Grief like waves

Today’s post isn’t necessarily about education, but then learning comes in all sorts of packages.

My lesson will come when I stand on a shore and call upon the waves to wash away all of my grief.

Alas, like Millay reveals in her poem, “Time does not bring relief; you all have lied” posted below, neither wave nor time can bring relief. After over ten years, I still miss my mom’s lilting voice and the way her smile lit up a space. And I miss my dad’s advice, strangely enough to say, and the deep voice that pauses in his poetry. I miss my grandmother’s strength and her get-it-done attitude. (She would’ve been a terrific spokesperson for Nike). I miss talking with my brother, who died just last month, who’s boasting politics made a long-distance relationship safer, but whose death took his humor and his family stories away.

Some say loss creates a huge hole in one’s life. But a hole implies absence and emptiness, and yet sometimes a loss is painfully present. The lie that time will heal hurts sometimes more than the wounds of a person gone from our lives.

Photo by Laker on Pexels.com

As the losses add up, including those beyond the physical death, those small ways we once connected–with a hug, a chat over coffee, a dinner with loved ones–our yearning grows powerful.

Today’s weeping rain nor the lure of standing on a shore may not be today’s lesson for you, but when those sleeper waves that will knock you on your keister (as my mom was fond of saying), take a look at Millay’s poem and the shore of your sorrow. On those days, the wave will try to drag you out to drown. Don’t let it. Instead, may you cling tight to the light of this world, back away from the edges, brush the sand off, and sit in the sun to feel its divine warmth. Explore the tidepools swirling with the happiness and sadness of life. Watch the birds and smell the sea. Allow your breath to follow the rhythm of the waves. No doubt, the past’s bitter loving will be heaped on our hearts. And likely, there will be future loving piled onto past wounds.

Today, I will dismiss the wish to remove the grief. I will look out to the horizon knowing Sun will set, throwing its special light across the sand. I will remember the darkness will come and recede, like the waves. And the surest feeling will come with the light that will spill into life again. Then I will stand to reclaim Life and hope you will too, to make ourselves anew.

“Time does not bring relief; you all have lied”

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied   
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!   
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;    
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,   
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;   
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.   
There are a hundred places where I fear   
To go,—so with his memory they brim.   
And entering with relief some quiet place   
Where never fell his foot or shone his face   
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”   
And so stand stricken, so remembering him. 

From Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Time Does Not Bring Relief” from Collected Poems.

Who Cares? I do.

While some in this country seem untroubled by their expressions of dogmatic beliefs, many students find writing with conviction and confidence so difficult. Why is that?

Taylor Mali, the slam poet and teacher once said, 

"In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?

Everyone has a story to tell. What humans have done matters, doesn’t it? Or have our school books and the loudest of demagogues led us away from such an obvious truth of what matters?

Recently, a writer came to me asking for ways to improve writing grades. Nothing new. The student was a competent writer, ticking most of the boxes to earn decent marks. Skipping over the concept that a grade is not sufficient impetus for improvement, we knuckled down to work to find what the essay might be missing.  

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Questioning Educational Compromise

Strong, cohesive families depend on compromises, long discussions, family meetings and more, especially when navigating those difficult years when our obedient kids reach a healthy phase of natural questioning and a quest of independence. Frankly, I’ve always believed questions to be a driving force for learning.

As a big proponent of finding middle ground when it comes to resolving conflicts, I still wonder at the compromises people are willing to make when it comes to education let alone other important matters in life. Certainly, I’ve made necessary compromises with my kids and husband:

"How about an early bath, so we can continue reading the book that we were reading yesterday?"  
"I know you're angry, but let's get a box that you can kick the life out of instead of the wall." 
"You chose last time, how about we let someone else choose the movie-dinner-outing location this time?"  

But are all compromises so worthy? Which compromises indicate a carelessness and permit us to opt out of significant discussions?

Why assume that the FAQs someone else wrote are the only important questions to ask?

When it comes to education, I don’t understand why so many seem so willing to compromise on important values. I’m not talking about the details of education– which book, which subject, which unit first. Details are often negotiable. Of course, teachers consider rooms of 30+ students, the administration’s directives and the concerns of society, especially those of parents. Plenty of our choices meet a trifecta challenge of money and time and energy. For now, let’s avoid the trite and often meaningless statements that adorn school webpages and walls — the ones that assure all children deserve an education, all children matter to us, etc. Vision should be more than a pithy pitch to parents.

