“Let’s try to think our way into what we value about learning in our lives, in whatever realm: a craft, a sport, a musical activity. It’s about the complex joys of getting better.”
With How To Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education (Princeton University Press), Scott Newstok explores the Bard’s schooling, how it contrasts with the No Child Left Behind model of today, and how we’re failing both students and teachers. We get into Scott’s love of Shakespeare and the history of education, why the drive for “assessment” is inimical to real learning, the false oppositions about education today, the value of play & conversation, and how the pandemic may have put the nail in the coffin for distance learning. We also get into his new project on Montaigne, the importance of having a couple of key teachers in one’s youth, the importance of student evaluations, why he’ll opt for Marlowe over Shakespeare if he needs to turn students on to Elizabethan theater, his thoughts on translating Shakespeare into “modern English, the scaleability of a Renaissance education, and more! Give it a listen! And go read How To Think Like Shakespeare!
“It’s rewarding to take any writer and speculate on what kinds of models and inspirations and practices they had as children that helped them do what they did.”
“I was lucky to have a wonderful range of teachers at an early age who modeled thinking, no matter the discipline or topic.”
“I’m incredibly sympathetic to teachers who go into the field these days who then discover the stultifying series of assessments and oversights that turn them off from the profession or sap them of their enthusiasm.”
“I would point to a peer of Shakespeare like Marlowe as someone who can draw students in, with the sex, drugs, rock & roll dynamic of Elizabethan theater.”
About our Guest
Scott Newstok is professor of English and founding director of the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment at Rhodes College. A parent and an award-winning teacher, he is the author How To Think Like Shakespeare, which was named a 2020 book of the year by the Times Literary Supplement and was a finalist for the Association of American Publishers (AAP) Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE). He’s currently working on an edition of Michel de Montaigne’s essays on education.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Scott by Chip Chockley. It’s on my instagram.