As an avid fan of the Bard in general and the play "Henry V" in particular, I looked forward to reading the op-ed piece by David Brooks titled "If Henry V were in school today," which appeared in the Sunday, July 15 edition of the Observer-Reporter newspaper (and other publications).
However, only three paragraphs into the article, I realized that Mr. Brooks had taken the opportunity to use my favorite Shakespearean play to push the conservative idea that public education has been "feminizing" boys for decades.
Mr. Brooks argued that if Prince Hal was in an American (presumably public) school today, then the system of education would drive the "rambunctious" nature of his character out of him. The rest of the piece goes on to suggest that what is wrong with education in America is that it attempts to drive out certain qualities and characteristics while promoting others.
Mr. Brooks bemoans an educational system that promotes students who are "nurturing, collaborative, disciplined, neat, studious, industrious and ambitious."
Certainly any public school teachers imparting these values on our students should be fired on the spot (at least in Mr. Brooks' world).
To this end, Mr. Brooks makes the following egregious analogy. In the third paragraph of his piece, Mr. Brooks suggests that today, Prince Hal would "jump off the jungle gym, and, by the time he hit the ground, the supervising teachers would be all over him for breaking the safety rules."
Is Mr. Brooks suggesting that the teachers who are being paid with our tax dollars shouldn't be taking action to ensure the safety of our children in school?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, somewhere between 150,00 and 200,000 children ages 14 and younger suffer severe injures from accidents occurring on public playgrounds each year—with a majority of those injuries occurring on school and daycare equipment. For one 10-year period, 147 children lost their lives in such accidents.
But why would we listen to experts trying to alert us about such risks, when we can listen to ideologues like Mr. Brooks bemoaning the loss of Prince Hal's rambunctiousness?
This discussion illustrates how we let certain people with political agendas use their talking points to frame the relevant issues, not in terms of research and objective reality, but by appealing to people's desire to return to a more golden time of education in America.
Unfortunately for Mr. Brooks and his followers, this time never existed in the first place and he is wallowing in the delusion of nostalgia and amnesia that education expert Jamie Vollmer calls "nostegia."
Immediately before the decisive Battle of Agincourt, King Henry tells his followers: "All things are ready, if our minds be so." His companion, the Duke of Westmerland replies, "Perish the man whose mind is backward now."
Mr. Brooks, King Henry's followers think you have it backward.
Joseph M. Zupancic
Board of Directors,
Board of Directors, Intermediate Unit 1
Board of Directors, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
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