Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Old Ball Game & A Crackerjack Textbook

Most of my well informed readers are at least vaguely aware of the Japanese love of baseball. School extra-curricular activities revolve around this sport in a Japanese High School. Sometimes it makes for interesting comparisons between cultures and fascinating exchanges about the unusual relationship between the USA and Japan. Often such conversations degenerate into ethnocentric pontifications about Ichiro, Matsui, and now Daisuke Matsuzaka (As though I don’t hear their names 3 times today already). But I’ve grown accustomed to this, and even think it’s kind of cute. What I can’t stand is when the textbook turns the subject of baseball in America into something so cheesy that I don’t even want to go near it.

The textbook is usually so lame that I can’t stand to use it, but have accepted that it is a part of the job and there is little I can do to change it. I’m usually quite eager to substitute the textbook’s materials with my own activities, which by all accounts are more fun and all around way cooler than anything excreted from the New Horizon English Course company. But sometimes I’m stuck with teachers who wouldn’t dare do anything not prescribed by the publishers, and I’m trapped being a $30,000 human tape recorder.

In class today, we went through a very corny description of an animal shelter charity that generates publicity by training dogs. The dogs retrieve home-run hits that go into the water outside San Francisco’s ballpark. Like most of the lessons in our English textbooks, it didn’t fail to give a painfully simple, awkward, and downright tacky passage to learn certain key sentences. “The ball flew into the water from the ballpark. It was a splash hit! (cue fake laughter from nowhere.)” The author goes so far as to give every contextual clue that one should laugh at his wretchedly pathetic attempt at humor. The stock characters laugh in cheesy cartoon pictures around the text. The editors put “Splash hit” among the vocabulary words, as though students should memorize such drivel. If the kids don’t understand such miserably lame humor, we’ll just have to torture them with flash cards!

I don’t want to knock this charity or their cause. But the text described this rag-tag animal rescue operation playing fetch in the water as though they were a vital force critical to the perpetuation of American Major League Baseball. Without a squad of ugly, neutered mutts in the Bay area, the whole league would simply collapse wouldn’t it?

In a side box marked “Option” (codeword for pointless), they print out all the verses to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” As often happens this teacher asked me to, “Please tell about the song! Annoyed at having been told this 5 minutes before class and being left out of the planning process entirely, I told them the following:
  • Nobody sings this anymore. They only use the melody briefly during fouls and time outs and that I didn’t even sing this song during my brief, disastrous foray into Little League.
  • The text makes a mistake because Crackerjacks is plural. It’s also kind of candy that nobody eats anymore because it’s so old.
Guess who got to lead the class in a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame?”
Positive side note: This is the last time I have to teach this lesson.

No comments: