Don’t Dumb Down Shakespeare

I’m sharing a link to and excerpt from an article I found interesting, amusing, thought-provoking, and intelligent. I was going to preface this excerpt by acknowledging that it’s a bit old, but still relevant. Then I caught myself with some horror- ‘old.’ Old? It’s 11 years old. If we were putting this on a timeline it would be current.

Ranting aside, here’s the link.
Here’s the excerpt:
“This language is also entering our schools. Instead of simply teaching, teachers are now being invited to make a “personalised learning offer” to children. It’s more than just a dreary piece of business-speak. It implies that a child is a client or a customer, the figure to whom the “offer” is made. The children, in turn, are invited to be “co-investors with the state in their own education”.

Come again? I reckon if a child came up to me and said she saw herself as a co-investor with the state in her own education I’d have serious worries about her welfare. I’d start wondering whether management consultants have begun to form sinister sects, grabbing kids in playgrounds and indoctrinating them in business-speak.

And yet when it comes to giving our children a taste of Shakespeare and English at its most beautiful, then suddenly we’re all terrified. Might, like turn off the kids… know wha’ I mean. Instead they are offered alternative texts, issued by educational publishing houses, that supposedly make our greatest writer more palatable.

Here’s a taste. Take a few original lines from Macbeth:

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
the handle toward my hand?

Compare them to the guide version:

Oooh! Would you look at that.

Yes, I know it sounds as if I’m making it up, but you can check it for yourself.”

Don’t do this to Shakespeare.
Don’t do this to your kids.

Look at the Shakepeare version- is it really that hard? Dagger is possibly the most unfamiliar word, but how challenging is it really to describe a dagger and then your child has a new word, a new image, in his vocabulary.

Words paint pictures in the mind, they give life to images and ideas- or they should. What life, what image can be drawn from ‘Ooo, would you look at that?’ It is so vague it’s meaningless- you could say the same thing if you were talking about a fancy bit of legwork in a dance, a juicy apple, a cute K-pop star, a beautiful frosted cake, a great pair of shoes or a hideous pair of shoes.

Use the first version, and you are opening wide a door for your children, or a window to wider horizons. Use the second version and you are slamming them shut in a windowless, airless room.

Posted in Charlotte Mason, shakespeare | 5 Responses

The Flaws in Wrinkle in Time Movie Are Deliberate

REad here.

“In an interview with Screen Rant, writer Jennifer Lee explained why she took out the Christian themes and Bible references from the book. “It wasn’t removed, it was just opened up in language that wasn’t exclusive, guardian angels versus stars, are they the same thing? Maybe,” Lee said. She emphasized “inclusivity,” saying, “Since we’re not limiting, we’re not picking some religion, but we’re saying we all feel, we can feel that you’re a part of something extraordinary and the messages are the same.”

This helps explain why the film ditched the book’s explicit Christian themes, trading them for vague New Age spirituality that failed to deliver the depth of the original story. Furthermore, it is the exact opposite of “inclusive” to excise all Christian historical references, even to Jesus, Copernicus, or Michelangelo.”

I’m not ‘boycotting’ the movie.  I’m just not spending money to see it for a number of reasons- partly because I prefer to spend my money not paying somebody for actively trying to destroy the culture of Christianity.  I don’t understand why so many professed believers  are perfectly willing to lay down their shekels to reward people who hate them, hate what they stand for, hate the Christ to whom we owe allegiance and are hell-bent, and I use that term deliberately, on erasing all the the marks that distinguish Christianity from current culture in the name of being ‘inclusive.’

What I understand even less is the way the same people who are willing to pay for the privilege of being entertained by being scorned and erased are also willing to scorn and mock their brethren who take a stand against such treatment.  However weak or weird that stand may be, you know what? At least it is one.  You don’t have to agree with it, but to mock it, sneer at it, and censor it and make sure everybody knows you’re not like *those* idiotic sorts of Christians… it brings to mind one half of a pair of sinners praying aloud in the temple in a lesson Jesus shared, and I don’t mean the tax-collector. 

I’ve been on the wrong side and the right side of boycotts. I’ve boycotted things that were a waste of my time and energy and I’ve not boycotted things I should have.   I’ve heard people justify this stance or that on the basis of being salt and light.   I don’t think a boycott is either, regardless of whether it’s the right decision or not.

But I’ve come to believe the biggest error of all is to mock fellow Christians to unbelievers. That marks you as neither salt nor light, but as a traitor, a person more loyal to having the approval of those who do not love the Lord you are supposed to serve than to His fellow servants.

Yes, some of them, some of us, are dumb, awkward, more embarrassing than spinach in your teeth on school picture day.   You can make yourself seem superior in the eyes of a few other worldlings.  Do you really think that it’s making you look better to God?

Posted in Culture and Counterculture, Movies | Tagged , , | 4 Responses

Cross cultural communication fail

I really had this conversation with a Filipina woman about my age, a very nice, kind lady. She was asking me how my language studies were going and I said I really was botching the grammar completely, and there were some words I consistently mixed up- tukod (to build) and tahud (reverence or respect). “Oh, I can help you,” she said.
I waited eagerly for her advice. “When you want to say to build just think about tukod, don’t think of tahud. Tukod is to build.”

