ETHOS

ETHOS

Monday, October 19, 2009

Once upon a Beat

Hello Internet, I was wondering what has happened to the Beat generation. I've looked for them in the pages of my high school American Literature textbook and... can you guess? They're not there! While scouring you (Internet) for resources I have found many wonderful documentaries... no really. Not just a bunch of video montages made by college students set to their girlfriend mispronouncing words from "HOWL"... serious film. The more I study the Beats, the more I wonder if they're best left out of the survey of American literature most high school students have dolloped onto their consciousness like a fartsound spoon of cafeteria confectionery. Why leave out the Beats, folks? Why?

I understand the intellectual cowardice that rules public education. In the "HOWL" obscenity trial one of those standing against the poem was a public school teacher. We have always been part of THE MAN's tribe. Not quite gun and badge carriers, but close enough to call it. Am I right? So what's this trying to be with the hip crowd. Settle back into your Robert Frost, Norman Rockwell campy Americana, drink your Ovaltine and lower your voice. This is a library, need I remind you.

I found a lesson plan that actually calls for the teacher to play a recording of "HOWL." I mean, am I pushing the envelope too much? Should I just be content with teaching the "masters"? My book includes some of the Harlem renaissance writers... shouldn't I just leave well enough alone?

I've spent a significant amount of time with Ginsberg's poetry. I read On the Road. I know Corso and Snyder's stuff. I can't help but feel these are representative contemporary American writers. Were they any more radical than the Romantics? Maybe just a little bit. I don't know. Maybe I should just be content to put them out on the shelves and point the occasional beat soul their way. Maybe discovering these writers on your own is more gratifying. Maybe I need to stop being a pansy and just xerox 11" X 17" copies of "Bomb" for the class to read out loud. I'm not trying to be cute...

I suppose I'm having these thoughts having come off teaching The Catcher in the Rye. Isn't that part of the story? Can we be so bold as to consider it a critique of American values in the 1940s. Isn't Holden a Beat in cocoon? Haven't upper middle class, capitalist, white Christian values failed him? Isn't that the point? How can a teacher teach The Catcher in the Rye and not go on to the Beats? What am I supposed to do? Pass out copies of "The Road Not Taken" and tell them "Holden took the easy way out, and if you're not careful his failure will be your failure too." Should I be stroking my cop moustache while I say it?

Ah, it's all too much. I'm going to sleep. Peace.

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