When our kids study history they'll no doubt hear about great works of art throughout the centuries - the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel, the statue of David. It's a fairly safe bet that most students, regardless of what they are studying, will be exposed to these works are part of their general education, yes?
At what point do we start quizzing them on the kind of brush strokes that were used, and why? Or the political and economic climate at the time they were created?
If you're a student of art history, then sure. if you're destined to become an artist yourself, then absolutely. But for the most part, isn't it important to understand that these great pieces exist, have a little bit of an idea about who created them and how and why they came into existence? Do we really need to analyze them into the ground from the moment we expose our kids to them?
You see where I'm going with this, right? How come we make them dissect Shakespeare until they hate it, then? A great deal of their education in this arena goes strictly to the items I mentioned, no doubt - understanding its existence and some concept of why it is important and how it came to be. Fair enough. But I monitor homework question sites. Most of the questions are of the "Compare and contrast the themes that Shakespeare expresses through specific use of anaphora in the following scenes and cite examples....." blah blah blah.
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill on this one? I've been thinking a lot lately about Shakespeare as a lesson in history, rather than in literature, and this is the idea that struck me this morning. Should we teach Shakespeare as part of history class?