Dare I point out to you, dear teacher, "thou"
Originally Posted by Bel-Cam Jos
spells not as "though". I fear I must correct.
Also, you have a comma where none should be. :p
Sorry, can't help it, blame the thread and topic. You can correct my iambic pentameter above though.
Poetry has its place, but we're speaking of general English class, not poetry class, we're speaking of a class taught to every American student in the public education system as the foundation for their use of the language, not JUST floral expression. I am not attempting to deny that there is no room in life for poetry and colorful language, but the Bard would say on a hallmark card:
I use the "Hallmark card" analogy when my students bring up the same issue, JT. Would you want a birthday card that says: "I wish you good feelings on the day that marks when you came out of the womb."? It says the same thing as something more poetic, but seems to be missing something.
"To me, fair friend, you can never be old, for as you were when first your eye I ey'd, such seems your beauty still. Doth beauty like a dial-hand, steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv'd."
Or as the receiver of said would get from it: "???"
What application as foundation for English class does that sonnet have beyond poetic and archaic language cryptic? I wonder if we as a society have fetishized Shakespeare too much, if we've made it monolithic and foundational as if to tell students that all things of the english language must flow from those works now ancient. It seems to me that we've created stony tomes out of these works that are both inconceivable and unapproachable to students, that we now have to spend so much time just educating them on how to decipher the language within that we've lost sight of conveying the ideas and functions of the way works like them are created in the mind of their authors. But those are mere wisps, just pixies of the ether of the mind, questions under-explored by this lazy travl'r.
I highly doubt I'd fit with them. I'm actually asking questions, I'm asking you guys to enlighten me as to its role as I, a layperson, am not seeing it. There's nothing hard-line about it. In 8th grade I picketed with the teachers in the UTLA/LAUSD strike of '89 for days and even went to a strike rally at Exhibition Park. I learned in classes from remedial to GATE and AP, I know the difference between rote learning and immersive education, a hardliner for the piecemeal recipe of demands in place of true education I am not. I am asking why this particular dated material holds such extreme value, not saying it doesn't have value - I'm not an educator or an analyst of such things, I cannot speak properly to that; I only ask from the perspective of a layperson.
You'd fit in well with the hard-line Common Core supporters, JT (and that's not meant as a slam), since the practicality and utilitarianism of learning is foremost, not so much the process or style of it. I see the value and even the need for "useful" learning (I use it frequently, making it clear how they can actually do something with it), but to take away "dated" source material, to me, kills any joy of learning and dulls the ability to expand on ideas and recognize patterns or styles.
But they are reasonable questions to ask, is Shakespeare's body of work still deserving of such significant authority in our public education system as to be the foundation of several years' curricula? I mean, talk about dated textbooks! :D HIYO!
I remember zero people in class enjoying Shakespeare, it was only when I got into the GATE program in Santa Monica, in 6th grade where they trucked us out to the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum and we got to experience the work in living concepts - most students don't get to learn to act out those works, to have help understanding and expressing the ideas in the material that way - that is where it came to life, not on the page, not in the overstuffed classroom. Is the evolution of education incapable of moving beyond Shakespeare for the average student, is there room not for teaching from more approachable material? Or have we simply agreed that Shakespeare is the ultimate and therefor the zenith and nadir of public school education, and thus doom the majority of students into having to struggle to grasp first a new language and then media they aren't remotely familiar with - plays and poetry - in order to simply explain how they need to approach understanding and thoughtful regurgitation of ideas, much less to write their own?
