The weight of this sad time we must obey

Some time ago I had to call my phone provider to find out international roaming rates for my phone when in Italy.

The person on the other end of the call explained to me that my phone would work (not my question) in Europe but not in Italy.  The list of countries included Europe, but not Italy.

I asked her if she was aware that Italy was a country included in the continent called Europe. 

This was real news!  News met with skepticism, I might add.

I have great sympathy for this note from Argent By The Tiber:

Not a good sign

…calling the local store of a national bookseller chain:

Argent: Do you have an individual copy of Shakespeare’s King Lear?
Bookseller: Who? How do you spell that?
Argent (trying hard not to laugh): King Lear. K-I-N-G L-E-A-R.
Bookseller: Hang on. (typing sounds) Ah, you’re in luck. We do have a copy.
Argent: Thank you. I’ll be right there.
Bookseller: No problem.

Okay, is Shakespeare not taught in schools anymore?


Along with many other things, I suspect very little Shakespeare is presented to students in many schools…. even in movie versions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TNCath says:

    Shakespeare is taught, but very few students are learning much of anything these days, at least in public schools, that is. We are on a very slippery slope educationally and live in a world where nobody has the patience or the desire to study anything in depth. Student attention spans are extremely short, thanks to these “breakthroughs” in communication called the Internet, e-mail, and Twitter. I realize that my use of technology makes me a hypocrite, but thank God I learned to read and write before all these “advances” came along, which have actually hindered communication.

  2. TNCath: If the students are not learning, it is because they aren’t being taught.

  3. Now, come on. It’s legitimate for a harried kid to ask how something is spelled. It might have been “leer” or “Lir”. There’s probably more books in the store containing Manannan mac Lir than Lear, actually.

    But when people answering phones ask you how something’s spelled, it usually means, “Please enunciate”, “Turn up the volume on your phone”, or “You have a strong accent and I can’t understand a thing you’re saying.”

  4. TNCath says:

    Fr. Z writes: “If the students are not learning, it is because they aren’t being taught.”

    By the time I get them in high school, many students are incapable of learning Shakespeare because they never learned to read, write, or reason properly. But, they certainly can Twitter and text message. It all fundamentally goes back to the home environment, and schools will not challenge parents. Hence, public education is a national, cultural disaster.

  5. JohnMa says:

    In the public school district I attended Shakespeare was not taught at all to “regular” students. Only “gifted” students received one semester fo Shakespeare.

  6. mitch_wa says:

    Where I attended school everyone had to read at least Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. In my AP class we read King Lear.

  7. Jenny says:

    I graduated in 1995. At my school, we had one Shakespeare play each year except for the senior year when we had two. My brother graduated in 2001 from a different school. I think he only had Romeo and Juliet. That’s it. But he had a ton of multicultural drivel. Literature was chosen by the skin complexion of the author, not the value of the piece. Both were public high schools in the same school system, but had vastly different standards and expectations. It is my opinion that he suffers to this day from his inferior high school experience.

  8. Bos Mutissimus says:

    That’s Nothing! When I was at Camp Lejeune, NC (over ten years ago), we’d frequent a bookstore (major chain that shall remain Nameless — I wouldn’t give it away for a MILLION dollars….) in J-ville.

    Once, I saw in the Fiction / Lit section — filed alpha by author — a book entitled “Miguel Cervantes” (obviously a biographical novel) by that famous author Don(ald) Quixote.

    Yes. It was filed under “Q.”

  9. irishgirl says:

    I attended high school in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Shakespeare plays I studied in my English classes were Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and The Tempest.

    I didn’t have the multicultural ‘drivel’ [good one, jenny!] that high schoolers have shoved down their throats these days. I had one semester as a senior of ‘Contemporary Reading and Writing’-I don’t remember now what authors were studied, though.

