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  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Maradona View Post
    Word!
    The tabs are off, but Shakespeare is a huge part of high school English classes (except in the 11th grade). But your point, JT, about the validity of such an assignment is solid. There is no part of the SAT or in most majors in college where students will write a play in any style, let alone Shakespeare's. The state tests won't assess them on their ability to recite lines or make rhymes. It is for those reasons and others that work in my classroom must be grounded in and governed by relevancy. Spending two months having the kids learn to make togas and memorize Brutus and Anthony's speeches is fun waste of two months, but a waste nonetheless. Out of the nearly two hundred students I have each year, I doubt if more than 1 or 2 will become English majors, much less drama majors - and if they were to inquire about these, I would quickly attempt to dissuade them from entertaining such a dire possibility. But if you have to teach someone about something, making them do something related to it is a worthwhile idea. We have to teach Shakespeare (thankfully) according to the California Department of Education and we have very little time to do so in body of the year. After next year, though, when schools move to the national Common Core Standards, students will be analyzing "workplace documents" far more than the Bard. "To fill out this application correctly or not to fill out this application. That is the assignment. Whether it be nobler in the classroom to suffer the text and fine print of outrageous lease agreements or take up pens against them and, by annotation, understand them." Yes, the kids are doomed...
    Forsooth, Master Shakespeare would use "word" for its wordliness.

    I think it's more of Threepio's overreaction "doomed," Maradona, than true doom-liness. We teachers have ways of making you students... get more out of assignments than you can possibly realize. I have always used "workplace documents" in my assignments (due to my history background, where little literature was focused on), but within the context of the literature. My lessons will still continue to do so, especially in the "new" junior year English/history course we designed.

    But I will admit I am a little skeptical, with how lessened in importance that novels have been in the CC.
    "That's what Sheev said."

  2. #12
    I'm thinking about what is the practical and life skill meant to be realistically learned from this. I'm sure the state would be thrilled if you could teach these children to be alchemists, but that's not likely to happen. I see a lot of conceptual theory in those lists, a lot of politicians creating a recipe of desires each one can sign their name to as they add concepts, but not a lot of a roadmap for teachers to actually bridge the gulf between what the state wants from the curriculum and what the student can actually achieve from it.

    For example, writing in iambic pentameter and adapting to an archaic form of the language, I don't care that it's "early modern english", it's dated to the point now that learning it seems to have only the use of being able to read and regurgitate it and mimic it to write books and plays pretending to be like Shakespeare. What's the point of that in the modern world, beyond creating the next generation of English teachers? What is the universal goal of learning to express in iambic pentameter? How is it more vital to students than teaching them to write haikus?

    Is there not a practical goal there, or is it merely the Ouroboros of education? I do not care for things cyclical if their chief goal is simply "we did it, so you have to do it" - those to me are little more than the educational equivalents of hazing rituals. So I'm assuming there is a value, lest it be a wasteful dawdle indeed, and exploring the idea that the flower has a name so it must have a scent to go with it. (DAMN YOU SHAKESPEARE AND YOUR OVERLY-ABUSED METAPHOR THAT INSINUATES INTO THE PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS!) Otherwise they'll be teaching "Friends" in 500 years as important language art.

    "To fill out this application correctly or not to fill out this application. That is the assignment. Whether it be nobler in the classroom to suffer the text and fine print of outrageous lease agreements or take up pens against them and, by annotation, understand them." Yes, the kids are doomed...
    Doomed to cheesy appropriations of Hamlet, apparently.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "In Brooklyn, a castle, is where dwell I"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  3. #13
    Well, speaking plainly has its place, but so does "flowery" language.

    "Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art though, Romeo?
    A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet."

    vs.

    "Why are you a Montague, whom my family hates?
    If you were from any other family, we could be in a trouble-free relationship."

    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. 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.
    "That's what Sheev said."

