My Buddy recently sent me a column which has echoed in other news sources for a few weeks. It might have been this one. It was an argument for putting William Shakespeare’s plays on the back shelf in our classes because it was not relevant to today’s kids. It was an argument I had no quick answer to.
My first thought went to Abe Lincoln. He got almost no school learnin and had to self educate himself. Shakespeare was one of his major sources of inspiration and no doubt contributed to his prose eloquence along with a close reading of the King James Bible. I’ll wager that very few kids today read very much of the later book either.
I read Julius Caesar in ninth or tenth grade and didn’t get much out of it. I heard a Shakespeare expert explain a few years ago that it was studied in High School because it had so much less sex in it than the other plays. Poor Cleopatra must have been a frustrated woman. At least Macbeth (in twelfth grade) had a little adultery although I remember the witches more vividly.
I rather think Lincoln was onto a good thing when he read the Bard. I suspect that keeping him in our sights today should continue because his work is pretty universal. Folks around the world continue to dig into his iambic pentameter because its the source of deep human insight.
There was a fantastic letter to the editor in today’s Trib from a former Denfeld Grad weighing in on the subject but mostly to give credit to a fellow who must have been a fantastic teacher. Perhaps that is the key to Shakespeare or any other subject. Someone has to bring it to life.
In our equity battles to come I’d bet on Denfeld. That school has such a rich history and a generous endowment that it will overcome its current shortcomings. That’s my prediction. It still has some remarkable teachers. Bill Westholm told me recently that Denfeld has the second highest endowment of any public school in the nation providing scholarships to its graduates. We need to broadcast that far and wide since Minnesota has open enrollment.