Someone wise once spoke about living our values, asserting values should guide the trifecta. Our values guide our vision, so before we move to details, let’s ask what and why is our vision? What truly matters? If our our youth has been led away from learning, mustn’t we consider the possibility that we have crossed into a swampy land of too much compromise? Here are a few questions that might lead to questioning compromise and outlining the vision:

Why have we decided school start times and summers are sacred?  
What sacred cows are we holding onto that need reconsideration?  
Why have we decided those particular books are the most important and those standards are the only ones we're covering this year?  
Is cheating just another expression of learning? Or is it a sign of compromise?
What tests are we using and why? 
Why have we accepted failure in the system?
Does that activity build to our vision? 

In truth, I have always been one to question and fight against compromises that push against what we say we want to achieve. One small example of checking the compromise happened when my daughter transferred from a language immersion school (to capably speak more than one language) to an English-only school (to address her learning challenges). The following spring, the school insisted all students take the English-Only standardized exam. I asked why. After attending a parent meeting where the staff assured us that the kids had been convinced their scores mattered so that they would work to achieve the best scores for the school, I chose to take an anxiety ridden 3rd grader out of testing. Instead of a pointless exams over a week, we embarked on an educational trip in the nation’s capital. We visited the Smithsonian museums, the Lincoln and Jefferson monument and even slept in a hotel near the Arlington cemetery, giving us a hint of the sacrifice many made for this country. (Don’t let the expense of a major trip hold you back. There are plenty of local museums and opportunities for authentic learning where you live.). Each evening, we stepped into the refreshing pool easing our tired bodies and our minds that burst with knowledge.

Nearly three years after the D.C. trip, we pulled our daughter and son from school. Friends and family asked me why because they worried. They had never questioned the compromises. Despite years of our effort poured into classrooms and schools, our vision simply outgrew the model. For one, our vision didn’t include learning anxiety. We wanted better for them. We wanted our children to have an education that stoked a curiosity for life, soaked up the history of humanity, bloomed with compassion and creativity, and flourished into a full on passion for learning. All of this vision demanded active investment. At the outset, we were short on details, but we clearly recognized the vision.

I’m still stubborn on the vision. The joy of learning is paramount and my teaching reflects this goal. I request feedback from students and parents to help me improve the craft. I insist on communication to work out the kinks. I work hard to meet the vision.

If your vision includes a desire to grow curious, creative, challenged youth, then doesn’t it make sense to examine if their learning matches your vision?

I’m not suggesting everyone leave the classroom. Yet even if children are doing well on the tests, earning good grades on assignments and staying on track to go to a good college, we must not assume this means their learning fits the vision. A first step would be to look at the compromises made. Ask the questions to ensure the investment matches the vision. That the tasks are worth the time and energy. And while we’re at it, let’s not overlook those intangible standards that aren’t and can’t be tested. Our teachers deserve better than compromises for the sake of the system. And our youth deserve better.

Education is too important to fall into compromise year and year, generation after generation. Let’s start asking the questions –at PTA meetings, at teacher staff meetings, in our own homes, and in our own teaching– and insisting on good, solid answers.

And if the compromises are not worth the trade off, let’s make ready for change.

Soup’s On!

“Can soup lead to an enlightment?” While listening to a podcast, this notion of soup came up in a commercial promo. One thing led to another, the cold wind blew, the shivers crawled up my legs, I felt the blahs all over; I needed soup.

The first soup night came from a plate of raw prawns. My partner and I were about to cook the usual — homemade pesto and spaghetti squash with veggies on the side. The dish can be tasty but “been there, done that” lazily whined from the plate. I set to discover a new recipe. A few minutes and four shrimp soup recipes later, we set aside the Mexican Shrimp soup for another time. Thai Shrimp Soup called and we hurriedly gathered the ingredients as if they might run away from our pantry. Soon the smells of curry and onion filled our kitchen, the sizzling breaths of soup in a wok — it seemed the right thing to use– spurred us on. “When do we add the coconut milk? . . . Use a light touch on the prawns. . . . Is it spicy enough? . . . Is it soup yet?”

