Friday, February 18, 2011

"The Course in Confusion"

And now, let us amuse ourselves with a silly story that was drawn by Pete Alvarado, written by ?, and published in an HDL back-to-school special in 1960--because that's just how we roll. I wish to dedicate this school-related post to the protestors in Wisconsin. Keep fighting the good fight, guys. And lest anyone take this the wrong way, let me state that I'm pretty sure most teachers are better than Daisy is in this story. I mean, how could they not be?

Daisy is the boys' teacher here. Yeah, you could make some sorta critical comment about how 'teacher' is one of the very few jobs women are permitted in this milieu, but to be fair, in this special, seemingly everyone works at the school: in another story, we see Gyro as a chemistry teacher and Gus as a janitor, and in one of the "activities" that books like this feel compelled to include, we encounter "Professor Scrooge."

Still, you have to think based on this that Daisy may not be the best teacher. Listen: I know teaching isn't too easy, and I know there are many different pedagogical theories that may work differently for different people, but I have to think that when you present kids with two extremely gendered options that the entire class is forced to engage with ("okay, it's either sewing or killer atomic robots"), you're sort of screwing yourself over right from the start. That vacant look that she has in the lower left isn't inspiring a lot of confidence either.

And what happens? She does it again! Because, as we all know, if there's one gender stereotype that has validity it's girls' burning passion for botany and boys' undying disgust for same. If by "botany" we just meant, you know, those girly flowers then I guess I could almost see it, but no, we're talking about plants in general, as will be seen.

So what's Daisy's solution? That's right! Using her niece to seduce HDL into supporting botany! An unorthodox pedagogical method, for sure. I'm not convinced Vygotsky would've approved.

Barks introduced April May and June in 1953 in the "Flipism" story; they were never meant to be anything but one-off characters, and they laid fallow thereafter until they were reintroduced in 1959 by Bob Gregory, who probably should've left well enough alone. "The Course in Confusion" (not a course--the course) is actually only the third story to feature them, or at least one of them (well, tied for third with this one). It's kind of meaningless to point out that it is not the case, as this story indicates, that HDL had not met the nieces yet. It's true, of course, but…this story disagrees. Whatareyagonnado? I do find the extent to which April here has been sexed up to better arouse HDL's lust to be simultaneously comical and disturbing. Note that the other three boys in the class, who are dogfaces and therefore immune to the charms of a duckling, are still pretty much screwed.

It is necessary to imagine April speaking in a broad southern accent.

HDL's mooning around is kind of funny, albeit idiotic.

Also enjoyable in its ridiculousness: the heavy, exaggerated apathy of the other boys towards this whole "botany" thing. Yeah...seed...redwood...whatever...can I go home now?

Leon could learn a little lesson here from Calvin. Calvin was not wild about doing a leaf collection either, but he took initiative and sold the Earth to Galaxoid and Nebular in exchange for fifty alien leaves. Unfortunately, it turned out that the alien leaves looked like maple leaves cut into weird shapes, but the point is, Calvin made an effort, unlike Leon here.

Anyway, the exhibition goes poorly and the story ends in what is awfully close to a blonde joke, though it is kind of funny for its sheer unexpectedness. Also, we see that now dogfaces kids apparently are attracted to ducklings, as long as they share an abiding passion for boating. So it goes.

Don't count HDL out, though! Their abiding…passion causes them to glom onto boats as a new obsession. I'm not sure whether that's inspiring or disgusting. Maybe both.



Anonymous Kevin Johnson said...


The funny part? I did embroidery part time during college. It's much harder than it looks. Also it's pretty stupid. Embroidery itself is girly but the actual work involved is dual gendered.

February 25, 2011 at 4:15 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home