April 17, 2007

The Taming of the Shrew--Not So Funny

The topic of my blog is the idea of comedy. The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s comedies; however, within the play lie many examples of misogyny and sexism. One example is in Act V when the men are discussing how wives are the property of their husbands. This is something we touched on in class but didn’t delve into fully. I think that it is interesting how subjects people found funny in Shakespeare’s age would not be found funny at all now, especially not to women. An entire play about taming a woman with a wild spirit and a mind of her own would be considered highly inappropriate if geared towards a mass audience. Today women are encouraged to be independent and to support themselves if they so choose. While reading this play, I felt like the comedic episodes were overshadowed by the many examples of hatred towards women. Even the scenes that were supposed to be the most comical ones were filled with sexual innuendos and overt sexual comments. Once again, one would think that these types of gestures would be frowned upon more in the age of Shakespeare than in today’s modern era, but I think that it is quite the opposite. Overall I feel like what was tolerated and considered “funny? in Shakespeare’s day, like many parts of the play The Taming of the Shrew, would not be considered comedic at all today.

March 7, 2007

The Rise to the Top

Since we haven't yet started the Merchant of Venice, I'm going to look at our last two books.I"m going to look at how the two evil characters rose to the top. Edmund and Richard III weren't really all that diffrent. They had the same motives and would do anything thing to get to the top of the power struggle. I don't belive it is that much diffrent then what we experience today in our politicans.

With the Presidential Primarys right around the corner we are already seeing candidates starting to throw their hats in for the bid to be the next President of the United States, As the the elections draw closer it will be interesting to see which candidates most turn out to be like Edmund and Richard III. Everything always seems to start out nice and everybody respects everyone else. Then as time passes the mudslinging begins and scandels break out all over the place. They tell the public how much they like the other candidates and how much they respect there opponents. Then as soon as a scandel hits they will throw them under the bus in a heart beat. This is not that much diffrent then Richard or Edmund. They may have been a little nastier in the fact that they killed off anyone in their way or simply made them disappear. They did what they had to do to get to the top. Will that be any diffrent then what we will see in the next year or two? Which Candidates will not be like Edmund and Richard and will it help? In the struggle to the top do you have to bury your opponents like Richard and Edmund did or can you rise to the top by being honest and fair? In the coming election I think we will see alot more Edmunds and Richards then we will see Edgar and Richmonds. I believe we will see plenty of candidates more then willing to pounce on their opponents when trouble starts so they can gain an advantage and rise to the top. I don't believe anyone will even question whether they should or shouldn't. Is it not easier to win if you do things this way. Power is an awesome drug and I don't believe that you will see too many Edgars and Richmonds. So who will win the next election? I believe it will be the person who keeps out of trouble and buries their opponent when they get in trouble. I don't believe it will be the person with the best ideas or morals but one who is smart enough to stay out of trouble and stomp on their opponet when given the opportunity. As the saying goes "nice guys finish last".

February 13, 2007

Role Models in North Minneapolis

I had started my service-learning at the Ascension Place in North Minneapolis and I had experiences much like Katie's. I was the minority and I knew it. Fortunately, those memories are not the ones that have affected me the most about my volunteering. I have had so many engaging conversations with many very incredible women.

I was very interested to realize that each woman has a very different story and a very different personality. During my time at the Ascension Place I provide healthy cooking lessons for any women that are interested. Though I have learned that there are many more women concerned with eating our desserts than actually cooking them, it has still been very fun. I have had one steady companion for the last three weeks; she is a great helper and has really opened up to me about her family and her chance to have a fresh start. This has affected me, and helped me look into my own life. What would I do if I had to start my life over? I can’t imagine losing trust in someone that I cared about so much that I would have to leave my house and my life. She is such a strong person and is trying to find a way to carry on and make a new home for her and her children. Her determination has really been inspiring to me. I thought that I had challenges in my cushy college life. My upcoming tests and homework seemed like such big obstacles, but this woman is facing something much worse. She has to restart her life from scratch, and she has a positive attitude about it. That in itself is so inspiring. Who would have ever thought that you could find a whole house full of role models in North Minneapolis, but I did. I have yet to meet a woman there who isn’t working to better her life for herself, her children, or other family members. That is such a great achievement and therefore is something that everyone should look to for guidance. These are some of the strongest women that I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