  4. #14
    I'm glad you caught the C3PO reference at the end, BCJ, because I absolutely agree that the kids are far from. In fact, what is likely to be really doomed is reading in general, as you point out (you'll recall that the CDE standards had numbers of words per year that the students should be targeted to read which by 11th and 12th grade were two million annually). Everyone knows reading is on the decline, but when school expectations, by way of standards, so diminish the value of reading "chapter books" and other potentially recreational sources of literature, I suspect it will only further encourage and defend the lack of reading among students. I recognize that today's comic books are not priced for kids, but it pains me that maybe one or two kids a year ever demonstrate and interest in comics. Some students will get onto the popular-book-series-of-the-month wagon, but many more just read an online summary, and probably even skim through that. These are just two easy examples. I think for so many students, it is far more relevant to have them look at the intricacies of lease agreements (which is why I long ago copied my storage unit agreement for kids analyze what is covered in the event of catastrophe and what not), employment documents, purchasing contracts, and the like. I attended a training on the new Common Core test and, while I genuinely liked the way the test was laid out and delivered (all online and not exclusively multiple choice, with a variety of written short response questions), all the questions about reading comprehension were written exclusively for the test. There weren't any references I saw to literary periods or terminology, significant works, or much else that was previously part of spring testing.

    Quote Originally Posted by JediTricks View Post
    I'm thinking about what is the practical and life skill meant to be realistically learned from this. I'm sure the state would be thrilled if you could teach these children to be alchemists, but that's not likely to happen. I see a lot of conceptual theory in those lists, a lot of politicians creating a recipe of desires each one can sign their name to as they add concepts, but not a lot of a roadmap for teachers to actually bridge the gulf between what the state wants from the curriculum and what the student can actually achieve from it.

    For example, writing in iambic pentameter and adapting to an archaic form of the language, I don't care that it's "early modern english", it's dated to the point now that learning it seems to have only the use of being able to read and regurgitate it and mimic it to write books and plays pretending to be like Shakespeare. What's the point of that in the modern world, beyond creating the next generation of English teachers? What is the universal goal of learning to express in iambic pentameter? How is it more vital to students than teaching them to write haikus?

    Is there not a practical goal there, or is it merely the Ouroboros of education? I do not care for things cyclical if their chief goal is simply "we did it, so you have to do it" - those to me are little more than the educational equivalents of hazing rituals. So I'm assuming there is a value, lest it be a wasteful dawdle indeed, and exploring the idea that the flower has a name so it must have a scent to go with it. (DAMN YOU SHAKESPEARE AND YOUR OVERLY-ABUSED METAPHOR THAT INSINUATES INTO THE PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS!) Otherwise they'll be teaching "Friends" in 500 years as important language art.
    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.

    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.

    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.

  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Bel-Cam Jos View Post
    Well, speaking plainly has its place, but so does "flowery" language.

    "Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art though, Romeo?
    A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet."

    vs.

    "Why are you a Montague, whom my family hates?
    If you were from any other family, we could be in a trouble-free relationship."
    Dare I point out to you, dear teacher, "thou"
    spells not as "though". I fear I must correct.



    Also, you have a comma where none should be.

    Sorry, can't help it, blame the thread and topic. You can correct my iambic pentameter above though.

    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.
    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:

    "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.


    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.
    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.

    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! 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?


    Quote Originally Posted by Maradona View Post
    I'm glad you caught the C3PO reference at the end, BCJ, because I absolutely agree that the kids are far from. In fact, what is likely to be really doomed is reading in general, as you point out (you'll recall that the CDE standards had numbers of words per year that the students should be targeted to read which by 11th and 12th grade were two million annually). Everyone knows reading is on the decline, but when school expectations, by way of standards, so diminish the value of reading "chapter books" and other potentially recreational sources of literature, I suspect it will only further encourage and defend the lack of reading among students. I recognize that today's comic books are not priced for kids, but it pains me that maybe one or two kids a year ever demonstrate and interest in comics. Some students will get onto the popular-book-series-of-the-month wagon, but many more just read an online summary, and probably even skim through that. These are just two easy examples. I think for so many students, it is far more relevant to have them look at the intricacies of lease agreements (which is why I long ago copied my storage unit agreement for kids analyze what is covered in the event of catastrophe and what not), employment documents, purchasing contracts, and the like. I attended a training on the new Common Core test and, while I genuinely liked the way the test was laid out and delivered (all online and not exclusively multiple choice, with a variety of written short response questions), all the questions about reading comprehension were written exclusively for the test. There weren't any references I saw to literary periods or terminology, significant works, or much else that was previously part of spring testing.
    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.

    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.

    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.
    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.

    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.
    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?

    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.


    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.
    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.

