Monday, 17 November 2008

From farce to tragedy

july14_468x357 Attendees at New Zealand's factory schools have been so dumbed down they're now barely able to read, let alone digest Shakespeare.  Callum McPetrie, one of the few youngsters still able to read and to understand what he's reading argues that the answer to the problem is not to abandon the teaching of Shakespeare, along with basic content in maths, history and business studies, but to stop the dumbing down.

He's right, you know.  And his piece is definitely worth a read -- particularly by whichever minister is about to take on the ministry and the teachers' unions: The Last Tragedy Of Shakespeare.

Highly recommended.

UPDATE:   The brilliant Bernard Levin takes the brief for Shakespeare, opposing in one sentence the MEd's sentence of oblivion for better learning:

If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is farther to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise - why, be that as it may, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness' sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.


  1. From the link: Amidst fears that his works are too removed from the mind of the average High School student to understand, Shakespeare could be scrapped.

    I can only draw the conclusion that based on the statement that 'if a subject is too removed from the average High School student to understand, [then it] could be scrapped', that we shall soon see schools teaching nothing at all. It would be easy to argue that's already taking place, and some subjects are so poorly taught that it might actually go unnoticed.

    However, our kids can make bitchin' myspace pages and send text messages on two phones simultaneously, so we should be fine.

  2. Sean Fitzpatrick17 Nov 2008, 14:31:00

    Its exactly this lack of challenge that is leading most kids to switch off at school. As a professional martial arts school owner I know first hands that kids relish a challenge.

    As for Shakespeare, even students in German state schools have him in their curriculum because of his mastery of charactization etc.

  3. His works are too removed from the mind of the average High School student ... or (very) average High School teacher?

    Judging by the grammatical and punctuation errors in the newsletters and notices from some schools, I'd be forgiven for thinking the latter.

    My 95 year old grandmother never had a secondary education, as per most of her generation, girls in particular. She left school at 12 to work full-time.

    No flash school for Nana. She attended a tiny rural school in the wap-waps of Taranaki. But I tell you what: she can punctuate and spell with the best of them.

  4. My son is going to a school that has House Shakespeare competitions each year. Of course, it is an independent school.


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