Friday, September 28, 2012

Princely Ruminations

So I'm here late at school because I have to take tickets at tonight's football game and I'm trying to work up a unit plan for Machiavelli's The Prince. It's so quiet that I can hear the hum of the fluorescent lights over the clickety of my keys. *grin* I like it quite a bit.

I'm having trouble, though, because while conceptually, I'm all good - it fits in very well with the themes of power, authority, responsibility, and leadership that are in our other major works as well (Animal Farm, Julius Caesar, Lord of the Flies) I kind of don't think that most of my students are prepared for sentences like the one that starts off chapter eleven in the translation:

IT ONLY remains now to speak of ecclesiastical principalities, touching which all difficulties are prior to getting possession, because they are acquired either by capacity or good fortune, and they can be held without either; for they are sustained by the ordinances of religion, which are so all-powerful, and of such a character that the principalities may be held no matter how their princes behave and live.


I guess I'm glad it's not in Italian? I must be an awful teacher, because I look at that and I'm like good GOD, why must I inflict that torturously tortuous prose on my students? It doesn't remotely conform to modern expectations of good writing! These are the sort of meandering purplisms that I expect from a brown-noser with unfettered access to a crappy thesaurus.

According to the new Common Core style state standards, we are supposed to have all students tackling grade-level literature even if they don't read on grade-level. Also we're supposed to incorporate more extended texts. And at the training we went to over the summer, we were told to do less frontloading of texts, because that frames the text in a particular direction and inhibits the student's own response. Oh really, Mr. Smartypants? And if "the student's own response" is to hell with this stupid thing! what should we do then? And in fairness to my students, I don't think that's an unreasonable reaction. Clearly, I am not the only person who looks at a wall of text and tldrs it. (Yes, I turned an internet abbreviation into a verb. Deal with it.)

I think before just jumping into the Machiavelli translation, I'm going to need to open the students up to that kind of convoluted phrasing with some much, MUCH shorter examples. Any suggestions?

Time to head down to the gate & set up to sell tickets!

Image thanks to


Denée Tyler said...

Prose like this is why kids hate reading in school. Good luck with it.

Liz said...

Yeah, good luck. Make sure they read it cold - no prep, hints, or advance lessons.

But afterward, it may help to bring up the fact that Tupac called himself Machiavelli, and christened an album the same. This was used as evidence in the conspiracy that claimed he was never killed.

Liz said...

While I'm sharing:

Clix said...

Thank you! Intriguing essay; I think I will want to use that :D

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