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A lively and engaging guide to vital habits of mind that can help you think more deeply, write more effectively, and learn more joyfully How to Think like Shakespeare is a brilliantly fun exploration of the craft of thought--one that demonstrates what we've lost in education today, and how we might begin to recover it. In fourteen brief chapters that draw from Shakespeare's A lively and engaging guide to vital habits of mind that can help you think more deeply, write more effectively, and learn more joyfully How to Think like Shakespeare is a brilliantly fun exploration of the craft of thought--one that demonstrates what we've lost in education today, and how we might begin to recover it. In fourteen brief chapters that draw from Shakespeare's world and works, and from other writers past and present, Scott Newstok distills enduring practices that can make learning more creative and pleasurable. Challenging a host of today's questionable notions about education, Newstok shows how mental play emerges through work, creativity through imitation, autonomy through tradition, innovation through constraint, and freedom through discipline. It was these practices, and a conversation with the past--not a fruitless obsession with assessment--that nurtured a mind like Shakespeare's. And while few of us can hope to approach the genius of the Bard, we can all learn from the exercises that shaped him. Written in a friendly, conversational tone and brimming with insights, How to Think like Shakespeare enacts the thrill of thinking on every page, reviving timeless--and timely--ways to stretch your mind and hone your words.


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A lively and engaging guide to vital habits of mind that can help you think more deeply, write more effectively, and learn more joyfully How to Think like Shakespeare is a brilliantly fun exploration of the craft of thought--one that demonstrates what we've lost in education today, and how we might begin to recover it. In fourteen brief chapters that draw from Shakespeare's A lively and engaging guide to vital habits of mind that can help you think more deeply, write more effectively, and learn more joyfully How to Think like Shakespeare is a brilliantly fun exploration of the craft of thought--one that demonstrates what we've lost in education today, and how we might begin to recover it. In fourteen brief chapters that draw from Shakespeare's world and works, and from other writers past and present, Scott Newstok distills enduring practices that can make learning more creative and pleasurable. Challenging a host of today's questionable notions about education, Newstok shows how mental play emerges through work, creativity through imitation, autonomy through tradition, innovation through constraint, and freedom through discipline. It was these practices, and a conversation with the past--not a fruitless obsession with assessment--that nurtured a mind like Shakespeare's. And while few of us can hope to approach the genius of the Bard, we can all learn from the exercises that shaped him. Written in a friendly, conversational tone and brimming with insights, How to Think like Shakespeare enacts the thrill of thinking on every page, reviving timeless--and timely--ways to stretch your mind and hone your words.

30 review for How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    Fabricando fabricamur [By creating, we create ourselves.] "We've imposed educational programs that kill the capacity to think independently, or even the desire to do so. While we point to thinkers—Leonardo, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Curie—who model the disciplined, independent questing intellect we claim to revere, we enforce systems ensuring that our own young people could never emulate them." "The ed-tech-industrial complex's fetishizing of means is symptomatic of our deeper ailment, the inner Fabricando fabricamur [By creating, we create ourselves.] "We've imposed educational programs that kill the capacity to think independently, or even the desire to do so. While we point to thinkers—Leonardo, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Curie—who model the disciplined, independent questing intellect we claim to revere, we enforce systems ensuring that our own young people could never emulate them." "The ed-tech-industrial complex's fetishizing of means is symptomatic of our deeper ailment, the inner contradiction of an end that is the endless production of means without an end." "The emancipatory artes liberales were crafts of freedom: the highest level of thinking." 'The Greeks say poet from the verb poein which is halfway between creating (creare), which is proper to God when he brought everything into being from out of nothing; and 'making' (fare) which is proper to men when in each art, they compose from material and form. For this reason, although the poet's figment is not entirely out of nothing, yet he departs from making and approaches quite near to creating. And God is a poet, and the world his poem.' Scaliger, Tasso, and others concurred: There is no one in the world who deserves the name of Creator but God and the Poet. Against this audacious comparison, Auden countered: poetry makes nothing happen. What a bleak evaluation! one that sanctions every hostile suspicion about the frivolity of reading. "The root of 'attention' means to stretch toward something. It's both a physical and a mental effort—one yearns to become one with the object, the slender tendrils of the mind curling around it. We attend to it, just as a servant must attend to a ruler—with all the docility and contortion that implies." "Jorge Luis Borges crafted fables that crystallized our own technological quandaries. In one such story, a Bible salesman appears at the narrator's door, offering a fantastic book 'called the Book of Sand because neither the book nor sand has a beginning or an end...The number of pages in this book is literally infinite. No page is the first; none the last.' Beguiled, the narrator purchases this impossible book. But he comes to find its infinitude monstrous, something that overwhelms him: I felt it was a nightmare thing, an obscene thing, and that it defiled and corrupted reality." "Attention is the natural prayer that we make to inward truth." Nicolas Malebranche "Genius—the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work—seems to appear when a thing is perfectly suited to its context...When the right thing is in the right place, we are moved." David Byrne "A provision of endless apparatus, a bustle of infinite enquiry and research, or even the mere mechanical labour of coping, may be employed, to evade and shuffle off real labour;—the real labour of thinking." Sir Joshua Reynolds "Intellectual work is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation, and is its own highest reward." Mark Twain "I had to claim my birthright. I am what time, circumstance, history have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that. So are we all." James Baldwin

