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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: October ::
Re: Shakespeare in Schools
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1883  Thursday, 5 October 2000.

[1]     From:   Norman J. Myers <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Oct 2000 13:19:52 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Oct 2000 09:59:15 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

[3]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Oct 2000 12:49:30 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

[4]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Oct 2000 19:12:42 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

[5]     From:   Dave Beenken <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Oct 2000 20:14:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

[6]     From:   Andrew McAleer <
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        Date:   Thu, 5 Oct 2000 09:34:14 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norman J. Myers <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Oct 2000 13:19:52 -0500
Subject: 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

I'm fascinated about the argument as to whether or not it's more
appropriate to teach folks about Shakespeare at an "early age" or to
hold off until the intended recipient is 30 or so.

Gee, I wonder what might have happened if the folks on this list hadn't
been "exposed" to Shakespeare until they were 30 or so.  Would there
even *be* such a list?

For my own part, like many of us, I first encountered Shakespeare in
high school, specifically in the 50s.  I remember having problems with
the *content* and "dated" points of view in the plays (I still hate
Merchant of Venice), but neither I nor most of my classmates (and this
was an ordinary, run-of-the-mill rural public school) had particular
difficulties with the language, apart from having to look up some
outdated word usage.  Reason: We'd all read the King James Bible aloud
in school ever since the first grade; it was the only version of the
Bible most of us knew, and we heard our elders quoting it all the time.
We were familiar with that kind of language.

Relax!  I'm not advocating a return to the good old days of Bible
reading and prayers in the schools.  Let's not go there!  Rather, I'm
suggesting that early "exposure" properly done is not beyond the
youngest, even in this video game, computer, MTV instant
gratification/understanding generation.  The problem may well be that
too many of those attempting to do the exposing are themselves clueless.

As for Shakespeare's concerns being exclusive to the 30 and over set, I
can't help thinking about the astonishing number of teenagers who have
done the "to be or not to be" bit and the alarming number who have
chosen "not to be."  (In most of the undergraduate courses I've taught,
nearly everyone in the class knows someone who has attempted suicide and
many know someone who's succeeded.)  One of the most popular courses at
this university, and one that always fills to capacity, is called "the
philosophy of death and dying."

Likewise, conspiring with your significant other to bump off the king so
you can get his throne is certainly beyond the life experience of most
of us, but most of us can appreciate the story.  Hey, it's *fiction*
folks.

Thanks for listening.

Norman Myers

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Oct 2000 09:59:15 -0700
Subject: Re: Shakespeare in Schools
Comment:        SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

As usual, Sam Small is not impressed by the experience of others, and
will insist he is right despite the first hand testimony of all comers.

It is absurd, and unkind, to insist as some who answered Mr. Small have,
that Shakespeare is perfectly compensable to all but the youngest
children.  That denies the experience of many people.  It is just as
absurd, and unkind, to insist that Shakespeare should not be taught to
anyone under 30, when there are successful schools programs that prove
Shakespeare is viable at some level to many children at an early age.

Reality just isn't that simple, and these extreme positions are
falsifiable.

All we need is one child who, through education, appreciates Shakespeare
on some lasting level to prove Mr. Small wrong.  All we need is one
child who, through education, developed a distaste for Shakespeare to
prove the more extreme statements on the other side wrong.

This saber rattling is not productive.  It is silly.  Let's acknowledge
the experience of the other, understand the reasons for it, and do
something about it.  That is productive.

Banning the teaching of Shakespeare is absurd.  Good work would be lost
along with the bad.  Addressing why it is sometimes well done, and
sometimes off putting is productive, far more productive than the
smugness of some correspondents.  It must also be acknowledged that
there are different kinds of intelligence, and levels of interest.  The
best teachers may have a disinterested student who finds it a bad
experience, while others in class are transformed.

Using one's own experience as if it applied to all is more than silly
and more than just egomaniacal, though it is both.  It is
counterproductive and a waste of time.

Here I go to Oregon again, so others will have the last word without
rebuttal.  I hate it when that happens.

