Dear High School Sophomores, The Great Gatsby dam is about to break and the waters of excess are going to flood every aspect of our culture. This means nothing to you now while you are Snapchatting away on the phone that you pulled out of your Coach wristlet. But a few drafts of that five paragraph essay later and you'll know what I mean.
Or will you?
Because, in addition to having the powers of the internet machine, you get to consult Leonardo di Caprio "for research purposes." Versus Kendra Stanton circa 1996 who had Mrs. L. Bluhm as a secondary source (a la MHS' English department) and some borrowed Cliff's Notes she read over someone's shoulder while riding home on the RTA.
It's funny that this book is taught to teenagers, as pointed out by R. Clifton Spargo in a recent HuffPost piece that I thought was very telling. Who can possibly comprehend, at the age when many are just grateful to drive around a pile of rust on wheels, the hazards of pretension and extravagance in society? Of seeking after the ever-elusive fortune?
But maybe you can better than any of us. The truth is that high school now is so radically different than it was even ten years ago. It is not some Dr. Seuss "Oh the Places You'll Go" cliche played out in four years. A 2011 survey by Schwab found that teens expected their starting salary in their first job would be $70,000. Reality check: this was three times my starting salary ten years ago. But the expectations of spending and earning potential are so tremendous for young people. Because God forbid girlfriend is wearing the ::GASPS:: same dress in the selfie she Instagrammed last week as this week. Teenagehood today is emotional battery that doesn't cease when the bell rings. It is media inundation, it is visual exhaustion, it is everything that F. Scott Fitzgerald decried about the Gatsby estate and the people who mingled therein.
I will return to this novel once more before Leo and Carey can teach me its merits again on the silver screen. I will be transported to a time of innocence when the green light and Gatsby's car were mere symbols in a five paragraph essay rather than real life.
Concurrent with my movie ticket, I look forward--and I mean this sincerely--to learning what our young people can teach us about the book that we pompous academics think we are teaching them.
Yours, A pompous academic