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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Breaking News: Shakespeare Leading Cause of High School Dropouts:Keanu Reeves To Head Australian English Dept.

"Ridiculous", you say? Well, maybe my sarcasm is slightly overextended.

However, according to The Australian and The Daily Telegraph:


"Shakespeare too hard for HSC English"
* From: The Daily Telegraph

* February 28, 2010 10:55PM

* English Studies course on trial in 75 schools
* Syllabus focuses on movies and TV shows
* Intended for pupils who don't plan to go to uni

Well of course, just what the attention span challenged are in need of; nothing like more TV--and Movies like The Matrix to:

"...support students in developing proficiency in English (my emphasis) to enhance their personal, social
and vocational lives".

Their sidebar (complete with a lovely Droeshout engraving of Will from the First Folio) reads:

"Students who do not plan to go to university will study The Matirix rather than MacBeth because Shakespeare is deemed too hard and too irrelevant" Source: The Daily Telegraph

"The new syllabus is aimed at lower-achieving students who would have been at risk of dropping out of school at 15 or 16 under the old leaving age law."

So! the reason there are so many dropouts has something to do with Shakespeare?
My first thought, exactly. String up the Bum for "Irrelevancy" and "Difficulty"! :)--no, make that :( .

Shakespeare irrelevant? To what?--more like to Whom? ...and WHY? These questions yet to be answered by...maybe we should ask Keanu?

Thanks to The Shakespeare Standard http://theshakespearestandard.com/ for featuring this most disturbing revelation.

Sadly, JM


  1. It's a sad state of affairs when "The Matrix" replaces Shakespeare in high school curriculum. Just what we need -- more apathy toward the written and spoken word. Let's not challenge our youngsters too much. God forbid they should learn something that takes a little effort and imagination to understand.

    Thanks, JM, for bringing this to light.

    Joe III

  2. Wow. I can't believe anyone would actually consider anything remotely like this. It's sad enough that we're forced to suffer through the movie version of every book on the syllabus, but to completely axe Will? That's unacceptable.
    I went to a private high school and was actually almost Shakespeare-less, merely because my teacher hated it. Most of his plays I read during that time were on my own and I was able to use them for outside reading. That said, we did read Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Being the Shakespeare geek that I am, I'm always shocked when people tell me they find him difficult. (I was the one who explained when and why R&G was funny.)

    I definitely think there needs to be some major revision in the teaching of Shakespeare. I don't think it should be forced on students as merely another part of the curriculum. He's part of (all of, as far as I'm concerned) the history of literature and the greatest writer of all time. Students can learn so much from reading Shakespeare--about reading, writing, history, and performance. I'm now a junior in college and actually know someone who's never read Hamlet. It's sad to even consider that!

  3. Thanks for your comments Stacie. You've zeroed in on the problem I think. You're absolutely right about the need for a revision in the way he's taught.

    Ever since I learned about another way to approach the Bard as an actor/director, I've made it something of a mission to try to convince those whom I meet in the educational system that there is indeed another way to introduce and "teach" Shakespeare to students, and that it should be done much earlier. Recently this year I was a resident artist at two elementary schools, grades 1-6. The approach I have learned, which has everything to do with performance and DOING Shakespeare's words out loud, had the students begging for more. In their words, "We learned that Shakespeare is for us, too" and "We want to DO a whole Shakespeare play." As well as being rich in all the components you described, reading, history, etc., I believe it's so important for all of us to be exposed to his philosophy of Life. "Object lessons" abound for the kids--and they get it!, without having to be "preached at", when they can make the work their own. They embrace it vocally, physically, intellectually and emotionally. It's great lit for sure, but it's so much more than that.
    As to your fellow student being in college having never read Hamlet. It is sad. I've directed masters students who know nothing about an alternative way to approach him, even from the acting standpoint (which I wrote something about in another post here.) The tenets are the very same ones I use to teach elementary students, geared to their level of course. Collectively, we're missing the boat.
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your wisdom with us and for keeping the Word out there! Long live Will!

  4. Thanks for your comments Joe III. You sound as upset by all of this as I am. Communication is a more serious business than we sometimes give it credit for being. And if there's one thing Will knew a lot about, it was how to get a message across with words. Keep spreading the word about The Word. :) JM

  5. Joe,

    That sounds like an amazing job! And I have discovered that people involved in theatre--either acting or directing--definitely have a different approach to teaching literature, but especially Shakespeare. My class was an elective (apparently, it's rarely required these days) and my teacher was in charge of the theatre department in his early days. On the college level, we were acting out scenes daily, exploring the relationships between the characters, the actors and audiences, and the actors, audiences, and the text; our papers were based on interpretations and stagings. It was an amazing way to explore Shakespeare that I had never experienced.
    But you're definitely right--if more people were given the chance to really explore and engage the text rather than simply read it like any other play or novel, the responses would be infinitely better. And maybe I'm just biased, but I believe Shakespeare deserves special attention. His work, after all, isn't everyday. :)

    Thanks for the thoughts!