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January 17, 2012 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Shakespeare's The Tempest banned by Arizona schools
posted by Artw (131 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
As wicked dew as e'er my mother brushed
With raven's feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both! A southwest blow on ye
And blister you all o'er!

posted by eriko at 6:42 AM on January 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


I see what you did with the title.
posted by arcticseal at 6:45 AM on January 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


A couple alternate links for those who wish to avoid exposure to the Daily Mail.
posted by saturday_morning at 6:46 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, it's about time. Anything with troubled monsterish characters should just be banned outright. That goes for Beowulf and Beauty and the Beast too!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:47 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I should have mentioned that this is because of racism, but hey, Arizona.

And yes, the Mail will happily sneer at them.
posted by Artw at 6:48 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


We taught Arizonans language, and their profit on't is they know how to be dicks to Mexicans
posted by Greg Nog at 6:50 AM on January 17, 2012 [27 favorites]


This is just embarrassing. Aren't they all embarrassed? Why aren't they embarrassed?
posted by Think_Long at 6:52 AM on January 17, 2012 [37 favorites]


3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

The silver lining is that they'll also have to disband the lacrosse team.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:54 AM on January 17, 2012 [36 favorites]


I think the focus on the Tuscon school district in some of those alternate links is a little unfortunate. The second one ends:
"What is the Tucson school district afraid of?"
They're afraid of a multi-million dollar fine imposed by their racist state legislature. "State bans Shakespeare" is exactly the sort of headline that the Tuscon school district is looking for.
posted by muddgirl at 6:56 AM on January 17, 2012 [16 favorites]


So this isn't the work of the American Taliban, it's to protect the children from the sensitive subjects of “race, ethnicity and oppression”.

Why aren't they embarrassed?

Why do they have any say??
posted by panaceanot at 6:56 AM on January 17, 2012


“The only other time a book of mine was banned was in 1986, when the apartheid government in South Africa banned ‘Strangers in Their Own Country,’ a curriculum I’d written that included a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela,” said Bigelow, who serves as curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and co-directs the online Zinn Education Project. ”We know what the South African regime was afraid of. What is the Tucson school district afraid of?”

Heh. The same thing. With Latinos being a majority in the State, you have to start fighting a propaganda war.
posted by vacapinta at 6:57 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nowhere in these articles can I find out why the teaching of The Tempest was banned. The Salon article says it was being taught in "Mexican-American literature courses". Is it a work where "“race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes"?
posted by sudasana at 6:57 AM on January 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


A couple alternate links for those who wish to avoid exposure to the Daily Mail.

Ironic in a thread about people closing their mind to sources that make them uncomfortable.
posted by Dasein at 6:57 AM on January 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Why aren't they embarrassed?

You've never spoken with a bigot, have you? There's nothing about this that they would be embarrassed about. It's all working as planned. They're getting rid of the mud-people propaganda. Losing the highfalutin' "literature" is just icing on the big all-white cake.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:57 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


My library was dukedom enough.
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 6:57 AM on January 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


One of these things is not like the other. None of these articles explain how the Tempest fits with the language of the statute.

3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

Getting rid of the euro-centric literature then?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:58 AM on January 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


Don't you understand? If they don't enforce this legislature, instead of doctors and lawyers, the nice little white children will want to grow up to be Mexicans.
posted by griphus at 6:59 AM on January 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


Is it a work where "“race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes"?

The whole part with Caliban is pretty explicitely about European colonization.
posted by muddgirl at 6:59 AM on January 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Thanks, Arizona, for giving me ideas for the perfect birthday and Christmas presents for my nephew living in Scottsdale.

Please ban more books so that I don't have to worry about ideas for him until he's in his late teens, at which point I'll just send money.

Does anyone know of a good version of The Tempest suitable for a 10-year-old? Maybe in graphic-novel format?
posted by bitteroldman at 7:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ironic in a thread about people closing their mind to sources that make them uncomfortable.

a) The bikini-underwear sidebar is not work-appropriate for many people
b) It's really, really stupid.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'll drown my book.
posted by Fizz at 7:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also I loved Julie Taymor's adaptation and am now picturing Helen Mirren raining all sorts of magical hell down on the AZ state legislature.
posted by griphus at 7:02 AM on January 17, 2012


I should say that modern interpretations of The Tempest include looking at Caliban as a victim of colonization and racism (including Shakespeare's own racism).
posted by muddgirl at 7:03 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it a work where "“race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes"?

A quick Google search suggests that 'some people have suggested...'

It is the old story of the 'rightful' ruler who is disposed by the bad guys, but manages to get back his power and live happily ever after.

A post-colonial reading, which foregrounds issues of race and power inequalities, would give quite a different interpretation.

The play contains rebellions, political treachery, mutinies and conspiracies. There are many challenges to authority, however, the text resolves these problems in the end by having peace, harmony and order restored, with the rightful ruler placed back in his position of power. In this way any disruption to order is seen as evil and those who dare question it need to be punished, thus perpetuating the social values of the time.


linky
posted by panaceanot at 7:04 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The law that the Mexican-American Studies program supposedly violates (an independent study found that it actually doesn't violate the law, but whatever) was written specifically to shut down this program. Hispanic students amount to a majority of the school district and have disproportionately high dropout rates in a district with high dropout rates to begin with. Students enrolled in the MAS program showed higher rates of graduation and were more likely to go on to college after graduating. This is a purely political and racist move by the state and the end result will be that the school will be less successful in helping their students succeed.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:05 AM on January 17, 2012 [30 favorites]


"It is the old..." etc was a quote
posted by panaceanot at 7:06 AM on January 17, 2012


That play sucks anyway
posted by MangyCarface at 7:06 AM on January 17, 2012


Insert ironic apt Tempest quote here, there's plenty about books, libraries and government to choose from.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:07 AM on January 17, 2012


Weak signals of the impending Dark Ages after the decline of Empire ?

