24 March 2005

Rites of Passage

I love working with high school sophomores. There are members among the faculty at my school who do not, but it has been my favourite age to work with. (Maybe that says something about my maturity...or lack thereof?)

There are so many events I get to be a part of during the year: "sweet sixteen," new drivers' licenses, first formal dance, removal of orthodontia, and so on. It's fun to see the kids hit these marks. It doesn't matter that it's the umpteenth time for me. It's new to each of them.

Perhaps you remember reading Julius Caesar as a sophomore. Maybe you can remember other events associated with your sophomore year that everyone seemed to experience.

High school biology has it's own addition to the pantheon: Hemo the Magnificent. When the time rolls around each year to show this film, I always start off talking to my kids about "rites of passage." (This year, I wrote the phrase on the board, because last year, one kid thought I'd said "rights of passage" and that led the discussion in an entirely different direction.) We talk about "sophomore-ness" and the associated rites. We look forward in time (for them) to what they can (legally) experience at 18 and 21. When they whine about ole Julius, I talk to them about "cultural literacy." We look at Julius from the perspective that it is part of their "ticket" to the adult world. As adults---and gatekeepers of their move to adulthood---we want to be sure that they have been properly indoctrinated with the things the society (at large) claims are important.

I own a copy of "Hemo" in glorious 16 mm. Do you remember watching films in that format? The noise of the machine? The scratches and "skips" in the movie? This year, not a single one of my sophs could say that they'd ever watched a movie shown this way. It's very sad, I think. Maybe they do, too, as one remarked later, "I'm going to be sad when this comes out on DVD." I told her that it already had. Another student wanted to know, then, why I didn't show the DVD. The first student piped up to say, "But then it wouldn't be part of the tradition!"

I had to smile. She got it. Since 1957, biology students have been watching this 16 mm film. It was good enough for their parents, for me, and now for them. (The content is still very worthwhile, too, by the way.)

Welcome, kids, to the fellowship of biology.


EdWonk said...

This post has been linked to The Carnival Of Education: Week 8 which can be seen here:


Anonymous said...

WOW! HEMO THE MAGNIFICENT still has the power to enthrall? Who'd a thunk it. I saw that puppy in the mid-sixties when it was still fairly fresh, and I'll never forget the climactic cry "SEA WATER!" Run, don't walk, to the nearest 16mm projector and crank it up.