Can my students read Shakespeare?

by Mr. Sheehy

There is a book out called The Dumbest Generation. It’s actually a pretty thoughtful book, from what I can tell, discussing the problems with social media and giving ourselves too wholly to time-consuming socializing with computing devices.

Yet for a teenager it cannot feel too good to be given a title intentionally meant to contrast with their great grandparents, the Greatest Generation. In his introduction to The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction Alan Jacobs observes that many of his students have come to believe a bit of the hype regarding their generation’s intelligence: “Told over and over again that they can’t read, they begin to wonder why they should even try.” Perhaps they can’t read as well as their grandparents? Perhaps they have been so distracted for so long that they aren’t that smart? Perhaps, when it comes to things Shakespeare, they’ve got no chance in adding to the world’s fill of insight?

I’ve got one word for them if they think that: Hogwash.

Sure, we could do things better in education and our students could certainly learn more than they do. Sure, we could all benefit with a little discipline regarding these contraptions that surround us. But also sure, with a little discipline and effort, the difficult can be possible. Just ask Danny MacAskill:

My students are going to read Shakespeare, and I predict they’re going to love it. They’re going to understand it; they’re going to memorize part of it; they’re going to bring something insightful, and maybe even new, to the text.

I love my job. May the year begin.