I wish this sentence could be ended with a hamburger
posted by infini at 7:09 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alternately they could just replace it with a Midsummer's Night's Dream - how apt my darling Bottom has a donkey's head
posted by infini at 7:10 AM on January 17, 2012



What, what, ye sanguine, shallow-hearted boys!
Ye white-limed walls! ye alehouse painted signs!
Coal-black is better than another hue,
In that it scorns to bear another hue;
For all the water in the ocean
Can never turn the swan's black legs to white,
Although she lave them hourly in the flood.


Titus Andronicus, IV:ii
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:11 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe I'm being too cynical, but the fact that all the headlines focus on The Tempest makes me wonder if it would have drawn the same level of national/global attention if they hadn't banned Shakespeare but persisted in banning banning books by non-white authors. (I could almost envision The Tempest's inclusion being a ploy to draw attention to an incredibly racist piece of legislation, in which case: bully for the saboteur, but what a sad state of affairs if that's what it takes.)
posted by Westringia F. at 7:11 AM on January 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


...how apt my darling Bottom has a donkey's head

TMI! Please!
posted by From Bklyn at 7:12 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


an independent study found that it actually doesn't violate the law

You're making an assumption that the courts will agree with the independent study and that some special prosecutor on a witch hunt won't immediately find irrefutable proof that the school board weighs the same as a duck. The number of titles that get pulled from school libraries to calm the blatantly stupid suggests to me that this is miles away from a sure thing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:14 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I cannot imagine that The Tempest, by William Shakespeare [do you know it?], is banned throughout Arizona schools. That would be silly. They are banning it - surely? - being taught in this way, by this course and through this ideology. Right. So it's only a question of time before some Phoenix High School with an unbowed drama dept. do an interpretation close to the ideological meaning that the admins have banned. Right?
posted by dash_slot- at 7:14 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're making an assumption that the courts will agree with the independent study and that some special prosecutor on a witch hunt won't immediately find irrefutable proof that the school board weighs the same as a duck

The Tucson district already lost the appeal, it's over. This article is about the program being officially shut down.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:21 AM on January 17, 2012


Arizona has not banned ethnic studies. They have mandated that the only acceptable view of history is the White Euro-centric view. That might be worse than banning all ethnic studies, if you could actually do such a thing.
posted by COD at 7:21 AM on January 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


Does anyone edit or spellcheck at The Mail?

"The Tuscon Unifed School District"

has announced they will end their 13-year Mexican American Studies Program after found [???] in violation

That kind of weak writing undermines the entire point of the article, if you ask me. Especially when it's in the (kind of) lede paragraph.
posted by kuanes at 7:25 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The silver lining is that they'll also have to disband the lacrosse team.

I know you were kidding, but I've been waiting for Arizona to go after Native American Studies for a while. Politically a whole different kettle of fish...
posted by spitbull at 7:26 AM on January 17, 2012


Ironic in a thread about people closing their mind to sources that make them uncomfortable.

No, the story is about people closing their minds to messages that make them feel uncomfortable, not sources. If the same story is available from elsewhere, why suffer the crassness and mistruths of the Daily Mail while also giving them traffic? If the story was about buying the same books but from different publishers that met their ideals, your comment might make sense.
posted by Jehan at 7:26 AM on January 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Everyone knows being Hispanic is a choice. Arizona is just trying to stop more children from joining that depraved lifestyle.
posted by The Whelk at 7:28 AM on January 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


"The Tuscon Unifed School District"

kuanes: You might notice that there are two words misspelled in that sentence.
posted by koeselitz at 7:29 AM on January 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Other books that join the ban and were part of the reading for the targeted program:

"Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, a textbook described as 'resources for teaching about the impact of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas,' along with Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Brazilian educator Paolo Freire, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos' by Rodolfo Acuña, Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, by Elizabeth Martinez and Critical Race Theory a textbook by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic."


More detail...

Here's a summary of Rethinking Columbus:

Why rethink Christopher Columbus? Because the Columbus myth is a foundation of children's beliefs about society. Columbus is often a child's first lesson about encounters between different cultures and races. The murky legend of a brave adventurer tells children whose version of history to accept, and whose to ignore. It says nothing about the brutality of the European invasion of North America.

We need to listen to a wider range of voices. We need to hear from those whose lands and rights were taken away by those who "discovered" them. Their stories, too often suppressed, tell of 500 years of courageous struggle, and the lasting wisdom of native peoples. Understanding what really happened to them in 1492 is key to understanding why people suffer the same injustices today.

More than 80 essays, poems, interviews, historical vignettes, and lesson plans reevaluate the myth of Columbus and issues of indigenous rights. Rethinking Columbus is packed with useful teaching ideas for kindergarten through college.


Pedagogy of the Oppressed offers this summary:

First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire’s work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm.


