I open my Word-a-Day email a few days late yesterday… from Saturday, and I am once again, led like the hapless rats of Hamlin by the Pied Piper of an unfamiliar collection of letters, with an “x” and a “z” nonetheless, outward, to the megalopolis of the New York Times.
I can pronounce the word without the helpful megaphone, and I’ve encountered it before, but it remains elusive, tickling the edges of memory. Scrolling down the definition appears, then the etymology. Its pedigree is true, Greek and Latin, and is followed by the example:
And there’s that link, the one that lures me to the Times, the melody carried in the title, those notes “teenagers” “link school curriculum to the world.” Once I’ve arrived, I am not disappointed. All that glitters is truly gold. The Learning Network editors explain the contest from last December to “‘connect what you’re learning in school with the world today.'” “Relevance” rings in my head, relevance and rigor, the new “Rs” in education.
They add that the editorial staff valued the ability of the 56 selected essays to eloquently and creatively connect disparate texts, ranging from art to music to print, to the requirements of class in 450 words, concluding, “…they gave us something new to think about, and we hope you feel the same way.”
I had overlooked this particular article in the world of Times offerings; it was originally published on March 13, March 13 when my first cancellation occurred as a substitute at the local middle school where I had come to feel at home, March 13 when this community learned that the schools in this county, on order of the governor, would be starting Spring Vacation a week early, minus jubilation, no end in sight.
The essays inspire—these are the proof of minds at work, of the future four walls, hard work, and collaboration can build. Two shine, towers of light in the haze.
The first is by Teva Alon that ties Edward Albee’s “The American Dream” with the Times, “Welcome to the Era of the Post-Shopping Mall.” The accomplished young author mounts a stunning comparison between the “characters fully engaged in a capitalist society” in a world of “materialism and superficiality” that Albee depicts. The mall clearly embodies Albee’s “capitalistic nightmare,” and underscores Teva Alon’s closing” “The American Dream Mall is just an extension of a capitalistic nightmare that Edward Albee could only dream of, signaling that of we are not careful, we are inching closer to a world where we truly believe that money can buy happiness.”
During this time of stay-at-home, the dramatic enforced pause that the pandemic has demanded, the imagined silence in the three-million-square-foot-mall with its commitment to our amusement, our “dreams,” our desires, echoes and with it a hope that our excesses might have been curbed.
Sara Jarecke’s essay, the one that used epizeuxis, is the other. She compares the broad topic of the “study of rhetoric” with a Times feature,”We Learned to Write the Way We Talk” by Gretchen McCulloch. She tells about her experience with Advanced Placement Language: “I stumbled my way through foreign terms—epizeuxis, amplification, anastrophe—and learned their meanings and sound,” and concludes with McCullough:”no matter how we write, either informally or a breath away from perfection, we write to connect with others…”‘We’ve been learning to write not for power, but for love.'”
That says it all.