Thai Soup in a blog post? Why not? Does soup lead to enlightenment? Of sorts, I suppose. I did gain knowledge: different can be better, taking a lateral step isn’t a bad idea to avoid boredom, and a tasty Thai Soup can be incredibly easy to pull off on a winter’s night. I gained the warmth of a bowl of this and that, and had an awakening of sorts: suffering can end when a desire is fulfilled, albeit immediate hunger and a tongue hoping for tickled tastebuds.

Once upon a time some travellers came to a village looking for a bit of comfort, but the villagers were afraid.

I was hooked. The next day meant heading to the store primarily for dog food, but I filled up a few bags with other groceries and makings for my Papa’s favorite: Minestrone. My minestrone recipe has taken central stage at a number of family gatherings, partly because the recipe is easy. I like easy recipes that end in dishes that command attention and peals of good cheer. Over the years, the recipe has changed. I no longer add pasta and the bread on the side is now gluten free (adding herbs and onion was a good choice). I freely adapt to veggies on hand and use up spinach in the fridge.

Some things don’t change, though. When I sit with a bowl of this soup, I think of my Papa who is so far away and isolated because of the virus. Papa led the chapter of my minestrone fan club. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cook for him again because he’ll be 90 this year and I can’t visit until the virus is wiped out or down. Nevertheless, everytime I indulge in this soup I feel the warmth of his love in my heart. I know I fed him well when he lived nearby. There’s profound satisfaction in that notion.

Feeding others has a long history in my family — both anglo and latino grandmothers were insistent feeders. “Are you hungry? You must be starving! Why don’t I make a quick batch of tortillas while you’re here?” Grandmothers have passed on and my parents, too. Family has moved away. And I don’t have my Papa, (so much more than a stepdad), so I invited a close (and quaranteam) friend over for a bowl to celebrate her new job. Her happiness at the invitation for soup warmed both of us.

Does soup lead to an enlightenment? I’d like to think the answer depends on what we allow soup to give us. Comfort. Peace. Hope. An end to a moment of hunger. Companionship. Satisfaction in giving.

I can honestly say that I believe a warm bowl of soup with a lavish serving of generosity and reflection can lead us through the cold and darkness of a night and perhaps give us hope during a particularly troubling week when so much in the world seems out of whack. So why not enlightenment? Why not your troubles? I know a few out there who could use a dish of warmth and kindness. Time for soup!

What’s your favorite soup?

All things bright?

Merry Making is muted this year. I won’t belabor the reasons: the virus, the deaths, the fears. This year’s supper at our home will be held mid-day, weather permitting, fireside — patio fireside. My sister has created her own quiet way of marking the season. My brother remains in a hospital (not covid related they tell me), my Papa is on lock down in assisted living and expecting a visit from my beloved stepsister. But maybe we’ll zoom-call, as many families have been doing this year. Despite this one large difference, tradition still reigns. Tamales will be on the menu–though veggie and store bought– and I’ll cook the traditional fixings. Home-made iced sugar cookies (almost like we always made with mom) and hot cocoa will be featured to fight off any chill of the body or spirit.

In recent years, I have fought to find any remnants of Christmas spirit. Though Mom’s been gone about a decade, there are times I swear she took Christmas with her. Mom embodied Christmas. The Mom memory that comes up most often is the one where she walks through the door of what is now our family home. It’s dark outside, save for the Christmas lights that loops a tree, shines on the porch and adds sparkle to the garage. On any occasion, Mom is the brightest light. Tonight she’s wearing her Christmas red vest, her gold Christmas brooch and the biggest smile. She shouts, “Let’s get this show on the road!” a momism that’s akin to “It’s time to celebrate!” (though she did occasionally use the phrase for less celebratory events, such as clean up days). At the entertainment phase of the evening, she and my papa, both donning a faux straw hat and carrying a cane, dazzled us with cornball jokes. “What do you get when you cross a ….. with a ….?” she’d ask. “I don’t know. What do you get when you cross a … with a ….?” he’d reply waiting for her punchline before pretend guffawing. The first time they presented their shtick, we were rolling on the floor in tears. Who wants to follow that performance?

My daughter is the one that nudged Christmas along. She will always be my little Christmas elf.

