90 Minutes is Too Long for Shakespeare.

Jeana Whitaker

90 Minutes is Too Long for Shakespeare.

As I presented a proposal to a school committee to pay for a professional performance company to be paid to perform a Shakespearean play for English classes at school, my principal argued against me with the reply “90 minutes is too long for Shakespeare.”  I was astounded and speechless. 

In my opinion, one of the biggest problems in American education today is its leaders.  Funding and often academic materials are decided upon by politicians, not educators and we can all pretty much agree, after four years of Betsy Devos, that politicians do more harm than good for students in the classroom.  But this problem isn’t just on a national or even state level, it pervades all the way down to the building level with administrators that are motivated by politics rather than focused on student wellness.

This same principal that told me Shakespeare was too boring, spent millions of dollars to beautify the campus with a walking path, complete with exercise equipment no one uses, and artistic walls with cute, inspirational quotes throughout the campus.  It did look good, I won’t lie and I’m sure it was quite impressive to Senator John McCain when he came to visit, but how did that money benefit the students and their learning environment?  This principal didn’t want to spend $500 to have students experience a live Shakespearean play, but can justify spending millions on beautifying a campus?

This principal, like many, was a former coach and his focus was on the athletic programs.  I accept that and am used to that battle.  However, I think this is also reflective of how educational leadership is failing our students.  He did a number of things to promote sporting events, was incredibly vocal about his support for those programs, but treated everyone else as if they were a burden.  How did his attitude and approach affect students that may be great scientists, performers or authors?  School administrators need to realize they touch the lives of all of the students on their campus and should approach spending and program development with that in mind. 

Administrators should have to undergo training in every area that they will be supervising.  They should drive a bus, mop the floors, and teach an arts class.  Educators have to endure tons of training that is not linked to their specific subject (on a secondary school level), but I still understand it because it gives me greater understanding of other classrooms and other approaches to teaching.  Why don’t administrators have to train in all of these areas before being put in charge of the whole school? 

90 minutes is not too long for Shakespeare.  In fact, it is a very short cutting on something that if performed in its entirety would be about 4 hours long.  90 minutes is the length of the average sports assembly.  90 minutes is the length of an average block class.  90 minutes to inspire, to learn, to expose students to something they will probably never see again, but it will enhance their education ten-fold.  Those 90 minutes could be life-changing to the student that this principal will never see because they aren’t an athlete.