  2. 5 out of 5

    Justin Drummond

    I did not know what I was getting into when I started listening to this audiobook. I received is as an Advanced Listening Copy (ALC) through Libro.fm’s ALCs for Educators program. I was delighted to find a brief treatise on modern education built around comparing it to the type of education Shakespeare would have received organized into 14 topics. This book found me as I have recently been lamenting the inability of my high school junior and senior English students to think for themselves. In the I did not know what I was getting into when I started listening to this audiobook. I received is as an Advanced Listening Copy (ALC) through Libro.fm’s ALCs for Educators program. I was delighted to find a brief treatise on modern education built around comparing it to the type of education Shakespeare would have received organized into 14 topics. This book found me as I have recently been lamenting the inability of my high school junior and senior English students to think for themselves. In these chapters, I heard my observations and frustrations echoed. While not offering a specific “how-to” guide to fixing these problems, Newstok synthesizes ideas from across the millennia of academia to show how the current push for educational assessment and educational technology are not delivering the benefits they promised in the short term and are harming our ability to think for ourselves in the long term. I’m going to have to get a physical copy of this book and re-read it—there were so many ideas I want to spend more time thinking upon, and audiobooks are not always the best medium for sustained attention on one part of a book. I think this essay collection would make a good piece to give my advanced senior students to help them reflect on their education as they prepare to head out into college.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A concise and engaging guide to the habits and practices of mind that enable clarity of thought, expression, and learning. “I have not read very much Shakespeare in my adult life. Will this book make much sense to me?” In an email exchange with the author who asked me to consider reviewing this book, I asked this, seeing the title of the book. The author assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. Here’s why. What this book is really about is education’s purpose. He writes: “My conviction is th Summary: A concise and engaging guide to the habits and practices of mind that enable clarity of thought, expression, and learning. “I have not read very much Shakespeare in my adult life. Will this book make much sense to me?” In an email exchange with the author who asked me to consider reviewing this book, I asked this, seeing the title of the book. The author assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. Here’s why. What this book is really about is education’s purpose. He writes: “My conviction is that education must be about thinking—not training a set of specific skills. Education isn’t merely accumulating data: machines can memorize far more, and far less fallibly, than humans. (Albert Einstein: The value of an education…is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.) SCOTT NEWSTOK, P. .IX So where does Shakespeare come in? Newstok, an English professor and founder of the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment at Rhodes College draws on Shakespeare to identify the formative habits and practices that are evident in Shakespeare’s work and helped shape his particular genius. And then he draws on others from antiquity to the present day to make the case for thirteen aspects of learning to think well. Newstok begins two introductory chapters on the hard work of thinking and the ends of study. He proposes that the formative practices of Shakespeare were very different than the current practices of our schools. He had classes in Latin, had to submit to a variety of writing exercises, copied out quotations, imitated other writers until he found his voice, and so forth. In the chapter on ends, he proposes that modern education focuses far too much on means and not on the ends of forming people who speak and do well, who are useful citizens who can think well about every aspect of life The next twelve chapters focus on a particular aspect or habit of thought and expression: *Craft: The ability and power to work with raw materials to create a work. Shakespeare was a playwright; the etymology suggest dramas wrought with words. *Fit: Whether the glove on the hand, two pieces of wood joined, or the apt word or phrase. *Place: Learning and careful thought arises in thinking spaces, whether Shakespeare’s school or a classroom. *Attention: Often in his plays, Shakespeare’s characters are distracted. Newstok focuses on how learning, thought, prayer, and our best selves emerge from attention. *Technology: Writing in the sand, or with any other technology. Do we get distracted by the sand or attend to the writing, the message of which abides when the marks in the sand disappear? *Imitation: Art begins with imitation. Shakespeare borrowed all over the place until he came to sound like himself. *Exercises: One cannot write well unless one writes…and writes…and writes. Exercises, from imagining oneself in a different gender or station in life, or finding the myriad ways to express a thought all hone the gifts of expressing our thoughts. *Conversation: Newstok shares the fascinating image of Kenneth Burke of joining a conversation in process, learning the topic, and issues at hand, putting in our own thoughts, learning to question and explore the ideas of others, and then leaving the conversation to others as an image of the intellectual conversation that has run through history. *Stock: The wide reading that offers a store of ideas from which we assemble thought in creative new ways. *Constraint: Thought and expression works within the constraints of words, sentences, grammar and forms, such as the sonnet, and liberty is found within the bounds of our art. *Making: We not only make things with machines but also with words, and often in these words, we make ourselves. *Freedom: Not just freedom from but freedom to. At the heart of the “liberal arts” is to practice the craft of freedom. Newstok concludes with a reading list, “Kinsmen of the Shelf” for going further in the practices of good thought, connected to each chapter of the book. I was reminded of some old friends and learned of some intriguing new ones. This sounds like a serious book but Newstok treats serious matters with an artisan’s lightness of touch. The chapters are short, filled with quotes that will offer additions to your own commonplace book, and introduced by fitting artwork. It is a work worthy of attention by educators, whether in the liberal arts or not. Our present time underscores the vital need for education to be far more than the inculcation of information. Otherwise, in the words of Stephen Muller, former president of Johns Hopkins University, we are just turning out “highly skilled barbarians.” It is also a book that may be read reflectively and repeatedly for any of us who care deeply about the work of thinking and writing. We all have a long way to go in our craft. ____________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dianna

