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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
The Hobart Shakespeareans
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1555  Monday, 19 September 2005

[1] 	From: 	John Perry <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 17 Sep 2005 13:03:32 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans

[2] 	From: 	Jan Powell <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 17 Sep 2005 13:29:03 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans

[3] 	From: 	Robert Projansky <
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	Date: 	Sunday, 18 Sep 2005 02:42:28 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Perry <
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Date: 		Saturday, 17 Sep 2005 13:03:32 -0400
Subject: 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans

Others have done a more than adequate job of addressing Prof. Hawkes's 
sneer regarding Mr. Esquith's class, for which I thank them.  I'd like 
to address two of Dale Lyles's points:

 >Having said that, I too was made very uncomfortable by the
 >incredible amount of money it must take to run that class. I
 >have no doubt that the other teachers despise him! I wondered
 >too how children are chosen to be in the class, and what kind
 >of intrigue that arouses at Hobart Elementary.

I suspect it took very little extra money, based on the description 
given -- what it took was a phenomenally dedicated teacher.  Other than 
that I agree with this whole paragraph.  It's just too bad we can't 
reward him in any way other than a bit of fame.

 >Still, what he does for them is phenomenal (if a little gooey at
 >times); his affection and dedication are unquestionable; and all
 >in all his classroom puts the lie to the importance of standardized
 >curriculum and testing.

Here I have to disagree strongly.  The celebration of Mr. Esquith's 
class shows the value of _enrichment_, but does not tell us anything 
clear about whether these kids can even read and write, and sheds no 
light at all on their ability to do basic math, or to understand our 
history and government. We have Virginia's Standards of Learning partly 
because teachers allowed our schools to get into such a state that 
Virginia was being sued by high-school graduates who couldn't read their 
diplomas.  My main problem with the SOL's is that they are only required 
every other year -- my wife, a fourth grade teacher, still comes home 
every September raging over all the A and B students she received who 
can't do second-grade work.

Testing isn't all that's required, but in our present condition, it's a 
minimal shield against the irresponsibility of teachers who don't want 
to tell Mommy that her little darling needs to his homework and study in 
order to learn to deal with the world around him.

 >And what a powerful experience for the kids! I'm the assistant
 >director of Georgia's summer program for gifted high schoolers,
 >and I recognized precisely what was happening to the kids as
 >they moved through Esquith's class: it was life-altering and
 >empowering.

Agree wholeheartedly.

John Perry

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jan Powell <
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Date: 		Saturday, 17 Sep 2005 13:29:03 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans

Dale--

Re: the Hobart class, could you please tell me more about the 
"incredible expense" you mention? I can understand why the other 
teachers might hate this guy, but I was surprised you listed cost as a 
primary factor in the hatred. There were not lavish production values 
for Hamlet (staged in the classroom; t-shirts and jeans for costumes; 
very basic lights) and I would expect any expensive aspect of his work 
(DC trip; musical instruments; fight director; even Ian McKellan) to be 
eminently fundable through grants, particularly because his minority, 
low-income students are clearly "youth at risk", in grant-speak.

Thanks,
Jan Powell

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Robert Projansky <
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Date: 		Sunday, 18 Sep 2005 02:42:28 -0700
Subject: 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1542 The Hobart Shakespeareans

I haven't seen the Hobart Shakespeareans, but I have seen "A TOUCH OF 
GREATNESS", a 54 minute documentary about a wonderful teacher named 
Albert Cullum, who had his fifth grade students doing full Shakespeare 
productions back in the 1960's. The film and Mr. Cullum are hugely 
inspiring. A former actor, Cullum believed in the capacity of his young 
charges to respond to material ordinarily thought to be way over their 
heads. I very much doubt that "A TOUCH OF GREATNESS" will generate much 
controversy.

True, Mr. Cullum taught in Rye, NY, a quite affluent community, and his 
kids were not handicapped by language and poverty, but the film 
demonstrates what I suppose to be the lesson of the Hobart experience, 
that with imaginative guidance and encouragement young children can do 
extraordinary things. The film includes some of those children speaking 
decades later about their experiences with Mr. Cullum.

Here's a piece about the film, which can be bought online for under $30 
(and rented from NetFlix):

http://www.rawfoodinfo.com/articles/art_atouchofgreatness.html

One last thing: Professor Hawkes is misinformed if he believes the 
purpose of education is to challenge the status quo. For the purposes of 
the people who run public school systems in this country, I refer him to 
episode 133 of The Simpsons, which, as usual, says it all:

Lisa picks up her knife and brings it closer to the worm, struggles with
her conscience, then puts the knife down.

Lisa: Uhh, Miss Hoover? I don't think I can dissect an animal. I
think it's wrong.
Miss Hoover: Okay Lisa, I respect your moral objection.
[Presses the "Independent Thought Alarm" button under her desk.]

Bob Projansky

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