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August 3, 1999 12:35PM (UTC)

The Trouble with Public School, Aside From the Lack of Funds


Education

Paul Ricciardi - 01:49pm Jul 29, 1999 PDT (# 507 of 548)

MaryBenAmi, again you have hit the mark. Children, in fact all of us, are learning organisms. The amount that children learn before they even come to school is enormous, but never fully taken into account. Their greatest self-teaching has been learning to speak. that it is done by simple imitation, very little attention is paid to it. In fact, learning to read is far more simple to master than learning to speak. Maria Montessori recognized the powers of children long before the educational establishment even began to think about them. In fact, many who call themselves educators today don't recognize what children bring with them to school. If teachers understood the powers children have and applied those to the learning of reading, writing, math, etc., you would see great changes in educational results.

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Has drama finally killed literature?


Books

Jordon Flick - 01:20am Jul 30, 1999 PDT (# 84 of 87)

Dramatic movement tends to work in quarters. Where do we see this? A lot of opera, all one hour television (as a strict rule, in fact), just about all feature film. Why? If you look at drama as being driven by the needs of performance, you can trace it to any number of needs or traditions. In classical opera the act was measured by how long it took the candles lighting the theatre to burn down....

Classical stage is very heavy on the first two acts length-wise. If I were taking Hamlet, I'd plug acts 1 & 2 into "Act 1," act 3 into "Act II," act 4 into "Act III" and act 5 into "Act IV."

One hour television obeys this act structure to the book and is also heavy on the first two acts; they usually consume 60% of the story time (besides generic traditions this also ensures the viewer won't switch channels to a half hour show at the act 2 close).

Modern cinema obeys this form religiously. The typical feature, 120 minutes long, divides its time among these acts into four neat half hour pieces. Unbalancing them can be deadly. (Note: it is common to refer to Acts II & III as "the third act" in any given screenplay, but this "third act" still consumes the second and third quarters of the movie so the story still moves in four half hour quarters).

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Modern stage tends to defy many rules, but many plays I've seen tend to omit this structure's "Act I" and plunge straight into "Act II," using the luxury of expansive dialogue to inform us of what "setup" from "Act I" we need to know. This is typical of the modern two-act play; the first act an extended "Act II" ending in a high note, and the second act a sprint through "Act III" and "Act IV." Coming to mind: The Fantasticks, Cabaret, a Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Accomplice, Hapgood. (It's worth noting that the end of its "Act II" tends to emphasize failure, while the end of the "Act II" in plays like this emphasize the victory we don't know yet is really failure.)

This structure can also be found in music in an eerily rigid way. It is very similar to the sonata form and exactly the same as the form for the basic song. You can also find this structure in smaller dramatic movements. Some scenes follow this structure, even some monologues. Mercutio's Queen Mab speech from Romeo & Juliet comes to mind; it fits almost mathematically in form as well as content.

I asked the question of this thread because I noticed many modern novels, if not most, appropriated this structure. The novel doesn't need this structure to tell its story, but literature, high and low, has pushed itself this way, Nobel laureates and potboilers alike. If this is true, does this mean "drama," the way we tell stories to an audience, has killed "literature," the way we tell stories to a reader, by having the latter abandon its sanctions for those of the former?

Class in America- Is it Money, Breeding, Manners, What?

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Social Issues
Sarah Burt - 02:10pm Jul 26, 1999 PDT (# 18 of 168)

I think there are different levels of class distinction in this country, which contribute to the confusion, not the least because they overlap. Certainly, there is a level of class distinction that is based almost exclusively on money. However, there is also a level of class distinction that is based more upon educational level and expectations and associated mores. Probably as a result of the cost of higher education in this country, most of those who are on the "lower" end of the financial spectrum are also on the "lower" end of the educational spectrum. However, that is not necessarily true at the upper ends of either: ie. you may be very well educated and not have much money or have lots of money and little more than a high school education. The ones who are really stuck are the ones who never make it out of high school.

In my own family, I have been able to see some of this. My family has long held education as a value in and of itself, for men and women. I am the 4th generation of women in my family to attend college, for example. We have been predominently middle class in our thinking and economic level, but not particularly wealthy. I would say comfortable. Each generation has to work for a living, but no one is likely to starve and no one has had to forego education in favor of food. My sister married a man who is the first in his family to graduate from college. No one in his parents' generation or before has ever even attended college. Interestingly, she works and he does not. He "married up" and "married money" and now feels that his job is complete. She works to maintain the family (barely) in a lower middle class economic situation. Their values are completely different in this.

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