    Education has a long history of failing to transform us into thinkers, and I longed for an essay on why thinking isn’t so great after all.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrewbp677

    All around, a pretty good book, actually. Newstok, an Early Modern English lit scholar (focus on Shakespeare, obviously), re-opens the canon wars debate by making the case that we should engage with Renaissance thought (and tradition, which he calls the “common stock”) again, which was at one point not a very controversial claim. Part commonplace book, part polemic on the myriad ills of modern education (an obsessive focus on vocational training, an anti-liberal arts attitude, a shift to online All around, a pretty good book, actually. Newstok, an Early Modern English lit scholar (focus on Shakespeare, obviously), re-opens the canon wars debate by making the case that we should engage with Renaissance thought (and tradition, which he calls the “common stock”) again, which was at one point not a very controversial claim. Part commonplace book, part polemic on the myriad ills of modern education (an obsessive focus on vocational training, an anti-liberal arts attitude, a shift to online learning, etc.), with quite a bit of Shakespeare woven in (although not exclusively Shakespeare, which I think saves the book). The title is a bit misleading: it’s not literally about thinking like Shakespeare (that would be a much different, and duller book), but rather about rediscovering the habits of mind that great artists and thinkers like Shakespeare received in their educations and throughout their lives, and that they readily accepted. Broadly speaking, these could be boiled down to: • Thinking is techne, and is inherently an intrasubjective act • Assessment has led to short-term thinking in pedagogy • The classroom is a space where an experienced craftsperson imparts knowledge and works with apprentices • Students should be taught about the fit of content and forms (like context or decorum in rhetoric) • That teaching is a way of training pupils’ attention • That imitation of models and forms is a good pedagogical technique • That engaging in civic dialogue is an integral part of becoming a literate citizen (whether through conversation or reading, but certainly through a lot of reading) • That we should not shy away from the “common stock”—either from drawing from it or contributing to it (this is obviously an argument in favor of some kind of canon) • That constraints in writing and other arts are a good thing • That writing is a form of making (meditations on poeisis and that sort of thing) • That liberal arts are the only true way to freedom Again, good stuff! I’ll be mining this for ideas for years (there’s lots of great references and ideas for activities sprinkled throughout). While in some ways it’s similar to other panegyrics to the liberal arts that I’ve read over the years (In Defense of a Liberal Education; A Practical Education), it (thankfully) does not read like a Chronicle think piece, which is a tired, tired genre by now. What separates it from those other works is an actual profound engagement with its themes and topics. For instance, the “Of Sand” chapter is a poetic and engaging meditation that begins with the silicon chips used in digital technology and ends with the literal sand from which chips are made (and various literary and philosophical treatments of it). It’s a neat little chapter, and really very engaging. Unlike those other drier texts, it’s actually a good embodiment of its principles; in other words, there’s a good “fit” between form and content.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Miller

    I’ll have to reread this book – probably several times – even to begin to absorb it all or comment in depth on its main themes, so I won’t attempt it now. Though well under 200 pages, How to Think Like Shakespeare was a slow read because nearly every paragraph contains a quote or thought or phrase that required me to slow down, reread, and ponder it. A slow but pleasurable and profitable reading experience. The book is a treasure trove of quotations, ancient and modern. My commonplace book now h I’ll have to reread this book – probably several times – even to begin to absorb it all or comment in depth on its main themes, so I won’t attempt it now. Though well under 200 pages, How to Think Like Shakespeare was a slow read because nearly every paragraph contains a quote or thought or phrase that required me to slow down, reread, and ponder it. A slow but pleasurable and profitable reading experience. The book is a treasure trove of quotations, ancient and modern. My commonplace book now has many new additions. Bless Newstok for using footnotes, making it so much easier to find his sources rather than flipping to endnotes. And bless him for giving me so many books to add to my reading list. Newstok’s writing, especially about the education establishment and modern educational theories, is reminiscent of the Underground Grammarian, Richard Mitchell, minus the acid tongue. I miss Mitchell’s writing, so this fills a void for me. Just a few of my favorite quotes, so far: -The disempowerment of teachers makes them little more than paraprofessionals . . . present not to model thinking, just to help the machines hoover up a child’s “data exhaust….” -Distance learning begins in the second row. -Close learning: the laborious, time-consuming, and irreplaceable proximity between teacher and student. -Religious, philosophical, and pedagogical traditions have developed extraordinary resources to honing attention, to mitigate our innate tendency to look another way. -We think through inherited forms, because we are a world of imitations. -Expansion, unlike narrowness of mind, demand agility. You must occupy (at least) two sides of the question with equal vigor and rigor. -A well-stocked mind is what prepares you for flashes of insight.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sam Strickland

