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Education Communications

Literature Teeters on the Edge of a 'Gr8 Fall' 459

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the sh4k3sp34r-w45-1337 dept.
aicrules writes "Yahoo news is reporting that the great works of literature often read and discussed by the brighter of our up-and-comers could be the latest victim of reaching the lowest common denominator at the potential expense of everyone. The article describes the efforts of Dot Mobile to make such literary masterpieces as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet more accessible. From the article, 'We are confident that our version of 'text' books will genuinely help thousands of students remember key plots and quotes, and raise up educational standards rather than decrease levels of literacy,'"
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Literature Teeters on the Edge of a 'Gr8 Fall'

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  • by BushCheney08 (917605) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:17PM (#14046061)
    And this mindlessness is exactly the sort of thing that will push it over...

    Here's a message for them: Lrn2RdFlBks. UGtMrFrmIt.
    • ``Fake'' books of jazz and pop tunes with dumb chords substituted, simplified classical pieces that are easier to play, etc.

      If you can have a dumbed-down Bach or Beethoven as a ring tone on your phone, why not a dumbed down Jane Austen or Dostoyevsky on your bookshelf? :)
      • by lxt (724570) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:44PM (#14046317) Journal
        Why dont you actually learn what a fake book is before commenting? A proper fake book takes *skill* to play well. You don't get the "dumb chords"...in fact, all you're given is the melody line - a single tune, along with chords in text running along the top. It's up to you, the (typically piano) player to improvise the accompianment, harmony, vamps, and the like. There's a pretty big difference between a proper jazz fake book and the dumbed down classical books you're describing - nobody actually wrote down many of the jazz tunes in the fake books properly, and they're often carefully (and it used to be illegally) transcriped and published by jazz players.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I totally agree with your sentiment. However, it should be noted that not all "fake books" are dumbed down versions. They generally contain jazz standards, which require full skills to read and play.
      • by mopslik (688435) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:48PM (#14046360)

        ...why not a dumbed down Jane Austen or Dostoyevsky on your bookshelf?

        I guess Dostoevsky's The Idiot will be appropriately titled.

      • by djtack (545324) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:42PM (#14046891)
        My personal favoride abridged book:The Silmarillion in 1000 words [livejournal.com]
        AINULINDALE:

        ILUVATAR: Ahem.
        AINUR: Wow! Existence!
        ILUVATAR: *blows pitch pipe* LA!
        AINUR: LA LA LA!
        ILUVATAR: LA LA!
        AINUR: LA LA!
        MELKOR: This sucks. BUM BUM BA DUM!
        AINUR: Um. . . la?
        ILUVATAR: Ahem. LA!
        MELKOR: Boop bop-a-doo-bop!
        ILUVATAR: LA, dammit.
        MELKOR: Bwam bardle ningle boom.
        AINUR: . . .
        ILUVATAR: Right, you're out of the band.
        MELKOR: Fine, I was leaving anyway.
        AINUR: . . .
        ILUVATAR: What are you waiting for?
        AINUR: Oh. Right. Newly created world. Sorry. Great jam session, big guy!
        ILUVATAR: Yeesh.
        .
        .
        .
    • by s20451 (410424) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:39PM (#14046284) Journal
      Lrn2RdFlBks. UGtMrFrmIt

      "Learn to read, fullbacks"? I hardly think it's fair to blame college sports.
    • by sczimme (603413) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:39PM (#14046287)

      From the Fine Article (and the summary):

      'We are confident that our version of 'text' books will... raise up educational standards rather than decrease levels of literacy"

      Wow, that's good news. I was afraid they would raise the standards down.

      • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:18PM (#14046666)
        Seriously, though, how is encouraging students to read in l33t sp33k "raising educational standards"? The only educational standard that's being addressed is grammar and spelling: not only are these great works being themselves butchered, but they're discouraging students from actually *reading* the originals - unless, of course, they're like me and can't read l33t at all, and need the originals like the Rosetta Stone to translate these cryptic messages appearing on their cell phones

        What use is it to teach kids about masterpieces of English literature without teaching them how to properly read them? As far as I'm concerned, this is doubleplusungood. You want kids to get more into Shakespeare? Take them to see a play, which is how Shakespeare intended us to experience his works! Hell, even watching BBC's Pride and Prejudice is better than "Evry1GtsMaryd."

      • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:28PM (#14046758)
        It reminds me a heck of a lot of the speech Captain Beatty gavein Fahrenheit 451, where he talks about how this line offended a group, so it got trimmed, that line bothered someone else who didn't understand it, so it got nixed, and so on, until it got to the point where nobody had the patience to read the whole work, and eventually, books were eliminated (in the film, newspapers were in comic form without any words). Contrary to what some have said in other threads, Shakespeare is not that hard to understand -- if you're willing to make an effort at first, it gets easy once you get over that "hump".

        I don't think we'll lose the classics, but I think we're heading toward a tiered society (if we're not there already) composed of the literate and well educated and the underclass who stay in non-thinking jobs, a lot like Metropolis.

        Whenever I read news like this, I want to write Ray Bradbury and say I knew he was right from when I first read F451, and it's a damn shame he wasn't wrong.
        • Whenever I read news like this, I want to write Ray Bradbury and say I knew he was right from when I first read F451, and it's a damn shame he wasn't wrong.

          Oh, I'm sure he's gotten a few thousand versions of that letter by now.
        • by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @05:26PM (#14047841) Homepage
          I don't think we'll lose the classics, but I think we're heading toward a tiered society (if we're not there already) composed of the literate and well educated and the underclass who stay in non-thinking jobs, a lot like Metropolis.

          There has never been a time or a place where this has not been the case. Literature, the arts and so on has always been a matter for a cultural "elite" (and I don't mean it in the republican/conservative sense) and the low-to-middle class people that aspire to it.

          If an artform, or a particular piece of art, has genuine, lasting mass appeal, it is normally exorcized from the "canon" and not longer a part of that which you "should" aspire to know. The whole point of Great Literature (as opposed to great literature) is to separate Those Who Have Read It from the unwashed masses who cheerfully haven't.

      • by c0d3h4x0r (604141) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:47PM (#14046945) Homepage Journal
        'We are confident that our version of 'text' books will genuinely help thousands of students remember key plots and quotes, and raise up educational standards rather than decrease levels of literacy,

        Since when is thoughtless memorization of plots and quotes educational? Isn't the point of studying literature to learn how to think analytically, read between the lines, address social issues, and use language effectively?

        I think teaching the "classics" is a bad approach to begin with. The classics are so out-of-touch with modern society and culture that the qualities that made them great at the time are almost completely lost on modern students unless they also invest huge amounts of time understanding the language and culture of the era. There's plenty of modern, current-day writing of outstanding quality, which could serve all the same instructional purposes while also actually being interesting and easily related to by students.

        • I think teaching the "classics" is a bad approach to begin with. The classics are so out-of-touch with modern society and culture that the qualities that made them great at the time are almost completely lost on modern students unless they also invest huge amounts of time understanding the language and culture of the era.

          They are not out of touch with modern society, because so much of human society never changes. People are no more nor less pious, brutal, kind, evil, wise, or merciful than they ever wer
    • by Rei (128717)
      Here comes some of the illiterate ilk! I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.
      • Parent post is a prime example of why the moderations should be rewritten in the same manner as the classics, so the mods will actually understand the choices. May I suggest:

        +1, LOL
        +1, OMG
        +1, YA
        +1, TEHW1N
        -1, WTF
        -1, STFU
        -1, PWNED
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:17PM (#14046066) Homepage Journal
    People have been condensing things like this for humor for years. Ophelia's last line: "Glub!" And remember the story about consensing the Lord's Prayer into a text message? (I think it had lines like "God, UR GR8")

    So we take something that's been used for humor, and use it for Cliffs Notes instead. Big whoop. No one is going to think that the summaries are the original works. I mean, anyone who has taken a logic class has come up with "2B v ~2B"

    Although it does remind me of the time in high school when we were reading Romeo and Juliet aloud in class. I read Mercutio's "Queen Mab" speech, got through the whole thing, then looked at the footnotes, and had the reaction, "I said what?!?!?" (From then on, I read the footnotes with the text, not afterward.)

