An unorthodox trio of academics is set to take on the daunting task of getting more than 100 students ready for graduation by reviewing 86 of the greatest books in English literature in less than two hours.
”The superintendant caught me sleeping in a class, and this is my punishment,“ Coach Kiser said, preparing for the class.
It's not the literature that gets to Kiser, who has read the works of Homer in their original Greek, speaks Spanish and has a deep affection for Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.
”It has everything,“ Kiser says, ”life and death, love and hate, war and ... peace.“
Kiser's colleagues don't share his affection for Tolstoy or his determined approach to the class.
”I just don't have time to read War and Peace,“ says Zach, the student teacher. ”I have Xbox to play.“
Professor Seale, who teaches drama, says War and Peace ”really should not be in the syllabus. It's 1,000 pages that could be cut to 70.“
Seale, who evaded several requests for his theatrical credentials, has been brought in to help enliven the class by dramatizing some of the books they are teaching.
Truth be told, all three of the course's teachers have misgivings about the syllabus.
”There's not enough Encyclopedia Brown,“ says Seale, referring to the pre-teen mystery series. And Zach laments the absence of Ralph Mouse.
For his part, the coach would add Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha.
Although the teachers cannot agree on the books they like, they do agree on the one they want struck from the program: Henry David Thoreau's Walden.
”You can only go on about snap peas for so long, and you're done,“ Seale says.
Skimming through 86 books in a couple of hours does raise concerns about teaching to the test, a concern that has been raised with the recent emphasis on standardized test results.
”At this point, with these kids, teaching to the test is really all we have left,“ Kiser says. ”These are basically a bunch of goof-offs and clowns who sit in their classes listening to the new Coolio album on their iPod or play on their Game-deck-something.“
Seale says, ”We're really teaching to the ditto. I think the first question will be, "What's your name?' and then, "What color are Zach's shoes?' or maybe, "In the book Don Quixote, what is the first letter in the title?'“
Even if they can manage to get all of the students to pass, the three teachers do not expect to work together again.
”I have options,“ says Kiser, who holds the dubious distinction of having to forfeit three state championship football games because he could not field enough players to form a team. ”There's a school for the blind that wants me to coach their lacrosse team.“
Seale says, ”I thought if teaching didn't work out, I might try to break into the local theater scene, but it's really rough. I might just get my old band back together.“
To that, Hightower inquired, ”Do you need a keytar player?“