Back in the early 80’s I was knee deep in High School activities. It was during this same time of year that I would have had a term paper due before Christmas break (Yes, it was called Christmas break then) and I would have been up all night finishing it because procrastination was my middle name.
Junior year was a litany of excitement for me. I had a vast array of events happening all at once and none of them had to do with writing a term paper.
11th grade English consisted of our teacher assigning term papers by tier level. A certain selection of books would qualify as an A, other books B and so on. If she felt you had chosen a book that was beneath your skill set she reassigned a novel for you. My original choice went unnoticed partly because I had picked my book based on the number of pages the literary work contained. Apparently my skill set was far higher then a 162 page novella and I was reassigned Moby Dick.
Thus I was doomed to read of Captain Ahab’s obsession. Once finished, turned in and received back with a grade, I dumped the work of doom on the kitchen table and readied myself for district finals in volleyball.
Dashing through the kitchen to grab an apple, car keys and my volleyball shoes, I was to meet with a pair of stern looking hazel eyes that were not jumping with glee, and I was desperately trying to avoid looking in his direction. I glanced over long enough to notice in my father’s hand was the work of doom. In large red ink that glowed as easily as a traffic light in the dark, was the grade on the paper I had received, The B- was basically a failing grade given that I was to have written a term paper from the highest level of books with the hardest requirements to complete.
“Elizabeth?” Dad said very calmly. “We’ll talk when you get home.”
One thought ran through my head. GREEEAATTT! And looking at him, I flashed a smile then took off.
After my return to the homestead I slipped upstairs, grabbed a shower and headed down to the laundry room. My plan was to dart across the kitchen unnoticed and towards the stairs. This would not be the case.
Once again I heard my name and it wasn’t the angelic sounds of a choir. More like the low rumble of a car that needed a muffler.
“Care to explain your points on your paper?” Dad said raising an eyebrow and pushing a chair out from the table for me to sit in.
“A B- isn’t a bad grade, Dad.” As soon as the words left my mouth and the rankled look peaked on Dad’s face, I knew I had struck a nerve. Not to mention, a minor little fact, I was about to enter a one-sided debate with a man who happens to have a masters in education.
I began to explain the teacher had noted my opening and conclusion on the paper was ‘A’ worthy. However, it was the body of work that appeared to be questionable and lacked original thought.
Hence my father began:
“Explain to me how Ishmael described Ahab’s obsession and how it began?” I couldn’t.
“Tell me about Ishmael? Was he the protagonist?” I couldn’t and had no clue.
“Tell me how much the CliffsNotes cost that you used?” Busted!
I had made the decision early on that Moby Dick was never going to be a book of dire interest to me nor would it fit my jammed packed schedule. CliffsNotes provided an easy out.
CliffsNotes have a purpose, but have never been a replacement for actually doing the work. The booklet was designed as a guide to encourage reading and understanding of the literary works in which it represented. In my world as with many other students it was a quick way to write a term paper or study for a test without putting in all the time an effort. AKA- a short cut.
Short cuts have been a downfall in society for a long time. The major reason is short cuts in the end never work and appear to be a band-aid on a severed limb.
My reasoning behind this is to ask– How many people come home after work and flip on the news to catch up on the day’s events? What exactly are they hearing? How much information is possibly given in 30 minutes?
Main Stream Media (MSM) is not designed to give the whole story. Those of us who follow news regularly and research topics are completely aware that MSM outlets are the CliffsNotes of current events.
While there are thousands of resources available through out the internet, the average American will not be going through the trouble of researching the topic and will solely depend on MSM to provide updates and new information. Decisions will be based on what they hear in sound bites and see in video from on-site correspondents.
These 30 minutes of cleverly designed rating snatches will not only give an incomplete view, it will determine the outcome of major events that rely on public opinion. By paying closer attention most MSM’s mention, “For more on this story please go to our website.”
Is this fact checking? Not really. Will people go on to the website and read the whole story. Doubtful. Will anyone make time to pursue it further? Hmmmmm I know some that do and some that won’t. Kim Kardashian’s wedding and divorce trends better.
With Moby Dick I basically robbed myself of Melville’s master piece and the rise of obsession through Ishmael’s witness of Ahab. It was my responsibility to engage in the adventure of a literary classic.
My English teacher knew I possessed the ability to do the work for my paper. I chose not to.
I see America with much higher capabilities than using CliffsNotes to problem-solve. To only use MSM or any other short cuts to decide who should or shouldn’t be running for public office is absurd.
By using MSM and not looking deeper into the issues that impact Americans on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis will lessen the value of the dollar, create misconceptions, and prove to be destructive in the long run. As goes the old adage. “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
In the past I have written about the steps we take in making decisions. This is merely another example of taking the steps that protect individual rights as they pertain to the basic ideologies of the pursuit of unalienable rights.
It is within these natural rights (unalienable) that we have a responsibility to ask the basic questions that we learned in 7th grade English. Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How? If these questions can not meet the litmus test in viewing MSM then the logical choice would be to pursue the questions that have not been answered.
CliffsNotes didn’t solve my problem of writing a term paper I still had to do it and I had made a poor choice for myself by not doing the actual work that was required. I will not CliffsNote my way through another election based on what I hear in 30 minutes. I value the right to explore and search for the answers that will provide in the long run for my family, friends and the future generations, now knowing who my choices will affect.
Main Stream Media has a purpose to provide news and information. It shouldn’t be their version of what side of the fence I stand on.
Moby Dick was the obsession that led to the demise of Ahab. Ishmael was the reporter. I was the reader who grasped information from a 30 minute read via CliffsNotes and retold the story in a paper. I went up against far more intelligent people who found my findings beneath my abilities. And thus questioned my integrity.
The challenge is to question the integrity of those who present information and gaining the knowledge by asking deeper questions to provide the whole story and not just the CliffsNotes. Who is up to such a task? If not I have a very old and used copy of Moby Dick CliffsNotes available.