AP Lang: judging a present by its wrapping


Benjamin Prengler

A fertility goddess on display in Eairheart’s room; an ugly gift from a year previous.

Savannah Whitmer, Lead reporter

As the semester comes to a close and winter break nears, holiday celebrations and events both on and off campus are becoming familiar and fun activities for many students. The AP Language and Composition class, however, will be participating in a holiday gift exchange with a twist. Students are asked to bring ugly, unwanted, and useless presents for a variation of a white elephant exchange and then will write a thank you note for the gift they receive.

“It’s fun. That’s probably the biggest purpose right there,” teacher Jasen Eairheart said. “We’ve worked really hard all first semester, so it’s something for us all to enjoy together. The thank you notes add to it. I know you don’t want to, but once you get into it, it’s a great way to add some creativity. With rhetorical analysis, you’re limited, there’s definitely places to incorporate your voice, your themes, your points of view, that still comes from creation, but this is time to really twist something into a unique perspective.”

The gifts, which are supposed to be an inexpensive, homemade, or an unwanted item, are often eccentric. After assigning the exchange for six years, Eairheart has received many ugly items, but says that the most bizarre was a lobster shadow box.

“There was a lobster pinned inside [the box],” Eairheart said. “It was a beach scene, a sand scene, it had real sand on the bottom and seashells attached to it, and it had a giant lobster right in the middle. It was probably one foot high, two feet feet long. And you could plug it in and it lit up, and it had lights that shone on the lobster. So it was pretty disturbing. Somebody wanted it badly, and he got it.”

While the ugly gift exchange is obviously not about receiving a desirable holiday gift, it is an effort to promote creativity, especially in a class that usually focuses on structure. It also prepares students for the coming semester.

“It gets those juices flowing a little bit,” Eairheart said. “And it aids us with going into argument, because now you have to try to twist things that you may not agree with, and you have to find a way to make it fit, because it’s all you have to work with.”

While students are not required to participate, most usually bring some sort of gift.

“I plan to bring a box of tissues,” junior Grady Wells said. “I hope to snag an item worth more and make a profit.”

Many students are looking forward to the gift exchange.

“I can say that I haven’t exactly figured out what I’m bringing, honestly,” junior Will Viloria said. “When I figure it out though, it’ll probably be the most horrendous thing ever. It’ll be funny, but it’ll also be horrendous. As for what I’m getting, I’d like to get something thoughtful and tasteful. Like a mix tape.”

Eairheart has high expectations for what this year’s exchange will bring, whether it is as strange as a lobster shadow box or as unwanted as the wooden fertility goddess mask that can be found in his classroom.

“Typically people are very nice, and so they just take what they get and walk away,” Eairheart said. “Hopefully somebody gets a mean streak going and starts taking other gifts just to add excitement to things. I don’t care if it’s a used coloring book or a Hannah Montana DVD game. It’s just for fun.”