    • The only way I got through the Bard's plays were Cliff's Notes.

      The Cliff Notes were usually longer than the play itself, but you could follow the cliff notes.
      • by bman08 (239376) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:30PM (#14046187)
        I first read MacBeth as a comic book. Then I saw the porno version. By the time I got around to the real play, I had a foundation to follow the non-x-rated action.
      • ...Shakespeare was not difficult to follow. Dostoevsky fucked me over, though. I could never remember who was who. I often wondered why Russians only had about 4 possible first names to choose from and 4 possible last names, for a grand total of 64 possible combinations. All of which were used in Crime and Punishment, and almost none of which more than twice.

        Then again, that was about 6 years ago, and I haven't bothered to read it since, and I'm also exaggerating, but still. Shakespeare was not diffi
      • by Kelson (129150) * on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:52PM (#14046387) Homepage Journal
        The thing with Shakespeare -- or any play, for that matter -- is that you're reading a script. A script isn't meant to be read, it's meant to be performed. You might as well try to follow a symphony by reading the sheet music.

        A good troupe of actors with a good director can take even the archaic language of four centuries ago and perform it in a way that's easy to follow and, believe it or not, entertaining. Action, body language and inflection can do wonders for making the meaning clear.
        • A good troupe of actors with a good director can take even the archaic language of four centuries ago and perform it in a way that's easy to follow and, believe it or not, entertaining.

          A few years ago, my then-girlfriend dragged me to see Romeo + Juliet [imdb.com] (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes). As much as I hate to admit it, it was a fun movie. They used the dialog from the original - unedited - but it was exceedingly easy to follow.

          A little bit of acting can go a long way. That movie would neve

        • A good troupe of actors with a good director can take even the archaic language of four centuries ago and perform it in a way that's easy to follow and, believe it or not, entertaining. Action, body language and inflection can do wonders for making the meaning clear.

          So, I guess any Shakespearean movie with either Keanu Reaves or Ben Afleck would be out of the question then? [shudders violently] "Avaunt ye horrible shadow!"

      • by Omestes (471991) <omestes @ g m a il.com> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:13PM (#14046605) Homepage Journal
        Did you ever think that by reading through it, it would increase you intelligence, and ability to do it again. Learning isn't supposed to be easy, the harder the climb, the more pathways you develop, and the easier it is to do again.

        I'm glad I did, because now I'm trying to get through Heidegger, but I think that was mostly because I finally could read/reason through all of Kant. Sure, I could have taken a short cut, but what is the point? I don't plan on reading Ann Rice my whole life, I'd much rather read something that makes me a better person, and doing this requires work.

        The best ever is the one year, in college, where I got through all of Dostoevsky, Kafka, Camus, and the short fictions and plays of Sartre, all in the course of one lazy summer, on my own. Was some of it hard? Could I have quit and got the Cliff Notes, no, since I would feel like a moron, a cheater. I would have rather quit than that.

        But this is coming from someone who has never touched a Cliffs note in their lives. Cliff Bars, though, thats a different story.
        • Cliffs Notes are great for one purpose: writing the book report afterwards. You've read the book, but that's a lot of content. You need to sum up the high points briefly, so you skim the Cliffs Notes, then summarize that summary. As you do, you fill in details from the text, including stuff that isn't in the Cliffs Notes.

          It can't take the place of actually reading (since your teacher probably has a copy of the Cliffs Notes), but it does make a good way to refresh your memory about the earlier content t

      • by OakDragon (885217) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:13PM (#14046608) Journal
        I prefer "Cliff Notes for Cliff Notes."

        For example, "The Bible:"

        God creates man, then gets pissed at everything man does.

        Credit where credit is due, I think I say that in the National Lampoon.

