Shakespeare in the Basement

Posted: May 1, 2007 in Education, Tacky

Here’s a questionable development: a new videogame has been released that uses facts, lines of text, and problem solving from Shakespeare plays to entertain gamers teach gamers about the Bard.

While zapping enemy spaceships players have to help recover the stolen text of Romeo and Juliet by memorizing lines from the famous play, learning facts about Shakespeare’s life and devising synonyms and homonyms for parts of the text.

How desperate have educators become when they resort to this sort of pablum? Spin it and dress it up however you wish, it’s a reckless admission that Shakespeare holds no intrinsic value (must be reshaped as a videogame — the proverbial spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down) and that students can’t learn unless they’re pandered to. Take Shakespeare out of the basement and put on the plays in the park or on a formal stage. They’re pretty compelling.

Update: It seems things get worse, or better, depending on one’s point of view. Educators are now using a videogame called Dance Dance Revolution in physical education to entice students into aerobic activity, and the kids are loving it. According to the article in the Herald Tribune,

“Traditionally, physical education was about team sports and was very skills oriented,” said Chad Fenwick, who oversees physical education for the Los Angeles Unified School District, where about 40 schools now use Dance Dance Revolution. “What you’re seeing is a move toward activities where you don’t need to be so great at catching and throwing and things like that, so we can appeal to a wider range of kids.”

and in a confluence of ideas with the previous entry on competition:

As Leighton Nakamoto, a physical education teacher at Kalama Intermediate School in Makawao, Hawaii, put it: “The new physical education is moving away from competitive team sports and is more about encouraging lifetime fitness, and D.D.R. is a part of that. They can do it on their own, and they don’t have to compete with anyone else.”

As with the Shakespeare example above, the implicit admission of failure to teach that accompanies the new emphasis on videogames just floors me. Do none of these professional educators realize that, collateral benefits notwithstanding, they are in actuality teaching kids to play videogames?

That’s not an educational goal!

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Comments
  1. greywhitie says:

    you should try ddr sometime, brutus. it is not the kind of video game you think. it can track the number of calories burned as well as monitor other things. i find it to be rather good arobic exercise, and i am not even a teenager.

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