Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When Textbooks go horribly wrong

From the depths of Mombukagakusho (文部科学省) – the Ministry of Science, Culture, and Education, we now join a meeting already in progress, where the brightest minds of pedagogical science are currently approving the always grammatically questionable pages of the latest middle school English text book:

English Textbook Approval Board Sub-Section Chief Nakamura speaks:

Gentlemen, that concludes our twenty-six page coverage of the grammatical structure of kantanbun or exclamatory sentences, a structure so frequently used in English conversation (at least according to last year’s textbooks) and so fiendishly difficult in its construction that it requires at least four weeks of intensive study. Or as the text would say – “What a useful grammar point!”…yes, yes, calm down, I know it was a terribly clever joke, but back to business and let us continue with the next section where we will impart the critically important meireibun or imperative sentence structure, a structure no decent future captain of industry can go without. So Mr. Takahara, why don’t you start off with the example sentences you have prepared.

Deputy English Approval Board Divisional Vice-Chairman for Questionable Examples Takahara:

Ah, yes most honorable sub-section chief Nakamura. Well, I have constructed four good examples of imperative sentences that I humbly offer for your consideration, along with illustrations to help reinforce the meanings.

First we have “Don’t touch.”

Nakamura: I hear that all the time from the schoolgirls on the subway!

Takahara: We all do sir. Now, for this sentence we have an image of a man warning a child not to touch the wet paint on a fence. For no particular reason we have included an additional picture of a boy with incredibly long arms doing the dance from the Thriller video.

Nakamura: Very good, moving on.

Takahara: Indeed. Next we have the sentence “Walk.”

For this we have an image of a woman dragging a child across the street. We don’t know why the child is sitting in the road impersonating a kettle, so to help clarify we have another image of a boy doing the Robot from Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto, so that is two obscure 80’s references in one section.

Nakamura: Excellent, these obscure references will really drive the point home I’m sure.

Takahara: You are too kind sir. Now for number three, we have “Write your name.”

For this illustration we have a child whose head has gone completely backwards on their shoulders as if…

Nakamura: Ah! The Exorcist – it’s like The Exorcist!

Takahara: Your astute observations are indeed the reason you have risen to such a high position. That and your superior age. And as you can see we now have three examples that somehow reference the music and film of the 80’s.

Nakamura: Wasn’t The Exorcist from 1973?

Takahara: Ah, yes, well Exorcist III was from 1990, which is technically the last year of the 80’s according to extremely persnickety people like me who celebrated the new millennium in 2001 alone in a basement shunned by normal people.

Nakamura: My heart swells with pride – you have truly outdone yourselves.

Takahara: I grudgingly accept your effusive kindness though I am in no way worthy of such words from you sir. Now, for the last example, we have the sentence “Read this book.” For this illustration we have chosen a picture of a man menacingly pointing to a copy of his book “My Life” with a dark shadow across his face…and a tiny moustache.

Nakamura: Hmmm…he looks familiar…was he in an 80’s movie too?

Takahara: No, no, this was just a completely random image our boys in the graphics department cooked up…no references to anything here.

Nakamura: But…there is something familiar about him nonetheless, like he is the kind of person who could really give an order.

Takahara: Yes, well, the boys upstairs are very good. But again, completely fictional and not based in any way whatsoever on a real person.

Nakamura: That moustache…that book title…My Life…My Struggle…Mein Kampf – Good God Takahara! That’s Hitler!

Takahara: I don’t know this Mr. Hitler of whom you speak.

Nakamura: You are proposing that we put Hitler in our textbooks as an example of imperative sentences?!

Takahara: Again, no idea what you are talking about…sir.

Nakamura: Surely you jest! The most infamous mass murderer of the 20th century? The instigator of the Second World War (which is not to be confused with the War of the Pacific where we honorably defended our homeland by conquering half of Asia) will be in our textbooks threatening our children to read his racist diatribe as a grammar point?! Are you mad!?

Takahara: Is there a problem with this sir?

Nakamura: Of course there is a problem!! He has absolutely nothing to do with the 80’s! You know the criterion for use in our textbooks – it must make references to outdated popular culture, and for this book we are going all 80’s – why else would all our photos of foreigners feature people with feathered hair and tight jeans sitting in a kitchen with earth tones, and those Scandinavian ski sweaters ?

Takahara: Well, he made a cameo in Last Crusade in 1989…remember – he signs Indiana Jones’ father’s diary at the book burning?

Nakamura: Oh does he? Well, in that case – as long as he meets the criterion, I can see no possible problem with using Hitler in our textbooks. I mean, he did give a lot of orders and this is the chapter on imperative sentences - Hitler approved!

1 comment:

  1. Funniest thing I read all day! I'd comment more, but I gotta go change my shitagi...