And Occupied America, has this summary:

Authored by Rodolfo Acuña, one of the most influential and highly-regarded scholars of Chicano history and Ethnic Studies, Occupied America is the leading textbook for Chicano history courses. Beginning with the Mesoamerican civilizations before the 1519 Spanish invitation, continuing through Mexico’s conquests as a developing nation, and ending with an examination of issues of immigration, labor, education, and equality during the last 100 years, this text serves as an ideal foundation for understanding and analyzing Chicano history. This extensively researched and passionately written text not only covers the major developments and incidents in Mexican history, but also explores the complicating factors of race, gender and class in forming Chicano identity.

It's not really shocking to see a conservative legislature overreacting wildly to texts with these descriptions.
posted by Atreides at 7:30 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


"God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board."
- Mark Twain
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:30 AM on January 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


(Although I have to say it's hilarious knowing that the Daily Mail staff probably were all sitting around at the staff meeting talking about this article on "Tuss-conn, Arizona.")
posted by koeselitz at 7:31 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Calibanned.
posted by Elmore at 7:32 AM on January 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


koeselitz - I did notice both were misspelled, but my html STRONG skills eluded me again. What a joke.
posted by kuanes at 7:35 AM on January 17, 2012


Oh brave new world that has such asshats in it
posted by The Whelk at 7:36 AM on January 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


WTF is wrong con los estados unidos?
posted by Mister_A at 7:36 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: There is a black guy in Othello, plus a possible Italian. BANNED.
posted by Mister_A at 7:37 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm quite sure the Daily Mail staff are aware it's supposed to be pronounced 'Two-Son'.

Us 'non-USAsians' learn a thing or two by osmosis. "Arizona"... that's pronounced like a smush of 'Arid' and 'Zone' though, no?
posted by panaceanot at 7:37 AM on January 17, 2012


They should just use Lies My Teacher Told Me instead.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:41 AM on January 17, 2012


In the course of wondering whether this HB 2281 means that classes of the sort promoted by the Bible Literacy Project would be banned (as targeted to Christians) I ended up looking through the text of the law and interestingly it says:
...
E. THIS SECTION SHALL NOT BE CONSTRUED TO RESTRICT OR PROHIBIT:
...
3. COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE THE HISTORY OF ANY ETHNIC GROUP AND THAT ARE OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS, UNLESS THE COURSE OR CLASS VIOLATES SUBSECTION A.

4. COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE THE DISCUSSION OF CONTROVERSIAL ASPECTS OF HISTORY.
F. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO RESTRICT OR PROHIBIT THE INSTRUCTION OF THE HOLOCAUST, ANY OTHER INSTANCE OF GENOCIDE, OR THE HISTORICAL OPPRESSION OF A PARTICULAR GROUP OF PEOPLE BASED ON ETHNICITY, RACE, OR CLASS.
posted by XMLicious at 7:44 AM on January 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


"God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board."

I feel compelled to point out, again, that the Tucson School Board voted to dismantle the program after the State Superintendent of schools imposed fines of $15 million dollars a year.
posted by muddgirl at 7:44 AM on January 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


it's supposed to be pronounced 'Two-Son'

More like "2-sawn" no?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:46 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have tons of family in Tucson and was there when this decision came down. Seems like a pretty straightforward case of the state government deciding it only likes local control of schools when the school districts teach things the way the state wants.

As for The Tempest, I don't see any indication that the legislature has actually banned it. As far as I can tell, it appeared on a list prepared of books that TUSD itself deemed to be out of compliance with the new law. They're making a political point: "Don't like books where race is an issue? I guess BILL SHAKESPEARE is going in the trash, then! How ya like that, state legislature?"

But I don't actually see anything in the bill itself that could be construed as banning The Tempest.

Of course, the bill, like all bills of this kind, has it both ways: it forbids anything that might "PROMOTE RESENTMENT TOWARD A RACE OR CLASS OF PEOPLE," but makes sure you know that "NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO RESTRICT OR PROHIBIT THE INSTRUCTION OF THE HOLOCAUST, ANY OTHER INSTANCE OF GENOCIDE, OR THE HISTORICAL OPPRESSION OF A PARTICULAR GROUP OF PEOPLE BASED ON ETHNICITY, RACE, OR CLASS." As long as you don't inadvertently encourage any resentment of Nazis, Communists, Hutus, Crusaders.... (xp: XMLicious posted this section too.)
posted by escabeche at 7:48 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


For anyone who's not a fan of Shakespeare (which isn't a crime), the plot of The Tempest concerns a magician who enslaves then releases inhabitants of a magical island. Some productions give this a colonialist interpretation. Presumably that was addressed in the ethnic studies course, and therefore The Tempest was on its booklist, and so was banned.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:48 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel compelled to point out again that there is no evidence that The Tempest has been banned. It may not be taught on this course ['cos the course has been ended]. It may be taught elsewhere.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:49 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Should make them all watch Prospero's Books until their heads explode.
posted by Naberius at 7:50 AM on January 17, 2012


I feel compelled to point out, again, that the Tucson School Board voted to dismantle the program after the State Superintendent of schools imposed fines of $15 million dollars a year.

