These Terrible Dreams That Shake Us Nightly

Zdzistaw Belinski

These Terrible Dreams That Shake Us Nightly

                                                                                                Macbeth (3.2.18-28)

In the wee hours this morning, I suffered through one of my post-retirement nightmares, a reprise of I’ve Never Been to Class and the Final Exam Is Tomorrow.  However, in this morning’s remake, I’ve transitioned from slack-ass student to unconscientious teacher.

In the dream, I’ve returned to class after a holiday with no lesson plans, no homework assignments, with nothing but empty words, my in-class bantering the equivalent of padding an essay with strings of superfluous phrases that take up space but denote next to nothing.

I hate dreams like this!

Well, I’ve decided rather than squandering thousands of dollars in therapy paying for advice from a virtual stranger who probably hasn’t read Ulysses – not to mention Jung and Freud – I’ll prepare lesson plans for phantom dream classes in the hope that I can short circuit my old-fashioned neurosis by being prepared.

Although I only taught history for four semesters in the last two years of my career, I really enjoyed whupping up assignments for the one-foot-out-of-the-door seniors who signed up for that elective, America in the Sixties.[1]

So, my first vaporous assignment is for a history class.

[Confession: Yes, MAGAs, you’re correct: many teachers (but not all) strive to indoctrinate students, which the following assignment certainly attempts to do].[2]

Assignment: Undoubtedly, in the last fifty years, the two most popular Presidents within the Republican Party were Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.

Although they shared certain characteristics (species, gender, race, celebrity, divorces, party affiliation, fetishization of the Second Amendment), they also differed in several significant ways (in geopolitical attitudes vis a vis Russia, in their views of free trade vs tariffs, in their demeanors, in their adherence to Constitutional traditions).

In a well-developed essay devoid of superfluous phrases that take up space but denote next to nothing, compare Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, exploring both similarities and differences. Make sure to address three of the above areas of difference.

In your conclusion, speculate on societal dynamics that explain such a radical shift in Republican ideological viewpoints. Aspects to consider: Fox News, declines in literacy, the prevalence of social media, socio-economic disparities . . .

It’s trickier for an English class because in my nightmare, it’s inevitably my British Lit survey that I’ve not prepared for, which begins with the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf and ends with Seamus Heaney.

It’s spring and we haven’t gotten past Chaucer!!!

I’m doomed! There’s no way to prepare. Cue Lady Macbeth’s scream in the Trevor Nunn BBC production.

[1] I suspect that course might be the root of my incompetent teacher nightmares because I felt as if I were shortchanging the students given my lack of knowledge, my ignorance of Chicago style research methodology, and my dearth of experience in organizing and implementing a history course.

[2] E.g., when I taught Old Testament in the 7th grade, I ended the unit by having students write a “character sketch ” of Yahweh. Almost every essay was negative: Yahweh was insecure, a “jealous God,” a belligerent Asshole who drowned innocent puppy dogs and kitty cats because His own Creation sucked. Not to mention, that his chosen one to regenerate the earth, ark-builder Noah, got shit-faced post-deluge and passed out naked in his tent, which freaked out his sons. Couldn’t Yahweh have found a Jimmy Carter equivalent instead? Isn’t he supposed to be omniscient?

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