Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Old School.

The kerfuffle over the last week about the decline in education standards, were physics students don't need to know any physics and other subjects are used as excuses to propagate political propaganda is pretty depressing. This vintage post ( almost four years ago ) by the National Review's wonderful John Derbyshire about an exam about Shakespeare that doesn't actually require any knowledge of the Bard's work needs a fresh airing:
It pains me to confess it, Andrew, but I actually wrote that examination paper. They offered a huge fee, and one must live.

Among other questions, the paper included:

King Lear-------This is about an old guy whose daughters are unkind to him. Do you ever have bad feelings about your own parents?

Othello---------A person of color, Othello is maliciously deceived into thinking his wife has been unfaithful. In what other ways have persons of color been mistreated in Western society?

Julius Caesar---There is a famous speech (no need to bother reading it) in which Caesar's friend skilfully whips up a mob to anger. Isn't this just like the demagoguery of so-called "talk radio" and Fox News Channel? Have you yourself ever felt angry listening to someone on TV?

Macbeth---------This play has some WAY cool witches in it. Describe any encounters you may have had with Wiccans, or other practitioners of alternative religions.

Richard III----------Contains the famous line: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" What did people use horses for in olden times? Try to think of lots of uses.

The Tempest----------It's about a magician who lives on an island with some other people, including a special person called Caliban. Describe your own experience of special people. Does your school have any programs to help special people?

Antony & Cleopatra---Have you ever been bitten by a small animal? Describe the experience...

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