Monday, April 25, 2011

Suburbs of Our Discontent

By some miracle, I was able to read the Sunday paper on the actual day of Sunday this weekend. Probably because there were zero activities going on because of Jesus' big day, and we are a household of heathens.

I was really moved by Jill Lepore's piece in the New York Times Week in Review section about Ben Franklin's sister Jane Mecom who started having babies at 15, had 11 children (10 of whom died), and struggled to keep her husband and sons out of debtors' prison. She tried to make time to read--no small effort given her lack of formal education, and Ben wrote more letters to her than to anyone else. Ben got on the $100 bill, and Jane went into obscurity.

It reminded me of Virginia Woolf's speculations in A Room of One's Own on what would have happened had Shakespeare had a sister of comparable genius. (Woolf's answer is the stuff of Lifetime dramas.)

Lepore did a graceful and astute job making history relevant by noting that the recent budget cuts on Capitol Hill take aim at Planned Parenthood, public education, and eliminate "all money for Teaching American History, a federal program offering training to K-12 history teachers." It's so crazy that it makes my head spin.

And it gets me thinking about the moral responsibility we have as voters to make sure everyone gets a real, fair shot at pursuing their dreams.

And while no lives are hanging in the balance when I teach my undergrad students, I do think it's important that—as a Teacher of Shakespeare— I make sure his aren't the only stories that get to endure, even if the course titles get his name. It's a start anyway.

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