Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shakespeare's Macbeth VS Idle No More

What is education? What is English? These are questions I think about a lot as a teacher, but how often do I invite my students into this conversation?

"We have three weeks left before finals. I have two options for you, maybe three. Do you want to do a mini-unit on Shakespeare's Macbeth, or do an inquiry based unit on Idle No More, or a combination of both?" I write, "Shakespeare VS Idle No More" on the white board.

We brainstorm. Some like Shakespeare because it is classic. Others like Idle No More because it is current, relevant, and historic. "It's a revolution," one girl says.

After we have our points made for either side, we start to do some cross lens analysis. Shakespeare is England's greatest playwright. He is symbolic of colonialism; however, he often addresses how power corrupts and how the mighty fall. Idle No More is Canada's biggest current event. It is symbolic of decolonization; however, there are so many voices, it's hard to know what it's really about.

One girl tells of being in the Cornwall shopping centre when she heard the round dance drums, she and her mother had to follow the call. Then they joined the flash mob round dance. I tell her how I'm Scottish, just like Macbeth, and when I hear bagpipes, I drop everything and follow. Music calls us, we decide.

Then, I let the kids decide. I have an independent study organized for Macbeth. I have language based inquiry to examine and find our personal voices around Idle No More. In each class about 1/4 of the class choose Macbeth and 3/4 choose Idle No More. I'm the only one I assign the third option: looking at the parallels between Macbeth and Idle No More.

I wonder if there are any quotes from Macbeth that would make good Idle No More signs. I immediately think of Banquo's warning to Macbeth:

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray us
In deepest consequence.
Idle No More

It's harsh language, but were those treaties "honest trifles" used to betray people with legislation like the Indian Act? This is an ugly thought, but maybe it's time we love ourselves, love Canada enough to look at our faults and do something.

Idle No More.

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