Archive for June, 2008
Allegories are the way to learn Soviet history — Animal Farm, anyone? — in no small part because it creates an relatable framework for a subject that students will find dull despite how interesting it really is. Now that the end of the Cold War is within the scope of the responsible history class, Orwell’s novella has a marvelous counterpoint — Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country.
Bear with me.
Star Trek’s original series was always a thin allegory for the Cold War and American-Soviet relations. The diverse cast of the 1960s exploited fear of the commies by creating a warlike, Soviet-like archenemy in the Klingons while simultaneously catering to the “Let’s be friends” mentality with adding that guy named Chekhov.
I grew up with the even-numbered Star Trek movies by way of library VHS, and my dad’s favorite was the last movie that had the complete Scotty-Spock-Kirk-”Nuclear Wessel” crew. Until I saw it earlier today, I didn’t appreciate how thin a Cold War allegory it really was.
At least three lines in the movie that directly flesh perfectly with some part of Cold War history. Who could forget the complete-with-context old Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China“; or “last, best hope for peace”; or “don’t wait for the translation.”
The movie doesn’t just cover Cold War, either — like any cheaply written movie with a dearth of original ideas, it lifts more than a few lines from the Bard. Klingon High Chancellor Gorbachev-wannabe gives the movie its title by making a toast to the undiscovered country: the future. Spock quips:
Hamlet: Act III, Scene i.
Later, Klingon villain Gen. Chang — in the climatic scenes will speak almost entirely in Shakespeare — justifies Klingon expansionism. We need breathing room, Chang says. Kirk quips:
Earth, Hitler: 1938.
Despite those entertaining thematic digressions, in so many ways the last old school Trek movie bookends the close of Soviet history the way Animal Farm bookends the beginning. Because of the way it definitively puts a period at the end of this period, I’d say the last, best Trek movie has more than earned its spot as the last, best day of a world history course.
Best yet, this movie ends with a slow clap. Talk about closure on the last day of class.
Apparently, my alma mater has a baseball team, and that baseball team kind-of-sort-of won the College World Series.
As a marching band alumnus, I was invited to play in a rally to celebrate a victory I had absolutely no part in or knowledge of until I got an e-mail late Tuesday night. I’m more than happy to come to this rally: I have school spirit.
I’m still not used to having school spirit.
When I was in high school, school spirit was a silly thing. Though our losing football team wasn’t much to speak of, we had a genuinely talented wrestling squad. Our school put on rallies to celebrate those accomplishments.
I still didn’t care. I wasn’t in the wrestling squad.
I went to exactly one rally during high school, and that was the first of my freshman year. Fellow freshmen, screaming at the top of their lungs, stood around me in the stadium. I sat throughout the entire rally, reading my a copy of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition Monster Manual. I thought to myself:
I could do this in the school library.
So I did, for every rally between autumn of my freshman year and graduation of my senior year. I grew to appreciate rallies. Not because I liked them, but because I liked the school library.
I was proud of one thing in high school: our band program. Our marching band was the division champion in 2003 — for the 60-members-and-under division — and the concert bands regularly did very well. When I got to college, I decided to stick around the music department.
Marching band there got me interested in our college football team — this team tends to be middling with thrilling shots of greatness — and a few seasons later, I was hooked. This wasn’t school spirit so much as loving the marching band for being incredible, and without using amplification.
I was also a fan of the band trip per diem.
I contracted school spirit only since I left the band, and, more recently, the school. My school spirit is derivative of nostalgia, and my nostalgia is integral to school spirit. It works mathematically. Nostalgia requires active interest; it takes effort toward some cause; most importantly, it requires spending some time away from that cause. School spirit works the same way.
My high school threw rallies and sort of expected us to be excited about something other than skipping class for a day. That’s the wrong way about it. How can we reasonably expect students to have school spirit without getting first getting them actively involved?
I’m off to play last chair second trombone at a rally, to celebrate the accomplishments of athletes I hadn’t heard much about until last Monday and hadn’t followed much since then. That’s alumni involvement, and all schools need that, too — active alumni have school spirit.
Schools need to foster school spirit, and most schools know it. High school administrations also realize that they must give their students something to have school spirit about.
Rallies don’t count. Schools forget this.