    Newstok writes a book worth returning to with a rich stock of ideas, allusions, and wordplay. Some of the critiques of current educational fads and practices were too familiar to me already, but the constructive elements of the book proved generative. It’s an excellent read for those interested in education or expanding their “too read” list.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Worst. Title. Ever. But it was well-reviewed, so I gave it a shot. At first I thought it was going to be a professor's long rant against No Child Left Behind; but it became much more than that. The key is in the subtitle, and the author really does devote a series of very short chapters endorsing all the old pedagogical methods that were used in the Renaissance and which are still valuable, simply because our brains haven't changed. The importance of paying attention, not being distracted. Readi Worst. Title. Ever. But it was well-reviewed, so I gave it a shot. At first I thought it was going to be a professor's long rant against No Child Left Behind; but it became much more than that. The key is in the subtitle, and the author really does devote a series of very short chapters endorsing all the old pedagogical methods that were used in the Renaissance and which are still valuable, simply because our brains haven't changed. The importance of paying attention, not being distracted. Reading a lot and in the best authors. (He admits disputes about how to select the canon, but maintains that you have to have one--a common store that other people will have read.) Importance of having a place to learn--a room with other like-minded people sharing interest in a subject. Memorizing extensively. Translating from some other language into English and then trying to translate your translation back into the original. Learning to write through imitation. The value of constraints (sonnet form, for example) and the freedom that results from it. There are many, many quotes from authors throughout history, a fair number of them unfamiliar to me. Here is John Donne preaching a funeral sermon 400 years ago speaking of distraction: "I am not all here. I am here now preaching upon this text, and I am at home in my library considering whether St. Gregory or St. Jerome have said best of this text before. I am here speaking to you, and yet I consider by the way, in the same instant, what it is likely you will say to one another when I have done. You are not all here neither; you are here now, hearing me, and yet you are thinking that you have heard a better sermon somewhere else...you are here, and you remember to yourselves that now you think of it, this would have been a fit time, now, when everybody else is at church, to have made such and such a private visit; and because you would be there, you are there." And as a bonus the author's writing is clever and witty too.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emily M

    I've read a lot of books about education, but it was refreshing to find an unabashedly progressive defense of the Great Conversation and what amounts to a classical education, both of which often just tend to find supporters among conservatives. Recently, education has inevitably become a political battleground. I hope that many on both sides of the aisle will read and be inspired by this very accessibility defense of some very old ideas about being, knowing, making. I would love to reread and d I've read a lot of books about education, but it was refreshing to find an unabashedly progressive defense of the Great Conversation and what amounts to a classical education, both of which often just tend to find supporters among conservatives. Recently, education has inevitably become a political battleground. I hope that many on both sides of the aisle will read and be inspired by this very accessibility defense of some very old ideas about being, knowing, making. I would love to reread and discuss this one with fellow classical homeschooling moms.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Smith

    ‘Mere data transmission doesn’t induce deep learning. It’s the ability to interact, to think hard thoughts in the presence of other people.’ The description above for this book gives a certain self-help ‘how to’ feel, yet that’s not what this book is. Rather, it’s a lively discussion on the state of education today, and as all educators instinctively know, we aren’t necessarily getting it right. This is an American book, but its content is valid for Australia, and many other parts of the world, I ‘Mere data transmission doesn’t induce deep learning. It’s the ability to interact, to think hard thoughts in the presence of other people.’ The description above for this book gives a certain self-help ‘how to’ feel, yet that’s not what this book is. Rather, it’s a lively discussion on the state of education today, and as all educators instinctively know, we aren’t necessarily getting it right. This is an American book, but its content is valid for Australia, and many other parts of the world, I daresay. There were so many times I found myself nodding, understanding exactly the author’s despair in the education system: standardised testing, curriculum tailored to assessment, the death of creativity within the classroom, a devaluing of arts over STEM, the rise and rise of depersonalised online learning; the list goes on. Considering our recent hike in university fees for arts and humanities degrees whilst anything STEM related had its prices slashed; then I see this, written by an author on the other side of the world, the same thing happening in America. Why, why is this happening? ‘Today both “liberal” and “arts” suffer from narrow connotations that don’t convey the vital ambitions of this program of study. But “liberal” just means “free”, and “arts” means something far more comprehensive, like science, or knowledge, or craft.’ By drawing on the principles of a Renaissance Education, the author, a teacher of much experience himself, points out the large and gaping holes in the modern education system. But he doesn’t stop there, using a wealth of sources and critical thinking to make connections on how ‘thinking like Shakespeare’ should be the ultimate goal of any education system. This book is well researched, cleverly written, entertaining as well as informative. For a book on thinking, it does a great job at getting the reader thinking throughout. ‘A Shakespearean education gives us the chance to build habits of mind that individuals (and cultures) need if they’re to flourish. We all need practice in curiosity, intellectual agility, the determination to analyse, commitment to resourceful communication, historically and culturally situated reflectiveness, the confidence to embrace complexity. In short: the ambition to create something better, in whatever field.’ You don’t need to be an educator to benefit from reading this book. Educators will, of course, appreciate it immensely, but it’s really a book that can be read widely, particularly by those who love words, history, literature, learning, and … Shakespeare. It will get you thinking about thinking, in a whole new way. ‘Education ought to exercise us in the crafts of freedom, helping us reach out fullest capacities to make by emulating aspirational models, stretching our thinking as well as our words. Anything else is a curtailment of our birthright.’ Thanks is extended to Newsouth Books for providing me with a copy of How to Think Like Shakespeare for Review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Naemi

    ** DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, all opinions presented here are my own. ** “My conviction is that education must be about thinking – not training a specific set of skills.” As a huge Shakespeare nerd and future teacher, I was immediately intrigued when the author reached out to me and told me the premise of this book. Dissecting problems in our modern school systems by comparing them to Renaissance education? That was certainly somethin ** DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, all opinions presented here are my own. ** “My conviction is that education must be about thinking – not training a specific set of skills.” As a huge Shakespeare nerd and future teacher, I was immediately intrigued when the author reached out to me and told me the premise of this book. Dissecting problems in our modern school systems by comparing them to Renaissance education? That was certainly something I hadn’t read before, and I was interested to see what How to Think Like Shakespeare had to offer. And in general, I do think that this book is a great conversation starter. Despite its heavy intertextuality, it is written in a very accessible manner, with short essay-like chapters that break down the author’s main ideas in a precise and engaging way. Teaching to the test, lack of practical experience, too little engagement with traditional texts, the dangers of technology, and more – Scott Newstok has something to say about all of these issues and illustrates his points by contrasting our modern-day education with the one Shakespeare likely received. That being said, though, I don’t think the book really goes into a lot of depth. Most of the problems mentioned are probably fairly obvious to anyone with experience in teaching or being taught, and I didn’t really feel as though How to Think Like Shakespeare added much to the existing conversation. Yes, it was a well-written summary of current issues in education, but it didn’t really do much beyond that. All examples given were extremely brief, the solutions proposed rather vague. And while the historical snippets were interesting, I also felt they could have gone into more detail. Instead of giving us a more in-depth look into Renaissance education and what we might learn from it, I felt the author had a very clear idea of which parts of the US school system needed reforming, told us more about those, and then picked out aspects of Shakespearean education and lots of quotes that would drive home those points, almost as an afterthought. As an introduction to a more critical conversation about modern day education, this book serves its purpose. The ideas presented are interesting – for example, I really enjoyed the chapter about how smartphones and online classes are shaping the educational landscape, especially now that I have actually gotten to experience these things more than I might have liked to thanks to the pandemic – and I think they’d provide a good basis for a group discussion. However, for anyone looking to delve deeper or get a more thorough understanding of education during the Renaissance, How to Think Like Shakespeare is probably not the right book to turn to.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

    This treasure of a book was not a dry exposition of Shakespeare's educational background, but more of a guide or defense of what truly makes a good education. Published in April of this year, there is no way Newstok could have known the major upheaval that Covid prevention has brought upon American schools. (One especially good chapter was about how a sense of place adds so much to learning and is absent in virtual classrooms) I enjoyed this book so much that I started a different book partway th This treasure of a book was not a dry exposition of Shakespeare's educational background, but more of a guide or defense of what truly makes a good education. Published in April of this year, there is no way Newstok could have known the major upheaval that Covid prevention has brought upon American schools. (One especially good chapter was about how a sense of place adds so much to learning and is absent in virtual classrooms) I enjoyed this book so much that I started a different book partway through so I wouldn't inhale it in one or two sittings.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Evrendyg

    A thoughtful work nudging us to check & change our obsession over “assessment”, “targets”, “rubrics”, “learning outcomes”. This misses the point of education. Scott Newstock begins his book by declaring that “the value of education... is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks”. He continues to explain how this may be done, referring to practices from Shakespeare’s time. Liberal education is a craft and should be practi A thoughtful work nudging us to check & change our obsession over “assessment”, “targets”, “rubrics”, “learning outcomes”. This misses the point of education. Scott Newstock begins his book by declaring that “the value of education... is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks”. He continues to explain how this may be done, referring to practices from Shakespeare’s time. Liberal education is a craft and should be practiced like an apprentice under the guidance of a master. I agreed very much with his view that technology in the classroom was just a tool, not the end; that “attention is the natural prayer that we make to truth”; that we learn from the best by imitating them and find our own voice in the process; that “experience in thinking can be won, like all experience in doing something, only through practice, through exercises; that we should familiarize with classics from the past, our stock, our treasure of the commons; that constraints can be freeing. The many quotes in the book gives an impression of conversing with the past.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    A fascinating book, very erudite, yet pleasant and engaging to read. Its 14 short chapters focus on various learning techniques and habits of mind that can improve (or hinder) thinking, writing and learning, looking back to the era in which Shakespeare was educated as a model. There is trenchant criticism of current educational trends with their reliance on superficially impressive technology, STEM classes and standardized testing, and Newstok makes a persuasive case for a renewed focus on the l A fascinating book, very erudite, yet pleasant and engaging to read. Its 14 short chapters focus on various learning techniques and habits of mind that can improve (or hinder) thinking, writing and learning, looking back to the era in which Shakespeare was educated as a model. There is trenchant criticism of current educational trends with their reliance on superficially impressive technology, STEM classes and standardized testing, and Newstok makes a persuasive case for a renewed focus on the liberal arts and the classic teaching methods that produced Shakespeare and so many other brilliant minds of the past. My favorite aspect of the book was the relentless stream of profound and apt quotations that enliven virtually every paragraph, along with their corresponding footnotes...in fact, the footnotes alone are an educational smorgasbord in themselves, pointing the way to a dizzying array of additional reading pathways to explore.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Of Disappointment. Since the author uses quotes a great deal to drive home a message. Alexander Pope has an apt one for my expectations of this Book “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” If you were to take out the quotes and references in this book, it might be a one page per chapter. I was expecting a book into the insight of Shakespeare writings. Not a book on the disappointments of the educational system of the world. I did enjoy the quotes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Candy

