Dear The Monkey,
Recently, my school replaced the old writing composition teacher with an even older one. While I always considered writing was one of my stronger assets (often an idea expressed by grades), the new teacher doesn’t agree. Now my essays appear to have been the altar at which a goat was sacrificed upon judging by all the red correction ink crossing out words, sentences and even whole paragraphs! Is she just trying to run the school dry of red writing utensils? Or is there something else, perhaps more sinister, going on?
Sincerely, Studious Pupil
The Monkey Responds:
Some years ago, during undergraduate study at Oxford, a professor of public speaking habitually penalized me for my inability to speak, publicly or otherwise. Despite the fact that this clearly did not preclude me from being a masterful public speaker (which I was and am), my grades suffered under his prejudice. Suspicious, I did some research on his background and found the justification for my dubiosity: he was born and raised in Ascot, England.
If you have ever visited Ascot, as I have, you surely noticed that the town is harboring a dark secret. In the company of strangers, its townspeople go silent, blankly focusing on their tea and crumpets, and quickly excusing themselves and scuttling away if they should be asked about anything other than the town’s thriving ink industry.
The dark secret they harbor is in fact an underground society of elitists known as the Inkblot Brotherhood, whose “Blotters” seek to suppress the next generation of intellectuals in order to secure the academic legacy of their own generation. They accomplish this through the security of high-ranking faculty positions at influential universities, and copious use of red ink (the most obvious—though not the only—implementation of which is grading papers).
Blotters were originally able to identify each other by specific markings on their ascots, which were worn in homage to the name of the organization’s hometown, and whose presence became all the more conspicuous as the ascot fell out of fashion in the 1980s. They have since resorted to instead recognizing a series of “knowing glances” of seemingly questionable security.
As one of the fundamental tenets of the Inkblot Brotherhood is for it to die with its founding generation, its numbers are dwindling. To take advantage of this, a number of grassroots efforts have attempted to counteract the effect of the Blotters’ influence, but have thus far failed, as evidenced most prominently by the election (and reelection) of American president George W. Bush.
There is hope, however, and it lies within Ascot’s second dark secret, which is as inexplicable as it is simple: All Ascotians (and, by extension, all Blotters) are deathly afraid of Star Trek-related memorabilia and collectibles. Simply present a Blotter with your signed copy of William Shatner’s The Transformed Man, and the Blotter’s will is yours.
In your case, though, SP, you have made it plain that your professor is a woman, which would make it quite impossible for her to be a Blotter. Her assessment of the quality of your writing is, thus, far more credible and informed than your own. Learn what you can from her, but be prepared for your failure as a writer to open the door for other career opportunities, perhaps in waste management or guidance counseling.