No guts, no glory. There's no real difference between a cowardly school board and an evil school board.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:50 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some of you seem to think that the students were gaining an appreciation for Shakespeare before this. I highly doubt anything has changed.
posted by michaelh at 7:51 AM on January 17, 2012


In the course of wondering whether this HB 2281 means that classes of the sort promoted by the Bible Literacy Project would be banned (as targeted to Christians)

Never fear, another bill introduced into the state legislature would expressly permit such classes.
posted by escabeche at 7:52 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


The play is still listed on the Tucson USD curriculum resources here.

Interestingly, for a part of the teaching called Pan Asian. Hmm.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:56 AM on January 17, 2012


So: not banned then.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just have 'em watch Forbidden Planet instead.
posted by the bricabrac man at 8:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


ANY OTHER INSTANCE OF GENOCIDE

Like, say, the genocide of the Inca or the Mexica (Aztec)?
posted by cereselle at 8:01 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


No guts, no glory. There's no real difference between a cowardly school board and an evil school board.

So if you were in this school board's shoes, what programs would you cut to make up for the $15 million dollar shortfall?

The superintendent's decision is still being challenged in court. The school board tried to get an injunction but failed.
posted by muddgirl at 8:04 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


...an injunction to stop enforcement of the law/superintendent decision.
posted by muddgirl at 8:05 AM on January 17, 2012


Republican extremists banning culture?

Teathans!
posted by MuffinMan at 8:07 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was noticing that it says it doesn't prohibit instruction about genocide or oppression; maybe that's being interpreted to say that they can prohibit an entire course focusing on oppression, just not instruction about it in general history courses.
posted by XMLicious at 8:08 AM on January 17, 2012


Like, say, the genocide of the Inca or the Mexica (Aztec)?

By genocide of the Mexica do you mean the genocide they committed on each other or by the Spanish?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:12 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


bitteroldman: This looks to be rather a nice collection of Shakespeare retold for children (7+), I keep being tempted to buy it as an xmas/birthday present for my neice, but that would mean sticking it in a cupboard for 5 years...
posted by titus-g at 8:15 AM on January 17, 2012


Some of you seem to think that the students were gaining an appreciation for Shakespeare before this. I highly doubt anything has changed.

Well shit, guess we shouldn't try teaching anything to anybody then, eh?
posted by kmz at 8:16 AM on January 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Like, say, the genocide of the Inca or the Mexica (Aztec)?

I assume that the kind of people who want ethnic studies banned are also the kind of people who look at genocide in the Americas and call it manifest destiny, unironically.
posted by elizardbits at 8:19 AM on January 17, 2012


So if you were in this school board's shoes, what programs would you cut to make up for the $15 million dollar shortfall?

I understand your position ( and the school board's). But rolling over is just one option. If a school board is not prepared to defend the idea that ideas are paramount, then why have them, really?

What else could they do? Scream and yell. Agitate. Strike. Shut the whole thing down and teach the kids a lesson that they really need to learn today - money doesn't automatically make you the boss.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Remember first to possess his books; for without them he's but a sot, as I am, nor hath not one spirit to command: they all do hate him as rootedly as I.
Burn but his books.
posted by w0mbat at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2012


For anyone who's not a fan of Shakespeare (which isn't a crime)

Not yet. Wait until I get my Super Puck PAC going, though.

"Wait...you're arresting me for not liking Shakespeare? That can't be legal!"

"Ay, marry, is't; crowner's quest law."

"Wait...what?"

"Thou art sensible in nothing but blows. *beatings ensue*"

Shakespeare Police...IN COLOR.
Antipholus and First Clown: They fight crime.

posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:22 AM on January 17, 2012 [16 favorites]


How does a School Board go on strike?

It's pretty clear to me that "banning Shakespeare" is itself a form of political action on the part of the school board.
posted by muddgirl at 8:29 AM on January 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the Arizona law is idiotic, and hopefully unconstitutional. But I just searched the Tuscon newspaper, the Phoenix New Times (alternative weekly) and AZ Republic, no mention of this story, even in search results.
posted by msalt at 8:29 AM on January 17, 2012


Its not banned muddgirl.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:30 AM on January 17, 2012


It's pretty clear to me that "banning Shakespeare" is itself a form of political action on the part of the school board.

Point taken.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:33 AM on January 17, 2012




Ironic in a thread about people closing their mind to sources that make them uncomfortable.
posted by Dasein at 6:57 AM on January 17 [3 favorites +] [!]


Actively avoiding sleazy tabloid journalism isn't censorship.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:34 AM on January 17, 2012


Is it a work where "“race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes"?

The Tempest is a poststructuralist look at colonialism, narrative, authority and the marginalization involved-- although if anyone is innocent, it is only by circumstance.

Firstly the play is, like Lord of the Flies, a sort of reductio look at human society, and it does so in exactly the same way: by placing all of its actions in an obviously closed political system (they're on an otherwise deserted island, I mean). Prospero acts as king of this kingdom, and it is here that colonialism enters into it: Prospero is not native to the island, as are Ariel and Caliban, who are enslaved by him ('This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,/ Which thou tak'st from me,' says Caliban (I.ii.331-32))); thus Prospero is the colonializing force, and Ariel and Caliban are marginalized and disenfranchised. While Prospero appears to be the protagonist of the play, it is difficult to align oneself with his deeds morally: He is seeking justice for having been dethroned (his own experience of being marginalized, perhaps? This would serve to indict his actions even further), and the plot of The Tempest is, for the most part, a straight-forward account of his getting justice for this unjust act. But his means are anything but just-- he enslaves Ariel and Caliban, and at one point it becomes evident that he has previously promised Ariel that he will set him free, but instead goes back on his word. Prospero does not treat Caliban as human, but rather refers to having given him 'human care' (I.ii.349), which is the sort of thing one might say about one's humane treatment of an injured raccoon. Throughout the play, Prospero and others refer to Caliban as a monster. Prospero's idea of justice seems mainly to involve mostly what is good for Prospero.

