Saturday, 4 May 2013

Dear Mary Bousted - Who do you think you are?

As I sat watching Anonymous and scrolling through the Daily Mail Online (often more entertaining than watching television) this afternoon, I came across this article:

Now I was one of those children that teachers would look at as if I was insane because I expressed a love for Shakespeare's work. Having recently found out I'm descended from the Black Country Shakespeare's, who are, albeit loosely, related to William Shakespeare himself, I've finally discovered why I love his plays so much. Of course, it's not just the genetics, but his perfect, beautiful, fluid handle on words, his structure and his effortless appeal to the emotions of an audience. 

So what is Mary Bousted proposing in this article?
Leave out the opening scenes to Shakespeare plays when teaching them in schools, skip to the juicy bits instead.

I see many flaws with Ms Bousted's argument (I can only assume her to be a Ms, given her passion for skipping to the interesting parts, I imagine any marriage rapidly progressed to divorce). First, that she is effectively pandering to childrens' desires in a way that only a school can. For children to grow into the great wide world of work expecting the same treatment, they'll be in for a shock. I imagine the next generation coming across a girl they like on the street and immediately dropping to one knee and proposing. After all, having been educated in the art of speeding toward the good parts, would they know any better?

To jump boundlessly through a narrative to the interesting scenes is to skip the entire story. If you want a movie trailer-esque education for our future generations, then I pity our future generations. They will never know a true, gritty, lengthy story, full of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, rights and wrongs.

To delete the opening scenes to plays such as Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet would be to abandon the most vital scene-setting speeches of the entire plays. How else are we to explain why Macbeth puts himself and others through hell if we don't know of the witches' prophecies? How does Ms Bousted propose we learn of the quarrels between the Montague and Capulet clans without the introductory speech?

I hold Act 1 Scene 1 of Macbeth very fondly as the starting point for my love affair with Shakespeare as a child. The image of the witches meeting to discuss the fate of Macbeth captivated me, probably because I was a morbid, wicked little child that wanted to be a witch herself one day. If I had never been taught this scene, I would probably have never engaged with Shakespeare, because I was a child that adored fantasy, and Shakespeare reached out to me in that way.

If you can't teach Shakespeare in a way that engages children, Ms Bousted, then it is you that is the problem, not Shakespeare. Why make a Renaissance playwright's timeless work suffer because you fail to teach properly? I can hardly imagine he had children 400 years in the future in mind when he pressed down his quill.

As an aspiring teacher and having taught fellow students the ins and outs of Hamlet when the teachers failed to, I am well aware that children will tire of Shakespeare. If you don't have an interest in his work, then every word is bound to hit a brick wall and bounce back if not approached correctly. There's no need to spoil it for those that enjoy studying Shakespeare.

So let's massacre every classic in the same way Ms Bousted demands, shall we?
Pride and Prejudice? Nah, skip to the bit where she marries Darcy.
Frankenstein? Nah, we're only interested in the monster.
Jane Eyre? Nah, Rochester was a bit of a twat anyway.

Admittedly articles like this appear and fade away every day, so getting irate about it is inevitably a waste of energy, but for a person of this woman's standing to speak such utter drivel enrages me.

Ms Bousted, my suggestion to you is thus - go back to school, I think you missed the juicy bits. 

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  1. I used to work in a school and you are SO right. They do pander to children, because their main concern is 'behaviour' rather than education. It seems to be becoming an overwhelming problem, although the school I worked at was definitely a 'difficult' school I would say. I don't really know what the solution is, but there's no way we can cut out vital parts of their learning just because they don't particularly enjoy it at the time. xxx

    1. Definitely, it's all about the appearance of children doing the work they've been asked to, rather than educating them, making sure the information stays in without tumbling out of their ears! It's a shame there's such a divide between schools too, if one school has found the master formula to keeping children awake, why not share it? xxx

  2. ha, this made me laugh (and i completely agree). i really like your style of writing :)
    jess xx

    1. Haha thanks! Just when something like this annoys me, I flick my sarcasm switch and it's a bugger to switch off! xx


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