January 29, 2007

Thy Homelessness and thy Decisions

The Homelessness in “King Lear? draws a strong connection to the poor/homeless in the Twin Cities. Like Lear, Kent, and Edgar, many people are forced onto the streets by an uncontrollable circumstance. The thing that is different with the poor/homeless in Minnesota as compared to the poor/homeless in “King Lear,? is that in the Twin Cities, the people stay homeless. They are completely lazy! These words I have heard from a stranger help exemplify the point: “They stand on the street corner all day begging for money. I stand all day working and I get paid for it.? Most of them are healthy individuals that can work for money if they have a strong enough desire to work. The problem is that they can get by moderately without doing any work by taking the easy way out: asking people for their hard earned money. They take the lazy route and do not work when they are perfectly fit and capable to do so, making them a drag on society, one of the things we can certainly do without. To me, these healthy people being homeless is ridiculous, which is why I will never support someone begging for money on the street. They have so many opportunities around the Twin Cities for jobs and such, if and only if they have a strong enough desire to work! “If there is a will, there is a way.? In “King Lear?, people like Kent are abandoned, but they work hard to make sure they have a good future and don’t remain homeless. Edgar works hard also. He acts homeless and goes through all the troubles of a homeless man just so he can work hard towards his main goal including status in society. I find their hard work very inspirational and think that the traits and character that they posses are necessary to be successful. The homeless and the poor of the Twin Cities are simply too lazy! As for the people not fit to do work due to mental/physical problems, the Twin Cities offer so many different opportunities due to recent expansion, that a disability is no excuse for not working. I want to confirm my beliefs about homelessness and also learn more about this forever growing group, which is why I signed up to volunteer at a homeless shelter for my service learning project.

Though there are many sad situations in King Lear, the one that I find to be the saddest is when the King and Gloucester realize they have falsely blamed their children only when it was “too late,? The happy part about it is that they all die knowing the truth. I think that many other issues in our time have been decided upon, but then are deeply regretted only after it is way too late. For example, many believe that Iraq shouldn’t have been invaded, but most of the Political leaders realized they made a mistake way after everything had been initiated and done. People instinctively make decisions, but they often only realize that their decisions are bad, too late, leaving them nothing they can do to correct their mistake. A wrong decision may even land one homeless. Sadly, these inevitable mistakes will happen no matter what. There is nothing we can do about them because they are a product of our instinct. Could they be avoided by taking more time to make decisions? I wonder if the previous question is true. I often believe it to be true, that with time and deep thought about a matter, the right decision will often come, but the wrong decision will inevitably be made sometimes.

January 22, 2007

That Glib And Oily Art

The world runs on charm. The easiest way to get ahead is to be a smooth talker, a person who knows what to say. It doesn’t matter what you say, so much as how you say it. Look at the whole concept of customer service.

When you try to contact someone about a problem for a product or a service, what you reach—most if not all of the time—is the customer service department. That, as you can tell by the name, is a department for dealing with customers. They are not the department that builds things. They are not the department that programs things. They aren’t even the department that delivers things. Customer service doesn’t have the power to resolve much. If Customer Service Representatives were vital for the basic functions of a company, they would not have the time to answer phones. Most of the time, the things that customer service tells you, are things you could have figured out yourself. Who doesn’t feel a little silly when told, “You don’t have internet access because your modem is probably broken.?

Last year I worked as a “Customer Service Representative,? answering phones at Schwans Food Company. I was told that Schwans’ Customer Service Department had the highest customer satisfaction rating in the country for a few years now. And yet, transferring calls was the only thing that was in the power of the department to do. What customer service really did was soothe ruffled feathers. Being able to actually do something to resolve the situation was rare enough to be happy surprise. Although most of the time nothing immediate happens, if the person answering the phone is “glib? enough, the customer is happier. How the customer responds doesn’t correlate with what is being done to resolve the problem as much as it correlates to the manner and phrasing of the words of the customer service representative.

A lot of a person’s qualities aren’t visible, so people can get judged, and misjudged, on what shows. Mostly, it is the Gonerils and the Regans of the world that are highly regarded.

