High School education is perfect in so many areas that in order to truly comprehend its greatness, one must understand each of the aspects that make it so fantastic. From the grading system to teacher salary and student eagerness to learn, there are a wide range of qualities that make the high school education system the well-oiled-machine that it is.
Even if one doesn’t love teaching it is a very rewarding job because of the salary. As a society we demonstrate that we value good competent teachers as we are willing to pay them well for their work. So even if a teacher doesn’t enjoy spending over six hours a day with generally disrespectful teenagers, he or she can at least be comforted by the fact that he or she has a secure, well paying job.
Teachers are also very lucky as they have very little work that they have to take home or stay after school for. Some jobs occasionally require employees to take work home, or work a little afterwards for overtime pay. But teachers almost never have to stay after school to help students with work or to make up tests. Another big benefit is the lunch break, when teachers can relax without being disturbed by students coming into their classrooms for help. The occasional test or homework assignment that teachers have to grade is pretty much the only thing that they need to take home, and those are very rare. Because they don’t have much, if any work after school, the teachers are always enthusiastic and ready to teach and this enthusiasm is reflected on to the students
While teachers do contribute to the invigorating knowledgeable atmosphere in the classrooms, the students are the ones that really make it happen. In all of the classes I have been in or visited, every student is always focused intently on the teacher, absorbing all of the knowledge being taught with a passion that is truly astounding. I constantly am challenging myself to find a student that does not give the teacher his or her undivided attention but to this day; I have yet to find even one student with his or her head down, texting, or even staring off into space. Also, I am amazed at how dedicated the students are, as they come to school so that they can learn every day. I have heard of many instances in which the parents attempt to convince their son or daughter to stay home from school so that the student can sleep in, but the student will insist on going because they have a test that day, or even just because their determination to learn is too strong to be held back.
The only classes that I sometimes am disappointed in are the honors classes. The regular classes, in which the students and teachers stick perfectly to the curriculum and consist entirely of the teacher imparting knowledge to the students, are flawless. But the honors and advanced placement classes, especially social studies, have students raising their hand and giving their opinion or even discussing parts of the topic, not directly in the curriculum. Each time this happens I expect some punishment from the teachers; however they not only allow this unacceptable behavior but even encourage it. But hopefully the correct approach that the other students and teachers are taking will rub off on and change the attitudes of the honors classes.
The grading system in which letters are given to students depending on their score in the class is phenomenal. Probably the best part is the way in which it trains students to remember material only as long as they have to, and then to release it from their brains after the test. This is the best way to learn because students don’t need to remember anything from previous years, as they already received a grade for that year and can now focus on their current year. This cycle of cramming knowledge right before the test and then forgetting it afterwards is by far the best way to learn, because the only thing that matters is their grade, not how much they still remember from the class.
Another one of my favorite parts of the grading system is extra credit, when a teacher offers free points for activities semi-related or unrelated to school. These activities include; bringing tissue boxes in and ensuring that their parents go to back-to-school night or open house night. This has formed into an escape option for students, which is good because they shouldn’t be expected to actually earn their grade. It can be tough actually learning the material and remembering a small portion of it for the final, so teacher also round grades up at the end of the semester. This is great because even with all of the extra credit, some students still aren’t quite there, and they showed that they are committed to learning by bringing in tissue boxes so they deserve an “A”.
I hope I have demonstrated how flawless the high school education system is in this restrictively short essay. The teachers are rewarded handsomely for their work with a well paying secure job but the students are the ones that bring it all together. With their passion for knowledge and ability to learn the required material and forget it completely, they deserve the most acknowledgement. Also, the grading system provides strong encouragement to retain knowledge only until the test so that the students will be able to solely rely on their instincts to survive life after education because they won’t remember anything they were taught in high school.
Writing satire isn’t easy, but I think every writer owes it to themselves to learn more about this particular mode of storytelling. For those in need of a definition, The Oxford Dictionary defines satire as “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” If that sounds too deep, it shouldn’t – chances are you’ve probably read books or watched movies and TV shows which are satirical without even realising it.
So, what exactly does satire mean for writers? Does knowing about satire make any difference to the type of stories you write? Personally, I’d say yes. I’m a big fan and advocate of satirical fiction and I do try my best to make my characters and my stories as socially relevant as possible. So, if you’re thinking of dipping your toes into uncharted waters to experiment with writing satire, here are some important steps to get you started.
1. Don’t be afraid of exaggeration
Exaggeration is the lifeblood of satire – without it, you will struggle to find anything worth satirising. Think about the value systems of your characters. Their habits. Their professions or their jobs. Their mental preoccupations. Their reliance on other people. Their compulsions. If you overemphasise your character’s actions, reactions or even their inaction – depending on the context – this will throw a new angle on your story which could lend itself to satire. Exaggeration can flesh out each of these qualities. If you inflate some of these things and bring them to the forefront in your writing, it’s quite possible you have the seeds of something satirical there.