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Will this be graded?

Take a deep breath. Exhale and repeat – every day a chalkboard that my daughter created reminds me to pause a moment. Allowing our minds to clear makes a lot of sense. So often we don’t. We endlessly move forward.

Inching my way to the finish line of 2020 and into plans for next the year, the personal and professional effort so many have invested into the year demands some words. Have our efforts been enough? Is there a level of effort that meets “enough” during these strange times? What if, for a moment, the mistakes we make negatively influence our final outcomes. A cook’s final rating is based on the frustrated attempts to master a dish. Authors’ novels are graded on the bad rough drafts. Our final assessment of the year focuses less on our successes and more on our failures.

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My year, like every year, has been fraught with mistakes. However, reaching out to teachers has been a plus. I search on Facebook and blogs to connect — being without actual collegial support next door has been new for many–to do a reality check, of sorts. I’ve read posts by teachers who are stretching beyond any sense of comfort zone, showing up despite covid fears, reminding us all to exhale and tap into banked lessons. I scooped up these.

Of course, there are the others. Those who have lashed out at kids for not showing up on-line, at administrators for not having their backs, at parents for not insisting kids do the work, and at everyone else for what is beyond anyone’s control. Those have been difficult to hear.

My favorites were the ones who revealed that grades hadn’t motivated kids. They were stunned. Actually surprised that many students aren’t doing the work. Far too long, schools have used extrinsic rewards to manipulate those in their charge. Points, candy, prizes for doing well seems like a good idea initially, but what do these things teach about learning?

I haven’t graded student work in long while. Part of this decision can be attributed to the trade off of choosing not to chase the public school paycheck, retirement and paid days off. (The nonsensical workload is for another post.) A few conventions have been relatively easy to discard: complicated rubrics was one of those. Grades were something I chipped away at, yet something I had long felt stood in the way of good education. Part of the decision not to grade is due to the moments relinquished, moments in which I deeply listened to myself, my students, and to educators.

While grades — or what Freechild refers to as “false measures of academic success” — have long been subjects of study, Alfie Kohn is the most outspoken advocate for eliminating grades from the educational system. For good reasons, he and his anti-grade disciples assert our five letter system is warping young minds, since grades can lead students to

  • Regard learning as a chore
  • Avoid challenging tasks
  • Think less deeply
  • Fall apart when they fail, and
  • Value ability more than effort

While Alfie Kohn has preached for some time to those who will listen, I suppose when Princeton Review reports that 90% of high schoolers in their survey stated grades are important and only 10% stated learning is important, the time is past for asking people to listen. Researchers like Carol Dweck understand this. Her research on Growth Mindset, along with Daniel Pink’s revelations on “if-then rewards” plumb deeper into education and expose the flaws of a system driven by grades, praise, and extrinsic rewards.

While much of what we know about about Dweck’s work doesn’t specifically mention grades, here’s what she tells her students on the first day of class: “Maybe your job was to get ‘A’s before you got here but that’s not your job any more. Your job is to become the person you want to be, the person who will make your contribution to society.” Dweck knows those who pursue grades, often don’t take risks. If education should be less about a letter or a number of points, then what is there to motivate our students?

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Daniel Pink’s work on motivation insists we focus instead on creating environments to support these. Making choices develops self government and self reliance. Students choose the pathways as goals to accomplish along with a teacher. Understanding the purpose of learning something gives students an understanding of the world they live in. For mastery, Pink says giving feedback is the critical step that generates student progress. They learn from their mistakes, their choices, their effort. We’d all do well to apply the research of Kohn, Pink and Dweck to our own lives, let alone our children’s.

Isn’t it time to surrender the old model of grades that give little meaning to real learning? Can we look instead to other models? How about asking students to create a learning portfolio? The portfolio might includes their mistakes and what they learned from them, the improvements made, the skills mastered, their on-going accomplishments and their continuing goals. These could be worth a grade, if we must hold onto the outdated system for some obvious reasons.

It would sad if we dwelled only the many mistakes committed this past year. Instead, let’s take a moment to breathe and exhale. Let’s focus on what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve learned and how we want to move forward. Let’s ask our youth to do the same.

Then the note came . . .

