Congrats to High School English teacher Patrick Welsh, who greeted readers of this morning’s Washington Post with the shocking revelation that his students would prefer to spend hours on end fragging the fuck out of each other on Halo 2, than absorbing the life lessons of “All The Pretty Horses”.

I’ve known for a long time that a lot of the boys in my English classes are more interested in connecting with their Xboxes in the evening than with the next three chapters of Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon.” But ever since I observed their mounting hysteria over last month’s “premiere” of Halo 2, the new combat game from Microsoft, I’ve been trying to find out what’s behind the lure of video games. As the boys I teach have endeavored to enlighten me, I haven’t known whether to laugh, cry, or go find a new job. What they told me has me wondering how what I teach can possibly compete with the fast-paced razzle-dazzle of this ever-evolving entertainment form and worrying about the young guys who spend so much time divorced from reality and the life of the mind as they zap away the hours before their video screens.

I had to chuckle at the image of otherwise reasonable boys keeping a vigil outside the Best Buy store in Potomac Yards until the doors opened at midnight on Nov. 9, when they could charge in to be the first to snap up Halo 2, which added $125 million to Bill Gates’s company fortune on its debut day alone. But I didn’t think it was so funny when some guys skipped school that day to stay home and try to beat the game. Senior Steve Penn (who wasn’t one of the skippers) told me that the following weekend, he played for six hours straight (minus bathroom breaks) at a friend’s house. When he got home at 1 a.m. on Sunday, he went at it for two more hours, fell asleep, got up at 7 and fired up the game again. “My mother had to remind me to change my clothes and take a shower,” he said.

(or wouldn’t you prefer a new CD by Juice Newton?)

Though it does seem a bit lame that Welsh’s students aren’t particularly obsessed with smoking pot, circle jerks or blowing up the school, at least this fine educator can take some consolation in the fact that relatively few of them have fallen prey to the scourge that is fantasy football.