The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1241 Friday, 4 December 1998.
From: Paul S. Rhodes <
Date: Thursday, 3 Dec 1998 20:11:22 -0500
Subject: Ban Shakespeare now!
On Talk of the Nation today there was a discussion over whether
Shakespeare should be required in the school or no. This got me really,
really angry, so I fired off this e-mail which did not make it on the
air. Since it was not read on the air, I send it to this illustrious
list for your perusal:
What? Are you guys mad? The issue is not whether Shakespeare should be
required reading, but whether he should be banned tout court. I think
Shakespeare should be banned myself because his works give the future of
our country the wrong message. Let me make my argument by taking R&J as
an example of Shakespeare's pernicious influence. Romeo and Juliet
should be banned for the simple reason that it teaches kids that the
adult world is corrupt and that teenagers should defy their families and
the powers that be for the sake of Romance. We can't be teaching that
to kids today, can we, especially in this market-driven world, eh? Kids
should be equipped with what it takes to succeed in this global
economy. The market-driven world is the adult world. If kids are going
to succeed in it, they must not be taught to despise it, else they won't
want to work in it, much less succeed in it. If kids are to succeed in
the market-driven world, they must learn to respect worldy authority and
NOT to defy it. Above all, if kids are to learn to succeed in this
market-driven world, they must get their teleology straight. Puppy Love
is not something to live for, as Romeo & Juliet would (quite
perniciously, if you ask me) have impressionable young minds believe, it
is certainly not something to die for-perish the thought! No, no.
Money and worldly success are what we all should live for and, lest we
forget, winning friends and influencing people.
Now, of course, some teachers make the valiant attempt to teach the play
as an example of what happens when two crazy young people give
themselves over to their crazy, impetuous, very immature impulses. But
this is true of the Brooke Poem. This reading will not work for R&J
because it cannot explain, for instance, why, if Juliet is one of the
irrational, immature youths, she shows herself to be far and away the
smartest person in the play. Furthermore, this interpretation cannot
point to a mature standard by which to judge the Lovers' immaturity,
unless you wish to point to the Nurse's counsel to Juliet as a "mature"
piece of advice. In that case, you will be advocating bigamy, and I
don't think you would want to do that. And, remember, an adult marries
Romeo and Juliet. Now, you can say, of course, that the priest was
acting irresponsibly, but this would just give kids one more reason to
disrespect authority, no? Therefore, I think it best for you simply to
do away with this rebellious text altogether.
In its place I humbly suggest that you have the kids read "The Analects"
and, of course, "How to Win Friends and Influence People".
Some friendly advice from a lunatic,
Paul S. Rhodes