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
~George Bernard Shaw

Ever watch a show, feel your muscles tense, your jaw grip and want to scream, “Why doesn’t he just tell her?” I consider myself a writer and an avid reader, so I know how the story goes: mother doesn’t tell daughter something which becomes a buried secret and complicates life. Funny, since that’s sort of what’s happening in a novel I’m working on.

In stories, the lack of communication creates conflict, increases suspense and holds a reader or viewer in a vise of anticipation. But in real life, communication is the one thing we all need, and right now, it’s in short supply and made difficult with on-line shortcomings.

But little about communication is easy.

A parent emails me and lets me know, for example, her daughter felt upset when I commented on incomplete homework, when she believed she had completed everything. And I should consider myself fortunate, right? After all, communication is central to teaching and learning. She did the right thing by telling me.

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At first, I don’t feel good. I feel some vague threat that comes when a principal, a boss or an-always-must-be-right father has summoned me. I want to shout to parent, student and universe, “I’m doing the best I can do!” I might even stomp around (as in throw out the trash, put away the dishes) all quite loudly. I threaten to quit. Only when many other piles sprout dissatisfaction. Suddenly, I’ll make this radical shift and turn on me. “How did you mess up this time? Why do you expect so much from others? Can you be clear what it is you want?” I scan at Facebook or the news — both feel like punishments these days.

Finally, I take a breath. I lie down on the sofa or sit in my favorite chair. Browbeating myself is exhausting.

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The way it’s told becomes the story

Graphic Novel Tuesday

1:30-2:45 pm

Ages 13-16+ register now

I gasped out of breath from the run up the escalators. Then I saw it. Tears filled my eyes as I finally stood in front of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The luscious colors and thick brushstrokes swept across the painting. It was only for a few moments, as the museum was closing, but the impact lasted long after I walked into the night air of Paris.

Masterpieces of art are worth more than their parts.  My job as a parent included giving the experience of Van Gogh, Da Vinci, O’Keefe and many others to my daughter.  We have studied their genius up close.  My job as a teacher, on the other hand, has focused on words more than visuals. 

Yet, I manage to sneak the art in. This year, the agenda of my young writer’s class, called Merry Masterpieces, includes a new artistic masterpiece each week and the students vie to name the artist or artwork.  We haven’t yet analyzed the work, since the class is a writing one, but my teens have analyzed visual work.  Paintings along with iconic photographs of the twentieth century have spoken to us from their own moments in history.

Our era’s proliferation of images and visual media has changed the concept of being literate.  Our youth must be able to sort, view, use and produce visual content.  They must be able to read charts accurately to sort the intended data from the noise.  The Association of College and Research Libraries tells us we must all be able to recognize the language of the visual that can be manipulated to present any reality. Images craft challenges of complex contextual, metaphorical, and philosophical interpretation and underscore the active pursuit that involves questioning, speculating, analyzing, fact-finding, and categorizing of images.  As experts write about the value of visual literacy and decry the lack of visual literacy as a deficit that must be addressed, we are pushed to explore.

Graphic Novels is about visual literacy and more. 

Graphic Novels offer all that a traditional text can.  In reading these novels, students analyze not only the usual elements of plot, character, setting and theme, but they also possess us—in a good graphic novel—through visuals that speak in their own language. Within our personal associations with the images and text, they create meaning. There may be color, position within a frame, the use of panels, and many more tools the author/illustrator uses to communicate.  

Yet, beyond the formal analysis, lies the foundation of education: engaging with each other to gain understanding not based on memorization of facts but on critical intellectual inquiry and searching for the invaluable sparks of ‘ah-ha’ moments. This is what presses us to explore our inner reflections of our social and cultural existence, and to connect in a safe environment.

The genesis of this Tuesday’s Graphic Novel class came from a daughter of an educator friend of mine.  When I asked the teen the books she’d like to read, she didn’t reply.  I dug a bit to find that the teen didn’t think her kind of books would be something I would teach.  She’s taken a more traditional class from me, and she hadn’t grasped that I love using both traditional and non-traditional books in my teaching.  Since we’ve often been told they don’t count, I’m not surprised. (Both the they as in the readers who choose these books and the illustrated books chosen.) Barry O’Rourke writes, “Any deviation from the standard textbook is only recognized if the teacher (and parents) feel comfortable with it, and see it as a superior text.”

