In each installment of this segment, I will analyze a specific chapter/activity/page from my school’s English textbook series. Before we get on with the very academic close-reading, let’s have some context. The series is called “New Crown” and it consists of 3 levels (books); one for each Junior High School grade. The textbooks of each level -1,2,3 - apply the same basic structure.
1) Thematic Chapters.
There are approximately 8 Chapters per textbook and the chapters are usually ten pages long. Each chapter examines a specific topic. These topics are supposed to distract Japanese students from the English grammar being forced into their ear/eye-holes. To give you an idea of what I mean by “topic,” sample Chapter Titles include: “Life in
,” “At a Australia ,” and “Human Rights for All.” You know, the type of shit your average 13 yr old kid is dying to learn about1. Nature Park
The anatomy of a chapter is pretty consistent. All chapters contain some combination of:
-Graphics: maps, AP photos, pie-charts, hand-drawn illustrations, etc.
-Narrative Passages: uninterrupted expository passages on a given topic. These paragraphs are written by an unidentified narrator with some nasty habits. Nasty habits include: heavy use of rhetorical questions, interjecting interjections all over the place, speaking in fragmented sentences, and being a condescending douche-bag.
-Dialogue: a written conversation (relevant to that chapter’s theme) between two of the main, recurring characters. More on them later.
-New Words: 15-20 new vocabulary words. All germane to the chapter's topic and culled directly from the narrative passages and dialogue.
-Miscellaneous Activities: these are basically lodestars for teachers who hate their jobs and need to waste entire classes without doing any actual teaching. In response, students-faces say: "I hate English and I will never leave
, ever," "I'm going to sleep now and you can't stop me," and "What would happen if I shoved these two mechanical pencils really far up my own nostrils?” Japan
Each textbook contains the lyrics of at least four English-language songs. Songs include: I Just Called to Say I Love You, Stand by Me, Yesterday Once More (I had to Youtube this one. Never heard of it. It’s by The Carpenters and it’s really slow and bad. But it features the lyrics “All my best memories come back clearly to me, Some can even make me cry, Just like before, It’s yesterday once more.” So, you know, that’s fun.), White Christmas, Take Me Home Country Roads, and Yesterday. I would make fun of these song-selections, but when last year’s graduating class called me into their classroom and sang a heartfelt rendition of Take Me Home Country Roads, dedicated to me, I may have almost cried. Or actually cried. Either way, fuck off. Music is magic.