I asked my students what their favorite books, movies, and colors were and whether they had a job. These were some of the more frequent answers, in order of popularity:

Favorite Books: The Kite Runner (overwhelmingly!), the Harry Potter series, the Twilight Series, Lord of the Flies, and Catcher in the Rye. Amazing how some of those books you had to read in high school, like LotF and CitR and sometimes Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and To Kill a Mockingbird, always make it on students’ lists. There is some value to teaching classics after all.

Favorite Movies: 10 Things I Hate About You, The Wedding Crashers, The Bucket List, Fight Club, Moulin Rouge, The Godfather. I’m happy that Braveheart, the overwhelming favorite of my ENG 101 group in 2002 when I started teaching, made it on the list for only one out of my 48 current students. I’m always surprised that people tend to list very recent films as their favorites, but I’m glad Fight Club is a modern classic.

Colors: Green, Blue, Pink. This is a shift from 2002 too– the whole concept of girls liking pink is a fairly recent cultural phenomenon from what I can tell. Only a few girls I knew growing up would admit to liking pink.

Jobs: More than 9/10 students have at least one part time job, and at least 2/10 have two PT jobs (on top of a FT course load)… typical of the socioeconomic class represented in state schools. I had a PT job for my sophomore-senior years of college, and edited the literary magazine, and I still wonder how I found the time. I guess coming right off the killer regime of high school, time management seems easier to them. Coming off the “do things pretty much when you feel like it” regime of grad school, time management now seems difficult to me.


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6 Responses to Demographics

  1. Dottie Lasky says:

    I find this really fascinating and am glad you are asking them these questions!! The pink favorite color thing is particularly interesting and would be so cool to look at across large groups and across age-groups. But would a study like that ever get funded these days–I doubt it! 🙂

  2. Matt says:

    I wonder how much they really like those classics–like maybe they’re just naming them because they’re the only books they’ve actually heard of, and they’ve been told by their high school English teachers that they’re supposed to like them. I mean, I think that if Love’s Labour’s Lost were taught, instead of Romeo and Juliet, they would pick that as their favorite.

    I’m being glass-half-empty right now; I hope I’m wrong.

  3. @Matt, I think for some of them, those are the only books they’ve read. But I do buy that TKaM, CitR, and LotF are these kids’ favorite books. Those are pretty good books. Generally speaking, I don’t buy it when freshmen like Shakespeare, but I’ll allow for a good teacher here or there that inspired them. We’re reading The Tempest now and I’m pretty sure it will never be their favorite book, but then, I’m not leading a book club.

  4. Ken says:

    “I’m not leading a book club…”

    I’m going to steal that and use it someday and sadly I won’t credit you when I do, but that is mostly because when a person is bleeding they don’t really care where the knife was made.

  5. I like the color question…I’ll have to put that on my list. Most of my students favorite books tend to be Steven King or Harry Potter stuff.

  6. @Ken I don’t know where students got the idea that learning should be “fun” and they should “like” everything they read/do and teachers are there to “entertain” them. Are they four years old?

    A friend of mine (who’s probably reading this) was looking for ways to make teaching MLA format more interesting, and I was like, “my way is to tell them that it’s going to be boring but they need to know it and lessons aren’t always fun so write this down.”

    In my day, we walked 10 miles to school! In the snow! Uphill both ways! And we wrote all our papers with chalk on little tablets! And we read by candlelight! So suck it up!

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