    • by LordSnooty (853791) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:38PM (#14046277)
      Surely it's
      if ( $question = ( 2B || !(2B) ) ) {
      if ($mind[SlingsArrows] > $mind[TakeArms]) {
      die()
      sleep()
      }
      }
    • by DG (989)
      Not to mention that Billy S. was writing for a popular audience, not for the annuals of liturature and lit professors.

      He had theatres to fill and Groundlings to amuse. The PhD thesies on his writing came much, much later.

      DG
      • Will students in 2400 have to force their way through the screenplay to Mission: Impossible? Just a thought that just crossed my mind...
        • This is exactly why I can't put much educational weight into liberal arts.

          Sure, Dante Aligheri spent a lot of time writing "The Divine Comedy". What it amounts to, is a rather self-absorbed view into political views and a comparison of him to someone regarded as a "master" in his time.

          What makes this any more important than the average slashdot comment outside of a historical context?
    • Y0, Father, who 0wnz heaven,
      j00 r0ck! May all 0ur base someday belong to you!
      May j00 0wn earth just like j00 0wn heaven.
      Give us this day our warez and mp3z thru a phat pipe.
      And cut us some slack when we act like n00b lamerz,
      just as we give n00bz a learnin when they r lame 2 us.
      Plz don't let us Own sOme pOOr d00d'z boxen
      when we're too pissed off 2 think about what's right and wrong,
      and if you could keep the man off our backs, we'd appreciate it
      For j00 0wn all our b0x3n 4ever and ever, 4m3n.

      I've no idea wh

  • OMFG!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:18PM (#14046068)

    The article describes the efforts of Dot Mobile to make such literary masterpieces as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet more accessible.

    Perhaps Professor Sutherland ought to check out the following links:

    Romeo & Juliet [myby.co.uk]
    Hamlet [myby.co.uk]

    Kudos to Chris Coutts...they're still damned funny, although the idea of Professor Sutherland pitching this sort of thing for real is just ludicrous. As the epitath on the Bard's tombstone reads:
    Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
    To dig the dust enclosed here.
    Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
    And cursed be he that moves my bones.
    Does this mean that Professor Sutherland is cursed, since he's caused Shakespeare's corpse to spin at such a rapid rate? ^_^
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:18PM (#14046071)
    wtf wallhax0r cl4n?
  • that your bastardized versions of literature classics will genuinely ensure thousands of potential intellectuals become pillars of society's caste of illiterate yokels.
  • I predict (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:19PM (#14046079) Homepage Journal
    the net impact of this will be nil. What person who was going to read some classic piece of literature is going to forego that experience after checking out the text message summary?
     
    And who will go read the real thing after getting one of these?
     
    In fact I also will go out on a limb and predict that this marketing ploy by the cell phone company will fail. Kids will not want these phones and that will greatly overwhelm the couple idiot parents who might think this would be a good idea.
    • Re:I predict (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Pope (17780) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:30PM (#14046176)
      While the overall result will probably be nil, I still think we shouldn't encourage this type of bullshit to start with.

      Reworking great literature for the retard/ADD set is not something I'd consider groundbreaking or necessary.
      • I don't think it will be encouraged by anyone outside of the company trying to profit from it. This is purely a marketing strategy and I think it will fall flat on its face. The only success it may see is creating a little buzz- like right now.
    • I don't think this particular project is about making the kids read these books. Rather than promote reading literary classics, what it seems to be about is familiarizing the kids with some of the central memes of the culture is built on. The kids might never read "Romeo and Juliet", but at least they'll recognize the basic plot when they happen to see a movie based on it. Or if an angsty teenage girl tells an angsty teenage boy that they're "just like Romeo and Juliet", then the boy will at least know that
      • Re:I predict (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Atzanteol (99067) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:04PM (#14046506) Homepage
        Or if an angsty teenage girl tells an angsty teenage boy that they're "just like Romeo and Juliet", then the boy will at least know that the world is so fucked up that they're better off committing suicide.

        I think you may have found the silver lining...