    Although I'm only on page 48 drawing to half way through this book...I love it. I will review the book on my podcast twice, tomorrows episode as I am halfway though then next weeks podcast when I am finished it. It is terrific. Great book. Highly recommend! https://agencypodcast.podbean.com Although I'm only on page 48 drawing to half way through this book...I love it. I will review the book on my podcast twice, tomorrows episode as I am halfway though then next weeks podcast when I am finished it. It is terrific. Great book. Highly recommend! https://agencypodcast.podbean.com

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wilbur

    Short book and yet too long. If he spent more time discussing Shakespeare, than preaching, he could possibly have produced an interesting article.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bryce Doty

    This year, after reading Alan Jacob’s “Breaking Bread With the Dead,” I decided to turn back the clock on my “to-read” list and read around in the late Middle Ages and Early Modern eras in the English language. I want to linger for awhile on the pre-occupations, anxieties, and framings of the world those people held, as communicated through the writings we have, in the hope that such an extended stay will affect what I think about and how I think about it. All that to say, I’m tired of Twitter-b This year, after reading Alan Jacob’s “Breaking Bread With the Dead,” I decided to turn back the clock on my “to-read” list and read around in the late Middle Ages and Early Modern eras in the English language. I want to linger for awhile on the pre-occupations, anxieties, and framings of the world those people held, as communicated through the writings we have, in the hope that such an extended stay will affect what I think about and how I think about it. All that to say, I’m tired of Twitter-brain and want to do something different (maybe worse!) with my brain. So when Scott Newstok’s “How to Think Like Shakespeare” came to my attention (most likely through Twitter, ahem) I thought it would compliment my reading schedule this year. The thing is, I haven’t quite started my dive into stranger worlds quite yet. Having stated my intentions, I may have already killed my plan. Putting a book on the reading list at all is a great way to guarantee I will never get around to reading it. Whim continually takes me in different directions. When I do get around to it, I will be grateful for having read Newstok’s book. How to Think… is nothing new, something Newstok is the first to state. Instead of a novel approach to education, it is a return to education as the process by which humans learn how to think. Each short chapter invites the reader to align aspects of a renaissance education to contemporary voices in an effort to pursuade the reader of the value of training one’s brain, habits, and rhythms as Shakespeare may have. Some of the words are Newstok’s but as he states in the introduction, the book is a patchwork of quoted passages, an “almost endless collection of scattered thoughts and observations.” For example, that passage, five pages into the introduction, is already the eighteenth citation, a quote taken from Rousseau. This pastiche of attributions takes some getting used to, but it serves both form and function throughout the book. A Kenneth Burke quote taken at length, analogizing intellectual pursuit as an unending conversation justifies Newstok’s method. Intellectual history is a vast inheritance spreading out through time, a gift of endless words and traditions which one may freely take and use, manipulate and imitate, in order to join the conversation midstream with the hopes of contributing something to the cacophony of voices. Constraints, rules, and forms help develop the skills necessary to contribute, but constraints reveal the freedom in committing to learning the conversation. To that end, his prose is packed with the words of others. A nice turn of phrase is incorporated into his own sentence, a lengthy excerpt is used to introduce an idea—all in order to drive home the point that to think like Shakespeare means “thinking with each other’s / harvest.” And it succeeds in presenting a rich inheritance to draw from with curated approaches from the past which are helpful in accessing the communal intellectual bequeathment. This approach is a refreshing one compared to current treatments of the intellectual inheritance. It is far too easy to dismiss old dead white guys by simply pointing to the fact that the authors and thinkers are in fact, old dead white guys. Newstok situates James Baldwin’s wrestling with Shakespeare as a sort of counter-narrative to such easy dismissals. And Baldwin wrestles, really wrests from Shakespeare a cultural heritage he initially feels alienated from. “I would have to appropriate these white centuries, I would have to make them mine.” And in such appropriating, Newstok links Baldwin to past thinkers who appropriate and take ownership of the collective intellectual heritage through sheer force. St. Augustine, when contemplating secular knowledge and how it can contribute to spiritual knowledge, compared taking what is of use in those realms to the plundering of the Egyptians during the Biblical exodus. Newstok doesn’t go that far, but this treatment with the past as one of a wrestling appropriation of one’s rightful cultural birthright (as he quotes Seneca “the best ideas are common property..whatever is well said by anyone is mine”) feels miles away from easy dismissals so commonplace today. Could such an approach provide fruitful paths forward in the current climate? It is easy to think that knowledge is always accretive or dialectic, but Newstok’s book suggests otherwise. The conversation is swirling and unending. Past treatments of issues may have been too easily discarded, ill-suited or ignored. Knowledge is a never ending remix—dredging the past can yield dividends, especially when it concerns how one thinks in the first place. Finishing How to Think Like Shakespeare encourages me to start my Early Modern English pursuit. I am excited to understand a foreign-to-me worldview. I look forward to further wresting a cultural history from the bard, as well as stealing a few good turns of phrases to covertly sprinkle into work emails from time to time.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brad Balderson

