Translating Shakespeare?! A Sub-sub Librarian has Exclaimed [Fiction]

He went on to say:

The fact that there is a project in Oregon set to translate all of Shakespeare into contemporary English only shows me my laments about the state of literacy have been valid–yet I do not object entirely to modernizations. I do object, though, that we pretend that Shakespeare is unintelligible without translation, which is grossly untrue. Only a glossary was ever necessary for anyone who had been standardly literate, at least at a time when the average High School graduate could read on grade and not at the seventh (which it seems most of those who are now running our city read at, if I am allowed a tangent–you do know that the fact we have undermined literacy and opted for a baser form of alphabetism, separating the advances of higher literacy from civilization and what it means to be civilized, has left us with mismanagement after grotesque mismanagement of our civil orders, as well as where we are at politically . . .)

The need for translation, as some call it, is not a necessity born of distance and mutual unintelligibility, but a product of our debased sense of literacy and what it means to be a literate person–and I am not talking about a university graduate or undergraduate level reading, but what used to be high school when persons needed to read at the 12th grade to graduate High School, more specifically at time when what was a 12th grade reading level had not been debased, devalued, inflated in order to adjust reading scores by students who could no longer perform well enough. I had noted this while teaching in the City University of New York when the University decided to move from the WAT test to the ACT test for admissions writing requirements. The latter called for a much different kind essay, a much easier format was instituted, geared toward looser construction, lesser or limited complexity; and was graded through a series of recurring norming sessions designed to re-adjust the passing levels, thus requiring even lesser and lesser literacy . . . all in the name of a misguided attempt to democratize education, The only problem is that all of this backfired and has only resulted in greater and greater elitism and more power for Power and more money for Monied elites because we who need to able to mange more effectively and firmly are less stable in our literacy and education, more inarticulate, thus very much so less effective in managing freedom and democracy, no? You think otherwise?

Perhaps then you arena of the elites, and if not, you are certainly that portion of the middle class that will always side with the elites against the poor, for certain, and the lower level of their own class for sure . . . it’s not the top 0ne-per cent, you know; it’s the next nine per cent, the bottom ninety-nine per cent of the top ten percent who will also need to have some of their heads chopped off in the coming reformation. And I have always seen the guillotine as an instrument of reform.


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