Monday, 7 July 2008

How to bore a five year old

Shakespeare has both great stories and fantastic writing. And if you see some of the best actors performing it, either on the stage or film, then it is truly magical.*

I was lucky enough to have a superb English teacher for O level called Watson Weeks who was also a Shakespearean actor. He brought the plays alive for me as never before. I also had a number of truly dreadful English teachers who bored me rigid and almost killed off any liking for literature and drama.

That's why I'm hugely sceptical about the Government plans for teaching original language Shakespeare for children as young as five. As the person from the English teachers association says:
"It's all down to the approach. You can bore people of any age with the wrong approach and you can enthuse people of any age with the correct one."
So hooray for the one in five kids (at most) who have a great English teacher.

* note - does not include Keanu Reeves


James Shaddock said...

I see your point, but I think we need a more culturally rounded education system rather than the 'teach then test' system we currently have and exposing kids at a young age to Shakespeare is a step in the right direction.

The only downside I can see is some parents and the right wing media being outraged at the sex and violence in some of works, and thus trying to unjustly censor it.

Liberal Neil said...

But why is the Government so obsessed with children being exposed to Shakespeare above other writers?

Personally I love the bard and have done so since reading Julius Ceasar as part of my English Literature O Level course.

But it never struck me as being ideal fodder for primary school children.

Nor that there was any necessity for Shakespeare to be part of every English course ever - we have thousands of great writers to choose from.

The Government should drop its obsession with a) Shakespeare and b) interfering to this level of detail.

Lee Griffin said...

James: As Neil says, what does Shakespeare exactly have to offer that other authors...perhaps authors more accessible to 5 year olds...haven't?

I would fully endorse in depth teaching of things like Harry Potter as it would enable an easy route of teaching philosophical basics, relationships, law and order, compassion, etc through a language and subject that is easy to motivate children and engage with them.

But instead we have a group of people somewhere in an ivory tower that say Shakespeare is the be all and end all (and don't get me wrong, he was bloody good), completely forgetting what is best for the children. It's the same sort of ignorance that "teach and test" was born out of, so it can't be any better.

James Shaddock said...

Well, it doesn't have to be just Shakespeare. It can be Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Orwell, Marquez etc etc.

I agree that we should stop interferring, but I believe that children of all ages should be exposed to as much culture as possible, be it music, art or in this case literature. As such, the state should at least provide the means and opportunity for this.

Arwen said...

I look forward to seeing you, Uncle Alex, trying a bit of this out on your nephews ... probably quite a marketable form of baby-sitting! ;)