Imprimis: Links and Tidbits, 25 February 2011

The links this week have a somewhat historical bent — using Shakespeare to find connections between the past and the present.

  • The New York Times assembled a look at how politicians on both sides of the aisle around the time of the American Civil War used Shakespeare in their arguments: “In a different age, politicians quoting Shakespeare might not have gotten far with voters; in Bard-mad 19th-century America, it was a sure way to win over a skeptical audience.”
  • The Tempest and Thomas Jefferson: The University of Houston hosted a two-day seminar on bringing together ideas of political theory and Renaissance literature, including a lecture on Shakespeare’s influence on Thomas Jefferson. Cass says: Shakespeare, politics, and my beloved TJ? I’m not sure how you get much better than that.
  • We’re seeing more and more this year about the King James Bible, as 2011 marks its 400th anniversary. This article posits an interesting link between Shakespeare and the KJB, particularly in regards to teaching: “A gay, Jewish professor of mine once observed that he proferred teaching English literature in bible-belt colleges in his native US rather than in east-coast liberal arts institutions (or, indeed, English universities in south-west England) because the students ‘got so many of the references easier’.” Cass says: I was actually discussing this with a few friends just the other day, and it’s part of why I feel comparative religions should be mandatory in high schools. Students should be able to understand the references at the heart of so many different cultures — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, pagan — they’re all part of literature’s heritage. Regardless of what or whether you believe in any, all, or none of them, you should at least know the stories.
  • Tom Hodgkinson, owner and operate of the New Idler’s Academy, has opened a 18th-century style coffee house in London, where he hopes to host lectures, discussions, and lessons on such varied and oft-esoteric topics as philosophy, grammar, Latin, rhetoric, maths, carpentry, and gardening. He states, “The taste for public learning is definitely coming back… Over the last half-century, an odd division has grown up between two forms of education: one supposedly old-fashioned, didactic and bloodless; the other progressive, relative, and depressingly fact-free. There’s no reason why intellectual instruction shouldn’t be entertaining as well as rigorous.” Cass says: Sounds like the kind of place I’d love to spend my time. And if you need to fly someone in to talk about rhetoric, I’d cheerfully volunteer!
  • Another take on educational reform, via Jamie Oliver, the “Naked Chef.” He brings folks from the tops of their professions in to work with kids who have failed out of school. Sarah says: I particularly like what the kids have to say about the experience at the end of the article.
  • The Edmonton Journal declares “Pursuit of knowledge just as worthy as pursuit of career.” Cass says: I could just weep with happiness when I see that sentiment shared by others, because it’s 100% exactly what I believe. Education for its own sake has value.

Have a good end-of-February, everyone — can you believe it’s almost March? ASC Education unanimously agrees that this is clearly nonsense, as surely it was the New Year just yesterday.