        However, if anything I think kids should be watching movie adaptations of Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote plays. There were intended to be acted out, not read. I've never liked reading it so much as watching it. Especiallly those directed by Kenneth Branagh [imdb.com].
  • by Romancer (19668) <romancer@deaths[ ]r.com ['doo' in gap]> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:22PM (#14046105) Journal
    Make them into games.

    Can you imagine a more violent game than Romeo and Juliet?
    Two gang waring mafia type families and a plot where the two main characters die?

    Have the full text and add a game requirement that you have to talk to people with the accent and all. actually walk up to people and ask them questions and make statements that forward the game, rather than the standard now where you just button mash to get through the plot and power up.

    Mix the two areas, good games need good plot, and good books need to be read by later generations.
  • of course! (Score:3, Funny)

    by GungaDan (195739) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:22PM (#14046109) Homepage
    "brevity is... wit." ;-)

  • well (Score:5, Funny)

    by revery (456516) <charles@NosPam.cac2.net> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:22PM (#14046112) Homepage
    I, for one, am starting to root for the asteroids.

  • by saskboy (600063) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:23PM (#14046117) Homepage Journal
    There's a type of home game where you can spell things out in "leet" speak, or you get cards with strange letter and number cominations and you have to decipher the meaning. Anyone remember what it's called? That's what I think of when I see someone writing "R U Their".

    I can't understand the vast numbers of kids and people my age even that write with such sheer illiteracy that it makes me think twice about talking to them. Should I really expect someone who asks "How RU", to understand me when I talk about solar flares, or which car gets the best milage? Sure there are bright people that have given in to pretending they're typing on a cell phone, but why would someone try to initiate communication with other english reading person, with a line like "Hey Jou wat u doin?
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:53PM (#14046398)
      There's a type of home game where you can spell things out in "leet" speak, or you get cards with strange letter and number cominations and you have to decipher the meaning. Anyone remember what it's called? That's what I think of when I see someone writing "R U Their".

      Actually, it's worse than that.

      It's not merely substitution of "u" for "you". It's an entire dialect. If you read through it "aloud" (i.e. subvocalizing every word, in the order in which it's written), it's parsable as spoken English, but not as written English.

      The frightening part is that it's an indication that we're indeed raising a generation of illiterates. People who make it through school in this state can (probably) read English, they can (definitely) speak English, but without punctuation or capitalization, they're incapable of writing it.

      (random googling ensues... revealing the following representative sample that appears to discuss the physics/animation of a computer basketball game)

      wat r u stupid or something wat do u want to be doing standing up straight and running with da ball u idiot dast real animation he is going low and attacking the basket dumb a** watch basketball and u will c him do da same exact thing

      Stick a few commas and periods and capitals in there and it's essentially a machine-generated transcript of the following spoken English:

      "What are you, stupid or something? What do you want to be doing? Standing up straight and running with the ball? You idiot! That's real animation: he's going low and attacking the basket. Dumbass, watch basketball and you'll see him do the same exact thing."

      The punctuation and capitalization cues aren't strictly necessary to make sense of it, but their presence enables a brain to quickly scan over the passage without having to read it as though it were dialogue on a script.

      Net effect: People who write English can have their ideas read and digested more rapidly than people who write in txtspeak.

      But if we're moving to a postliterate society, that might not be such a hindrance for the illiterates. If you can read English quickly (because most of the written English you'll encounter still contains punctuation/capitalization), but are never required to write English (because omnipresent voice/video messaging has replaced email as a means of communication), maybe it doesn't matter that you're half-illiterate.

  • Cliff's Notes? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KrancHammer (416371) <GunseMatt.hotmail@com> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:25PM (#14046129)
    This won't affect literature any more than did those yellow-bound examples of conciseness.
    • If you mean to say that Cliff's Notes did reduce literature, but that this will do no worse harm, then I agree. Literature, like other expressive art, is about form as much as function. Unfortunately, people who use the Cliff's Notes to pass a high school lit class are missing at least half the value of the work.