But the action of The Tempest is, in any case, a story of Prospero's justice, wherein enters the idea of the subjective nature of justice. Especially pertinent to the discussion of justice is the ambiguity and uncertainty of history (more postmodernism): in I.ii.347-48, Prospero suggests that Caliban attempted to rape Miranda, but elsewhere Caliban assures us that he has only treated Prospero and Miranda honorably. Similar ambiguity can be found in the discussion between Gonzalo, Antonio and Sebastian in II.i about whether the island itself is barren or beautiful-- elsewhere we see that Caliban, the marginalized, certainly seems to think it is beautiful, at least in some way:

Be not afraid; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again. (III.ii.136-136)


Very interesting to note here is that the Elizabethan stage is virtually bare, and thus, like the account of Caliban's attempted rape of Miranda, the audience is left entirely to its own discretion as to the beauty or barrenness of the island.

The insistence upon allowing ambiguity in the text strongly suggests that The Tempest struggles not to do violence to the interpretations of others. No view is asserted by the text itself, and thusly the text attempts to refrain from its own colonialization. However, here one is reminded that the plot follows and outline's Prospero's justice: the set-up and payoff are all constructed around Prospero's narrative, which lends his perspective credibility. This tension in the text might be read as hypocritical, or merely a failure at an attempt at neutrality, but I think it is something more: Rather, it comes across as commentary on all attempts at neutrality, especially in narratives. Prospero, as rule of the island and controller of the lives of its inhabitants, exists as the creator of narratives in the text of The Tempest-- it is significant that, in the plot constructed in III.ii, it is necessary first to take Prospero's magic books. Thusly a hint of metafiction leaks into the play, and the audience begins to question how closely we ought to align Prospero, creator of narratives and the justice therein, with Shakespeare, creator of narratives and the justice therein.

Clearly, it is suggested that authors, in defining narratives and making selections in storytelling and the inclusion or omission of details, are subjecting their characters and stories to a kind of colonialism. The message of The Tempest is that this cannot be avoided, regardless of who the author is or what decisions he makes: The text of The Tempest nearly goes out of its way to provide ample time for many of its characters to utter how they would run the island, were they given the chance.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:34 AM on January 17, 2012 [62 favorites]


Misleading post; informative discussion.
posted by mediareport at 8:34 AM on January 17, 2012


I should say that modern interpretations of The Tempest include looking at Caliban as a victim of colonization and racism (including Shakespeare's own racism).

Can you give some citation for this, muddgirl? I'll grant that Shakespeare certainly wrote anti-semitic works (Merchant of Venice, ugh) but I question the contention that he was racist himself without anything factual to back up that assertion. He certainly wrote propagandist works, as he was a subject under Elizabeth I and so his portrait of, for example, Richard III is deliberately written to cast him in the most unflattering light.

But was Shakespeare, in his private life, racist? His mistress was a person of color, whom he appeared to hold in high esteem. I would make the argument that he was most likely more tolerant in general than his contemporaries when it came to issues of race.
posted by misha at 8:35 AM on January 17, 2012


Does the law prohibit watching "Machete" as part of a class?
posted by snofoam at 8:35 AM on January 17, 2012


Well shit, guess we shouldn't try teaching anything to anybody then, eh?

This is supposed to be sarcastic but that's basically what a lot of teachers start to think when their classes are manipulated by higher-ups to make a point.
posted by michaelh at 8:37 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can you give some citation for this, muddgirl?

Not really, I meant it in the sense that everyone is a product of their times, and that Caliban's description is probably partially based on Romani travellers who were discriminated against in Shakespeare's time. I don't think Shakespeare had to present Caliban as wholly a noble savage but it's pretty clear from his description that Shakespeare did see Caliban as a savage. Which is, you know, racist.

But was Shakespeare, in his private life, racist?

Ah, common mistake. I didn't call Shakespeare "racist." But his description of Caliban is racist. Undoubtedly some of that is internalized.
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the Salon link, which appears to be what where the Daily Fail (and everybody else) has sourced this study, it appears that Arizona hasn't "banned" the Tempest. It has been just removed from Mexican American Literature courses. I don't see what the Tempest has to do with Mexican American literature, so I guess that its inclusion in the list is the reaction of a mischievous literature professor's reaction to the order that works be removed where "race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes". Trolling succeeded!

It could have been worse: can you imagine the shitstorm if they had taken "The Diary of Anne Frank" instead?
posted by Skeptic at 8:51 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Its easy to hate on Arizona, aren't they the ones with super special immigration paper laws?
posted by infini at 8:54 AM on January 17, 2012


But was Shakespeare, in his private life, racist?

