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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: Boston Public
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2659  Monday, 26 November 2001

[1]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Nov 2001 13:36:32 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2651 Re: Boston Public

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Sunday, 25 Nov 2001 23:48:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2651 Re: Boston Public


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Nov 2001 13:36:32 -0500
Subject: 12.2651 Re: Boston Public
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2651 Re: Boston Public

I don't have cable TV and so have never watched Boston Public so cannot
comment on that show.

But in general, movies and TV shows about US high schools are sadly
distorted versions of the truth.

Either they purport to show "real" inner city schools and focus not on
the noble efforts of many educators to overcome the effects of poverty
and street life but on the failures and the negative effects, or else
they have southern California high school campuses as physical models,
and present high school as a place where going to class is simply an
imposition on the social life of the teens.

For what it is worth, I teach in a middle to upper middle class
community where most of the "diversity" is provided by students of
Korean, Indian and Pakastani heritage.  It is in suburban New Haven CT
which means that we do have more than our fair share of the offspring of
Yale and other university professors.  I admit that also skews the
picture, but not by that much.

I speak from a perspective of 35 years in the classroom when I say that
standards have in many ways INCREASED over the decades; we have many
more challenging opportunities for students, from AP/Honors classes
across the curriculum to Cisco Networking Academy (Intranetworking
course, 2 years in length), to drama and TV production courses.  Sure,
requiring every student to attend the same curriculum-content classes in
Eng. social studies, math, science sounds like "high standards" but it
also dumbs down the curriculum a great deal more than offering more
diverse courses.

We give our seniors the option to take a range of English courses from
Shakespeare to modern American novel to creative writing to Humanities
(team taught by history and English teacher... essentially a course in
the history of Western culture; I taught it for 10 years).  We expect
them to think in original ways, not simply regurgitate teacher
aphorisms.  We require that they write extensively, regardless of their
"ability level" and to read a variety of kinds of literature.  We
provide original sources as well as history textbooks.  We have multiple
lab opportunities in science classrooms, with chem and physics having
two labs every 6 days.

This is NOT the school I began teaching in 35 years ago!!.

Students are not different so much as more like what they were 3+
decades ago, if that makes sense.  I mean that they have all the
emotional and hormonal crises they always did, compounded by more
disruptions than ever.  Families were ever dysfunctional; today more of
them are also divided, blended, etc. In the "old days" family crises
were ignored and/or buried; they were no less uncommon.  We do have
fewer drop-outs, because today we recognize and intervene in more kinds
of learning dysfunctions.

I do think students today are much more apt to show and speak their
anger aloud, to voice their disrespect for teachers and systems that
they always felt but once expressed only to their peers.  And of course
dress codes have almost totally disappeared.  So schools may seem a more
disrespectful, uncontrolled place.  I do not believe they are.

Phew!  A long response, but since my district is currently facing a
budget crisis that may result in returning to the school of 35 years
ago: math, English, social studies, science, PE, sans any arts,
technology or fun, I'm more keenly aware than usual of how fortunate I
am to teach in a modern Connecticut high school.

Mari Bonomi

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Sunday, 25 Nov 2001 23:48:58 -0500
Subject: 12.2651 Re: Boston Public
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2651 Re: Boston Public

>I often wonder if American TV ?High School? series do reflect the kind
>of phenomena that can be found in real life in any average USA secondary
>education institution. I must say that they give an awful image of
>American education (and they give us a foretaste of what is coming in
>Spanish education since, unfortunately, both the government and
>teenagers here reproduce what -according to my sources- has been going
>on in America for years: lowering of standards, responsibility and
>discipline, and general confusion about what is a must and what is not.
>
>I also wonder if to counteract this kind of ideas -busting the
>Bard-(future film: Bard-busters?), Aldous Huxley?s Brave New World,
>Orwell?s Nineteen Ninety-Four, and Ray Bradbury?s Farenheit 459 (both
>novel and film) would serve as antidotes.
>
>J. Cora.

Critique of canonization and "bard busting" were originally the province
of postmodernist critics.  Putting these sentiments in the mouth of a
black inner city high school student is a projection of ivory tower
principles onto the demographic such critics believe they are
representing, ironically mobilizing the same ideological tactics that
characterize the literature they are critiquing. Regarding this and Paul
Swanson's concerns as to whether Shakespeare is a dying art, it is not
my impression.  The Shakespeare industry seems more alive than ever.
There are a number of productions in the works in New York at present
and these are echoed by other cultural and mass media allusions.  What
may be dead is the orientation to art that demands strenuous effort on
the part of the audience.  The culture still wants to appreciate and
valorize Shakespeare's genius, but is not willing to put in the effort
required. Audiences like the one Paul describes will happily enjoy
whatever is delivered to them in their own familiar cultural and
aesthetic terms, but would rather not struggle with what is alien or
obscure.  The burden of accessibility is on the production rather than
the audience.

Clifford

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