WW Fenn is a great time to learn about an event or work of literature. So far, this has meant me, riding in the back seat of a car on Route 16 in New Hampshire, desperately trying to memorize what some old guy said in response to a tragedy. I can speak decently, especially if I’ve had time to prepare, but until I did WW Fenn I never really enjoyed it: it was rote memorization, my least favorite kind of work. When I was introduced to WW Fenn in 6th grade, I initially viewed it as a difficult, useless assignment. However, I chose a speech that interested me (FDR’s address to Congress after Pearl Harbour), and got to work on memorizing it. The more I worked on it, the more I realized that it could be enjoyable, with some caveats.
I thought, and still think, that WW Fenn’s enjoyment comes from learning the speech, not reciting it. The requirement that you must speak in front of the class makes sense from a grading standpoint, but he high point of the assignment is when you fully learn the speech, not when you recite it. In the case of a speech, you can inadvertently learn about the event around it. While I was memorizing FDR’s address, I became interested in Pearl Harbour, (re)sparking my interest in WWII. On my second speech, Reagan's address after the Challenger Shuttle disaster, I was already interested in manned space exploration, and wanted to learn more. I enjoyed the speech, and talking with people who remember the explosion.
This year, I’m going into new territory: with the poem requirement, I feel like it will become significantly harder to choose a piece on a topic I’m active in, instead I’ll choose a poem with an interesting plot, and see how it goes. I’m thinking of a historical poem, especially seeing all of the great WWI poetry on Poem Miner. Overall, WW Fenn is fun, although in a slightly unexpected way, and I’m looking forward to this year.