    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.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "In Brooklyn, a castle, is where dwell I"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by JediTricks View Post
    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.
    I think the fact that the lowliest sitcom can trace its roots to Shakespeare answers your question. Shakespeare is important because it is a foundation for so many other works down through the centuries since his time. He also coined or made popular many phrases, some of which are still common today - http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/p...akespeare.html. It is no wonder that he comes up first in a Google search. Certainly there are plenty of works from plenty of other authors that can and should be studied, but Shakespeare is definitely something that everyone should have a basic knowledge of.

    When I was in high school, we read Romeo and Juliet in 10th grade, Julius Caesar in 11th grade, and Macbeth in 12th grade. We may have read some of the poetry, but I don't recall. I remember reading Hamlet in college (and I think Romeo and Juliet again).

    I always found it interesting to read something and then realize that something else I was familiar with came from it. For instance, I realized where those cartoons I watched as a kid got the "Lenny" and "George" characterizations from from I read Of Mice and Men. Sometimes I may not have read the source material, but I am familiar enough with it to know that Star Trek II had elements of Moby Dick, while Star Trek VI had elements of Shakespeare in it. Perhaps that is a good way to introduce Shakespeare to people. Start by showing a modern adaptation of it, and then have them read the original. That is sort of what the book this thread is about is doing. We start with a modern film we are familiar with, and then we read the Shakespearean version. However, Shakespeare did not write Star Wars, though there could be things in Star Wars that have roots in Shakespeare. So, it all comes full circle.

    I did not anticipate there would be such a big discussion on this. I just thought it was a neat idea. Sometimes things done in a Shakespearean style can be funny, much like Robin Williams when he does an improvisational play on his album Reality...What a Concept. I can imagine people acting out Star Wars scenes in Shakespeare style while waiting in line to see the next movie.

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Mad Slanted Powers View Post
    I can imagine people acting out Star Wars scenes in Shakespeare style while waiting in line to see the next movie.
    And after I posted that, I thought someone should do a musical parody of Psy called "Shakespeare Style" (perhaps one has already been done).

  8. #18
    Problem with Shakespeare is that he should be performed, not read. An awful lot is lost on the page, even if you have no problem following the language.

    Also, unfortunately, we're taught Shakespeare at a point where most of us aren't mature enough to handle it. It seems pretty standard across the nation that ninth grade is Romeo and Juliet (though most ninth graders won't see how stupid the two are and think it's a great romance), Julius Caesar is tenth (without, oh, any Roman history to supply any context at all), Macbeth is eleventh (the only one so far that's even remotely appropriate), and twelfth is Hamlet (and maybe King Lear as well for AP). Kids tend to remember Hamlet the best. Why? Because there's an excellent, if condensed, film version starring Mel Gibson (and an even better one with Kenneth Branagh, as well as an older but still good version with Lawrence Olivier). But Macbeth and Hamlet, I've seen both performed many times, and they rank highly in my esteem.

    In tenth grade, we had to read Julius Caesar and memorize Marc Antony's speech. It meant nothing to me at the time. Today, I recognize it as a play by possibly the greatest English writer of all time (I'd be willing to make the argument in favor of Milton or a few others), but, even with me somewhat accidentally discovering how awesome Roman history is, the play doesn't hold any significance for me. I memorized the passage without really understanding it, and it was never explained to the class. Now, I'm more concerned with the conscious decision Shakespeare made to include historical inaccuracies in order to allude to other events his original audience would be more familiar with.

    By contrast, every year the English classes had field trips to see whatever Shakespeare play was being performed by a local company. The same year, I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was an excellent performance. And, despite that not usually being considered Shakespeare's best, it's one of my favorites still. All the Shakespeare plays I love, I love because I've seen great performances of them. I still can't even really get into King Lear because the only time I've seen it was in a dedicated Shakespeare class in college where the professor only showed the BBC versions, and the BBC King Lear is quite awful. I know theoretically that it's on par with Hamlet as Shakespeare's best in the eyes of most scholars, but I prefer Midsummer Night's Dream or one of the cross-dressing comedies (which again, not coincidentally, I've seen performed well).
    Tommy, close your eyes.

