Fresh topic, spinning off the Gnomeo related discussions re: the Disnefication of Shakespeare.
I think we all generally agree that we’d like to see more acceptance, familiarity and understanding of Shakespeare in the world around us. We don’t want to hear that he’s hard, or boring, or complex, or irrelevant. We want our kids to approach the subject in school with excitement, not fear. We want to spot a Shakespeare reference in the wild and discover to our great joy that we’re not the only person in the room that understood it. 🙂 Fair enough? Any of those statements untrue?
Ok, next question. Why don’t we have this, and where should we focus our attention in order to fix it? I’m referring here to actual people – you can’t fix a system or an infrastructure unless you can communicate with the people who made it that way in the first place.
I figure there’s at least three logical places to start:
1) Education. I’d say “teachers”, but I don’t think that’s enough – I think many are probably constrained by curriculum requirements, standardized testing, out of date text books, stuff like that. So I’ll make this the broad category of “people who are charged with educating our children.” (NOTE, since I know I’ve got plenty of teachers reading!! I am not intending to suggest that every teacher everywhere is doing it wrong. Hardly. I’m saying, and I hope we’re in general agreement, that there is often an overall attitude toward how and when Shakespeare should be taught, that is perhaps out of date and in need of some overhaul.)
2) Parents. My kids are growing up on Shakespeare because I love it. But what about all the kids out there whose parents hated Shakespeare, and thus have no interest in instilling a love of the subject in their kids? Can we approach them, and enlighten them regarding what they missed? If we’re assuming that Shakespearean education has been somewhat broken for a very long time, we can’t hold it against the parents that they hated Shakespeare in school. We can, however, attempt to fix it.
3) The kids. “Blame” is not the right word here, but it’s a place to start. If you weren’t hanging out on this blog, when would you think to expose kids to Shakespeare? High school? Maybe middle school? Why is that, exactly, because you just trust the educational system and that’s the way it’s done? Why not elementary school? As we address a younger audience we continue to simplify, focusing more on the story and the action and less on the words. So how far back can you take that? Couldn’t I read The Tempest to my 2yr old as a bed time story? What’s the difference between that and Cinderella? If we start by assuming that there are certain kids who simply should not be exposed to Shakespeare, I think we’re doing them a disservice.
There’s no right answer – the only right answer is, obviously, “start everywhere.” What I’m looking for is the chink in the proverbial armor (so to speak). The place where, if we focused enough energy, we’d break through and cause some real change.