Cleaning out my notebook yesterday and came across this old LA Times bit about Big ‘L’ literature guy Ian McEwan helping his kid write a high school essay on a book by… Ian McEwan.
"Compelled to read his dad’s book — imagine. Poor guy," McEwan said. "I confess I did give him a tutorial and told him what he should consider."Those concerned that young Greg had an unfair advantage on his test needn't worry."I didn’t read his essay but it turned out his teacher disagreed fundamentally with what he said," McEwan said. "I think he ended up with a C+."
"Compelled to read his dad’s book — imagine. Poor guy," McEwan said. "I confess I did give him a tutorial and told him what he should consider."
Those concerned that young Greg had an unfair advantage on his test needn't worry.
"I didn’t read his essay but it turned out his teacher disagreed fundamentally with what he said," McEwan said. "I think he ended up with a C+."
I’d been keeping it a while until my daughter was far enough removed from high school that I could tell the story of the time her English teacher set the class an assignment to write a pitch letter to a publisher.
Yes, I helped her.
Yes, it was a stellar example of the genre, mashed up from a couple of dry successful pitch letters to actual publishers that resulted in gigantic piles of gold doubloons pouring into JB’s secret underground doubloon saloon.
She got better than a C+, but only after ditching everything I told her to do and replacing it on the second go around with a load of old tosh that her teacher suggested that wouldn’t even have earned her the courtesy of a rejection letter.
Insert contemptuous sniff here. CC to Ian McEwan.
My general rule of thumb when writing English essays was if I hated it then it would get an A, so I would just keep rewriting until it made me sick when I read it
I once had a colleague in the circus who was a lawyer. He was doing a short course for PD. He failed an assignment. It was on legislation that he (the student) had instructed on drafting.
During my second year at Uni, I'd somehow found myself with three essays to write within a few days. I put a hell of a lot of research and effort into the first two and figured that I'd wing the last.
Choosing a topic of the speciality of the Prof (his life's work), I didn't do much more than compile a list of compliments and nice things about Australian diplomatic efforts in the Pacific through the 1970s and 80s. Knocked it over in about three hours.
Many years ago at uni I did a deal with a friend. She would type out my assignments on her most modern Wordstar electronic typewriter and I would write one of hers. She gave me "Women in the Labour Force" to do for her. She got a high distinction for it where as the best I got for mine was a credit but they were beautifully typed.
Out of idleness, I was once watching the channel 10 TV show “9am with David & Kim” (2006-2009) hosted by David Reyne and Kim Watkins. Surprisingly, Ian McEwan was on. It was a terrific interview.
They asked him about Atonement. McEwan said he handed the manuscript to his publisher and apologised, “I’m sorry. It’s a bit literary. I don’t think it will be much of a seller.”
His publisher got back to him a couple of days later and he was absolutely delighted.
“Oh boy, oh boy!! This is going to sell a lot of copies!!!
It’s got the three things that a lot of readers love: A war, a romance and a large house in the country.”
I once wrote an essay at uni starting with one viewpoint and logically argued myself to the opposite viewpoint, so I just stopped writing and submitted it. Got a great mark.
Makes you think if Teachers (much like Journalists) are that wrong about something you know about, how wrong are they about everything else? What're they teaching these kids?!
Reminds me of: https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/did-charlie-chaplin-enter-a-charlie-chaplin-look-alike-contest-2ad438a3278f