John Steinbeck and the Kyoto Treaty

The question you may be asking yourself at this very moment would be, “What on earth does John Steinbeck have to do with the Kyoto Treaty?”

The answer would be:  abso-freaking-lutely nothing (that I am aware of, anyway).

A~’s honors language arts teacher, however, seems to be confused on that point.

You see, A~ and the rest of her honors language arts class have just finished reading Steinbeck’s The Pearl.  A~ told me she had to write an essay explaining who she thought should be blamed for the baby, Kyoto’s, death.

Hmm . . . Kyoto . . . I haven’t read The Pearl in over two decades, but I really didn’t remember any of the characters being Japanese; however I also really didn’t remember anything other than that some poor guy found a big pearl and, I think, buried it in the ground in his hut or something.  So whatever.  Kyoto it is, if you say so.

When A~ brought me her rough draft I said, “Umm, I think you misspelled the baby’s name.”

“No I didn’t,” she said in that immediately indignant and mortally wounded way that only girls her age can.

“I’m telling you,” I said, “This is not how you spell Kyoto.”

“Look right here!” she shot back, holding out a teacher-generated worksheet.  “C-O-Y-O-T-I-T-O.  Right there.”

“Ummm . . . okay then.  If that is how it is spelled you are mispronouncing it.”

Really people, I’m not trying to be mean to my child or anything, but something was wrong, whether it was spelling or pronunciation, so I really felt it incumbent upon me as the parent to help educate my child.

She is so almost twelve now.

“Mo-om!  That is how the teacher pronounces it.  It is Kyoto.”

“No.  Are you sure that is how she pronounces it?”


What could I say.  Really?  What could I say????

“Your teacher.  Isanidiot.”

Ha ha!  Joke!  I didn’t really say that.  Well, not exactly that.  I may or may not have conveyed that basic idea using different words though.

Then McH took a gander at her rough draft and made the very astute observation, “Coyotito almost looks like coyote.”

“Hmmm . . .” I pondered out loud, “You’re right, and that is very interesting considering A~’s essay says Coyotito was killed by a tracker who fired a shot trying to scare off what he though was a coyote.  But it wasn’t a coyote, it was Coyotito crying.  I bet Coyotito means something about a little coyote.”

And you know what?  Apparently it does (though I won’t swear to it since I only studied French).

So score another one for mom and dad.

You would think that an honors English teacher might have noticed that one, wouldn’t you?  Well, I would; but then I guess I would be expecting too much.  I’ve been accused of that before.

Anyway, I told A~ that the next time they are discussing the book in class and the teacher calls the baby Kyoto, she should raise her hand and politely say how the name is actually pronounced and then go on to explain its significance.

After all, Steinbeck may have been a bit of a socialist who was trying to skewer capitalism with The Pearl, but he wasn’t a global warming enthusiast (since Al Gore hadn’t invented that yet).

And George, if you’re out there, Newts who can, do; and Newts who can’t shouldn’t.

PS  — Still no letter home about any students with a confirmed case of swine flu, but apparently they are going to be trying to shoot our children up with the vaccination in school any day now.  I would think needles would be a direct violation of some zero tolerance policy . . .

6 thoughts on “John Steinbeck and the Kyoto Treaty

  1. Yes, Elaine. An “itto” on the end of a word in Spanish means little one or baby. I don’t know a lot, but I do know that ; )

    I’m scared that Libby will enter the public school system eventually too! Andrea


  2. Well, our school beat yours then! I got a call this week about H1N1, and the local middle school has been dealing with it for a couple.

    I shouldn’t tell you my brother’s horror story about his 9th grade English teacher, because you will KNOW that gov’t schools are suspect, but I will, because it’s terrible and funny. He wrote a paper, thought it was pretty good (that’s when he was still trying) and was shocked to get a D. He looked through it, only to find the following notations: “Did not capitalize the name of a month, and used it inappropriately.” The month? August. Or, in the way he used it, “au-GUST.” I know. I told you it was terrible and funny.

    He was a success, though. He recently graduated from Yale. With a B.A. in English.


  3. Pingback: John Steinbeck and the Kyoto Treaty « Looking For George « Kyoto Bookmarker

  4. Christina

    Oh boy. That teacher sounds like a winner. And that August story Bethany told is hysterical, in a very sad kind of way. The biggest issue we’re having this year is that K’s World History teacher is a devout Atheist and makes it a point to denegrate each and every religion that he covers – in a way that denegrates all people of faith at once. She and her Hindu friend are both completely exasperated with the guy. Isn’t government school FUN?


  5. oh you… thanks for making me laugh on a monday morning. All I could think on the pronunciation is that Coyotito should be pronounced like my husband’s favorite spanish meal – pollo bandido… SOoooo it all goes back to food for me, really 🙂


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