Adding this particular literary discussion and writing class to your teen’s schedule may be considered an act of resistance.

Graphic Novels aren’t found in traditional curriculum, except for those educators who push for their use, especially to engage so-called reluctant readers.  What are reluctant readers but those who haven’t found the book that speaks to them? Whether your teen is a traditional reader or a non-traditional reader, a reluctant reader, an avid reader, an artist, a talker, a shy reader, we welcome the ideas that can help us find the myriad of ways a story can be told.

To register for the Graphic Novel class leave a voicemail at 408-359-7268 and email scholarmentor@gmail.com. Meet in person masked or on-line.

More to explore

The Information Literacy Users Guide https://milnepublishing.geneseo.edu/the-information-literacy-users-guide-an-open-online-textbook/chapter/visual-literacy-applying-information-literacy-to-visual-materials/#footnote-55-31

Visual Literacy Task Force. “Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.” College & Research Libraries News 73, no. 2 (2012): 97–10

Zuern, John. “Diagram, Dialogue, Dialectic: Visual Explanations and Visual Rhetoric in the Teaching of Literary Theory.” In Visual Media in the Humanities: A Pedagogy of Representation, edited by Kecia Driver McBride, 47–73. Knoxville, TN: Univ. of Tennessee Press/Knoxville, 200, 47–48

Something Wicked – NY riots

In my last post on Shakespeare and American History, I ended before revealing the Astor Place riots in New York. I’m reading James Shapiro’s Shakespeare in a Divided America to glean the connection between Bard and America or as I read it, American racism through the lens of our love of Shakespeare. In the meantime, the current administration has signed up for patriotic curriculum which in its effort to cast history in the best light, leaves out crucial events.

Given this process of adding and subtracting history, it might be a perfect time to note Alexis de Tocqueville’s backhanded praise of the American theater as one of the few places that brought rich and poor together, where the rich deigned “to listen to the opinion” of the poor. Tocqueville wrote that democratic principles must be practiced where “ranks are intermixed” so “minds [. . . can be . . .] brought more nearly together.” At this moment in history, I am not sure of the likelihood of bringing Americans together.

What do 150 rich citizens seeking to establish Astor Place in 1847 have to do with divided America?

In what seems a defiant response to the Frenchman’s observations, 150 wealthy people invest in an enclave designed exclusively for they and their guests to “congregate under a splendid dome in a respectable quarter of the city.” Numbered seating, dress codes, and expensive tickets clearly signalled a step away from the democracy of theater and the “cohesion’ provided to a young republic that Tocqueville mentioned. Republic unity aside, Astor Place Opera House opened its doors to some.

As I read through the racial and class riots of the 1700 and 1800s, I’m uncertain if I feel relief that our present era isn’t the only one with racial and nationalistic strife, or if I feel deep sadness that the divisions are so entrenched in our nation’s history.

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What does the British Bard have to do with our history?

Shakespeare is quintessentially British. And though I adore many other stories — Anaya’s story of the young boy, Antonio, who grows up in the American southwest, Toni Morrison’s novels full of complex black characters, and Tan’s Joy Luck Club who rank in my top ten favorite stories, I met the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Shakespeare — not to mention British comedy– long before I knew about those authors. And while my heart is Latino, it has pumped its share of love for British Lit and its master playwright.

Each summer season, my family has joined many others who enjoy Shakespeare in the Park performances. And why not? It’s free. It’s fun. It’s educational. Since American schools deliver a regular dose of the bard each year, parents consider learning Shakespeare an essential component of a quality education. And while we can debate its prominence in education (as are many teachers in 2020), it is well documented that from our nation’s beginnings, Americans have enjoyed Shakespeare’s plays. Many would even claim the brilliant Bard as American.

In fact, the Beloved British Bard fits into American history. But do we know how the various beloved plays reflect American history and the roots of what we consider its current divisiveness? This is the very question James Shapiro explores in Shakespeare in a Divided America.

Once I felt called to include Shakespeare in my fall 2020 line up, I read everything Shakespeare that came my way. Shapiro’s book is one that tops that list. While I cannot possibly capture the history as Shapiro does, the highlights might inspire you to read his book or do you own research. From the moment I read what John Quincy Adams wrote about Othello, I was hooked.

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