En­cour­age stu­dents to read plays to de­velop into all-rounded adults

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - WEEKEND - The writer is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer at the min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy BY KENNEDY BUHERE

Many young Kenyans have been de­nied the ed­u­ca­tional and aes­thetic value that plays, an im­por­tant genre in lit­er­a­ture, of­fers. Ma­jor­ity are com­plet­ing high school hav­ing not read any play other than the one that they study for the Kenya Cer­tifi­cate of Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion Ex­am­i­na­tions. This is odd be­cause chil­dren in­dulge in play-act­ing when they are young. One would ex­pect chil­dren to ap­pre­ci­ate plays more than the novel.

It also odd be­cause plays were the ear­li­est genre of lit­er­a­ture in which great artists wrote. The ear­li­est writ­ten texts of lit­er­a­ture were in play form, al­though specif­i­cally writ­ten to be acted. The great Greek writ­ers — Sopho­cles Aeschy­lus, Euripi­des and Aristophenes — were play­wrights. Their plays are mas­ter­pieces of not only great writ­ing, but great think­ing about the time­less ideas and val­ues that de­fine hu­man life.

We have mod­ern play­wrights who have penned out­stand­ing works.

Al­though tech­no­log­i­cal lit­er­acy is the dom­i­nant phi­los­o­phy in mod­ern ed­u­ca­tional the­ory, cul­tural lit­er­acy of the sort that lit­er­a­ture em­bod­ies, and par­tic­u­larly plays, form part of the men­tal or in­tel­lec­tual fur­ni­ture of ed­u­cated peo­ple.

And in the great plays are to be found what Vic­to­rian a life­long ed­u­ca­tor, Matthew Arnold, called “the best which has been thought and said in the world.”

The men­tal equipment and dis­ci­pline that ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the great plays can give to any am­bi­tious stu­dent com­ple­ments what the stu­dents find in math­e­mat­ics, en­gi­neer­ing, medicine, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, law, jour­nal­ism or eco­nom­ics, a few of the ca­reers and oc­cu­pa­tions that have the temp­ta­tion to ques­tion the rel­e­vance of plays in their pro­fes­sional as­pi­ra­tions.

A study of plays con­trib­utes to ed­u­ca­tion and lit­er­acy. They teach us about hu­man mo­ti­va­tion and psy­chol­ogy.

In his­tor­i­cal/po­lit­i­cal plays, we get les­sons in lead­er­ship and gov­ern­ment. A read­ing of Sopho­cles Aeschy­lus, Euripi­des, Shake­speare, Arthur Miller, Hen­rik Ib­sen, Robert Bolt and a host of other great play­wrights’ books teaches read­ers many things. They have the abil­ity to en­able read­ers to un­der­stand am­bi­tion, char­ac­ter, courage, in­tegrity, tenac­ity and con­fi­dence.

The books teach them about the psy­chol­ogy of the peo­ple, and lead­ers — the chal­lenges, bur­dens, the per­fidy and lone­li­ness that at­tends the lives of lead­ers. The books have ably dealt with philo­soph­i­cal is­sues about free­dom, and or­der: their place in the well­be­ing and safety of the so­ci­ety and what hap­pens when they are abused.

A care­ful read­ing of great plays in­flu­ences the way we think and feel about our own lives and en­cour­ages us to take a hard look at our­selves, our val­ues, and our be­hav­iour. Great states­men has been in­flu­enced by great plays in the way they look at is­sues and the way they speak about them.

One of the things that a read­ing of plays does is to de­velop the com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills of the reader. The char­ac­ters are made to speak di­rectly and in a force­ful and, some­times, emo­tional lan­guage. Those who be­come politi­cians and lead­ers of in­sti­tu­tions un­con­sciously ab­sorb the man­ner of speak­ing that they “see”

in some of these plays.

Plays also help de­velop em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion in the hearts of those who read and study them — whether the read­ing is for ex­am­i­na­tions or sim­ply for leisure and to while away time.

My early ex­po­sure to the is­sues that politi­cians grap­ple with was through plays. I re­call one of our set books in 1982 was Joe de Graft’s Muntu. We had been ear­lier in­tro­duced to, James Bri­die’s

To­bias and The An­gel in Form two. By the end of my high school, I had read

Be­trayal in the City and Man of Kafira by Fran­cis Im­buga, An­dro­cles and the

Lion by Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller’s

The Death of A Sales­man, The Crucible,

Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel,

A man of All Sea­son by Robert Bolt and

Death in a Cathe­dral by T.S. Eliot. I be­lieve that my ap­pre­ci­a­tion of plays can be traced to my ini­tial ex­po­sure to a good play­book — James Bri­die’s To­bias and The An­gel by our lit­er­a­ture teacher in form two. This made me to ap­pre­ci­ate plays to the ex­tent that I came to read some plays by Shake­speare and Molo­rie plays by Greek play­wrights.

The read­ing of plays is no child’s play. It is a se­ri­ous ex­er­cise that calls upon and ex­pands our minds. Some of the great­est men and women we have had in his­tory took their time and en­ergy read­ing plays.

Plays also form one of the most im­por­tant pil­lars of ed­u­ca­tion in Europe, the Amer­i­cas and Asia.

Hu­man deal­ings

Plays as much deal with en­dur­ing prob­lems that men and women face — at in­tra-per­sonal and at in­ter­per­sonal lev­els. They deal with love and hate, jus­tice and in­jus­tice, hon­esty and dis­hon­esty in hu­man deal­ings.

They deal with the scope and lim­its of pa­tri­o­tism and loy­alty to fam­ily, friends and so­ci­ety in gen­eral. How far an in­di­vid­ual can go in ex­er­cis­ing his own free­dom of thought and ac­tion; and if he crosses the lim­its so­ci­ety has laid down for him, what hap­pens or does not hap­pen as a re­sult.

Plays deal with life and death — in all their facets. This de­fines hu­man­ity, which pro­vides the scaf­fold upon which ap­pre­ci­a­tion of hu­man life hinges on. It is the in­sights thereof that lead­ers of men and women need to gov­ern or guide so­ci­ety and in­sti­tu­tions.

Part of the awe­some pub­lic speak­ing abil­i­ties of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is be­cause he was well ac­quainted with the sub­tlety of lan­guage that the great plays he read de­vel­oped in him.

It is not un­usual that Robert Kennedy, in his im­promptu re­marks upon be­ing no­ti­fied about the as­sas­si­na­tion of Martin Luther King Jr fell back on Sopho­cles and the Greek lit­er­a­ture to ex­press his dis­may.

He knew well the vi­o­lent fric­tions that the as­sas­si­na­tion of Martin Luther King Jr. would ig­nite. He ac­cord­ingly in­voked the time­less lines Sopho­cles to warn of the dan­gers of big­otry and re­venge.

You see, in po­etry is to be found se­ri­ous is­sues about life, about the chal­lenges of living to­gether—is­sues that can help us to un­der­stand our­selves and oth­ers bet­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.