Re: snapshots

John Oughton (john.oughton@SHERIDANC.ON.CA)
Tue, 9 Jan 1996 10:58:01 -0400

.Interesting story from Steve Krause about Bob and his disdain for
Shakespeare and his younger students' respect for the same great works. I'm
not suprised. Individual examples, anecdtotes (mine included) aren't going
to mean much in the tricky business of establishing whether literacy levels
have changed, and, if so, how. Only quantifiiable results (and how do you
quantify literacy?) for substantial groups of people and similar kinds of
tests over decades, are going to mean much.
I had one student ask me why we don't teach Shakespeare courses at our
college, as he wanted one. I had a colleague (who teachs program, or
vocational, courses) get up on his hind legs at a faculty meeting about
general education and say, "We don't want our students wasting their time
with Sheakespeare." Nobodby had suggested a Shakespeare course in the
latter case.
Let me try a countervailing anecdote to Steve's. One of my colleagues
asked his class who Moses was (he had in mind the Biblical guy). Only two
students raised their hands -- both thought he was a reggae meusician. Do
you think someone from Bob's age group -- those in their fifties -- would
draw the same blank? Granted, they've been around a lot longer, and should
have picked up more cultural clues like that from their experience. Maybe
fewer people go to Sunday School now, or read the Bible, or watch Charlton
Heston movies (for sure!). But if the scribe of the Ten Commandments and
the leader of the Israelites' expedition from Egypt isn't an important
figure in western culture, I wonder who is?