The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2828  Wednesday, 12 December 2001

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 11 Dec 2001 23:19:40 -0500
Subject: 12.2810 Re: Plagiarism
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2810 Re: Plagiarism

Rather than stupid or immature natures, I prefer to place the blame for
the difficulty involved in teaching freshman comp students with
renaissance lit on mass media nurturing. Young minds are physiologically
designed to adapt to the media of information their culture communicates
with.  The fault lies with the profit driven mechanisms that produce all
collective experience and which must aim at the broadest audience
possible to continue to function competitively in the media market.
Unlike renaissance plays that were performed at court and in the
universities and private theaters as well as the public theater, the
multi trillion dollar mass media has no material impetus to impose
strenuous intellectual effort on a highly educated few at the expense of
alienating the mass of the average educated. "Educational" television is
always a money loser, so that the market drives the mass media always in
the direction of passive entertainment.  Extracting the still relevant
substance from alien texts in alien language written according to the
alien genres of an alien culture requires enormous effort.

There's a joke about a guy who buys a mule from another guy who claims
that the mule will respond to English commands. Say "go" and this mule
will go.  So he takes the mule home, but after yelling "go" at it until
he's blue in the face, the mule won't budge. So he takes him back to the
guy that sold it to him and tells him his experience. The guy picks up a
two-by-four, rears back and gives him a resounding crack on the
backside. Then he says "go" and the mule starts to walk. "Say," says the
customer, "you said he would respond to English commands. That was
hardly an English command." "Oh he does respond to English, but first
you have to get his attention."  My point is that college students are
not necessarilly stupid (for the most part), but they have to see what
they're being taught as worth the effort.

Since most American colleges don't as a rule give D's and F's anymore,
GPA fears don't seem to be enough to make them struggle against their
mass media conditioning to learn an entirely new skill (reading and
writing critically about old literature).  Neither do repeated promises
that this skill will serve them in their future careers, especially with
freshmen who have not yet decided on one.  My advice is to be prepared
for a lot of blank stares and use videos.  But even with videos, most
have learned to sit back and wait for the point to be delivered to them.
What we need is a Hamlet video game: the prince pursuing Claudius about
Elsinore and blasting away with an Ouzi. I have had some success with
breaking them up into groups, competing with each other to interpret
selected passages, especially love poetry, humor, sex and violence.

Like mass media, grade inflation is the product of a similarly profit
driven university system and despite that we are always enjoined not to
surrender to passing unqualified students just because everybody else
does, you can't come into a college as a temporary adjunct and start
single handedly flunking out students who don't meet your personal
standards no matter how legitimate they are.  Nearly guaranteed passing
grades and the fact that parental disapproval is less of a motivating
factor at their age anyway is why standards seem lower in college than
in high school.

Unless the nurturing mechanisms of the collective culture become less of
an instrument of profit designed to entrance children into submitting
themselves to the power of suggestion of commercial advertising, like
Prospero surrendering to Caliban's untoturability, we shall consign them
to haul wood cursing in complete sentences.


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