January 19, 2007

Ready For the Grind

The play seems to be alluding to the disconnect or the chasm that lies between an education in liberal arts and the real world. It is something that I am familiar with as I am getting closer to the end of my career as a student in this field. It is a source of mounting frustration and anxiety, especially during the holidays when well intentioned relatives ask me about my career plans. "Professional student", is often my response as I imagine myself climbing up onto the kitchen table to let everyone know that I don't know...right now exactly what is that I want to do, but I am working on it. I certainly don't want to be "slurped down" by an adulterous Wall Street Journal subscriber.

But, much like the students in the story I feel the pressures of time and the the cold dark shadows of the looming ivory towers around me.

I do not, however, feel that my education experience let me down. I've never imagined for a minute that studying the classics would get me into a high paying position or that I'd land some dream job working for Spin or National Geographic. I've always known that it would be a grind and I guess I'm ready for it.

Service learning projects are cool. I've definitely logged in the hours at schools, nursing homes, food shelves, shelters and drives. At first when the prof. announces that it is going to be a requirement, I have to admit that I usually consider dropping the class,just for nanosecond i think- great, another concentrated dose of reality to cure me from my idealism. But, all in all they have turned out to be some of the best parts of my undergraduate career—and they look great on a resume or curriculum vitae.

January 17, 2007

Education, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?

Sitting in a Shakespeare class turns my thoughts towards Jolly Old England.

A recent article in a British newspaper (“Being a Student Doesn’t Suit All?) laments the decline of the age-old English tradition of apprenticeship, asserting (as its title suggests) that being a student isn’t right for everyone. Many students, it argues, will benefit more from hands-on craft- or trade-based training, than from heady, academic learning. This in the face of a tremendous push by the government to increase university enrollment to 50% of young adults in the U.K. by 2010.

This push for higher education is certainly familiar back here in the good old U.S. of A. College enrollment in America has been steadily rising since the Second World War, encouraged first by the GI Bill and then by a host of federally sponsored grants, loans, and tax benefits. At present, 45% of 18 – 20 year-olds and 35% of 21 – 25 year-olds are in college. Lacking the well entrenched culture and practice of apprenticeship, vocational education emerged in America instead, locating the learning of practical skills within the realm of institutional higher education rather than nurturing a culture of such learning independent of a formal education system. Technical colleges are, after all, colleges.

What is happening as America becomes more and more educated? It is easy to be swept along by the tide of proeducational propaganda that asserts “more is better.? Education is, we believe, the key to unlocking the American Dream: go to school to get a firm grip on your bootstraps. Then pull up. But gone are the days when a college degree is a guarantee of an (upper) middle class lifestyle. So why do we continue to push college education? What does a diploma mean? Will the economy keep pace and provide opportunities that satisfy college graduates? Or will more and more graduates experience a life of being “underemployed??

This line of questioning seems to forget, however, the value of education for its own sake. As I have taught undergraduate college students for the last six years, I have observed that the appreciation of education—for personal enrichment and satisfaction—is wanting. Students are paying more than ever for college and rather than deepening the intrinsic value of education, the growing expense transforms students into defensive consumers and translates academic majors into salaries. Conversations of learning, the pleasure of academic challenge, and a critique of knowledge and knowledge production are drowned out by concerns of paying the bills, amassing excessive debt, and the despair that a college education won’t pay off—literally.

But what about the English apprenticeships? We’re not going to change the culture of American education anytime soon. That is, college enrollments are going to continue to increase and no one is going to establish a viable apprenticeship program (Donald Trump and NBC’s overhyped version doesn’t count).

So why not fuse the two? In engineering programs, internships have functioned effectively (and often efficiently) as apprenticeships of a sort, giving a student practical work experience that frequently leads to employment. But engineering is, ultimately, a practical field of study. What about the social sciences, arts, and humanities—the fields that undeniably enrich our lives and our world, but majors that, in most cases, don’t pay off?

Well, why can’t the heady, academic stuff coexist with the gritty, hands-on stuff? If these academic fields can align themselves with practical, marketable work in the real world and give students opportunity to work in viable economic sectors, their graduates just might find their vocation. Finding a vocation means satisfaction, and satisfaction remedies underemployment and a life of career hopping. Education and satisfaction—what college grad wouldn’t want that?