English Speaking Countries, I’ve learned the following:

  • Bombay can also be spelled Bumbay or Bombai.
  • “Elbiss Presly” (Preslley, Plesly, etc) was the King of Rock’n’Roll, and he died of glycosuria (and/or stress, and/or suicide)
  • Indians love song and dance more than any other people, which is why song-and-dance numbers are so prevalent in Indian films
  • one prevalent stereotype of African American men widely expressed in blackface minstrelsy is that they’re all bisexual
  • The only Beatle who has not been assassinated is Paul McCartney.
  • The Indian festival Teej is celebrated in March.
  • Charlie Parker was a beat poet.
  • Another famous Beat is “Jacques ?”, who wrote “junk”.
  • Blackface performance is making inroads in American popular culture today.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t teach them these things. But I guess I overstated the, “If you were paying attention during lectures, then a basic review of your notes ought to suffice” reassurance.

Thankfully, most of the essays are much more coherent and sensible than the answers to the short-answer questions, from which most of the above (but not all) is taken. I have 8 more essays to read. And I think I may have to reduce the value of the midterm or of the short answer section if these kids are going to get decent marks. (Which I’m willing to do, since it seems I overestimated how much they could absorb. And I’m taking note of this in the preparation of my strategy for the second half of the semester. This week, a crash course in popular British culture, and then diving right into a little of The Office, viewed with subtitles and craftily crafted discussion questions.

UPDATE (30/10/2006): Another example here of someone whose grasp on the point was off: I was grading a guy’s essay on why people consider blackface performance to be so offensive today, and I realized that he felt it was offensive that black people were expressing all these angry feelings through the medium of blackface, but that at the same time it was their right as they’d suffered so much in American history. He felt that blackface was, straightforwardly, the black American’s weapon of critique of the oppression black Americans. The ‘offensiveness’ he was discussing involved images of black poverty, black ignorance (poor educations), and so on. This guy, slightly uncharacteristically for him in fact, just did not get it, even in the most basic way. (But then, he has kind of been doing not so well this semester.)

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