Kim Kizyma
Graphic Designer + Creative Technologist

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Blog Posts and Ideas by Kim Kizyma

Traditional English classes are flawed

The Office is probably my favorite TV show of all time...if I had to choose. The funny thing is that I first got into the show because of a gen ed course I took in college. The class was for an English credit, and it was something about analysis of TV shows, and I thought that sounded much more up my alley as a college student than something more literature based. I mean let’s be honest, there’s no way I was going to read books for gen ed’s in college, so my best bet was to take the class where we watched TV shows instead. And yeah, I got exposure to a lot of awesome shows which I am still re-watching years later, today.

So yeah...The Office. I started watching it for that class in my senior year of college. And once I started, I couldn’t stop. I thought it was absolutely hysterical and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t watched it or at least seen clips of it before. I thought the character dynamics and entire archetypical structure of the show was extremely refreshing yet relatable. In a way, it kind of reminded me of the mockumentary Summer Heights High. The humor was that level of funny. And I didn’t expect it at all. I usually don’t find shows on “normal TV” to be super funny personally...it’s kind of more that “generic” humor, instead of the crude and sarcastic humor of The Office. I really couldn’t get enough of the show.

We also watched other really great shows in that class. We watched episodes of Freaks and Geeks, which I fell in love with and was really bummed to find out that there is only one season. We also watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Call the Midwife, and West Wing. I really liked parts of all of those shows, but wasn’t super into Call the Midwife. Something about the depiction of that time period just turns me off. But really, it was great to have exposure to such variety of TV shows in one course.

I truly feel that it’s just such a great concept for an English class. Study the structure of TV shows, analyze them, and learn film techniques. I’m so happy I took that course instead of some other random one that I would probably end up hating.

Ironically, years prior, I had a similar experience in high school English. My senior year, I had the choice to continue on my path into an accel level traditional English class OR drop down to a prep level English class where we focused on film analysis instead.  My high school counselor told me it would look terrible on my transcripts if I dropped from accel to prep my senior year for English, especially when applying to colleges. He was so against it. But I honestly didn’t care...I wanted to take a class I was actually interested in, instead of caring what a college thought about my choice to go from accel to prep level. So naturally, I went against what he said and took the class I was excited to take.

In school, I have always really loved writing and reading, but I have found that certain English classes in high school really made me loathe the course that I used to enjoy, just because the focus was so skewed and really just memory based. We always had pop quizzes after we had large reading assignments. And I really would always do the reading because I KNEW we would have a quiz the next day. But since I couldn’t remember specifically “which color hat” a character was wearing, or some other irrelevant detail in the book (no, these instances of quiz questions were not hinting at something symbolic), I always did horribly on the quizzes, even though I did the reading and understood the high level themes, character dynamics and concepts. This whole process of determining a student’s grade based on an "ABCD/True False" pop quiz is so flawed it made me hate English class in general. Sad.

On a happier note, I did take the film class my senior year despite my counselor’s advice. This class was for sure one of my favorites. We watched Edward Scissorhands, The Kite Runner, The Natural, Pan’s Labyrinth, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Psycho, North by Northwest, Shawshank Redemption, and probably more that I’m forgetting. It was such a modern approach to studying “English” and I learned so much in that class about film analysis and the use of theme in narrative overall. I would take that class again if I could. With the same movies. It was THAT good. I am so happy I went against my counselor/advisor's suggestion.

It’s just funny to me how the school system is still set up like that. We focus on hyper details when we should focus on big picture items...but since you can so easily find these big picture concepts online and on SparkNotes, the teacher sort of has to quiz you on those irrelevant details for an "ABCD/True False" type quiz. Obviously a short answer type quiz would benefit the student’s who really did their homework, but it’s a lot for the teacher to grade after every assignment for each class they are teaching. So, I understand why it’s done that way, but it just is extremely flawed and seems like an outdated approach. Maybe they aren't doing it like that anymore...I don't know.

All I’m trying to get at here is...take the classes you are interested in and you will be able to invest so much more of your energy and get much more out of it. I am so happy I took those two courses. In fact, I wish I could have taken more like that. 

kk