Subtly yours,
Mike Jensen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Oct 2000 12:49:30 EDT
Subject: 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

Pardon me if I burn yet another straw man (Jack or Knave I ask myself)
in my metaphorically mixed kingdom of one but isn't the originator of
this discussion-ment making a similar defence to mine of his line of
thinking vs. those more enlightened SHAKSPERians, when he quotes:

<< an Oxford Shakespearian editor [who said] that Hamlet changed
western thinking.  So in a sense, whether we like him or loathe him we
are all in a Hamletian future. >>

Thus the argument that given the already over-whelming dominance of
Shakespeare as theatrical/literary entity, to defend the difficulty of
his language on grounds of his superior skills of (general)
characterisation, risks the circularity of three hundred years of
Shakespearean 'influence' on the very ideas etc of 'characterisation'
'complexity' etc being questioned.  Again, I am thinking here of the
relative complexity / techniques / interests/ of S's peers -Nashe,
Greene, Peele, (yea even Marlowe lord pity his Tamburlainic soul) etc.

So, as Captaine of the Fields of Straw, I do Survey and Enflame the
Chaff.

Yours,
Marcus.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Oct 2000 19:12:42 -0400
Subject: 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

Mr. Small:

First of all the line is "My child is yet a stranger in the world/She
hath not seen the change of 14 years" so it refers not to all children
but specifically to one child: Juliet, and her being too young to marry,
in her father's eyes.

Second of all, though I've refrained from adding much to the discussion,
I thank you for crediting me personally with instilling in perhaps 2000
young people a love of Shakespeare simply by virtue of my classroom
skills and enthusiasm.

However, I'd rather hand over the credit to the proper source: the
author of a play whose language and characters engaged these 14-16 year
olds.  *They* read the play, not I; they determine how it might best be
staged; they pick at the language in order to make meaning for
themselves.

Most of my keenest insights into Shakespeare come from my students.
When they say "could it be that char X means Y when he says Z because...
" I get the AHA reaction too.

Sure, the other 1000 or so of the students I've taught during that time
didn't leave my class loving Shakespeare.

Nor do I think that all the world should be in love with him.

Nor have I made him a god; I teach too many other brilliantly gifted and
culture-defining literary geniuses to be successful in deifying
Shakespeare.  Further, I focus on the works, not their authors.  I'm not
into cults of personality as a teaching technique.

Young people respond to passion, emotion, drama.  Shakespeare offers all
of these in abundance.  SOME young people also respond to philosophy, to
deep questions of faith and ethics and responsibilities to oneself,
one's family, one's society.

Teach Shakespeare?  To  young people?  ABSOLUTELY!!!!!

Revisit him as an adult?  ABSOLUTELY!!!!!

Mari Bonomi

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dave Beenken <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Oct 2000 20:14:34 -0500
Subject: 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

Methinks Sam Small well named. Barding away in an 'Advanced Liberal Arts
Magnet' high school, I'm frequently amazed at the thoughtful,
precocious, yea, "worldly" insights of 17-and 18-year-olds.

--Shakespeare Elective in English teacher, Dave

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew McAleer <
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Date:           Thu, 5 Oct 2000 09:34:14 +0100
Subject: Re: Shakespeare in Schools
Comment:        SHK 11.1875 Re: Shakespeare in Schools

I was wondering when someone would mention the new Blackadder film. This
is called 'Blackadder Back and Forth' and is showing at the Millennium
Dome in Greenwich. The show features Blackadder and Baldrick racing
about in time, changing history.

Blackadder bumps into Shakespeare at Queen Elizabeth's court. He asks
'Aren't you William Shakespeare?'. Shakespeare (played by Shakespeare in
Love's baddie Colin Firth) replies 'I know, I know, you hated Two
Gentlemen of Verona! But this next one's much better.' He then shows
Blackadder the front page of Macbeth. Blackadder gets him to sign the
page with a biro, and then as Sam Small mentioned, hits him to make up
for 400 years of torturing school, children and making them dress up in
tights and say 'thou' and 'hey nonny, nonny' and desperately try and
find one joke in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

When Blackadder returns to 1999, none of his friends are impressed with
his Macbeth title page, they have only heard of Shakespeare as the
inventor of the ball point pen.

Blackadder returns to correct history and this time pats Shakespeare on
the back and thanks him for King Lear -'very funny indeed'.

Disrespectful maybe, chronologically wrong probably, but funny
definitely.

Andrew McAleer
 

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