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Frisco Utopia

[whitespace] Ending Illiteracy

By Hank Hyena

My pal nancy says she recently tried to teach English literature at a Frisco high school, but ... half the class couldn't read! She distributed simpler and shorter stories, but even The Cat in the Hat was too tough, so she gave up and had them watch videos. Her anecdote about these ignorant adolescents terribly troubles me, because if literacy keeps deteriorating like this--if adults end up inept at the alphabet--who's going to read my column?

Teens today are bored with books--print pains them--but, really, how will they appreciate foreign films if the English subtitles are as indecipherable as the distant tongue? How will they participate in the electoral process if all the candidates' names on the ballot resemble identical nonsense?

Metro juveniles snoring in school chairs are actually energetic and curious, but they're truly only interested in the Teen Trinity: Cars, Drugs and Sex. Instructing them in any other topic can only be achieved if we dangle their core concerns--autos, inebriation, orgasms--as bait, as the principal perks in academic achievement. My Three-Point Plan posted below recognizes the pubescent energy of Teendom. Like a hydroelectric dam, the plan harnesses this dynamic potential into an excellent high-brow high school program for Frisco Utopians.

Sex and the Spelling Bee: All 14-year-olds should be manacled in impenetrable chastity belts until they memorize the correct spelling of 10,000 words. Spelling bees should imitate strip poker--ardent contestants who properly list letters get moved closer to each other, with items of apparel removed and with points awarded, eventually leading to the removal of the virginal girdle. This would send Junior hustling into his room, horny for homework! And the loitering morons who sniff glue and mumble song lyrics? They won't be sexy anymore, with their iron diapers on.

The Difficult DMV Test: Any rotten kid who reaches his 16th birthday presently has a chance to get a license for wheels. All the delinquent has to do is pass a California driving test, with its fourth-grade vocabulary of 30 words. Every brat yearns to be a road demon, so--let's trick 'em; let's turn that easy DMV test into an excruciating exam, to encourage literacy.

We can motivate wannabe motorists with monster questions like "If Toni Morrison raced through a yellow traffic light and crashed into a drunk Gabriel García Márquez and a Salman Rushdie who was driving on the wrong side of the street, whose fault would it be? Plus, name nine books by these authors, with an accompanying comparison of their themes."

Miscreants who ignored Jane Austen because they were busy doodling Camaros in their Peechee folders would suddenly get their comeuppance. Meanwhile, dweebs who sincerely appreciated Shakespeare will be cruising in autos that indicate their literary aptitude.

Booze for the Big Brains: Alcohol destroys cerebellum cells, so perhaps it's appropriate to prove that you have some before you're allowed to get bombed. Instead of instant alcohol at 21, let's let anyone guzzle who can correctly recite the Declaration of Independence or M.L.K.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. We're all tired of hearing statistics that say 75 percent of our teenagers think these manifestos were written by Lenin, Hitler or Mao, so let's motivate them into memorizing some national pride.

While we're at it, let's legalize all drugs--let's give free marijuana to any student who memorizes the Bill of Rights and cocaine to those who can reiterate the entire Constitution. Teens will be fighting to get in the library with carrots like this dangling in front of them--we'll be a nation of partying patriots .

Hate my ideas? Send your own Utopian Schemes to [email protected]

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From the April 26, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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