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Editors face off over the usefulness of annotations

September 20, 2018

Annotations are a key part of the English curriculum for Robinson IB students. However, they are also a time-consuming activity whose usefulness is often a subject of debate among students. Read two staffers’ opinions on whether annotations help IB students below.

Annotations are more harmful than helpful

Going through any Robinson hallway, you’ll hear IB students gripe about the amount of annotations they have to do, with good reason. Annotations are labeled as an assignment that is crucial for building life skills when in reality, life would continue on if annotations were never even a thing. They are meant to aid students in developing skills in analyzing themes in literature, when annotations do nothing of the sort.

It’s true in life that no matter what your reading or watching, chances are it has an alternate meaning or subtext of some kind. However, this doesn’t necessarily imply that you need to annotate in order to understand how to analyze media and literature. Although annotations help some in honing their skills at recognizing deeper meaning, a lot of the times annotations don’t teach kids anything except how to cheat off each other without getting caught.

While these deeper meanings do enhance the book or movie being analyzed, nine times out of ten people pick up on the analogies and hidden messages without ever have annotated a “classic”. The IB English teachers seem to think that annotating is the only way a student will ever learn to analyze text; instead, they should think about implementing essay writing. This will teach students not only to analyze the authors writing but will also further educate students on necessary writing skills needed for life.

Annotations require constant focus and a deep level of understanding of literature and when teachers give a large amount of annotations due in a short period of time, most students end up procrastinating and inevitably putting down random analysis that doesn’t correlate to the actual themes in the novel or movie. This makes the annotations a waste of time because instead of students actually taking away from the authors’ skill in writing they are trying to rush to finish an assignment that will make or break their quarter grade.

Annotations are overrated and by no means are crucial in helping students analyze literature. Students can still learn analysis and writing without noting how the color blue reflects a characters sadness.

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Annotations are a key to understanding

Going through any Robinson hallway, you’ll hear IB students gripe about the amount of annotations they have to do. The constant complaints have created a layer of fear and general distaste towards such a simple act as annotations. When living in such a negative state of mind you’ll only ever be able to see the world as half-empty, by viewing annotations through such a simple frame of mind, you’ll never truly see the help they provide. Annotations aren’t pointless, they’re meant to develop student’ skills in analyzing themes in literature and themes that exist in all forms of media.

While it’s hard to believe, themes, motifs, and devices exist outside of English class. Any movie you can think of, any book or play you’ve ever read means something outside of what you see on the surface. Even superhero movies employ them, a recent example being a parallel of the protagonist and antagonist of Marvel’s Black Panther. There is a deeper motive behind every piece of media consumed and annotations allow the development of recognizing these motives, enhancing the experience.

Nearly all art can be annotated, not just pretentious and lengthy books your English teacher makes you read. For example, Harry Potter is a children’s book series nearly everyone read when they were younger. On the surface, it tells the story of a young wizard who is chosen by a prophecy to fight an evil wizard. Behind all that, Harry Potter spreads a message of hope prevailing through hard times through even small actions taken by characters. Despite being a fairly simple children’s book, it contains themes that go beyond what’s on the page.

Not only do annotations enhance the media consumed, they enhance the media created. How can you ever include underlying themes if you don’t know how to identify them? For all aspiring directors, authors, artists and everything in-between, annotations develop a valuable skill that’s essential to your craft.

Yes, annotations are hard work, but that doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful work. And besides, between the date annotations are assigned and the date they’re due, there is max a month to do them. That’s more than enough time if you pace yourself, the work only becomes truly tedious if you procrastinate.

What would art be without a deeper meaning?  Can anyone truly read a book about wizards if there’s no other message? Annotations provide a crucial skill in life, not a meaningless one.

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