      This has very real effects, one easily comes to mind -- why do you think we get subjected to all these crappy movies? Or rather, why do you think so many people are willing to spend so much mon
    • Yes, but Cliff Notes are writting in a grammatically-correct language. (I would say "English" but I don't know if there are other versions of Cliff Notes.

      Granted, I've been known to use CNs before (especially for Moby Dick), but at least those volumes explain the book. MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus says nothing for Jane Eyre.
  • From the summary: will genuinely help thousands of students remember key plots and quotes, and raise up educational standards rather than decrease levels of literacy,'"
    The plots cannot be taken out of context from the book they are presented in, for example here is the "plot" of animal farm:
    Animals overthrow cruel/greedy humans to try to set up utopian society, true believers in the revolution pushed out, some use revolution for own goals, end up just like humans
    Doesn't do the book much justice(not to m
    • "...one of the best sentences in all of English literature: '4 legs good, 2 legs bad'"

      How about "All animals are equal, some are more equal than others?"
    • It's quite true that this will not do the book justice, but what you have to remember is that the aim of these this is to help kids who don't give a damn to pass tests.
      /remembers reading Animal Farm in 9th grade //remembers the teacher saying it was BS and for me to STFU when I said the the book was an allegory for communism ///gave up on public school then and there
      • Wow. Your teacher sure was an idiot. It's not like the allegory for communism was hidden or anything. It's the whole point of the book. I'd love to know what your teacher thought you were supposed to get out of the book besides that.
      • Why is helping apathetic kids pass tests a good thing?
        Let them fail. This sort of reasoning is how we get drones into our society, these idgets who care about nothing, and are perfectly happy watching TV all day, eating bon bons, while their children go blow other kids away.
  • by eison (56778) <pkteison@PERIODhotmail.com minus punct> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:27PM (#14046154) Homepage
    Don't we get warnings about this every decade for the last several centuries? Wasn't writing in the vernacular going to ruin writing back ever since writing was invented?
    • There's a crucial difference between then and now. Then, rapid communication was written -- as in, a letter or a phone call. I would guess that writers wrote to the best of their ability to get the point across, or at least spelled out words correctly. The culture of intentional "l337 sp43k" was most likely small.

      On the other hand, kids now use this language more frequently - and it's leaking into school essays, assignments and homework. During my most recent teaching stint, kids simply replaced "you" wit

  • I mean it seems like I have been reading about the collapse of western civilization, literature and the death of all knowledge since I was a munchkin for goodness sakes.

    Alarmist noise meant to freak people out or push a point of view.

    I mean am I wrong or does this seem like just another re-hash of the old tv/computers/comic books/gore movies and porn will rot your brain noise?


    • I mean am I wrong or does this seem like just another re-hash of the old tv/computers/comic books/gore movies and porn will rot your brain noise?

      The day my comic books and porn start having things like "'lolz ur funny' she sed az a d00d sed a joke," then I'll agree. Last I checked, even Penthouse letters used proper grammar and spelling.

      I'd rather have my kid learn from a properly written comic book than haX0r-speekish Shakespeare.
    • To some extent is is just an alarmist attack on progress. It's more efficient to write "How R U?" into a cell phone if the other person is familiar with the language. But previous generations have been right about culture loss from progress. How many people speak or read Latin today? 50 years ago there were thousands if not millions more who knew at least a little. Instead we knoew computer languages and "L337 Speak".
      http://1337hax0r.com/ [1337hax0r.com] the URL there wouldn't have made sense 10 years ago, now it does
  • So the scary thing is that plot is emphasized as the important part of reading -- of literature. Is it? Let's consider that reading a book teaches us language, teaches us history and teaches us, above all, how to (or not to) think.

