Who Says Johnny Can’t Write (A Good Story)?

future of journalism

I’m tired of reading how American students lag behind their international counterparts on the academic front.

Johnny can’t write.

Johnny can’t add. 

Johnny can’t spell.

Even The Wall Street Journal has piled on with an article which highlights that only 23 percent of the 2009 high school graduates taking the ACT admissions test have the skills to succeed in college.

Enough already. 

There’s plenty about today’s youth to prompt optimism.

In fact, one of my colleagues John Radewagen pointed me to a listing of metaphors and analogies purportedly from high school essays that - how shall I say it - show a certain “creativity.” 

I’ve pulled out my favorites: 

“She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.”

Shrewd to align storytelling with a timely topic like food contamination. But why Canadian beef? If you’re striving for the exotic angle, should have gone with Argentinean stuff.

“She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.”

The blending of Lauren Bacall and Old Yeller makes for narrative you don’t see every day.

“Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.”

On one hand, you shouldn’t feel like you’re taking the SAT to figure out a love story. On the other hand, the ambiguity pulls you in because you can’t be 100 percent sure when the lovers will actually collide.

“He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.”  

You don’t often see young authors pursue the mafia genre. While not exactly Mario Puzo, the personification of the East River shows promise.

“It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.”

You have to admit, fathers armed with chainsaws and the like deliver stronger imagery than men running around with wood paddles.

The future of storytelling is indeed in good hands.

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2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Evelyn January 27th, 2010 9:46 am

    Why Canadian beef? That’s due to food politics.

    Love the vivid imageries.

    Singaporean/Malaysian students might be able to do amazing math, read and spell, but have you read the local papers recently? Yawn.

  2. Lou Hoffman January 27th, 2010 12:21 pm

    Ahhh politics.

    I missed the subtlety ini my initial read.

    And good to know the Singaporean and Malaysian students are keeping pace with their compadres from the U.S.

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