Let’s try an experiment: Take a heart surgeon, for instance. I’d imagine you would want a heart surgeon to be a very practical-minded, methodical, attentive and meticulous person, if you’re lucky. In which case, let’s exaggerate those features and make that same surgeon have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), so crippled by his own anal retentiveness that he cannot even leave the operating theatre without washing his hands several dozen times. This surgeon could even worry about germs in his microwave meal and is so anxious he checks the pulse of his kids in the middle of the night. You have now exaggerated the same features in a heart surgeon which previously you would have considered positive traits to the point where it verges on satiric. This is how exaggeration can be a tool for developing your characters, your story and infusing both with satirical elements.
2. Make the normal appear abnormal or vice versa
If you’re the sort of person who has an eye for contradictions and incongruity, you will already have the ammunition you need to write satire. By its nature, things which are incongruous tend to upset the harmony of common expectations and be out of place, so some keen observational skills can work to your advantage here. It could be something like spotting the irony of a label on a pair of underpants which says ‘keep away from fire’ (I mean, seriously?) to normalising something totally bizarre, such as in Demolition Man where everybody knows what the seashells in the toilets are used for except Sly Stallone’s oblivious main character.
Here’s the best example I can give of this technique: I once wrote a sitcom script in which my main character is asked to attend a posh dinner for a potential business opportunity in a penguin suit. Completely unaware what a penguin suit was, but not having the courage to ask otherwise, my character nods politely and accepts the invitation. Before the dinner, he heads to a fancy dress shop, buys a penguin costume and turns up to a Michelin-star restaurant dressed like a giant arctic bird. The businessmen, dressed merely in black dinner jackets, are aghast. He is humiliated. That is the best way I can illustrate how to use something normal and transform it into something completely strange so it crosses the border into satirical territory.
3. Flip things on their head and subvert them
This is quite similar to the above idea of incongruity, only this focuses on the idea of reversal. This relies less on the small humorous observations, in the traditional sense, and more about lampooning hierarchies, social order, or customs. Let’s think of a school environment, for example, where you’d expect the teachers to set a moral example to their pupils: In Tom Perrotta’s novel Election, however, the teacher Mr. M is so disgusted by the Young Republican school swot Tracy Flick that he attempts to sabotage her campaign to become school president.
To use a more popular example of reversal; in the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, Edina Monsoon’s daughter Saffron effectively takes on the mother role, reversing the traditional familial roles for humorous effect, seemingly to make a satirical point about how a post-sixties generation of ‘bohemian’ women were less mature than their offspring. This gives you a flavour of how reversal can allow you to flip ordinary expectations on their head to render your satire with a more subversive flavour.
4. Use the art of imitation to take the mickey
Parody is quite integral to satire, but don’t presume this means you have to be too obvious with it. I’m all for subtlety, but ultimately, if you imitate the style of a certain writer, or ridicule a specific genre in which your story can be categorised, this could very well be satirical. Some lug-headed examples of this include Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, or Michael Gerber’s Barry Trotter novels, which I would argue are quite tactless and less nuanced.
You’d do better to consider Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, an early 17th century parody of chivalric love stories of that era, whose main characters – Quixote and Sancho – fool themselves into thinking they are knights from a medieval romance, even though Quixote is delusional and Sancho is fat. That’s not to say genre is your only option – alternatively, you might want to base your character on somebody in real-life and turn them into a caricature. The choice is yours, but by imitating certain literary styles, or writing veiled critiques of people or places, you’ll find yourself building a satire in no time.
5. Don’t worry about being laugh-out-loud funny
It’s a misconception that satires should contain lots of jokes and strive to be laugh-out-loud funny. That’s simply not the case. Unfortunately, we’ve all been conditioned to assume that anything satirical must possess the wit of a panel show contestant on Have I Got News for You or Mock the Week. The fact is, although most satires do invoke humour, writers should not necessarily consider being humorous the same thing as being funny.
For the most part, I try and steer clear of punch lines and only ever aim to be wry and knowing. You can often do this through establishing a flawed central character and creating dialogue which contains dry humour (which is surprisingly easy, if you appreciate irony), relying much less on standard jokes and more on repartee. Not only does this help writers such as myself avoid being judged as if they’re a pure-blooded comedian, but it allows you to service your story better. After all, if you don’t have a good story, it won’t matter how funny it is anyway.
Humorous fiction writer, poet and aspiring novelist. Fond of satire. Interested in comic novels, black comedy and tales of satirical derring-do.