Well. Yes. If I could remember that, then I would not be mixed up about them. So I laughed, because from point of view, obviously, I thought she was joking, but I think I hurt her feelings because she was serious. Her advice was from the standpoint of somebody who is a native speaker. She can’t see why I can’t see how helpful that is, and I can’t see why she thinks it is helpful. And laughing, well,that was just rude from her POV.

Chances are, if you’re 3rd culture, you can see what happened and feel sorry for and amused by both of us.
If you’re a westerner, you think she’s more to blame than I am. If you’re an easterner, you may see why her advice wasn’t helpful, but you feel more strongly that I definitely should not have laughed.

And that’s kind of an allegory for cross cultural communication.

Posted in Davao Diary | 2 Responses

Hospitality vs Entertaining, Q & A

Q. If you set the table with pretty china and a centerpiece, are you making your guests feel inferior in their abilities when all you are trying to do is make them feel extra-special and worthy of attention?

Should we reduce all attempts at beauty to a common level so as not to offend a guest?

I know the key is in the hostess’ manner, but how can you really tell how you are perceived?


It can be tricky, especially in these days of the lowest common denominator. And it might take time- a person who is uncomfortable at a first visit may need several invites before she feels relaxed and realizes you’re not just showing off.

There is no system, no failsafe method. There is only a principle that we care more about the people than about our stuff, our schedules, or our organization. Beyond that, we work on a case by case basis at making others feel comfortable and cared for while living within our means. That may mean serving sandwiches on paper plates to one family and lasagna on china for another.

Here are some other thoughts I have:
One disgruntled, awkward guest is not a trend. However, if you know that a guest is not comfortable with china, then it is not really making them feel extra special and worthy of attention to use it anyway. If you don’t know that and find out later there is no reason to feel guilty about it.

In general, if pretty much everybody you know is uncomfortable asking you for help spontaneously, without scheduling it- you might have a problem.
In general, if the majority of your guests seem tense, edgy, and uncomfortable, you might need to work on something.

In general, if NOBODY ever tells you they feel comfortable or at home in your house, then maybe what you’ve been doing is entertaining and not hospitality.

We don’t need to feel responsible for making everybody feel comfortable exactly where they are because people have to own their own feelings at some point and also- because most of us should not be complacent about exactly where they are. We just need not to be so focused on our own perfections, superiorities, and high standards that we make others feel they can *never* hope to do better.

If people feel like we would never invite them back if their child accidentally broke a plate, then they might be insecure. Or we might be confused in our priorities.

I am talking about trends, not each and every person who comes into our homes. And there are some house-guests who are just rude- we aren’t responsible for them or their reactions. I do not feel at all responsible, for instance, for the family who stayed with us for several days, had a rude and uncooperative child who refused to help when asked and constantly disappeared to let others do her work, the family also flushed paper towels down our toilet, backing up our septic system so I had to clean raw sewage out of my bathtub- and then accused me of being ‘unkind’ and ‘inhospitable’ because I asked them to please not do that, but to come and ask me for the toilet paper if they ran out again, and they consequently left in a huff and remain angry with me to this day because I will not ‘confess’ that I was rude to ask them to stop putting paper towels down my toilet or ‘unkind’ to ask their 13 year old daughter to pitch in when it was her turn to do the dishes.

There are some people it is impossible not to offend.

So- *in general,* you want to check your motives and be certain that you do care more for people than for your perfect schedule or ‘bonus points’ for setting a perfect table.

Does that make sense?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One of Shakespeare’s Sources Discovered

This is pretty interesting- the point here is not the tired old Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare, nor iis it a claim that he plagiarized. It’s that, using plagiarism software, scholars have uncovered another source or reference work that Shakespeare used for some of his plays.

“The findings were made by Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter, who describe them in a book to be published next week by the academic press D. S. Brewer and the British Library. The authors are not suggesting that Shakespeare plagiarized but rather that he read and was inspired by a manuscript titled “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels,” written in the late 1500s by George North, a minor figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth, who served as an ambassador to Sweden.”

And this was pretty cool:

“Mr. McCarthy is an unlikely literary scholar. Originally from Amherst, N.Y., he studied computer science and theater at the University at Buffalo, but never graduated. He began writing for magazines and newspapers and published a book in 2009, titled “Here Be Dragons,” about the geographical underpinnings of evolution.

That interest led him to wonder if literary ideas could propagate the same way, and starting in 2006 he began to explore the sources of Shakespeare. Mr. McCarthy focused on Thomas North, a translator of Plutarch’s “Lives,” whom Shakespeare relied on heavily for his dramas.

In April 2011, Mr. McCarthy brought some of his findings to Ms. Schlueter, professor emerita of English at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and a founding editor of Shakespeare Bulletin, a scholarly journal. She admired his diligence and natural affinity for scholarly research. “Dennis is the Steve Jobs of the Shakespeare community,” Ms. Schlueter said, referring to the self-taught Apple founder.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Responses

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