It's not even really a valid question... the modern conception of "race" wasn't even formulated until the late 18th century, as far as I know.
posted by mek at 8:54 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's been made clear yet that there's a long history of Latin American writers using The Tempest as a metaphor to criticize US imperialism - e.g., Rubén Darío with The Triumph of Caliban in 1898 and José Enrique Rodó in his 1900 essay Ariel.
posted by mediareport at 8:55 AM on January 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


And more recently, John Edgar Wideman's Philadelphia Fire.
posted by mek at 8:57 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bully people long enough and they will eventually lash out. I am going to laugh really hard when the majority population drives out the white people. I know that sounds really crass and mean, but fuck these people, really.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:58 AM on January 17, 2012


XMLicious: I ended up looking through the text of the law and interestingly it says:

...
E. THIS SECTION SHALL NOT BE CONSTRUED TO RESTRICT OR PROHIBIT:
...
3. COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE THE HISTORY OF ANY ETHNIC GROUP AND THAT ARE OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS, UNLESS THE COURSE OR CLASS VIOLATES SUBSECTION A.

4. COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE THE DISCUSSION OF CONTROVERSIAL ASPECTS OF HISTORY.
F. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO RESTRICT OR PROHIBIT THE INSTRUCTION OF THE HOLOCAUST, ANY OTHER INSTANCE OF GENOCIDE, OR THE HISTORICAL OPPRESSION OF A PARTICULAR GROUP OF PEOPLE BASED ON ETHNICITY, RACE, OR CLASS.


You should have started citing from the beginning:

A. A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL IN THIS STATE SHALL NOT INCLUDE IN ITS PROGRAM OF INSTRUCTION ANY COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
1. PROMOTE THE OVERTHROW OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
2. PROMOTE RESENTMENT TOWARD A RACE OR CLASS OF PEOPLE.
3. ARE DESIGNED PRIMARILY FOR PUPILS OF A PARTICULAR ETHNIC GROUP.
4. ADVOCATE ETHNIC SOLIDARITY INSTEAD OF THE TREATMENT OF PUPILS AS INDIVIDUALS.
Sure, the later sections seem to contradict this text, but I think the key word in the later sections is "include". I'm guessing that classes which are only about a certain, single ethnicity, which could be construed to advocate ethnic solidarity, aren't diverse enough to comply with this particular bill.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:00 AM on January 17, 2012


When I was in second grade, I was in an amazing pilot program which paired a class of primarily-Spanish speakers with a class of primarily-English speakers. They were learning English while we learned Spanish. Such a program would be outlawed because it's designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. :(

Of course, Arizona legislators would probably faint in horror to learn that second-grade American citizens might not be fluent in English.
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on January 17, 2012


Does anyone edit or spellcheck at The Mail?

It's worse than that. The whole article reads like it was Google translated from the original Russian or something.

This law is deeply pernicious and anti-intellectual, but it's a pity we're floating a discussion of it on a piece of BS headline-bait about The Tempest being banned in Arizona schools, which is one of those transparently false claims that well-intentioned people will be parroting for years to come. Making bad arguments against bad laws really doesn't help; people who want to defend this law will be able to deflect the argument by pointing out that nobody has banned the Tempest, chuckling about the absurdity of the claim and moving on.
posted by yoink at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2012


This is completely intentional. One time my office mate who is a ditto head had a mother recuperating from surgery needing books to read. She asked me to loan her a book. I loaned her Zinn's People's History.

Her mom reported back: "I am very glad they don't teach this stuff in school."
posted by bukvich at 9:10 AM on January 17, 2012


Reading TFA, it looks like the whole "banning Shakespeare" angle is just clever spin on the opponents of this law.

The Tempest is being put aside, along with all the textbooks for that class, simply because the class is canceled. I don't think anyone enforcing this bill singled out The Tempest in particular, and I'll bet an English class would still be free to assign the play.

So technically the law is banning (this instance of) the teaching of The Tempest, but it would be more honest to say the law is banning a class that was planning to use The Tempest.
posted by straight at 9:16 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone been able to find a link to the actual list of books?
posted by cyphill at 9:24 AM on January 17, 2012


But was Shakespeare, in his private life, racist?

We know very little about his private life.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:28 AM on January 17, 2012


We know very little about his private life.

What are you talking about? There's been plenty dug up on him, he was a fairly public figure.

bwahahaha ::flees::
posted by FatherDagon at 9:34 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here are the three opening paragraphs:

William Shakespeare's The Tempest is among a list of banned books in the state of Arizona by a resolution aimed at curbing resentment, government overthrow and ethnic distinction and separation in any district or charter school's curriculum.

(They mean books banned by a resolution..." Beyond that the resolution deserved a sentence of its own to be made less confusing.)

The Tuscon Unifed School District has announced they will end their 13-year Mexican American Studies Program after found in violation of the June resolution that bans the books during a court appeal this past December.

(Tucson, last I heard. Unifed - they are clearly unfed, the undernourishment is effecting their brain cells. 13-year-old unless the course lasts thirteen years. After found should "after being found." They didn't ban the books during a court appeal. Overall the sentence is freshman D-.)

If the ruling was not followed by the district they faced a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds.

(...they would face... penalty in withdrawn state funds.)

Really, that is the worst opening I've ever read in a high-circulation news article, blogs included. And this is in something where the writer is supposedly looking down on ignorant Americans.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:38 AM on January 17, 2012


The public school system has been constructed to keep them from learning any god damn thing since the 50s and it's been so effective you could hand out copies of Hustler as textbooks and the kids probably wouldn't notice.