    You have trouble remembering; you have trouble learning like you used to; you don’t understand how or why the enlightenment era produced such giants of thought - from Franklin, to Shakespeare, to Adam Smith, to Kant, to Newton - yet you can’t even remember your partner’s phone number. The roman’s knew how to remember; they constructed palaces of knowledge within their minds; constructed whole libraries - recited huge tomes of work. They had huge mental stock to draw on in times of need. Yet, tod You have trouble remembering; you have trouble learning like you used to; you don’t understand how or why the enlightenment era produced such giants of thought - from Franklin, to Shakespeare, to Adam Smith, to Kant, to Newton - yet you can’t even remember your partner’s phone number. The roman’s knew how to remember; they constructed palaces of knowledge within their minds; constructed whole libraries - recited huge tomes of work. They had huge mental stock to draw on in times of need. Yet, today the construction of such palaces is not common knowledge - most people don’t think they have good memories, when in reality they just never learned the strategies that enable effective use of one’s memory. Just like knowledge on how to use memory fell into decline with the effective outsourcing of memory to the internet, laptops, and other external devices; so too our capacity to think is fading into decline as computers increasingly think for us. Why have mental arithmetic when my computer can calculate far faster, more reliably? Why know anything at all when google is in my pocket, ready to answer just about any question I posit? Clearly, as people increasingly outsource their thinking, so their capacity for creativity, to think, to problem solve, to build new things, to construct a better life - will fall into decline. You’d think a book called ‘How to Think like Shakespeare’ might explore decision making processes and unique aspects of his life which enabled such prolific creativity; but Scott Newstok explores the pedagogical practices during the enlightenment period which lead to such giants of thoughts such as Shakespeare and contrasts them with our own. Many such practices have not only gone into decline, but have actively become the opposite of what nurtures the mind and it’s capacity. ‘How to Think Like Shakespeare’ is not about ‘what’ Shakespeare thought; but ‘how’ - the preconditions which can mould a human mind to such heights of imaginative capacity. This ‘how’ lies in particular cultural attitudes that largely stem from the large number of craftsman at the time; craftsman which moulded the products they produced to the individual customer; craftsman that hone each aspect of their craft, looking for ways to improve; craftsman that stocked materials and knew this material well - as an extension of their very being - to be combined and recombined in novel combinations to create something new; craftsman that embodied their craft with their full attention, silencing all other thoughts as they worked the material, massaged and sculpted it; craftsman that emulated one another when they saw a new way of working which they admired. Thinking and writing is craft too; we need a stock of thoughts to combine and recombine into novel combinations to create new thoughts; we need quiet time for such digestion and recombination to occur; we need to study - the prayer for knowledge - with focused attention to absorb new stock of thought to create something new; we need to practice, to perform our exercises that deliberately stretch our capacities in different directions; we need the context of time and space to help link the new idea to smell, sound, and people to allow us to remember; we need to learn for the sake of learning, to recognised that in order to see a pattern in novel situations, we first must take the leap of faith to learn the pattern first. Forget learning for grades; learning cannot be automated, and is dangerous to measure (since we measure what is easy, not what matters); the Prussian, factory model of schooling does not work. So to teach a new idea, the idea must be explained, moulded, and sculpted to the shape of the individual's mind; to be fitted like a glove to a hand. One-size-fits-all school; over-emphasis on metrics; as opposed thinking and imaginative capacity - those things do not produce good thinkers. These things produce good factory workers, and the factories don’t really need people any more. “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” - Charles Goodhart “Ours is an age proud of machines that think, and suspicious of any man that tries.” While not from this book, Frank Herbert in Dune echoes the same sentiment: “It is shocking to find out how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.” “The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.” “He who controls the spice, controls the universe.” I really enjoyed this book; and it taught me alot about learning and helped me make sense of alot of observations I’ve made in my life of learning. I really, highly suggest giving this book your attention; it’s possible the ideas here - if you put them into practice - will open up dormant creativity within you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hinman

    Wow, what a book. I think there is a good reason why this is included in the recommended "trio" (which includes Breaking Bread with the Dead, Lost in Thought, and this book). Here's the order I'd recommend reading them: - Lost in Thought by Zena Hitz - Breaking Bread with the Dead by Alan Jacobs - How to Think Like Shakespeare by Scott Newstok There is a lot to think about with this book, and it this season of a current pandemic (this review is written during the 2020 pandemic) it has a lot of intere Wow, what a book. I think there is a good reason why this is included in the recommended "trio" (which includes Breaking Bread with the Dead, Lost in Thought, and this book). Here's the order I'd recommend reading them: - Lost in Thought by Zena Hitz - Breaking Bread with the Dead by Alan Jacobs - How to Think Like Shakespeare by Scott Newstok There is a lot to think about with this book, and it this season of a current pandemic (this review is written during the 2020 pandemic) it has a lot of interesting things to say about the role of both education and technology in our daily lives. I know it's definitely shaped my thinking around my daughter's homeschooling, as well as my own intellectual pursuits. Also, there are enough footnotes and references to last a lifetime. Reading a book like this is an exercise in exponential widening of my personal literary "chart". Anyway, read the book, and then come, let's walk and think together about it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    April

