Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pat Condell makes an impression on my students

My Current Events English class spent most of their hour in the faculty office today, tapping away at my colleagues' work stations (and mine as well). They were practicing their online research techniques, trying to surf the English-language internet without recourse to Korean sources. On Monday, I had given them a list of 21 research tasks-- questions that were, in some cases, fairly open-ended, as well as questions for which answers might vary wildly. One of the questions related to Pat Condell: who is he, and what are his YouTube videos about? A few of my students selected that particular question to work on, and were pretty shocked by what they heard. One student called him "extreme," while the lone man in the class, a gent in his early 50s, shook his head and said, "You know, when Condell is about to die, he's probably going to find Jesus."

This class is filled with great students, and I wish I had more time to spend with them. Amazingly, half the students in this class are returnees-- some are students I've taught for more than one semester. Eun-hui, who has alternately delighted me and pissed me off, is back again for what must be her fourth or fifth class with me. Yeon-hui is back for her third or fourth class; Hyeon-ui is back for her second class, and so is Jae-eun, who was in my intensive class last semester. It's both flattering and touching to have so many returnees this time around; I don't normally see so many "veterans." My morning classes also feature a few returnees, though not nearly in as high a concentration as in the Current Events class.

Anyway, here's the full list of research topics I gave to my students. I had told them that, if they tried hard, they might be able to find answers to these questions within 6 or 7 hours. I did the exercise myself yesterday and took about six hours to answer 20 of 21 questions. Feel free to research these yourselves, if you want, but only if you're feeling especially geeky.

1. How far is Port Coquitlam, BC (British Columbia) from the US border?

2. What official (or unofficial) position(s) has the US government taken on Dokdo? What position(s) has the UK taken? Canada? Australia? New Zealand? China?

3. What do Americans generally think/feel/say about the Cho Seung-hui massacre at Virginia Tech last year?

4. What sort of weather can you find in Fribourg, Switzerland throughout the year?

5. What major themes do you see in popular American rap music?

6. The 1974 comedy Blazing Saddles included a “movie first.” What was it?

7. OPTIONAL: Who was the politician who shot himself in the head—in public—in Pennsylvania in 1987? Why did he do it? (This item is optional because video of the shooting is available online, and might be very disturbing to watch.)

8. Compare Korean and American drunk driving statistics. Which country do you think has a worse problem?

9. Compare Korean and American suicide statistics, with a special eye toward REASONS for committing suicide. What interesting points of comparison do you see?

10. What are some of the major themes covered in the following American TV series:
a. 24
b. Battlestar Galactica
c. Grey’s Anatomy
d. Prison Break
e. Heroes
f. CSI

11. Find some strange American “blue laws.” Be ready to explain what a blue law is. Which Virginian blue laws do you find especially funny?

12. What is the average life span of a giant octopus?

13. Is the Jesus birth narrative in all four gospels?

14. What were some of Winston Churchill’s major vices?

15. What types of roles does Edward James Olmos usually play in the movies?

16. Which European city has a climate that is most similar to Seoul’s?

17. Who is Ayaan Hirsi Ali and what do people think of her?

18. What countries, states, or provinces are similar in geographical size to South Korea?

19. How do you make spaghetti bolognese?

20. Approximately what distance is Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home) from Washington, DC?

21. Who is Pat Condell and what is he talking about in his YouTube videos?



Stafford said...

You're potentially setting yourself (and your students) up for some brilliant pieces of Konglishie in those research questions. Be sure to post them! (In the nicest possible way of course - the misappropriations of English that sometimes occur often offer exquisite insights into how a student is thinking.)
Also, what IS New Zealand's official line on Dokdo?

Kevin Kim said...

re: NZ's position of Dokdo

Beats me, man. That's the one question I didn't bother researching-- the Dokdo question. I was surprised to discover that none of my students had tackled the question, either.


Anonymous said...

Your questions took me to a place I haven't been to in over 20 years. That's when I first saw "Faces of Death" which is where I ended up again when I researched #7. While a good part of it is fake, it is still quite disturbing. Good luck explaining it if your students find themselves having watched it.

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daeguowl said...

How about some answers for those of us that don't have 6-7 hours to spare researching....