I see gaggles of chirping Tucson High students every day and there's no way any of them is learning anything at all, from anyone. One ear is covered by a cell phone and one eye is covered by a bieber of black emo hair.

Good luck getting ANY information, much less Shakespeare, into the free eye and ear.
posted by chronkite at 9:45 AM on January 17, 2012


I have to roll my eyes. I too was "educated" in Arizona.

Considering my terrible education, I must have missed something here. Why get rid of the books? Couldn't we just re-use them in....HISTORY class?

Christ what....
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:47 AM on January 17, 2012


Outsourcing hits a new class of workers: Journalists
Published: Friday, October 20, 2006



Bing dug this old story up even though it has a grammatical error in the second paragraph and glaring spelling mistake in page 2. Wonder if it was outsourced and note how this particular outsourcing story never stayed live over the years since... so, who really wrote this alleged Daily Mail article and from where?
posted by infini at 9:49 AM on January 17, 2012


One ear is covered by a cell phone and one eye is covered by a bieber of black emo hair.

And they're riding their skateboards and their hula hoops with their Lady Gagas hanging out.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:49 AM on January 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


And don't forget Chronkite they're ON YOUR LAWN!
posted by happyroach at 9:50 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


And listening to all that hippity-hop music.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:55 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, they are literally skateboarding on my lawn, and only half the time with hula hoops.

On the other hand, kids from the charter school pass by en masse as well, and they seem to be happy, tolerant, and motivated.

So I have to assume Tucson High sucks as bad as every person I've ever spoken to says it does.
posted by chronkite at 9:58 AM on January 17, 2012


Chronkite

I believe that's Crunkite.
posted by yoink at 9:58 AM on January 17, 2012


Ah, Arizona. The Mississippi of the West.
posted by Aquaman at 9:58 AM on January 17, 2012


ARIZONA, THE RECENT PAST ...

OK, Vice-Principal Brown. Here's the syllabus for the senior class this year: we'll be teaching math, history, overthrowing the US government, biology, English, chemistry...

-- Sorry, Principal Grey - did you just say that we'll be teaching a course in "overthrowing the US government"?

Huh? Oh - lemme see here ... math ... history ... Oh yeah, overthrowing the US government. Yeah, we were a little weak on social studies, and I thought, maybe we should try a new class on overthrowing the US government, establishing a theocratic dictatorship, you know. Could be a useful skill for some of the seniors.

-- Uhhh … sure ... it just strikes me that, maybe the State Government might not be too keen on such a course. Feds could get a little queasy about it too.

Why? Is there some kind of law against it?

-- Well I don't think so ... well ... OK then. I guess if there's no actual law against teaching a class on overthrowing the US government, we're pretty much obliged to teach such a course.

Well that's what I thought! Now where were we ... OK, so: chemistry, sports ed., ...
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:12 AM on January 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


So this isn't the work of the American Taliban

No, it's the American Caliban.
posted by chavenet at 10:29 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


like the account of Caliban's attempted rape of Miranda, the audience is left entirely to its own discretion

Just for the record, though I agree with the reading of Prospero as selfish imperialist, there's not really any ambiguity in the attempted rape of Miranda:

PROSPERO
Thou most lying slave,
Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have used thee,
Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged thee
In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate
The honour of my child.

CALIBAN
O ho, O ho! would't had been done!
Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans.


I bring this up mainly because I named my cat Caliban; I naturally think of myself as something of an EXPERT on this character, given how often I tell him he had peopled else this apartment with hairballs
posted by Greg Nog at 10:29 AM on January 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

So no Black Studies either I presume.

A bunch of self-important White Folk sit around and make up rules about what can and cannot be taught to the thousands of Hispanic children in their care and decide, "Hell no. We don't want these kids to think they have anything to be proud about." The White Power has decided that it's White History Month this month and every other month.

It makes me so angry to see the way my country is being perverted and turned into something dark and grotesque.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:42 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


...with their Lady Gagas hanging out.

Where is this school, so that I may avoid it?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:52 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since I left, there have been many, far more heated threads about what's happening in the US that are perhaps far more worthy of this comment, but, man, Shakespeare, really?

I am so fucking glad I got the hell out of there.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:46 AM on January 17, 2012


Actually, not really.
posted by muddgirl at 11:47 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: Chicago Shakes has the Tempest this season. WITH PUPPETS. Shows toward the end of the run still have tickets.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:17 PM on January 17, 2012


!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:23 PM on January 17, 2012


In school we used Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States as our primary text for the AP History exam. This is in one the wealthiest, most conservative public school systems in the country. No parents complained, that I know of. We talked about every topic from several different perspectives and discussed how this was different than anything we'd ever learned prior.

Most of us got 4's or 5's out of 5 ( I got a 5, woot). It was awesome. From what I've seen since, no one who was in that class is a conservative today, or at least definitely not social conservatives.

I guess we weren't as conservative as we thought.
posted by sweetkid at 1:24 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


My personal history with "The Tempest" has been a stormy one. I was in a production in 1989 and spent two months listening to the director talk about what a magical play it was. I didn't get it, man. It seemed to be a play about a mischievous, harmless old man who set out to get off the island.

I then saw a production of "The Tempest" that basically read to me as the same thing.

So, yeah, I didn't get it at all. Why was this interesting? There was no dramatic action, just a bunch of events that all happened to take place on an island.

