Teaching Literature “Gangster” Style

Most of you know and others can guess that I have a passion for books. They offer us so much more than mere stories; they inform us and make us question our worldviews. It might surprise you that as much as I love books I did not enjoy high school English lit. Oh, Mrs. Stephens was nice enough, but she had nothing to offer in the way of why we should read. We did not learn to think critically about our required reading or the hidden meaning behind some of the classics. I hated Ethan Frome and for the life of me, could not possibly understand what Wharton’s old story of a whiny farmer had to do with me.

Sadly, this has not changed much. My son read Austin, Bradbury and the like, without much thought as to what these books might have to do with his life. His teacher, like mine, never connected with her students on their level. Many teachers forget that in order to reach young students, they have to engage them on their level. Using humor would be a good start.

Thank goodness for the Internet and social media. Today there are many people out there experimenting with our new media as a way of reaching out to young and old alike, in order to teach them in new and insightful ways. I follow a few humorous Shakespearian twitter users who work hard at making the Bard cool and easy to understand. Many are trying to reach out to the younger generations in order to keep Shakespeare alive and fresh. Today I found someone who is using social media to parody Sparknotes- the cheat sheet for disinterested high school students.

Why do I love this guy? For one, he is using humor as a way of getting attention. You can’t help but sit up and take notice. Second, after he gives his quick overview of the book Crime and Punishment he goes into a well thought out explanation of the book’s meaning and what the author was really trying to tell us. Sparky Sweet, Phd is also teaching us a valuable social lesson. Don’t assume you know everything about a person based on clothing and lifestyle choice. This “gangster” is a hell of a lot smarter than many of the people I know. I hope he offers us many more lessons.