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Above is a “review” I did while I was a senior in high school. This was for a course called “Ethics” that was taught by a teacher named Mr. (Richard) Small. The class and Mr. Small’s teachings, whether I knew it or not at the time as a 17-year-old, were highly influential toward my learning of the world around me, having fully appreciated the experience in the many years since.

More so than any other class I had taken up to that point and even beyond in college, Ethics stands out to me as a unique experience of not being just a student in a classroom per se but an adolescent having been a part of some life lesson-filled discussions with opportunities to discuss, dissect and debate the morals of real-life people and fictional characters.

Ethics was not your typical high school class experience with a lecture accompanied by lots of note taking. Rather, it was an open discussion on topics that every student and Mr. Small himself would participate in. There was no “studying” in his class, but rather a simple structure in place: to read assigned books and to watch films in class with a reviewed response toward each of these works required after finishing. These responses pertained simply to what we had learned, oftentimes which garnered a fair grade. Responses that were in-depth and that raised significant points concerning the ethics of a plot and / or character earned higher marks.

Mr. Small was a bit infamous in awarding 100s, which was very rare for a student to receive. Even I had never received one, which I’ll admit was disappointing to not have gotten the special honor (but I came close on several occasions). Alas, looking back I fully understand and even appreciate how difficult it was to get that elusive 100 from Mr. Small. Clearly, and even with a lot of the points I had made about a book or film that I reviewed, I had a lot learn from coming out of that class. It wouldn’t be until years later that I finally understood what it took to grasp and really absorb and interpret a work for educational and argumentative discussion beyond just reading or watching it; and even more so than pointing out generalizations that a work morally represents, or what a work is trying to evoke to the world in terms of primary messages for the audience to be mindful of.

Well that and my comprehension and critiquing skills are much better now 9 years later than they were then. Plus, I don’t think I’m giving myself enough credit for the grades I did earn, and while not bad, they still prove something of value that I did accomplish in analyzing these works of literature and film with respect to how I truthfully felt about them. This is in stark contrast to before (excluding years of taking English classes and doing Summer Reading) where I would read and watch forms of media out of pure enjoyment and not from a scholarly view towards characterizations, plot and learning points that I can agree with or debate over (based on whether or not I can relate to them or not). For this reason, Ethics felt like the appropriate capstone to all of the early learning and exposure I attained in immersing myself through works of literature and film in grade school; looking back now, I realize how important of a starting point that time was to where I was headed in terms of media immersion and commentary, with enthusiasm and dedication more than ever being a driving force for this exercise – this exercise in discussion for personal fulfillment of having learned and absorbed something reflecting life, fictional or not.

One last thing? Now that I’m older and have faced more experiences in life, every piece I had written for my high school Ethics class above would probably be read much differently today. But hey, my writings are a reflection of where my knowledge and observations stood at the time and given how Mr. Small felt about what I put out, I can’t say I am disappointed with my efforts all these years later.

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