Monday, October 22, 2012

Frankly Speaking

Poet Gary Snyder was once asked if he was tired of always going against the grain. He just smiled and said, “I’m in line with the larger flow.” Tonight I taught Masters Degree candidates in Education at McGill University in Montreal and felt Alfred North Whitehead smiling behind me as we played “choco-choco-la-la” to illuminate Whitehead’s brilliant articulation of the rhythmic cycle of learning. And so as I keep knocking my head against the wall of educational policies and discussion that talk about everything but the children, I often comfort myself that Pestalozzi, Froebel, Montessori, Whitehead, Dewey and their modern descendants have my back.

But it is so tiresome. Today I walked the streets of Quebec, a beautiful historic and vibrant city. People were ice skating downtown in October, the parks were decked out for Halloween, a cruise ship ambled by the Chateau Frontenac. I wandered the streets with my host Francoise and began writing familiar French words down in my little notebook. And that’s when I decided to stop criticizing the educational establishment and join them by writing my own contributions to the SAT (Stupid Asinine Test). Below is my modest example of a vocabulary test question:

I entered the café  after shopping at the boutique for some lingerie for my wife. There was only one seat left on the upper terrace  and since the bistro across the street was closed, I quickly grabbed it. There was a coat draped across the back of the chair opposite and I was reading my book when suddenly, Voila! a beautiful petite femme fatale sort of woman sat down.

“Enchanted to meet you,” I said in the most debonair, suave manner I could muster. She ignored me and took out some cheap souvenir some clever entrepenuer had sold to her. She seemed fatigued, as if she had just danced in some Broadway revue or vaudeville show. The moustached waiter came to take my order and I got the soup du jour and some barbecued beef on a baguette with some biscuits on the side. She order a crepe. When the food arrived, she said “Bon apetit” and that was all the opening I needed.

“You seem like an artistic type,”I noted.

“Touché!” she retorted. “ I’m an artisan who works in a nearby atelier. I dabble in all sorts of art forms—collage, paper maché, plen air painting, decoupage, even crocheting.”

“Since you seem so sophisticated, I wonder if I could interest you in the premier of a film noir festival at the local cinema.”

She agreed. We had a lovely time and arranged an encore rendevous tomorrow.

There are 38 words/phrases commonly used in English in this story that come from French. Find them. After you’re done, treat yourself to a croissant. (If you score 90% or above, you can apply to McGill and attend my next guest class.)

P.S. Extra credit if you can explain the title of this blog.

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