Getting Rid of Shakespeare? Are you crazy?
The political correct crowd have won again. This time in Ontario’s Kent District School Board schools. It seems , according to a report by Joseph Brean in the National Post newspaper, that the Board is replacing Shakespeare with indigenous writers. No , not adding to the English curriculum for Grade Eleven by including indigenous writers as well as accomplished English writers , but replacing the English writers like Shakespeare for that year’s study.
Now what is even worse , if that is possible , is the comments of school board officials . For example, the superintendent of education Mark Sherman said : ‘Hey, I love the Lord of the Flies , I love Shakespeare , but we are talking about 15th century Veronese landlords ( Romero and Juliet) or something like that. ‘
Mr Sherman obviously does not know excellence —-how very sad. And he heads up ‘Formal Education ‘ in a part of this country?
Now, I am all for incorporating Canadian and Canadian Indigenous literature into the curriculum , but not at the expense of some of the best English literature ever written. Yes , the students should be provided with perspective as Mr. Sherman says , but you do not gain that by eliminating one and introducing the other. That is not perspective –that is stupidity.
And we have too much of it in Education today at all levels. Sherman’s comments demonstrate that our education system failed him but yet he gets to be Superintendent.
As Japanese and Chinese students and students from all over the world will tell you , great writers like Shakespeare expose them to universal truths and exceptional writing in its own right. It is not a question of era or location ; it is what is being written, how it is being written ; the diction, metaphor and allegory, the plot , character, and lessons to be learned in the interaction of the plot and character in real life situations . The exercise of power, the envy and jealousy of people , love and hate , war and peace are all described and lived through good art . And Shakespeare by any measure is good art; no not good art but exceptional art.
I am not surprised that many parents are happy. We have become lazy. With a click of a button or touch of screen we gain instant access and supposed solution. But little , sadly, in depth understanding or context.
The way to good art or good anything is not always an easy road at first. But that is the nature of our society today–find the easy way.
I introduced Shakespeare to grade seven students in Springdale , Newfoundland in 1969\/70 . And they loved it. Beginning with plays like Midsummer Nights Dream , Two Gentlemen of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well, where simple plots and simple dialogue pervades, to later in the higher grades moving to As You Like It , Twelfth night , Merchant of Venice where more subtle diction and plot, and characterization occurred , to the Histories ( Falstaff is a universal figure) , Julius Caesar ( power and intrigue, friendship and its destruction ) to the powerful depiction of the human condition in Tragedies of Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear. Oh, and by the way, Mr, Sherman , some history, sociology , psychology is learned along the way, rather important for the perspective to which you allege you aspire.
Like they say the thin edge of the wedge. What Excellence will fall next ?
Of course, there are universities today where the Western Tradition is bring turned on its head and rejected as some white ugly prejudice—–denying students the history , art and understanding of earlier times.
The very tradition that is being denied and denigrated is the one that gives the students the money, transportation and technology they possess.
No civilization has been as prosperous , as healthy as this one ; that beginning in the late Middle Ages it rejected dogma , embraced reason , and unleashed an economic miracle that is still with us today. And along the way , resurrected the Greek and Roman masters who wrote ,discovered and invented in almost all fields of endeavour, and we have added and complimented that work all the way to today’s iPad.
Thankfully, no one can take my Shakespeare or other great writers , even if they took all my books and technology. It is indelibly in my mind:
’She should have died hereafter.
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
‘Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar—what should be in that “Caesar”?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name.
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well.
Weigh them, it is as heavy. Conjure with ’em,’——-‘
‘—How dull it is to pause
To make an end
To rust unburnished
Not to shine in use
As though to breath were life–‘
And Gentle Wordsworth
‘Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world Is lightened:–
that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on,–
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.’
Mr. Sherman and his ilk should be reminded of another long past master who no doubt he thinks is no longer relevant –Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Bacon described four idols of the mind. One that is particularly relevant here :
‘Idols of the Theater are those which are due to sophistry and false learning. These idols are built up in the field of theology, philosophy, and science, and because they are defended by learned groups are accepted without question by the masses. When false philosophies have been cultivated and have attained a wide sphere of dominion in the world of the intellect they are no longer questioned. False superstructures are raised on false foundations, and in the end systems barren of merit parade their grandeur on the stage of the world.’