Reading is not doomed in of itself, but what should be doomed is how little exposure to reading most parents have and hand down. If reading were easy, cheap, and convenient - if every parent and every kid had a Kindle with access to a decent library, they'd use it. My niece is 15, she's got a Kindle she didn't care much about for a while until TV got too stupid, too boring, and too repetitive so eventually she reached not for the dusty books on the shelf but for the modern world of books, she bought her own books with gift cards. She's not a significantly great reader, but she has used it and it's opened her mind up to more reading. Until parents read with children from an early age again, or until kids stop having to deal with the 1950s style of literacy education, the majority of society is going to view it as a chore and something to suffer through at school. Oh, and also it's time to turn the damned TV off rather than sit slack-jawed watching reality garbage that is just background music for texting. Still, "literary periods", why is English History Class really important to students? Shouldn't that level of detail be a choice? Why is knowing the difference between Chaucer and Dickens vital to education? To me, that seems beyond the scope of a rounded education into a specific life path, and by foisting onto everybody it becomes part of the reason why folks don't read, a chore to suffer through for a few years in school.
Originally Posted by Maradona
I hate the idea of teaching kids how to read contracts in place of how to read, but it is a skill they will need, non-fictional comprehension is vital in a world dedicated to fine print. I just hate the idea of educating the masses for specific dead-end miserable desk jobs and nothing else - the caste system is as anti-American as it gets, but it's what public education seems doomed to create if more resources aren't put into the system to take pressure off the teachers and students.
BTW, does the Common Core test have more than 4 choices in multiple-choice sections? That's such a ripoff, the student doesn't need an education, just an ability to guess one out of 4 - those are damned good odds if they know half of what they're supposed to, that's a passing grade with 50% guessing and 50% educated knowledge.
Obviously I don't believe in the disconnected teacher who is not engaging with students, I've had those, they are parasites on the students' education and a waste of precious resources. But we are largely talking about plays when we speak of Shakespeare's role in education, are we not? The sonnets took a back seat in my curriculum, that's how I remember it back when the dinosaurs were serving as playground equipment. Plays are living things, not words on a page but interpretations of ideas onto the stage, putting on plays should be VITAL to learning Shakespeare, and the teacher should be engaging at every level of that play. But plays shouldn't be a significant portion of the curriculum, so I ask why Shakespeare, a playright, is so foundational to lit classes around the country.
JT, your arguments are valid in their premise on the applicability of what students get in a state-mandated classroom. I've had similar arguments with various colleagues which, summarized roughly, ring to the tune of me saying "The high school English classroom should not exclusively be a place to provide students with literary experiences." I'm often shot down by seniority-claiming members of my department who want to put on plays in their classes and have students create their own drama companies while the teacher is in the back of the room reading the newspaper or bidding on eBay. I strongly believe that the high school English class should be structured to do one important thing: improve students' writing so that they can compete in college. College writing has two primary focal points: research papers that synthesize multiple sources and in class, timed writing. Getting into high level colleges requires the creation of a precisely crafted personal statement and competitive scores on the SAT (2/3 of which is English and includes timed writing that must reference concrete examples from the student's learning/experience). Studies by the College Board have shown that students who take the senior AP English Literature class in high school and pass the exam are more likely to complete four year degrees than those students who never take that class, one that is ripe with with intense literary study. So getting students interested and prepared enough to take that very challenging course is beneficial to them.
I would ask, must there be singular foundational elements to the classroom? Must the curriculum (the spellcheck just gave up on me and allowed me to type "curiculum", how ironic in THIS particular discussion) be so firmly rooted in a body of work that is older than the country demanding it be taught? Are there no newer works which can serve similar purpose?
Anything that does not service the aforementioned goals is extraneous to my curriculum. But lets analyze that with the question of what services an improvement in writing that will lead to post-secondary success. I don't think any of us are active dodge ball players, but most of us loved playing dodge ball in PE class, probably not thinking that what we were doing was serving the curricular goal of getting students to learn adaptive mobility and fitness. I suspect few of us are botanists, but we probably remember putting toothpicks in a potato and placing it in a jar to watch it grow, probably unaware of the teacher's goal to fascinate us with the intricacies of agricultural or biological sciences. My point with these is that the goals were present, but the delivery mechanism involved something that did not come across as a boring, obvious worksheet thereby turning the class off to the learning. In English, I want my students to learn to play with language so that they can manipulate it to the ends previously mentioned. Reading any text, archaic and useless as Shakespeare may seem to some, shows students how someone else manipulated language to achieve a desired goal, exposes them to new vocabulary in context, familiarizes and reinforces punctuational structures, not to mention showing students multiple sentence patterns in action. Practicing writing in any style, whether it be first person narration or third person persuasion or even iambic pentameter and haiku, is playing with language, becoming comfortable with it, learning to manipulate it for a variety of purposes, adding metaphorical understanding and facility to their academic repertoire, all under the guise of we're just having fun - hopefully.