    I very much enjoyed this convincing treatise on the value of an Elizabethan education. Some of the rote memorization and focus on classics vs high interest texts feels so alien to what education is moving toward, but Newstok provides solid reasoning in developing rhetorical and critical thinking skills along with creativity through seemingly more restrictive methods. It clearly doesn't have all of the answers and isn't a one-stop shop on teaching, but it's a good one to inform an overall pedagog I very much enjoyed this convincing treatise on the value of an Elizabethan education. Some of the rote memorization and focus on classics vs high interest texts feels so alien to what education is moving toward, but Newstok provides solid reasoning in developing rhetorical and critical thinking skills along with creativity through seemingly more restrictive methods. It clearly doesn't have all of the answers and isn't a one-stop shop on teaching, but it's a good one to inform an overall pedagogical philosophy. I'll definitely re-read, and I highly recommend this to teachers, especially teachers of reading, writing, and critical thinking.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeanine

    I got this free as an Advanced Listener Copy (ALC) via Libro.fm. I listened to it at 1.5 and it did not work for me. I loved towards the end of the book where Newstok talked about doing a seminar on Shakespeare's sonnets in a women's prison. Loved the prisoner's enthusiasm. L-O-V-E. Otherwise, I think I will have to re-listen to this book at the 1.0 speed. I think I missed some of it. I got this free as an Advanced Listener Copy (ALC) via Libro.fm. I listened to it at 1.5 and it did not work for me. I loved towards the end of the book where Newstok talked about doing a seminar on Shakespeare's sonnets in a women's prison. Loved the prisoner's enthusiasm. L-O-V-E. Otherwise, I think I will have to re-listen to this book at the 1.0 speed. I think I missed some of it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    audio

  24. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Especially recommended for educators!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Tindale

    Insightful read. Outstanding

  26. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    This was one of those books that you keep waiting to get into, but then you realize you're never going to when it's too far into the book and you just finish it anyway. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Not my cup of tea. This was one of those books that you keep waiting to get into, but then you realize you're never going to when it's too far into the book and you just finish it anyway. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Not my cup of tea.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Space Station

    Scott Newstok’s new book, How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education, makes a seemingly radical proposition: what if we returned to the teaching methods of Shakespeare’s day? Please see the rest of my review here: https://mirisaspacestation.blogspot.c... Scott Newstok’s new book, How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education, makes a seemingly radical proposition: what if we returned to the teaching methods of Shakespeare’s day? Please see the rest of my review here: https://mirisaspacestation.blogspot.c...

  28. 4 out of 5

    George

    What does it take to do something creative? How are some people like William Shakespeare able to so naturally produce original and indeed phenomenal works? Why was the Renaissance period such a high mark for learning and what we can adopt from it to benefit us? These are all questions that Newstok tackles in this book How to Think Like Shakespeare. Drawing reference from the life and work of William Shakespeare and other successful figures throughout history, Newstok shows how creativity and grea What does it take to do something creative? How are some people like William Shakespeare able to so naturally produce original and indeed phenomenal works? Why was the Renaissance period such a high mark for learning and what we can adopt from it to benefit us? These are all questions that Newstok tackles in this book How to Think Like Shakespeare. Drawing reference from the life and work of William Shakespeare and other successful figures throughout history, Newstok shows how creativity and great work comes about. Critically, it is not about talent or luck, but rather the way in which we learn and practice. The book details many of these: how to learn, how to study, how to think, how to practice, how to structure your environment, and many more. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to become more creative and ultimately “learn how to learn”. You will gain a new perspective on how to structure your thinking, work, and life in a way that allows you to produce your best.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather Johnson

    This is the second edu-book I've read this semester, and I am struck by how timely they both are. Newstok's book dives into some pretty hefty criticism of contemporary educational models that, quite frankly, need to be discussed by educators. Who, exactly, is making decisions about what is best for students? There are so many trends in education, and while that isn't surprising --there are always trends-- what is surprising is how many of our current trends fail to require students to think. New This is the second edu-book I've read this semester, and I am struck by how timely they both are. Newstok's book dives into some pretty hefty criticism of contemporary educational models that, quite frankly, need to be discussed by educators. Who, exactly, is making decisions about what is best for students? There are so many trends in education, and while that isn't surprising --there are always trends-- what is surprising is how many of our current trends fail to require students to think. Newstok's book calls into question some of these edu-movements and ponders what the impact will be on students. From putting devices into the hands of all students, to online school, to makerspaces, and the term "liberal arts," he quickly covers a lot of territory in a short amount of time. While he isn't arguing anything new (and funnily enough, that's often what his book circles back to), what he does do is highlight how critical thinking and learning from the success of others can help students dive more deeply into their own studies while avoiding the pressure of high stakes testing and edu-celeb movements. I'll definitely need to revisit this in a hard copy though. The audiobook wasn't the best way for me to digest this information for sure... *I re-read the physical copy of this book, provided by the author, and I appreciate being able to SEE the illustrations/photographs and the quotes. I am using this as an annotated, progressive book club and can’t wait to see what my colleagues from all over have to say about it!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Janet Dean

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