“If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget,
If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
Thy heart from fainting, and thy soul from sleep,
Go to the wood and hills! No tears
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears.”
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) is considered a living fossil, having survived unchanged from the Mesozoic period. I was recently reminded what a living fossil I am, when Kevin stopped by to share some of his good beer and grade papers for the college freshman sociology class where he’s TA-ing. Apparently, the generation of students currently undergraduates in college were the collective victims of a state edumacational (sic) system that sucked. This age cohort sucks wrt/writing, to the same degree my contemporaries sucked wrt/geography, or Kevin’s generation (collective victims of “New Math”) often find balancing their checkbooks such a challenge.
So, I got to read this one student’s fifteen-page paper. While universal education is good in theory, it turns out that not every child’s brain is fertile ground on which the metaphorical seeds of knowledge can thrive. Sadly, this student, to paraphrase Longfellow, couldn't read a lesson that would keep the teacher’s heart from fainting.
But, style and substance aside, the real fun is in reading a paper in which the Student, upon reaching the required number of pages, apparently performed a global “AutoCorrect” in Spellchecker, without stopping to review each word. The resulting creative writing makes me wonder if computers haven’t evolved self-awareness. Hilarity abounds.
My favorite mangled phrase was the term “righteous indigestion” which the student used to describe people who were hard beset with sorrows. It also describes how I felt to read a paper written by a representative of the generation who will care for my generation of living fossils when we have forgotten things like the name of the capital city of Columbia.
But for now, I know that the Sago palm isn’t a palm at all. It’s a cyad – a gymnosperm bearing seeds like pine cones that has remained pretty much the same since the Mesozoic age. And, once Spellchecker corrected my spelling of it’s name, I remembered that the capital of Columbia is Bogota.