Shakespeare isn't "useless", that body of work frames a considerable amount of our modern day, I don't deny that, but one doesn't need to examine every tool in Karl Benz's workshop to learn how to rebuild an engine. The lowliest sitcom and soap opera can trace its roots to Shakespeare, but must its study be so vital to our lives that we dedicate years of our formative education to its comprehension and history? Is there no other prose or body of work that can serve our society equally? The very first image on Google when you search "english lit" is Shakespeare, that is how tied together the ideas are in our society. I guess I don't understand the educational value of building scale Globe Theaters upon the students of the english class which defines the way we as a society view our language and literature.
Of course there is truth in what you say here, but I guess I'm questioning the degree of educational hazing used with this particular body of work. Algebra is vital to the understanding of geometry, geometry vital to properly understanding the world of math, science, and... well, the world around you. Algebra, geometry, these are every day math in everything we do, from the bus driver to the farmer to the athlete to the politician, these concepts - whether we think about them or not - are vital to how we live, they are easily quantifiable, that's the concept of math, the language of the universe around us. Chemistry and economics are also somewhat easily quantifiable in our daily lives whether we choose to engage with them actively or remain passive in their grips, we know they're there and what their roles are. But literature is obviously not as clear, one can imagine their lives without english lit easily, they'd live a dull and stupid life, but they'd live, so it's not quantifiable in that same way. Intimately understanding 500-year-old sonnets and plays doesn't connect with reading ingredients on a package, nor does it connect with writing that list of ingredients - don't mistake this argument, I'm not saying there's no value and we can get along fine without ol' Willie, just that it's not as easy to quantify the value.
Then there's the whole well-rounded education thing, which I suppose is up to the individual to determine if it's a useful paradigm for society to aspire to for optimal functioning. That's where I bridge to the "educational hazing" you brought up. I love that term, which can be applied to algebra, stoichiometry, and laissez-faire economics, along with the literary canon of humanity - we don't all need it, so why did we have to learn it? The teacher had to learn it, so the kids have to now, as well is an attractive theory. In the weeder class for my English major, the professor discussed the then recent attempts to devalue the content and standing of the English literary canon of "dead white guys" in favor or "living multicultural girls and guys" by educational "experts" in Sacramento because the current generation of students was also multicultural, could not relate to it, and, moreover, shouldn't have to relate to it just because others before them had to. These "experts" had decided what they thought would be more valuable to students were texts such as Always Running instead of Huckleberry Finn or The House on Mango Street instead of The Scarlet Letter. My professor's principal attack to this argument was that it was a direct form of institutionalized censorship. These "experts" had decided that some knowledge they already had should not be taught to students. This made the argument for "educational hazing" into something more akin to "you can learn only what we feel you are capable of learning" and since your first language is not English, why bother you with Shakespeare, instead of saying "Here is some of the most challenging texts in the history of the language: lets figure them out and afterwards YOU can decide if this is valid for you, not some bureaucrat who has stereotyped your potential." I remembering being so empowered by that rationale, particularly as a non-native speaker of English, and inspired to continue the path towards becoming a teacher.
I believe I could show 30 students in a classroom why math, science, and even economics all are foundational to being well-rounded members of society, despite my not being a teacher or even a college graduate. I can probably think up ways to quantify some level of evidence as to the value of english to those same students; but I don't know if I can dream up a way to justify the imposing, vast stature that is applied to learning Shakespeare throughout grades K-12.
If nothing else, maybe this conversation can not only enlighten me but give you teachers new arguments in your toolbelt.
PS - "here is some"... I promise I won't tell your students. ;)