  9. #19
    This, this, my friends, is why. This thread, this discussion, this... learning.
    It's a shared context. People know Shakespeare. They may not (in fact, likely not) like Shakespeare. They may not really understand it (without the context and background of which Chux wrote).
    But there is an awareness of the style, of the word choice and word play, of its significance.
    And if thou canst use the skills to decode it, and perhaps even duplicate and USE it elsewhere, thou hast learn'd.
    That is the question, answered.
    With an additional, unnecessary comma inserted for, effect.
    [Exeunt]
    "That's what Sheev said."

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Bel-Cam Jos View Post

    That is the question, answered.

    [Exeunt]
    Or answeréd, if you needed an extra syllable to get your fifth iamb through.

    Performance is critical to acquiring any play, particularly with language as aged as Shakespeare, since they were intended to be experienced, not read. As such, assigning students to "just read the play" is a recipe not only for failure, but, even worse, for possibly permanently alienating the student from Shakespeare forever. I have the Arkangel box set of all his plays on CD performed by the some of the finest actors of the last fifty years. The way I teach Shakespeare is by giving the kids a scavenger hunt of about 30 items I developed that they complete online (a day in the school library), with prizes and points for all who correctly finish - it rarely gets finished in class time, which is my goal - keep them thinking about it on their own when they leave. The next day we go over what everyone found, where essentially the students give the opening lecture on Shakespeare, his life, his influences, and his influence. I designed it like this because nearly every English teacher I've known really can't help but pontificate on the wonders of Shakespeare and after years of these pronouncements, I think they sort of amalgamate the collection of excited lectures they've given in a stew that can go over kids' heads, flipping the off switch as it passes. My meager method is predicated on making sure the students are the stars of the show, not the instructor. Once they've given the opening lecture on Shakespeare, we fill in some background information on the play to be studied to give them context (you're so right, Chux) and locate them within the story. Then, I hit play on the cd player, as they follow along in their own copies, annotating as necessary. This way, they hear what the words are supposed to sound and feel like. For the first three acts, I frequently hit pause and go over aspects of the language, both figurative and literal in the quest to isolate imagery and symbolism, and the plot, while checking for comprehension. By the fourth and fifth acts, when I hit pause, I don't go over anything, I just hit pause and ask why did I pause it. I scaffolded them for the first three acts, now it's their turn to discuss. It hasn't failed yet; the kids are so into the story (and, really, those stories are easy to hook kids into, if you know how), that many of them are anxious to answer just so I'll hit play again. Afterwards, come the culminating assignments for the units that the plays were a part of. For example, in the unit I use Macbeth and Hamlet with (I call it Leaders, Followers, and Persuasive Writing), I give them a choice (every culminating assignment has a choice within certain parameters to make sure that students use writing) of orally reciting a speech and then giving a visual (multimedia, Powerpoint, Prezi, Keynote) analysis of why it was so persuasive or writing an essay on the following prompt: Which character from Macbeth or Hamlet would Machiavelli choose to mentor and why? The students must establish why Machiavelli, whom we'd read from earlier in the unit, would not want to mentor the others. Here, students must write persuasively, synthesize multiple sources, and defend their positions. This is far from being the best way, just my way of getting Shakespeare into the class for about two weeks.

    All the plays are fun to teach, mainly because it's fun to watch the students become acquainted with dense material that many came in disliking merely because the author's name inspired terror within them, for which I partially blame other teachers. The high school plays, as Chux pointed out, are pretty standard. R&J is about lust on the rebound. Romeo has just broken up with Rosaline at the beginning of the play and is ripe to transfer those feelings to the next available girl. Juliet dislikes her parents, as so many young girls do, and is immediately attracted to the bad boy, bad only in that he's a member of a rival family. Kids are often very interested in relationships and this far-from-being-a-love-story play is full of commentary on the universality of the human experience regardless of time and place. Julius Caesar is very much about a gang that wants to depose its boss. It starts out with gang members tagging the walls of Rome and later has the characters take turns persuading each other, escalating to turf war. Hamlet is about a boy who doesn't want to do what he's told he's supposed to do. He's comes from a broken home, can't find his footing in the world, has a girlfriend who he feels can't understand him, in short the kind of situation many students are in. Granted these are gross oversimplifications of the stories, but they demonstrate the timeless appeal of the content. And that content has inspired so much other content that has come afterwards. That content has inspired creativity. Creativity that is just as vital to humanity as science and technology, both of which thrive through the infusion of creativity into it. Shakespeare was not the first domino in the sequence and possibly not the biggest, but he was certainly one that tipped over many others.

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