So last summer, I directed it and, while reading it, I had an epiphany. Prospero hadn't forgiven any of his enemies. His plan was to catch them, murder them and reclaim his throne for himself and his progeny. It is only when his enemies are powerless before his might that Ariel suggests he would feel pity for them if he could see them:
Ariel: Your charm so strongly works 'em
That if you now beheld them, your affections
Would become tender.

Prospero: Dost though think so, spirit?

Ariel: Mine would, sir, were I human.

Prospero: And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th' quick,
Yet with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury
Do I take part. The rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance. They being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further. Go release them, Ariel.
My charms I’ll break, their senses I’ll restore,
And they shall be themselves.
Its an extraordinary moment of forgiveness, made all the more so if you treat it like a moment of recognition/reversal. Prospero gets so caught up in forgiving people that, by the end of the play, he's forgiven everyone, including Caliban. Its a play where the penitence of the villains (for they are villains - they've plotted to kill Prospero and his child) outweighs the need to punish the villains. That they are well and truly sorry outweighs a need for further vengeance. Forgiveness is better for the soul of the forgiver than vengeance.

It can be an incredibly powerful moment and I like to imagine we captured something of that in our production (which was also all puppets).

I've since learned that this is a standard approach to the production and that I had only previously been exposed to or involved in lousy versions of the show.

Anyhow, I think the modern interpretation of this play as being a reflection of oppression of indigenous peoples is an entirely valid way of reading the piece. I also think that my more traditional interpretation (which you might call the "anti-death penalty" interpretation) is still pretty valid, too.

Either way, I can see how those ideas would be a threat to people in power in a state that oppresses a segment of its population and endorses vengeance over forgiveness. Yes, best to leave the teaching of "The Tempest" to a class where they'll focus on the poetry (which is, I admit, glorious) and where they'll treat it like a story of a doddering old man who can bore students to sleep without any need for magic.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:24 PM on January 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


I have to say that The Tempest is one of my favorite plays, when done correctly. The first time I saw it was at the Shakespeare Theater Festival in Asheville, with a "gender bending" cast (well, really just a female Prospero and an androgynous/male Ariel). It was a very powerful rumination on aging, motherhood, feminism, and yes, forgiveness.

The worst was a college production where their Miranda put on what I thought was a fake British accent (she apparently moved to the US from England when she was 4 years old, so...?) and their Prospero, the drama instructor, taped some of his longer speeches to the back of his 'spell book' and thought no one in the audience would notice.
posted by muddgirl at 2:47 PM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


"...a resolution aimed at curbing resentment..."

IT'S NOT WORKING, GENIUSES.
posted by Decani at 3:25 PM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Arizona Republic is reporting that "The Tempest" was not among the books removed from the classroom syllabus. In addition, the books will remain in the school's libraries.

This article also purports to list all seven books pulled from the syllabus. They are: "Critical Race Theory" by Richard Delgado; "500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures" edited by Elizabeth Martinez; "Message to AZTLAN" by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales; "Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement" by Arturo Rosales; "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos" by Rodolfo Acuña; "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire; and "Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years" by Bill Bigelow.

Arizona has a pretty hostile political climate right now, but unsupported liberal attack articles are not going to help anyone. This kind of story almost reek of an O'Keefe-esque seed planted to discredit the news bloggers.
posted by cyphill at 5:26 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


While we're on the subject of The Tempest, people might want to check out Shakespeare Behind Bars, a 2005 documentary about a rehabilitation program of the same name that has inmates in a Kentucky prison performing Shakespeare. The inmates in the film perform The Tempest, and mercy and forgiveness come up a lot, as you might expect.

(One of the inmates also says a really insightful thing in the trailer: "I thought convicts would make good actors 'cause they're used to lying. But [acting]'s the opposite...it's to tell the truth.")
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:46 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is worth noting that Tucson Unified School District is still under a decades-old desegregation order. It had been lifted recently but was then reinstated by a judge. Currently TUSD is beginning to follow a roadmap that will end the deseg order for once and for all. However, the ending of MAS may throw a wrench in there, because the feds may think twice about ending the deseg order after a move like that.

P.S. - it's spelled Tucson. If you can find that mythical Tuscon place on a map, let me know where it is.
posted by azpenguin at 10:04 PM on January 17, 2012


If you can find that mythical Tuscon place on a map, let me know where it is.

It's on Tatooine. It's where the tuscon raiders live.
posted by w0mbat at 8:10 AM on January 18, 2012


Appropriately enough, a couple of days after MLK...
Yeah, he appear to be fair
The cracker over there
He try to keep it yesteryear
The good ol' days
The same ol' ways
That kept us dyin'
Yes, you me myself and I'ndeed
What he need is a nosebleed
Read between the lines
Then you see the lie
Politically planned
But understand that's all she wrote
When we see the real side
That hide behind the vote
They can't understand why he the man
I'm singin' 'bout a king
They don't like it
When I decide to mike it
Wait I'm waitin' for the date
For the man who demands respect
'Cause he was great c'mon
I'm on the one mission
To get a politician
To honor or he's a gonner
By the time I get to Arizona
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2012


In case anyone reads this article, the Salon piece is incorrect.

I don't agree with what Huppenthal has decided, and I sure didn't vote for him... but spreading misinformation is stupid. The Tempest was not banned.

Don't believe everything you read on the internet.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:43 PM on January 18, 2012


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