CH059: Where Education Begins & Ends

Season 10: Classical Thoughts on Why We Teach

Education in the broad, unspecialized sense is summed up as how to obey and how to rule.

One who rules without obeying is a tyrant, one who obeys without ruling is a slave.

And both truly all begins when young children learn to obey, because that requires the beginnings of learning self-control.

The most important part of education is right training in the nursery. – Plato, qtd in The Great Tradition

Sometimes it’s easy to sigh on a Tuesday morning and think, “What am I doing? What is the point anyway?”

Isocrates reminds us of the point – or, at least, one point.

The government of the state is handed on by the older men to the youth of the coming generation; and that since the succession goes on without end, it follows of necessity that as is the education of our youth so from generation to generation will be the fortune of the state.

Education creates society, for good or ill.

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Where Education Begins & Ends

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Simple Sanity Saver: Teaching Shakespeare

Shakespeare was meant to be seen. How many movie scripts make it into lit class? Not many at all; that Shakespeare does demonstrates his genius.Which would you prefer? Reading a movie script or watching the movie made from it? Of course we’d rather watch the movie because the movie is the point of the script. In the same way, Shakespeare was meant to be acted and interpreted. I absolutely love to watch multiple versions of a play and see how differences of inflection, of setting, and of context put completely different spins on the lines. This is the beauty of Shakespeare. None of them are “Right” (although some can be Wrong). Scripts allow actors room to interpret their characters and get into character, reflecting different facets of humanity as they do so. Is Hamlet’s ghost to be trusted? How that ghost is portrayed will affect how you feel about that central plot point. Shakespeare’s plays and themes are complex, as life and people are.

Always preview movies.

Of course you, as the parent, should always watch a Shakespeare production yourself before viewing it with your children. You know your children and your standards, so you need to preview movie options in light of those. Violence, bawdiness, even nudity are all issues in many Shakespeare videos, and there are also many that make Shakespeare feel dull and confusing. You’re going for an experience that will leave your children with a positive enjoyment of Shakespeare, so watch the movie options beforehand and try to find ones that will be a good fit for your family. There are a number of movie versions that I enjoy that I wouldn’t let my kids watch, but there are some we’ve watched as a family.

Your mileage, of course, may vary. I’m not promising you or yours will like them. If you can’t find a movie you can endorse in its entirety, sometimes you can watch brief clips on YouTube. Something is better than nothing: the kids need to see that Shakespeare was written to be done and not just endured.

Check for live productions.

Movies are not actually the only way to watch Shakespeare performed. Before film, there was still theater. As an added bonus, many school or local groups will refrain from excessive violence or lewdness in their plays, at least in our town. High schools, local theaters, and area acting companies are all likely places to find the occasional Shakespeare play. I have sometimes chosen the play we read in school based on what will be performed locally. Ask around and see if there are groups you don’t know about yet.

Download the lesson plans and memory sheets:

How to have fun with Shakespeare for kids simply and easily, even if you think it's too hard – it's not!
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