Easy Button for the Bard

Bt w8, wuz dat lyt n d wndw ovr der?
Itz d east, n Juliet S d sun.

Shakespeare in Text-Speak.

That day has come.

Shakespeare in text-speak may be funny. It may be a clever nod to pop culture. It may be a reminder that 16th century language is no stranger than 21st century language. But it is not Shakespeare.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all in favor of new ways to get students interested in great literature.  And as I’ve written before, I thoroughly enjoy a good parody or clever application of new technology to literature.

I do…as long as the point is still to draw students in to the original literature, to spark interest and encourage them to delve deeper. You might start a prospective chef-in-training with a boxed cake mix, but you certainly don’t stop there.

The subtitle of the original article is, “Bard’s language poses challenge for teachers.” Though I agree with some of the article’s points, I have to ask, when did “challenge” become a dirty word?

Yes, the language is unfamiliar and can be difficult. Yes, Shakespeare wrote for performance, not reading (another false step in the way the Bard is often taught). But is it impossible for a ninth or tenth grader to understand Romeo and Juliet as written? No. Is it hard work? Yes.

The easy button has become a familiar icon since its appearance in commercials for Staples. Perhaps too familiar. Though we laugh at the ad, we also act as though its logic is true. In doing so, we forget that there is no easy button for learning.

In the midst of widespread emphasis on self-esteem and self-help, we treat students as if they are helpless and incapable of meeting high expectations.

The same problem holds true in other subjects, not just literature, but when Shakespeare is reduced to “bt w8, wuz dat lyt n d wndw ovr der,” the effects of reductionism in education become a little clearer.

Must be all the light coming in d wndw.


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