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MY NEW SCHOOL OF THOUGHT



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(after William Saroyan)

If I had not established a new school of thought and behavior while I was at junior high school, it would not have occurred to me to write about it.

It was in ancient history that I first astonished my class by my truly original mind. It happened that this was the first class on the very first day. Ancient history books were distributed to the class, and Miss Shenstone (our teacher of history) asked us to turn to page 192 for our first lesson.

I remarked, "It would seem more in order if we turned to page one for the first lesson."

I was asked my name, whereupon I was only too glad to say honestly, "William Saroyan".

"Well, William Saroyan", Miss Shenstone said, "I might say, Mister Saroyan, just shut up and let me do the teaching of ancient history in this class." Quite a blow! On page 192, I remember quite clearly, was a photograph of two rather common-looking stones which Miss Shenstone said were twenty thousand years old. If I had taken her word for it, probably nothing would have happened. But it was at this point that my school of thought was started.

"How do you know?" I said.

This was a blow to the old school of thought in which the teachers asked the questions and the students tried to answer them.

The truth of the matter was that neither Miss Shenstone nor Mr. Monsoon, the principal, had anything like a satisfactory answer to any question of that sort, for they had always accepted what they found in the textbooks.

The entire class expressed its approval and enthusiasm. Instead of trying to answer the question, Miss Shenstone compelled me to run. She flung herself at me with such speed that I was scarcely able to get away. For a moment she held on to my sweater, and damaged it before I could get away. The chase was an exciting one, but I succeeded in getting out of the room safely. The class approved of my behavior unanimously.

Five minutes later, believing that the teacher had calmed down, I opened the door, but again she flung herself at me, and again 1 was compelled to run.

Under the circumstances, I decided to turn to Mr. Monsoon himself, but when I did so, I was amazed to find that his sympathies were with Miss Shenstone. He looked upon me with disgust.

"She said the rocks were twenty thousand years old," I said. "All 1 said was, 'How do you know?' I didn't mean they weren't that old. I meant that maybe they were older. How old is the earth? Several thousand years old, isn't it? If the book can say the rocks are twenty thousand years old, somebody ought to be able to say how the book got that figure. I came here to learn. I don't expect to be punished because I want to learn."

"Your name, please," Mr. Monsoon said.

"William Saroyan," I said.

"You are ...?" Mr. Monsoon said.

"Eleven," I said.

"No, I don't mean that."

"One hundred and three pounds." (Such was my weight.)

"No, no. The name, I'm thinking of."

"It's said to mean 'blond'."

"Nationality," Mr. Monsoon said.

"Armenian," I said proudly.

"Just as I thought," said the principal.

"An American would never have asked a question like that."

"How do you know?" I said.

"Nobody did," the principal said. "Does that answer your question?"

“Only partly,” said I.

“How do you know somebody else would not have asked it if I hadn’t?”

“In all the years I have been connected with the public school system of California, no one had asked such a question."

“Yes,” I said quickly, “and in all the years before Newton wanted to know what made the apple fall, nobody wanted to know what made it fall."

Mr. Monsoon chose not to continue the discussion. He just sat and looked at the shoes.

“How about that?” I said.

“Well,” he said rather wearily, “I must give you u thrashing. How about that?"

"What for?" I said.

I got to my feel and before he was able to block my way, I was at the door and out of the room.

If it hadn't been for my rich uncle, I would have boon expelled from school.

Mr. Monsoon was soon replaced by another man. It was expected of him to put down the new school and restore the old one.

He tried the method of brute force, thrashing as many as three dozen boys a day. I don't know, however, if the method worked, because I soon left the school.

Task 2: A. compile the list of words and word combinations from the text on the topic “School. Education”

B. answer the questions and be ready to discuss the following:

1. What kind of school did William Saroyan attend?

2. How old was he?

3. Do you think he was a bright and curious boy?

4. What was the age of the common-looking stones in the photograph, according to the teacher?

5. Why did the boy have to turn to Mr. Monsoon, the principal?

6. Why did Mr. Monsoon want to expel the boy from school?

7. At what moment did his new school of thought start?

8. What methods did the principal and the teachers of the school apply to put down the new school of thought?

9. Would you like to study at such a school? Why?

10. If you were the teacher, how would you answer the question about the stones?

11. Do you approve of the method of brute force at school? Why?

12. What would you suggest as a punishment if students misbehaved?

Task 3:

A. read the text

THE CLASS

(after E. Sigal)

The date, the time, and the place of Ted's first class are engraved in his memory. On Friday, September 28, 1959 at 10.01 A.M., he entered a discussion room in the Alston Burr Science Building. He unpacked a ridiculous number of books, all with carefully marked passages he could read aloud should he run out of ideas. At 10, 05 he wrote his name and office hours on the black-board and then turned to confront the students.

There were, 14 of them. Ten boys and four girls, their notebooks open and pencils ready to transcribe his every syllable. Jesus, he suddenly thought, they're going to write down what I say! Suppose I make some incredible mistake and one of the kids shows it to Finley? Worse still, suppose one of them with a million years of prep-school Classics catches me right here? Anyway, Lambros, it's time to start.

He opened his yellow notepad to his outlined remark, took a breath, and looked up. His heart was beating so loud that he half-wondered if they could hear it.

"Uh-just in case somebody thinks he's in a physics class, let me start by saying this is Hum. Two Section and I'm your discussion leader. While I'm taking your names down, you can learn mine. I've written it on the board."

There was a ripple of laughter. They seemed to like him. He began to warm to the task.

"The course deals with nothing less than the roots of all Western culture, and the two epics ascribed to Homer constitute the first masterpieces of Western literature..."

After that moment he never once looked down at his prepared text. He simply rhapsodized about the greatness of Homer, his style, the oral tradition and early Greek concepts of heroism.

Before he knew it, the class was nearly over.

"Hey",-he said with a smile, "I guess 1 got a little carried away.

1 should stop here and ask if you have any questions".

A hand shot up in the back row. "Have you read Homer in the original, Mr. Lambros?" asked a young, bespectacled Cliffie.

"Yes", Ted answered proudly. "Could you possibly recite a bit of it just so we could get a feel of how it sounded?"

Ted smiled. "I'll do my best". Now, though he had the Oxford texts on the table, he found himself passionately reciting from memory. He reached the crescendo, then he paused. To his utter amazement, the tiny class applauded. The bell rang. Ted felt a sudden surge of relief, elation and fatigue. He had no idea how it had gone until assorted comments filtered to him as the students left the room.

"God, we lucked out"-he heard one say. "Yeah, this guy is dynamite ", said another. The last thing Ted heard-or thought he did was a female voice offering the opinion-"He's even better than Finley".

But surely that was the trick of a tired imagination. For John H. Finley, Jr. was one of the greatest teachers in Harvard history.

B: answer the questions, discuss:

1. Where did the class take place?

2. What is the name, the position of the tutor? What subject did he teach?

3. Why do you think he had to warm up for the class?

4. How did he break the awkward situation at the beginning of the class?

5. What was the best compliment to him? Why?

6. Was the class a success? Support by the text.

7. What would you do in his place?

8. Do you remember the class that left a great impression of you?

Task 4:



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