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What is Oleanna ? Is it a perfect world, or is it a world… The play
Olenna by David Mamet gives us a real perspective on our modern
education system and society. John the white male college professor is the
victim in this play. And Carol the female student is the fascist. John is an
exceptional teacher that love to teach and refuse to let the fascist takeover
the academic freedom of our education.
Early in the play, both John and Carol are distracted by their personal
interests. John is buying a new house to go with his tenure announcement.
However, the house has not gone through, and the tenure committee has not
Signed. Therefore, John is rushed, and unable to focus his attention on his
student Carol. On the other hand, Carol is distracted by her grades, job as a
student, and future. She could not understand any thing in John’s class. In
addition, she is confused of her self-identity. Carol believes she is stupid,
and the fact that she comes from a different economic background; therefore
John feels responsible to her failure. Moreover, to John teaching is
more imperative than his other problems. John tries to give Carol his
personal experiences to relate to her difficulties. He talks about how he was
raised to think himself stupid, how much he hated school, teachers, and
education. He says: “ Why was I born to be the laughingstock of a world in
which everyone is better than I? In which I am entitled to nothing. Where I
can not learn.” At that point, John feels he has problems that are similar to
Carols. John believes in order to help Carol, he must get personal, and brake
down the Artificial Stricture, of “Teacher,” and “Student.”
John explains to Carol how education process is hazing. The test
people encounter in school, and in life were designed by idiots for idiots.
“ They are a test of your ability to retain and spout back misinformation. Of
course, you fail them. They’re nonsense.” John says. And Carol
responds: “…no…” In this case John is trying provoke Carol and to let her
know that we should question the orthodox, and the very things that we take
for granted. And how education has become a ritual, “something-other-than-
useful.” That’s because we believe we are all entitled to higher education.
Therefore, Carol does not know what is going on in her class. and what it
means to be in college.
Later on, Carol asks John about her grades. John realizes that the grade
was a distraction for her, and the most important thing is to awake her
interest. John wants Carol to stop copying notes, and just repeating it back to
him. He wants her to use her own words. He is telling her once she has
interest in the subject she is studying; she’ll have confidence, and eventually
starts succeeding. John gives an example of how he have work his way out
of the need to fail. He quotes “ If I fail all the time, it must be that I think of
myself as a failure. If I do not want to think of myself as a failure,
perhaps I should begin by succeeding now and again.”
In the second half of the play, Carol unconsciously learns from John.
And she uses that knowledge as her weapon to gain power against John.
She files a list of unreasonable complaints on John. She says: “Whatever
you have done-to the extent that you’ve done it to me, do you know, rather
that to me as a student, and, so, to the student body, is contained in my
report. To the tenure committee. Carol uses her list of complaint as threats to
John’s tenure. She accuses him being a sexist, elitist, and rapist. Now Carol
knows she has the power, and she will determines the truth. When John ask
Carol “Oh. My God, are you so hurt?” She responds, “What I feel is
irrelevant.“ All the weapons come out on behalf of her “group”. The plot
plays on fears often expressed elsewhere: a comforting around the distressed
student’s shoulder becomes sexual harassment, a hand put out to stop a
premature exit becomes attempted rape. John respond with we’re just
John now no longer has the power, and he is concerned with his
personal interest( house, tenure). When John says his intention was devoid
of sexual content. Carol responds “ I SAY IT WAS NOT. Don’t you begin
to see…? Don’t you begin to understand? IT’S NOT FOR YOU TO SAY.
And John could only agree. At this point, Carol gives out her demand; She
and her “group” present a list of books they wish banned. This is Carol
ultimate goal in all of those accusations against John. This request shocks
John. He realizes his responsibility as a teacher and his honor cannot be
traded for his comfort and security. He says: “ No, no. It’s out of the
question. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking of. I am a teacher.
EH? It’s my name no the door, and I teach the class, and that’s what I do. I
have a responsibility… to my self, to my son, to my profession… At the end
John takes Carols accusations and unconsciously become that violent
abusive white male. He knocks Carols to the floor. He yells “ After how I
treated you…? You should be …Rape you…? Are you Kidding me…?
This Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Mamet is a reflection of the
corrupted education system and society we live in. How in the process of
creating a perfect and politically correct world; we have taken away the
foremost basic given rights of intellectual freedom. College student at UC
Berkeley and many prominent colleges across the country burn books, trash
new papers, and violent threats against those who speak up. The Racial
McCarthyism on College Campuses is driven by the lust of for power. Just
like William Pfaff have put it “ no objective truth or value exists, nor
disinterested scholarship, only power relationships. Power determines
“truth” and intellectual life and scholarship are form of political struggle.”
We have come a long way to enjoy today’s rights a freedom. Many people
Have either died of put their lives on the line for the basic freedom we enjoy
today. But now in the 21st century we not only we have abused those rights
in a prejudice way. But we have set many new intellectual barriers. I do not
believe this what Martin Luther King and all other freedom fighter fought
for! Are we not just humans who are all very unique individually?
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