Sunday, August 09, 2009

Theme Schmeme

I'm still trying to get over being horrified at having to teach theme to my future students, because Texas standardized tests emphasize the ever living fuck out of theme. I don't understand this at all. Theme is the least important thing about the written word imaginable. It's even less important than symbolism, which, thank whatever non-existent god you stupidly and/or wisely pray to, is finally being de-emphasized in high school curriculum. Still, I'd rather teach symbolism than theme, because at least the occasional writer does something with symbolism. Emphasizing theme does a disservice to any student of reading and writing. Whether you're reading a piece of supermarket fiction for fun or reading a bill from a utility provider or translating an ancient text or trying to read a sign on the highway at night on your way to a friend's house in a city you've never visited, specificity and close reading and the words on the page and/or sign are most of what you need. You may also need life experience and an understanding of references to other works, but a cliched, generic mission statement about that text's human or television or Oprah universalities are a complete waste of time and energy and precious, ever-dwindling lifetime hours. Still, you need this "skill" to graduate, so I'm forced to shove it in adolescents' faces until the second after the test, in which case they can forget it forever because they will never need it, and if they want it they are terrible human beings. Worse than Hitler. Theme. Can I please judge salsa-eating contests for a living? I just wasn't made for these times.

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