After realizing how stupid I had been, I was horrified to realize what the claim "This program aligns with National Standards in English for grades 9-12" implied. It means that we have some sort of national standards that are met by these materials. Let's just see how high our national standards must be if this material meets them. We'll examine "Activity Three."
Activity Three is called "Monsters: A Case Study." The students are supposed to pick a non-Beowulfian monster and compare it to Grendel by examining these attributes: name origin, home, appearance, special powers, weaknesses, motivation, friends/family, why feared, and fate. Let's put aside for the moment the assumption that listing these attributes of a monster will somehow help students learn something, let's examine the validity of the claims made by these materials.
- Name: Grendel. OK, so far so good.
- Origin: son of King Hrothgar and a succubus, a woman mostly human in appearance but with demonic characteristics. Um, that's entirely in the film, not in the poem ... or as the study guide calls it, "this modern portrayal of an ancient monster." So, studying the film monster to the exclusion of the poem monster meets national standards?
- Home: a dark cave littered with bleached bones and rotting carcasses with a black pool teeming with moray eels. OK, a little embellished, but I'll buy that.
- Appearance: large, hairless, misshapen body covered with scars, scabs, and open sores; eyes flecked with gold; exposed eardrum membranes; retractable claws; nearly impenetrable skin. Is this supposed to be a description of Grendel, or Wolverine with mange?
- Special Powers: extraordinary strength, speed, and agility; ability to vault himself across great distances. Or maybe instead of Wolverine, he's supposed to be the Incredible Hulk?
- Weaknesses: loud noises, especially the sounds of celebration coming from Hrothgar's palace, cause him excruciating pain and drive him into a fury; not intelligent; emotionally sensitive. See, it wasn't that Grendel bore God's wrath, and attacked because the Scop sang of creation, it's that the Danes were inconsiderate neighbors -- and you know how emotionally sensitive poor Grendel is.
- Motivation: Wants to stop the noise of Hrothgar's celebration; enjoys tormenting his victims. Enjoys tormenting his victims? What happened to the Alan Alda Mr. Sensitive Grendel?
- Friends/Family: loving mother, "pet" moray eels. Well, they sure got the first part right.
- Why Feared: dismembers and devours heroes in their sleep. Huzzah! A statement I can support without hesitation!
- Fate: looses [sic] his arm in a clash with Beowulf and runs back to his cave to die. Also correct!
Can't get enough of these activities? You can download all the materials (in PDF) for yourself here!