I Hate Shakespeare and Literature

That is the comment someone left on one of my posts about Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29. Their IP address came from Panama. Based on the email address (amigas por siempre), the commenter is likely young and female–probably a student.

You see, posts I made about Shakespeare or Wallace Stevens are placing high in Google searches. And these days, a remarkable number of students use Google as a means to gather materials for English essays. In fact, a lot of them simply plagiarize what they find. Cut. Paste. Grade.

There are a number of websites and tools designed to help teachers detect plagiarism. In the end, though, the root problem still lies with a younger generation feeling so creatively uninspired by literature and its presentation in schools that they flock to their computers to Google up a grade rather than think about what they have read (if they did).

I have no idea if that is what this person was doing. But I know she (if it really was a she) was frustrated enough to dump her thoughts into the website of a total stranger.

How have we failed? Still burning in my mind is the experience of introducing a young South American college student to Neruda for the first time. The air was electric. I know it’s possible to love literature because I do–and I have seen firsthand how it can make others come alive.

That so many students are now, by contrast, so deeply disenfranchised that they Google their way through an English grade breaks my heart. If you look closely, even The Bard has a tear in his eye.