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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: March ::
Re: Bard Bade Goodbye
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0654  Tuesday, 20 March 2001

[1]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Mar 2001 12:28:38 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0640 Re: Bard Bade Goodbye

[2]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Mar 2001 23:36:34 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0616 Re: Bard Bade Goodbye


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Mar 2001 12:28:38 EST
Subject: 12.0640 Re: Bard Bade Goodbye
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0640 Re: Bard Bade Goodbye

In a message dated 3/16/01 7:22:12 AM, Syd Kasten writes:

I am concerned that the teachers of our young might be tainted by Sam's
rhetoric and his ersatz psychology.

You need not be. The "teachers of our young" know a hawk from a handsaw.

Billy Houck
Teacher

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Mar 2001 23:36:34 -0800
Subject: 12.0616 Re: Bard Bade Goodbye
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0616 Re: Bard Bade Goodbye

Karen Peterson's ideas are excellent regarding ways to improve the
texts.

> In the short term, teachers in classrooms that are lucky enough
to have
> computers and online access for students (I've never been so
lucky, but
> I hear some are) who want their students to read certain texts
 (like
> Shakespeare, for example) can assign visits to the various etext
sites.
> For contemporary authors and works not in the public domain for
other
> reasons, this won't work, obviously, but there's still a LOT
that is
> available in this way.  It's also a good way, when dealing with
> Shakespeare, to incorporate issues relating to performance, the
> Elizabethan/Jacobean sociocultural milieu and the like.

> This assumes that the textbooks chosen by the relevant school
authority
> are inadequate.  Yes, a lot of them are, but not all of them.
Teachers
> can use what influence they have to get their schools, or their
> districts, to purchase the good ones.  This takes effort.  You
have to
> go to many boring meetings, organize your presentation to
> decision-making groups, etc., etc.  Sometimes it works, though.

It would seem to me that having the authority to choose your own text
books should be something that goes with the job. No?

I don't teach for a living (I am a teacher manque), but I saw four kids
through school, over the years have taught a little at all levels, and
have thought about good teaching practices ever since I was first in
school. If I had continued on my initial track when I entered college, I
would be teaching literature and history at the university level now,
and be preparing for retirement.  Most of my friends are teachers.  I
have favorite novels and other writings that I'd love to have the
opportunity to teach to young people, but several of them are not
popular enough to have enough paperback copies available. Would it be
legal for me to photocopy my own copy and give the book to the kids as
handouts? Does it have to be public domain? The right to teach the books
that      writers starved to create seems to me should be essential.

> To make textbooks better, you can get involved in editorial
boards for
> new textbooks.  This is easier than you might think.  Email
publishers
> and tell them you'd like to be put on the list for relevant
books in
> production.  You may not get to participate, but sometimes you
will.
> This also has the benefit of getting a shipment of free books
for your
> class that you can try out.  Of course, again, there is effort:
you need
> to fill out the publisher's questionnaires and write little
reports, but
> sometimes it's worth it.  And the results can be better-quality
> textbooks.

> You can get more active (or join!) in whatever union or
professional
> organization (e.g. in the US, NCTE) you belong to, and lobby for
more
> teacher input on curriculum and textbook decisions.

> Longer term: do whatever you can through whatever appropriate
> professional or alum group to push for substantive subject
content area
> training for teachers.  Getting back to Shakespeare, one example
might
> be that any person who aspires to become a teacher of English
literature
> (which now, alas, falls under the dumbed-down label of "language
arts"
> in the US) should be required to take core courses in Chaucer,
> Shakespeare, Milton, etc., etc.  This is unfashionable, and
risks making
> you sound like Harold Bloom (yuck!), but the alternative has
proven to
> be all too many "language arts" teachers who have never actually
read
> literary texts...much less know how to interpret them or make
them come
> alive for students.

I hate to hear Bloom derided. As an almost "dead white male," he has the
courage to show the depth of his feeling for Shakespeare.  Truly
Shakespeare put his own heart and soul into his works and Bloom brings
us the message that we too can find it there.  It's a message we need to
have heard.  People feel a similar passion for opera as Bloom, and some
others of us, feel for Shakespeare.  But of course, that is why his
stories were turned into so many operas and ballets. Shakespeare is the
magnificent doorway to the modern English speaking culture, and through
it, to the rest of the great cultures of the world, past and present.

> The last is not a "banding together for change" suggestion, but
rather
> an individual suggestion:
>
> If you teach in high school, you have to deal with so much that
can suck
> your heart and soul right out of you.  Do whatever you can to
re-access
> your own passion for Shakespeare, and literature in general.
I'm not
> being specific because this will be different for everyone.
When your
> passion for your topic is again free-flowing, you will be in a
better
> position to spot those one or two students in each class who
might, just
> might, take note of your enthusiasm and decide on their own to
> investigate further.  If you can spot those one or two, chat
with them.
> Lure them on with descriptions of all the yummy texts that are
out there
 > that you, for whatever reason, can't incorporate in the
 classroom.
 > Sneak photocopies (only of public domain material!) to those who
 are too
 > embarrassed to go to the library to find those texts.  Remember,
 too,
 > that even if you don't see any life at all in that sea of bored
faces,
 that occasionally you will be having an impact that you may
never know
> about: it's a delayed reaction for some kids.

Kids are always impressed when they see a restrained and persistent
passion for something. Can't you give them extra credit for outside
reading? Sometimes it just takes a little extra incentive to pull in
kids who really want to read but tell themselves they don't have the
time.  And only a few will ever want to.  How many writers does it take
to change the world? Only one, if he or she has access to communications
technology (formerly the printing press, now the internet).

A good idea would be an electronic conference for teachers seeking more
control over their material, a place to share ideas and experiences,
like SHAKSPER. Perhaps there already is such a thing.

     Stephanie Hughes
 

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