October 18, 2004


As I read this article (via Powerline) about high school textbook bias, I was reminded of the times I've written about my own textbook. And I remembered something I meant to blog about last week.

Chapter 13: Classification/Division starts with Act 2 from Shakespeare's As You Like It, the "all the world's a stage" monologue. The following is a "question on meaning and technique":

4. What characteristics typify the soldier? Are these characteristics typical of soldiers today? Why or why not?

OK, here's what Shakespeare wrote:

Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the 'pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.

Maybe someone else can help me decipher that, because I am not completely sure what the heck the old bard was saying. I've never been a huge Shakespeare fan. The reason I even stumbled across this question is because I absentmindedly flipped open the instructor's manual during breakfast last week and found the jaw-dropper sample response to what typifies a soldier. This is the instructor's manual answer to question #4:

The soldier is swaggeringly masculine, wearing a bristly beard and uttering swear words. He is also ambitious to earn some honor on the battlefield, even if doing so means death. Yes, soldiers today--especially regiments like the marines--are seen as having considerable "machismo." However, many young people today hate the army because it represents war, which is no longer a chance for honor but rather for annihilation of the human race.

You have to learn to laugh at stuff like that...otherwise you'll cry your eyes out.
I hate this f-ing textbook.

Posted by: Sarah at 01:51 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 277 words, total size 2 kb.

1 I've never enjoyed reading his plays, but I've always enjoyed seeing them performed.

Posted by: Mike at October 18, 2004 03:22 PM (ckYKs)

2 I've offen wondered where & for what university you teach. I'm even MORE concerned now that my soldier daughter will be taking some English classes in Germany (through Univ. of Md.). If she were to read the passage "he soldier is swaggeringly masculine, wearing a bristly beard and uttering swear words" I think she would tear up the textbook & try to sue the publisher for slander!

Posted by: beckie at October 18, 2004 03:39 PM (hoo48)

3 "Offen??" I wrote "offen???" I meant "often." Good grief...I MUST learn to proofread a wee bit better in the future! Please don't fail me yet.

Posted by: beckie at October 18, 2004 03:45 PM (hoo48)

4 It all depends on how you want to see it: Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the 'pard, "Bearded", okay; "Strange oaths"- to many the concepts of honor, duty, and loyalty would be strange... "Jealous in honour",- Not jealous OF honour, but protective of that which he has. "sudden and quick in quarrel"- Again, not quick TO quarrel, but if you're in a quarrel/battle, you damn sure want someone that is "sudden and quick", as in effective. "Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon's mouth." My read on this is: Seeking Fame in the Face of Death- quite acceptable in the time this was written. For a different take on "bubble reputation" see: www.iwvpa.net/earsmanpw/bubble.htm Yeah, the talking points in your "teacher's" manual make me ill, but I wouldn't expect much different. I can only say that the sailors and soldiers I've met and served with mostly chose to do what they do out of a love of country. A lot of people just don't get that, and there is zero point in trying to explain it to them.

Posted by: Jack Grey at October 20, 2004 10:26 PM (3nn57)

5 We see from the passage that the excerpt is only describing one stage of the life of a man. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Full of strange oaths, speaks to me of being travelled and knowledgeable of the foreign. Language, culture, etc.... Been there, done that. Pard? Leopard if I don't miss my guess. Lethal and swift, hungry and lean. Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, Jealous in honor, seeking to achieve renown? I think this is a bit off, most veterans I know might have wanted renown before going to war, but are quite circumspect after returning. Historically that might have been the case, but humility is a much more common trait in the modern age. Sudden and quick in quarrel however, describes quite a few soldiers I've known. But not the whole of them, yet still part of the territory of being a soldier. Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon's mouth. Bubble reputation, short lived and fleeting, even when found in death. So what we have is a description of a man who has become a soldier as part of his life. He is well travelled and knowledgeable about the world beyond his home. He is rough-cut, a formiddable fighter, seeking the glory of battle, even unto death, while holding honor in high esteem. This seems to me to be not far off from a description of most any soldier from any point in history (voluntary ones anyway, conscripts are a different breed). The description given in the teaching manual of youth now finding war despicable seems rather vacant and unrelated to the question, or being a soldier, as any youth so described would not make that choice.

Posted by: John at October 21, 2004 08:38 AM (2RL68)

6 Well, I can certainly help you with that Shakespeare quote. Let's go through it very quickly- the best way to deal with Shakespeare; if you think about it too long, you forget how funny he is. Full of strange oaths and bearded like the 'pard, He cusses profusely and creatively, and has a shaggy beard. (look up a leopard if you want to see where the 'pard comes from. They have shaggy, distinguished beards.) Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Quick to take offense and to pick fights. Seeking the bubble reputation Seeking renown, no matter how fleeting; even if it only lasts as long as a soap bubble, he wants it. Even in the cannon's mouth. He wants it so bad, in fact, he will go out onto a a battlefield and do stupid, heroic things. (thus his being a soldier) hope this helped ya!

Posted by: Siphos at June 24, 2005 05:40 AM (pMpWm)

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