“In middle and high school for most classes it is detrimental…”

Here’s the whole statement:

“In middle and high school for most classes it is detrimental to understand every lesson because they overall build on each other.”

Evidently he took his own advice and avoided understanding the lesson on the difference between “detrimental” and “essential.”

Of course, maybe he was one of the cool guys in middle and high school. They weren’t, you know, really into studying, or getting good grades, or understanding the lessons, or whatever.

Actually I’ve heard of such criteria for adolescent studliness (not studiousness), but I never went to school with any boys like that. Not that they were all fixated on getting great grades, but they all seemed pretty much willing to understand the lessons (and how the lessons overall built on each other). And some of them were downright brilliant, and serious, and proud of it. Lest you think I hung around exclusively with nerds, our Valedictorian was also a co-captain of the football team. The boy who unwittingly held my heart in his hand was in the top twenty (of our class of 1100) and played both football and track. Another boy in the top twenty was president of the Student Council.

No, not every boy (or every girl, for that matter) made studying a top priority; but nobody that I knew—and I knew a surprising number of those 1100—thought it “detrimental” to understand lessons. Willful ignorance was not a component of being cool, at least not then, not Back In The Day.

I hope my student wasn’t trying to claim that it was in his day, either. Did he pounce on the “mental” part of “detrimental” and assume it had something to do with being smart? Does “temperamental” have to do with being smart? “Elemental”? “Fundamental”? “Excremental”?

I hope also he wasn’t trying to advocate the benefits of surprise: precisely because the lessons build on each other, understanding them all makes learning too predictable? No, he can’t have meant that.

And which would be the few classes wherein it is not detrimental to understand every lesson? The ones where the lessons don’t build on each other? where the syllabus is determined by the spin of a wheel, or a slip drawn daily from a grab-bag?

Oh, now, here’s a possibility: that when he was in fact reaching for “fundamental,” “detrimental” jumped out of his mental grab-bag instead…

Ah well. Maybe it can be a little detrimental to understand every lesson. One very nice guy back in high school wrote in my yearbook, “Here’s to a great girl. If you hadn’t been so smart, I would have asked you out.”

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

4 responses to ““In middle and high school for most classes it is detrimental…”

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