I turn 40 this year, and that means I’m another year along in the ongoing acceptance of who I am, with less attention to who I thought I should be. When it comes to homeschooling, that means accepting that just like everyone else I have hidden agendas and motives that guide my decisions and scheduling as much or more than the ideal of total openness to whatever my children are or become.
I recognized one of these unspoken motives when leafing through a magazine and coming across this ad for the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas (which, if you don’t read lots of lifestyle and food magazines, was the first hotel to herald the city’s image change from seamy gambling den to decadent luxury destination):
Bellagio is about things that are good for the soul — fine dining, gardens, flowers, art and fashion. The goal, from the outset, was to create a hotel that would exemplify quality while emphasizing romance and elegance — romance in the literary sense — a place of ideal beauty and comfort; the world everyone hopes for, as it might be if everything were just right. There are few places in the world so exceptional that they don’t require superlatives. Such places are best described with the simplest of words. Bellagio is such a place.
It’s tempting to go word by word through this craptastic copy and highlight aspects of its awfulness, but that’s not why I posted it. (“romance in the literary sense” — WTF?!) I posted it because I read this and could not stop thinking about it and realized that if my children grew up and could not recognize this writing as totally dreadful in so many ways, I would consider their education a failure.
I showed this to a friend who works as a copyeditor for me, and as a proofreader for some big time ad agency. We agreed: looks like it was written by a 22-year-old marketing major. And I again I realized: while there is nothing inherently wrong with being a 22-year-old marketing major, I don’t want that for my children. I hope that they will choose something either higher or deeper for their lives, and if they must go into advertising, I at least hope that they will bring to it some high internal standards for quality and creativity.
And on a minor note: vocational education should be encouraged in the US more than it is now, but the weird half-breed vocational-liberal arts degrees aren’t doing anyone any favors. Thus at my university, sophomores who didn’t have the GPA to get into the English program went to Communications — like if you can’t do an English program, “communication” is your natural talent area? No doubt there are fabulous, rigorous Communications and Marketing programs somewhere (though I think the serious market research is done by people with sociology PhDs), but I my school they were a Liberal Arts lite option. And that’s exactly what I read in that terrible ad copy.
Call it high standards, call it creeping elitism and see if I care: I want my kids to know better and do better.
update: I abandoned this post unfinished to help Violet with something. She then turned to a geography project, which involved solving riddles. She opened the books and said, “Oh, it’s the horrible poetry.” “What do you mean,” I asked her. “The rhythm is terrible, it’s all off,” she said. And oh my gosh it was — and we laughed together about the horrible poetry, and I laughed a little extra because I could see she was well on her way to recognizing bad writing.