Middle English and Exploding Heads

My son, B-man, is graduating from college in a few weeks. He’s doing what we’ve been calling his victory lap this year. In general parlance, he’s a fifth-year senior. Whatever you call it, he’s definitely ready to be finished with college and move on. And, as you might guess, Tom and I feel much the same. Not that we minded a fifth year. We actually encouraged it, but five is enough.

B-man is a very bright kid, but he hates to read. It causes me physical pain to type those words. But it’s true. I actually raised a child who doesn’t like to read. But, for the purposes of this post, that’s beside the point. Being a reluctant-reader, as you can imagine, has made certain college courses more than a bit painful for the boy. Two classes, in particular, felt so daunting to him, he kept putting them off until this, his last, semester when he had no other option but to enroll. The classes? Western Civilization I and II. Yes, you read that right. The two college courses required on most U.S. university campuses in which the student must read the works of Homer, Virgil, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Sophocles, Genesis, Paul, Job…you get the idea. Clearly, not easily read works for a voracious reader, much less for a reluctant one, and the child is trying to do both courses in the same semester!

He’s taking Western Civ II through one of the local community colleges as a night class. Lots of class discussion, short weekly papers, friends in the class to study with. He’s making an A.

It’s a much different story for Western Civ I which he’s taking online through KU. He’s definitely not making an A in Western Civ I. This is a class presented by an ivory-tower academician who also happens to be the author of the textbook used in the course, a textbook, by the way, that is unavailable in the edition referred to in the course outline. A class in which the student reads a lot, writes a paper, takes a test, and starts reading some more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the instructor is perfectly brilliant (although she should update the course outline), but the format of the course is not the best construct for a reluctant reader who has senior-itis in the worst way, who put off taking the class until his last semester in college and even worse put off starting on the course until the end of March even though he knew he would have three papers and two tests to complete before May 2, and that’s not counting the other 12 hours he’s enrolled in. It hasn’t been a total disaster, but it’s turning into a nail-biter. Am I ranting? Am I hysterical? Sigh. It’s B-man’s fault. It’s all B-man’s fault. I don’t argue that point for one second, but I need the kid to graduate. Now! So…

I’m acting as his tutor. For all intents and purposes, I’m taking the class along with him. I read what he reads. We talk. I help him organize his ideas and outline his papers. We talk some more. We read some more. We meet in the library. We send text messages. I dig around in the stack of my old college textbooks to find my copies of Aristotle, Plato, and the rest, which…finally…brings me to Middle English and exploding heads. The texts for the last portion of the class include one of my favorite stories: Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath.” Woooo Hoooo! I headed straight to my bookshelf to find my copy. If you’ve not read the story, The Wife of Bath is a widow, five times over, with a salty mouth and an in-your-face attitude you don’t expect to find in literature from that time period. I love her. As an English major in college, I was required to read Chaucer in Middle English, so I thought little about doing it again this time. What a dope. Literally, what a dope. After a page or two, I began feeling like one of the fembots in the Austin Powers movie. Remember them? The ultra-groovy female robots with high-caliber boobies who try to destroy Austin by seducing him? He turns the tables on them, using his mojo to short-circuit their wiring. Before it’s all over, the poor fembots heads bobble frantically around on their shoulders and then their heads explode? Just blow right off their shoulders? Yeah? You remember? Well, that was me a few pages into Chaucer. Bobble, bobble, bobble. kaBLAM! How in the world did I ever manage Chaucer in Middle English? Have that many of my brain cells wilted and fallen out of my ears? How does that happen? It was humbling. That’s all I can say. Humbling. But The Wife of Bath? She’s still a total hoot. Even in Modern English.


6 responses to “Middle English and Exploding Heads”

  1. Just remember that other child of yours went for 5 YEARS as well! Granted she got 2 degrees and traveled the world but what ever. Im still super excited to be done with the vast readings of Plato and other dudes that have been dead for way longer than this country has been around! Love Ya

    • I love you, too! And I am sooo excited for all the fabulous adventures you have before you!

  2. If I go back to school, will you pay for mine, too? I’m enjoying your musings, but am waiting for rants and diatribes and maybe even a jeremiad! Love ya!

    • Love you, too! Thanks for popping on and checking it out. Who knows what diatribes are lurking in my future. Stay tuned!

  3. I’m so glad to know you are close by to help get my two boys through high school and college. I’m thrilled Brian is getting you broken in. I learn so much from you. 🙂

  4. As I lay awake at 6 am on my first Mother’s Day morning I find myself looking back to my life a year ago. As I waddled through the day with all eyes on my protruding human holder, I pleaded with them not to wish me Happy Mother’s Day. Not yet. Was it that I was superstitious? I wasn’t technically a mom yet, even though I had been cooking the little tiger for what seemed like an eternity. Or was it that I had a sense that this motherhood thing was going to be infinitely harder that I imagined? Probably both.

    So I got out of bed thinking… Auntie M may have posted something about this. So I logged on and read.

    Her musings today are of a different kind of motherhood tired. At the beginning you are tired because they need constant supervision. “Don’t eat that! Don’t put your finger in there! Why are you crying at 2am?” My first Mother’s Day will be consumed with worry, “Why does he have a fever? Do I go to church or not? Why today of all days? He’s supposed to be baptized this afternoon because my grandmother is in town!”

    As I read today about Mary’d with Children… I understand now that this is simply combat training for all the motherhood to come. Soon enough he’ll have his first sports injury. Soon enough he’ll be graduating kindergarten and soon enough I’ll probably be “tutoring” him in college.

    So thanks for putting in all in perspective for me today. And to the expectant mothers out there… I hope you enjoy your final Mother’s Day before you are a mother. May your baby be healthy, early, reasonably sized and shaped like a bullet. (TM-Auntie C) And to mothers- thank you for welcoming me to the club. The dues are steep but the rewards are endless.

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