Monday, July 03, 2006

Idiots with honors

I was recently reminded of an experience I had in a high school honors English course.

After the first semester of the first year spent in non-honors English I couldn't stand it; I was bored out of my skull, and when I saw what they were doing in honors, I joined the program. I had a lot of fun learning to explicate poetry and the classics because I found it genuinely interesting. What I didn't find genuine were the people attending the honors class.

They openly joked that they were just there to get it on their transcript, and joked privately about not knowing anything about the literature and that they just BS'ed their way through the essay or homework. "I just write down whatever she says, then stretch it out into 5 pages, and bam! Get an A." After I realized how many people there were doing just that, I made it a point to have a dissenting opinion. Where everyone (teacher included) found "X" I found "Y" (which was sometimes hard to prove, and wound up taking extra study time). I didn't care about any of those other idiots, and laughed to myself whenever I got a bad grade on a paper stating that my opinion on some literature was wrong (not my supporting evidence, just my opinion). I actively participated in the discussions (something the idiots rarely did after they ran out of the teacher's premade points), gave my opinions and evidence, but ignored my "peers" as much as I could.

On the second year I began to think I was being a little harsh, and thought I should give them a little more credit. Perhaps I was just being immature. I participated less in the discussions to get a feel for my classmates (some new). I mostly found them to be exactly the same. Whenever the discussion was getting flat I'd inject one of my ideas and step back, just to see what they could do with it (which was mostly nothing). While we were discussing Siddhartha, the conversation went flat, and I asked a question of my classmates and teacher; I asked about the Vasudeva character, and since he was enlightened, and his name carried the suffix "deva," I wondered if anyone knew if "vasu" had a connection with the river. They all (teacher included) stared at me blankly for at least 5 long seconds. I explained my question more; the Sanskrit etymology for "deva" was a kind of all-knowing divinity, an enlightened being, and since the character was enlightened the name seemed to fit, but I wanted to know if anyone was familiar with the etymology (Sanskrit or other) of "vasu," which I speculated carried a connection to the river since he was a ferryman. Absolute silence. I looked to the teacher for help, who, after realizing that she had the same blank stare her pupils did, quickly turned to the board and wrote down "Vasu: ?; Deva: divinity" and turned around with her teacher face back on. "So, does anyone have any thoughts on his question?" Perfect silence. They wouldn't even look at me. I got fed up, and said "You know, why don't I just research that myself..." and returned to ignoring everyone else in the class.

I was upset about it at the time, but later looked back on it fondly as the time I shut up all those idiots (and the teacher) who never missed an opportunity to hear themselves talk or appear smart. They simply had nothing to say.

Years later I spoke to someone from that class who asked me if I remembered that incident. He said that a few days before he was hanging out with some friends also from the class, and when talking about high school, one of them brought up the incident which they all remembered. He said that it made them realize that I wasn't faking it like everyone else, and that I was actually smart.

The Sanskrit prefix "Vasu" means to have desires or tendencies towards something.

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