The Man Who Knew Cliff
October 9, 2009

September of 1990 ... I'm taking a sophomore English lit class that I'd been excited about prior to the semester's start. I'd checked out the books in the bookstore for the class and we weren't using an anthology - and I had not read all of the books on the shelf. Hey, I was an English major after I realized I didn't have enough time to work full-time and be a drama major.

First day of class, no teacher.

In walks the department secretary. Oh hell.

For a moment after she spoke, I thought we'd lucked out. Our professor had gotten some kind of award and would be in England for the semester, but they weren't going to cancel the class. They'd have an instructor for us by the next class.

He wound up being literally the worst teacher I have EVER had the misfortune of having. In fact, as far as teaching his students anything, I think he is easily in the running for worst teacher ever. Oh, the stories I could tell (and will at some point) about this man.

But in September, he told us he would not be in town for our first exam as he'd scheduled an out of town vacation before he landed the teaching gig. Okay. Fair enough.

Before he left, he tells us ... there will be four questions on the test. Pick one of the questions and write your essay on that. Fine. Typical English exam.

Day of the test shows up. Secretary comes in and hands us the test and says ... answer all four questions.

Excuse me? WTF? We protest. She goes off to call him in Nova Scotia or wherever the hell he was fishing. Comes back. Yes. Answer all four.

I have had it with this man at this point. I decide to write technically correct paragraphs, but ridiculous ones to turn in on a college exam.

He hands the exams back (eventually, obviously I'm skipping some things here - and be glad I'm not making you live through all of it). I fully expect a D or an F on this exam because I literally wrote a single shitty paragraph for each of the "other" three exam questions.

A

Very nicely written

Oh.
My.
God.

Now the first essay question I answered was a good five paragraphs long. It was a decent delving into the material for an hour long exam. I got one comment on that answer - correcting a switch in verb tense. (During a timed test ... yeah, I wasn't looking for grammar details, I thought it was a lit content exam, silly me.)

Second test question: With reference to incidents, in Beowulf, describe some of the violent action.

My answer, tongue firmly in cheek:

Beowulf is full of violent action. Beowulf pulled Grendel's arm off to kill him. As Beowulf fought Grendel's mother, monsters tore at his legs. When Beowulf killed Grendel's mom, the waters boiled with blood. Beowulf chopped off Grendel's head for spite after he discovered Grendel's corpse. When fighting the dragon, heads melted. In short, there was more violent action in Beowulf than in professional hockey.

Wow. For a college sophomore English class. UGH!

Third test question: Write a short essay describing the "somber grandeur" of Beowulf.

My answer, tongue still firmly in cheek and still peeved:

Beowulf is characterized by its somber grandeur. For example, nearly everyone dies. Death is certainly somber. As for the grandeur, the use of language and heroic ideal is exquisite. Beowulf doesn't wear armour, he wears his "war-garment." He doesn't cross the sea, he travels across the "whale-way." It is this beautiful use of kennings and exquisite language that makes Beowulf something to study long after its creation.

TRIPE! Pure and utter sycophantic GARBAGE. It says NOTHING.

He wrote "very good" next to that paragraph. I shit you not, people.

Very good if I was a junior high student, maybe.

To this day, I still shake my head in disbelief over that class.

Oh, and the title of this piece? Yeah, this dude claimed he went to school with Cliff. You know, Cliff. The guy who started Cliff's Notes.

Now THAT doesn't surprise me. *sigh*

Posted by Red Monkey at October 9, 2009 10:41 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

Tara R. said:

Went to school with Cliff? *snort*

Red Monkey says: So he said. Of course he also started class one day by announcing that the Irish are all good for nothing, lazy, stupid and have nothing better to do than get drunk.
My classmates were actually alarmed. They thought I was going to kill him with my bare hands that day. lol
October 10, 2009 9:19 AM
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