    So when some e-book comes along that bows down to the quick-speak of IM counterculture, let's stop to ask ourselves just why the product is harmful. What is it that we want our population to learn through reading? Granted that not everyone is going to pick up Anna Karenna. But f

  • by squoozer (730327) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:28PM (#14046162)

    While I am sure there will be plenty of purists out there that will be up in arms at this I think it might be quite a good thing. Anything that gets people interested in reading and expanding their mind has got to be good even if it means dumbing down some old masterpieces to get them interested. What concerns me about this, however, is their stated reason for doing it:

    remember key plots and quotes, and raise up educational standards

    Surely remembering plots and quotes isn't why we get our students to read these works. Many modern works have plots that are just a involved, often more involved. Quotes are good if you're a bit dim and need to sound intelligent for 30 seconds but not a lot else.

    As for their choice of material, well, I'm sure it will mostly be Shakespeare simce he's the only person most people seem to be able to name. That's a real shame because, personally, I don't enjoy reading Shakespeare. He wrote plays - plays are supposed to be watched. There are plenty of people who wrote books why not try promoting them instead?

  • Do I exist or don't I... Not sure ?
    Is it good to suffer or is better to do something.
    I am tierd .
    I am sad.
    I wonder what is about to happen
    God it's noisy outside , I wonder if i will get bullied
    Stop telling me what to do , I run my own life mum.
    Wonder what else is out there .
    if you are a Chicken , You suck!!!!
    My girl friend dumped me , but I tell everyone she died .
  • by Mark Gordon (14545) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:31PM (#14046195) Homepage
    Having seen First Folio spellings, I have to wonder how much controversy there was when Shakespeare first appeared in modern spelling. Consider the opening lines of "The Tempest":


        Master. Bote-swaine.

        Botes. Heere Master: What cheere?

        Mast. Good: Speake to th' Mariners: fall
    too't, yarely, or we run our selues a ground,
    bestirre, bestirre.


    In more modern spelling this becomes:


        MASTER. Boatswain!
        BOATSWAIN. Here, master; what cheer?
        MASTER. Good! Speak to th' mariners; fall to't yarely, or
            we run ourselves aground; bestir, bestir.


    Was this considered a radical watering-down, back in the day?

    I've also considered what Shakespeare's plays would look like as IRC logs; I suspect such an approach would work at least as well as the blog version of Pepys' Diaries [pepysdiary.com]
    • As I understand it, the First Folio was a collection of notes taken by illegal transcribers at Shakespeare's plays, right? So it's sort of like the rough drafts of the people who write the TV and Movie transcripts without Closed Caption. The drafts were never seriously edited because they were always meant to be performed. Shakespeare would have desperately tried to avoid written copies of his works. He even went so far as to splitting up the scripts he gave to actors, and it wouldn't suprise me if he u
      • You're thinking of the Quartos, which were mostly bootlegs published during Shakespeare's lifetime. The First Folio was edited by two friends and heirs of Shakespeare, actors in his company, after his death. There was never an authorized published version of his plays; the First Folio is as close to authorized as it gets. There was probably the notion that any reasonable copyright expired on his death, since he certainly wasn't going to be staging any more plays himself at that point unless he took on th
  • rtcl2long 2mny wrds brdnow lol cya

    What? What do you mean that doesn't count as a real comment?

    ^======^

  • How is this nonsense different than what Joyce did in Finnegans Wake [trentu.ca].

    Maybe the intent was different. Joyce said of Finnegans Wake, "It took me 17 years to write it. It can take you 17 years to read it."

  • We called them Clift Notes back in the day. Hey rent the movie and you get it in two hours or less. With the great works the story is secondary to the writing. Picking high notes in the great works renders them banal and pointless. Let's reduce Citizen Kane to "some rich ole dude croaks and his last words are the name of his sled he had as a kid, the end". Does it have the same impact?
  • In my day we'd memorize everything as song or poetry. Books are dumbing down the next generation...
  • Literature, especially Shakespear is about the power and joy of words, the fun that can be communuicated by language, the stirring of a good speech. Shekespear especially was a playwright whose words were meant to be spoken aloud not read on the page. Milton was a poet whose words were meant to stir the hearts in their full flower. Text messages by contrast are meant to get the key factoid ("*sq 11pm") across in the minimum spanm of time. The two are different things.