  10. emily13 says:

    A classmate of mine (School of Social Work at University of Pittsburgh) is doing a class project on English curriculum at Pittsburgh Public Schools and made a comment about changing the language of Shakespeare so that kids will want to read it, because if you leave it in “old English” they won’t read it. Sad commentary in more ways than one…including the fact that Shakespeare did not write in old English.

  11. kab63 says:

    Our (homeschooling) family will watch both Olivier’s and Branagh’s versions of Henry V on Sunday, St. Crispin’s Day. Join in!

  12. TMA says:

    Perhaps this would be a good time to re-visit The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy L. Sayers:

  13. Sieber says:

    A local news item several years ago noted that a course in Shakespeare was no longer required for a degree in English at UCLA.

  14. Torpedo1 says:

    that is just so sad. In college for my major in English, I had to take not one, but two Shakespeare courses. the second class I took was great because we got to read plays that I don’t think a lot of people read. I loved “Measure For Measure.” I also had to take a medieval lit course. I loved it. We got to read things like Chaucer in the actual middle English. It was awesome. Sigh… kids don’t read anymore.

  15. Sieber: I bet they have to study Elizabeth Alexander.

  16. Francisco Cojuanco says:

    Remarkably for a public school (not too long ago), they made us all at least have a nodding familiarity with Shakespeare, and being in the school’s Theater troupe, we performed Shakespearean plays regularly for the other students. Not to mention we would have touring companies occasionally make stops to perform more of the plays… seriously, if you weren’t at least somewhat familiar with the Bard, you would have been living under a rock.

    So things seem to be improving… whether this will sustain itself in these hard times…

  17. Templar says:

    Much is dependent upon the individual. I have 4 children. The oldest, at 16, loves language and has taught himself German by reading Goethe; is in his second year of Latin in school; and dabbles in translating Norse poetry. To describe him as a voracious reader would be an understatement. he also sends about 9000 text messages a month to his friends and is a wizard on any number of games on his XBox360. He is mature beyond his years, very responsible for his age, and has floated the idea on more than one occasion of attending Seminary.

    My second child is 14. Is as gifted a writer as I have ever met, but is rude, flippant, and profane, and cares little to nothing for grades and rules and is the source most of my diminishing supply of gray hair.

    Both children are products of the same environment and same schools.

    It is not always the school system, or even the parents, fault. Sometimes children are just different.

    PS: The other 2 are also unique an mercifully none yet exhibits the issues of the 14 year old. Deo Gratias

  18. GOR says:

    “I asked her if she was aware that Italy was a country included in the continent called Europe…”

    Heh, heh. Reminds me of an incident many years ago. Traveling north from Green Bay, WI in the UP of Michigan my radiator sprung a leak in the middle of nowhere – actually about 25 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie. No problem, I thought, I’ve got AAA, so I’ll call them. The following ensued:

    Me: “My radiator is kaput. I need a tow.”
    AAA Operator: “What is your location?”
    Me: “About 25 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie.”
    AAA Operator: “Is that in the United States…?”
    Me: “Last I checked, Michigan was still part of the Union…”
    AAA Operator: “We don’t have any towing service in that area.”
    Me: (expletives deleted)…

    Needless to say, I never renewed my AAA membership after that!

  19. germangreek says:

    An issue of National Review in the late ’60s reported a student walking into the Oxford University bookstore and requesting a Greek New Testament. The attendant disappeared into the storeroom, reappeared a few minutes later with the observation that “Greek must be only language the New Testament hasn’t been translated into.”

  20. Baron Korf says:

    Romeo and Juliet – Freshman year
    Julius Caesar – Sophomore year
    MacBeth and some Sonnets – Senior year

    I graduated in ’02,

  21. Alice says:

    I had no Shakespeare in high school not so long ago. The Traditional Catholic Homeschooling program we used still does not offer any Shakespeare in its high school literature program. Sadly, I do not recall it being on the suggested extra reading list either. I do know how to spell King Lear, though. :)

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