Governor Christie Needs to Read His Shakespeare

In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, the characters are bound to each other both by their inherent status and by the contracts they enter-- this is what generates the conflict in the play (Shylock cannot escape his status as a vilified minority so he clings to his contract for a pound of Antonio's flesh; Antonio maintains his status as the merchant of Venice despite forfeiture, yet he will not break contract because Venice thrives on business, Bassanio has the status of a gentleman so Portia enters into the marriage contract with him despite his insolvency; Portia is bound by an odd contract to her dead father; Shylock's daughter Jessica would like to erase her status as a Jew by entering a marriage contract with Lorenzo; etc.) and whenever I teach the kids this, I start to apply the terms of status and contract to the world around me (the status of being someone's teacher is a an excellent one-- no matter how smart, famous, and powerful my students become in the future, I will always be able to say to them, "I taught you everything you know," and this is similar to the status of "coach," as no matter how far my players go in soccer, I can always say, "I got them started") and so here is my new application of the terms: the reason Governor Christie has incited so much anger and rage among the teachers of New Jersey is because he ignored (and sometimes assaulted) the status of being a teacher-- which is the reason most people teach: to be a respected individual in the community, to make a permanent connection with generations of students, and to feel as though you are doing something positive with your career . . . it's certainly not for the money-- so when he said teachers were using students like "drug mules" and that schools grant tenure to anyone "still breathing", and then immediately turned to financial and contractual issues, teachers took incredible offense, and, predictably, like Shylock, when they were robbed of any status, they clung to their contracts and refused a pay freeze . . . perhaps if he were more diplomatic with teachers about their status in the community, they would be willing to cooperate with him . . . but apparently he hasn't read his Shakespeare.

3 comments:

Staci Schwenk said...

That's probably one of my favorite plays, in any case.

Dave said...

it's always illustrative

Lecky said...

you could pull a Yann Martel, but that would take a lot of ambition:

http://www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca/

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