‘You will, generally, be rewarded for originality, but the crazier your argument is, the better your reasoning should be’.
Originally intended as a confidence-builder for the chronically-tentative, it’s become a cliché in my teaching that ‘in English, there’s no such thing as a wrong answer’. Increasingly, though, and especially at A Level, I’m finding it necessary to qualify that empowering notion.Perhaps students were getting a little too emboldened, as we’ll see below.Just as Squealer in Animal Farm reminds us that ‘Some animals are more equal than others’, some answers are – obviously – better than others. [a]
Almost organically, as I refined the concept, it came to be known as The Continuum of Plausibility™.I’ve been using the term here, off and on, for a while now without properly explaining it, so here goes.
Should I oppose the slings and arrows of teaching the same thing year in, year out?
… THAT is the question occupying my thoughts at the moment.
No, this isn’t a Machiavellian masterplan for world domination (although see below, perhaps it’s just part of one).
What you see above is the bare bones of a 12-week (forty-eight lesson!) Scheme of Work on Julius Caesar that I’ve been toying with producing over the summer. I’m hoping for advice – not just on the skeleton of the scheme (although that would be highly appreciated), but on whether or not to bother …
Hot ice and wondrous strange snow: the appetite for articulation …
Frequently, I ask my class to step into the time machine and join me back in 1592.
Conveniently, it’s as close as we can get to dating both Richard III and Edward II, my Key Stage 5 texts. The other plays I teach at the moment – Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth – follow on from here.
This period was a crucible in which Drama as we know it was being born, alchemically transmuted from the didactic Morality Plays into something fresh and exciting. With my Marxist critical hat on, if we can understand the contextual elements poured into that cauldron, we can better appreciate and analyse the resultant heady brew.
For too many of the 600,000 students who sit that GCSE, it’s their final taste of Shakespeare …
Shakespeare is the only author that everyone over here has to study. Unless, it appears, you live in Scotland (and someone might be able to correct me on that if I have misread the SQA specification) …
‘For divers unknown reasons‘ as Richard III would say, I’ve been engaged in a little research of what our exam boards offer at Key Stage 4 – that is for the 15/16 year-olds who sit their GCSE English Literature. I think it throws up some interesting points:
Love it, hate it? Just try it, and see what happens …
Stephen Greenblatt: Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, (Bodley Head: London, 2018). ISBN: 9781847925046.
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I probably need to declare my bias, not least for new visitors.
I’m an unashamed socialist (I don’t understand how an educator could be otherwise, given that our efforts benefit society more than ourselves); I’m anti-Brexit in the UK, and anti-Trump in the US. One of my most popular blog posts, from two years ago, equated Richard III with Trump. “I am unfit for state and majesty” indeed …
Why’s it taken me so long to get this one written? To get this play finished? To ‘officially’ say goodbye to Richard II for a few years, given I have no opportunity to teach it at either GCSE or A Level? That question probably contains its own answer.
Or, the fact that it’s Romeo and Juliet next …
You know – if you’ve been reading along – how deeply I feel an affinity for Richard’s journey. Perhaps when I (eventually) get to the end of the PTS I’ll reflect that the ‘most important things are the hardest things to say‘, as Stephen King tells us [a]. It’ll be interesting to look back and see whether the plays I found harder to connect with came and went rather quicker.
“Let’s leave politics out of Shakespeare” … Hello? Hello? Anybody in there?
If I had a pound for each time I was challenged, ‘What’s Shakespeare got to do with me?‘, this blog would have more bells and whistles on it, as well as many more posts to reflect not having to work for a living.
This week’s post was prompted in part by reading somewhere in my recent internet travels, the notion of ‘keeping politics out of Shakespeare.’ That plus a ‘setting the world to rights‘ drinking session which was actively, intensely political, and which was also chock-full of Shakespearean dilemmas and situations.