Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bangin' Out The Bard...

Okay, have you SEEN THIS?

Today on Yahoo's main page, I found an article, entitled "Video Game Aims to Hook Children on Shakespeare".

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have officially sunk to a whole new low.

Is this generation of youth so incredibly hooked on video games that we can think of no other way of introducing them to Shakespeare??! Holy shamoley, people, are we really that dense, not to mention completely unimaginative?! Do you HONESTLY think a game that will allow kids to shoot down enemy spaceships, if they type in a few choice words, will teach them APPRECIATION OF FINE LITERATURE? This is just pandering to children's addiction to mindless entertainment, with a little brainwashing thrown in for "good" measure. In being encouraged to spew out a few lines or a few facts, our children become no better than the machines that they are playing with.

Um, "Educational Professionals"? Even WITH the computerized weaponry, these kids are not going to discover any meaning, much less true pleasure in Shakespeare.

How about this? How about using the equivilent amount of the money you've just wasted to buy tickets for kids to go and SEE a good play, done live, right in front of them? Or, even better-- create a kit full of costumes, sets, props and a guide, so that the kids can put on the show themselves.

Shakespeare, and ANY play for that matter, is not simply text. It is not just Great Words. A play should be EXPERIENCED as theatre. And kids who have never experienced theatre need to be taught: they need to be taught what the play is about, and how to be a good audience member. They also need to be taught what goes on behind the scenes in the theatre, how a play is "worked up" and "put on". It is a fascinating, magical process... from both behind the curtain, and in front of it. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, should have the right to enjoy experiencing it, whether it's at the front of a classroom with their peers playing the parts, or at one of the finest theatre spaces in the world, starring all of the greatest actors.

I admit that I am biased. I am a theatre maniac. My kids started being encouraged to dress up and make-believe for an audience (me) as soon as they were able to stand up. To us, the power of imagination is everything. We LOVE a good story, especially if we get to make it up ourselves, sometimes based upon ideas we get from a book.

The very first play my girls came to love was the one that first "hooked" me all those years ago. I read my children the Lamb's Tales version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Then, I played them the ballet music, and we picked out all the characters and plot developments in the sounds of the music. And then we made tiny pairs of "fairy wings" out of bent-up coathangers, old pink nylon stockings, and glitter glue. Soon, we had tiny, informal neighbourhood productions being performed in our basement, with all the girles and their friends taking part. They used their own words... and the plot was a little different every day... but it was a truly wonderful first experience for all of them. It was Magic. And it was one of the best damn productions of the play I have had the pleasure of watching ANYWHERE. They were in love with what they were doing, and it showed.

I'm sorry, but I don't believe for one single minute that it is all that difficult to help kids develop a love of Shakespeare. The single greatest thing about his plays are that they are timeless... You can take any single one of them, stage them in modern-day designs, and their messages are just as fascinating and thought-provoking for people today as they were all those years ago.

It's all in the approach the teacher takes. Teaching The Bard is not for Lazy Sissies.

Kids will NOT enjoy Shakespeare if they are simply being forced to read it, and memorize a famous speech or two. Teachers need to make the text appealling, and bring it to life... they need to carefully explain the poetic language while firmly keeping their eyes on the plot, and bring out the emotions and messages...

This is no easy task for educators. This is highly creative, hard work, not Coles Notes. Making ANYTHING fun for kids takes imagination and effort. So, why not exert a little into the teaching of poor old "Billy the Shake"? He's got it ALL-- he's funny, he's romantic, he's action-packed... What more could you want?!


When it comes to William Shakespeare, give the kids costumes, not computer games. Or it will be our children's imaginations that are ultimately shot down, not just a couple of alien spaceships.

1 comment:

Multi-tasking Mommy said...

Your buttons weren't pushed at all with this, were they??? Wink ;)

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