    While I am all for the remixing of c
  • by Supurcell (834022) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:36PM (#14046249)
    I don't see why it is so important to read Romeo and Juliet and other plays. They are meant to be watched. The actors are supposed to play a major role in how the characters are precieved. Take the students to see the play performed or bring in the movie. What really made me think Shakespear was awesome, was the Romeo and Juliet movie with Leonardo Dicaprio.

    If you are going to just bring in scripts for you class to read, why not It's A Wonderful Life or Star Wars? That is only half the experience, and one not meant to be thrust upon the audience.
  • by DThorne (21879)
    Hamlet, for examplem, is a story delivered by a writer that likely invented more new words and phrases that "stuck" with the language than any other single person, this particular play being a prime example. Is translating this story(and a translation is effectively what it is) to a particularly crude and simplistic laguage that is designed for brevity, sometimes comedy, and not much else some sort of crime? Well, no, not really, because you can translate it well, or poorly. Let's say it's poor(and it wi
  • by jonnythan (79727) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @02:39PM (#14046281) Homepage
    The point of Shakespeare and Dickens is not to memorize what happens. It's not history class. The Picture of Dorian Gray isn't a story about a portrait, it isn't a history lesson about what crazy stuff happened to some rich guy in the 19th century, it's a wonderful work of literature about a man and a time period.

    Memorizing a few plot points and quotes from Faulkner does absolutely squat for learning anything whatsoever about these works of art. This isn't raising educational standards.

    Turning Hamlet into a text message removes 100% of what makes it important. There's no point to it anymore at all.
  • Good literature? Says who? Some stuffy academics? Some theatre luvvies? What on earth are they thinking...

    Go read it yourself, make up your own mind. If you can get to the end... ALL ON YOUR OWN... and enjoy it then, maybe he doesn't suck very badly.

    Otherwise... There's mountains of understandable, readable books, watchable plays out there. Leave Shakespeare in the grave he deserves to be in.

     
  • I don't know about everyone else, but I really don't see most of these great works of literature as something to put on a pedelstal.

    I mean there were developed as entertainment and phillosophical points of view, but they don't really have much to teach us other than the authors point of view and perhaps a perspective of the world they lived in.

    Take Shakespear from example... I mean his works were specifically devolped to entertain an live audience of his era with comeday and tragedy and frankly the only rea
  • I think the blame should be placed squarely on the parents. If they're not reading and talking about books, their kids won't have the same passion. Some kids get lucky to have the book bug bite them early and commit themselves to reading at a young age without any influence from their parents. There's more to life than video games, computers and iPods.

    No one in my family was a reader. But reading was my escape from being a fat, ugly teenager and my parents didn't discourage me when I spent my allowance o
  • by Jason1729 (561790) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @04:21PM (#14047285)
    The poetic flow and imagry of the text is what makes these worth reading. The childish scribbles being produced here ruin everything that makes the story have value.

    It's like making renaissance paintings more accissible by rendering them in ascii art.
  • So What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@gmailEULER.com minus math_god> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @06:48PM (#14048384) Homepage
    So what if people don't learn the old classics. Quite frankly they aren't of great relevance to modern life and for most kids being forced to read them encourages a dislike of literature and reading.

    High Literature is a type of art that appeals to a certain small class of people. This is great and fine for them but there is little reason to inflict it on those who don't enjoy it.

    Ultimately the reasons given for reading literature simply don't apply to forcing great literature on unappreciative audiences. The reason we read literature rather than just essays is that it should entertain as it teaches. If the audience doesn't appreciate it then it fails at this task.

    Reading literature under duress just generates resentment and dislike it doesn't encourage a lifelong love of literature. We would be better off choosing books that had action and other aspects the students liked but combined this with sophisticated issues and interesting questions. There is no objective reason Ender's game isn't just as appropriate to teach in class as Shakespeare and the students will like it way more.

    Making students remember quotes is just dumb and if literature is taught well the students will *want* to read the books and notes or little helpers won't be relevant. If the book needs outside help or encourages the use of cliff notes then something is wrong with the course or the book isn't appropriate for the audience.

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