English: Philosophy with handcuffs, expression with a restraining order.

For clarification, by ‘English’ I’m referring to School English, because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed this year doing English as a school subject… it’s that it’s quite flawed in the way it expects you to answer as analytically and as to-the-book as possible… while at the same time asking you to somehow express yourself, without expressing yourself.

Handcuffs by jodylehigh
Handcuffs by jodylehigh

“Ben must have chosen to use a picture of handcuffs to imply a sense of entrapment. The lack of colour describes a lack of joy for his writing when writing at school. The vignette closes in on the center of the picture – suggesting that he wants people to see what’s right in front of them. When metal is cold, it is very rigid – just as Ben stands his ground when he hasn’t warmed up to someone yet.”

“No, I needed a relevant thumbnail.”

I’ve received multiple marks telling me that I need to tone down my use of metaphors, and to calm down on the expansion of my ideas. Even in assignments that are supposed to be ‘Reflective’ pieces. You want me to reflect my thoughts? This is me reflecting my thoughts. How can anyone insist that I’m not following the task correctly if they’re asking me to reflect?

The irony is the hypocrisy that lies within the very essence of the course. Here is some educational organisation telling me that I need to refrain from my philosophical thoughts, in particular, I need to stop expanding the wrong ideas. All the while they follow the same train of thought. I mean for crying out loud, if you can figure out how to devote an ENTIRE YEAR’s worth of secondary education to a single word (“belonging”)… you’re either really good at philosophy, insane or have a fetish for repetition. If you constructed this English course and you’re reading this; don’t worry, it’s a multi-choice infliction. So take your pick, the minimum choice is 3.

Any question that says, “What do you think the author means when…” should be an instant A+ upon answering it. If I’m telling you what I think the author means, then I’m answering the question correctly. Even if it’s something as simple as, “Well, I think the author was just tired and wanted to finish the story, so that’s why the pig’s name is Bore.” That should be correct! But no! It’s not! “Elaborate!”, “Criteria 1”, “Link back to your text.” Why?

I’ve never actually given such an answer before, but I have given a serious ‘what I think’ response and received a whole lot of Criteria-charged flack in return. If you want me to write what you want me to write, then say, “What do we want you to think the author means when…” Much better. Straight to the truth, bypasses the confusion and no identity issues when trying to figure out if a thought is mine, or theirs.

Yes, I get it. This author did a good job on a book, this other author did a good job too. You love these authors and think that they’re trying to tell us all a deep message and that they’re all linked together in perfect harmony. Well, hate to break it to you… but often the deep messages you think you see are total bull excrement.

All the connections we’re making with the stuff we’re watching and reading – hardly any of it is intended. It’s the way humans work. When we look at things for too long, we end up seeing things that aren’t there. We go pedantic with all these tiny little ideas. It’s the same thing as when you’ve packed your bags to go on a camping trip and you think that you’ve forgotten something. The more you think about it, the more you begin to worry and question your own actions. “Did I shut the back door? Did I lock it?”

School-taught English in a nutshell.

For your entertainment, I’ve written a mark for this blog post based on actual marks I’ve received. I don’t mean to offend my teacher – obviously they have to mark to the criteria that’s given to them. They’ve told me they enjoy my writing, but they can’t mark it higher based on the ‘students must think like this’ system the education department have in place. 😉


“This reflection should be your own, don’t use ‘we’ , ‘your’, ‘you’re’ – don’t ask rhetorical questions of your reader.”

“Keep the balance. An abundance of original ideas.”

“Refer more specifically to ideas that require judicious evidence.”

“Write in first person.”

“Only use italics for a publication.”

“Elaborate on why you don’t like reflecting.”


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