Those That Can’t Rubbish Those That Can

I’ve been thinking about George Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare.  How writerly is that?

Last week I had the pleasure of guest lecturing at Lincoln University. I was talking to second and a few third year students about TV: the industry and craft.

On the way home, as I considered just how much I’d enjoyed my day, I thought about George Bernard Shaw. He famously rubbished teaching in Man and Superman. ‘He who can does; he who cannot, teaches.’

Was it simply because GBS had a lousy time at school?

English: Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard...

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Like Shaw, I didn’t relish school much.  But unlike him, ‘I can do and I can teach’. And I revel in it. Why? Because I learn from teaching.  It makes me think.

If I’m among a sparky bunch of students, as was the case in Lincoln, there’s an almost palpable buzz around them. And when I go home, I take some of that buzz away with me.

Another plus, is that the craft issues I drone on about the most are generally the ones I’m in danger of neglecting.  So by teaching others, I  improve my own craft.

Of course, there is a downside to teaching, especially in the winter months when sneezing, coughing, gobbing, students spread their germs with gusto.

And let’s not forget the other huge minus to teaching; students who just don’t get it. All teachers will recognise them. They’re disruptive because they think they already know it all. Perhaps like GBS?

Now reading Man and Superman, I am not impressed by GBS’s characterisation nor the drama of the piece – and incidentally, the opening sequence is a dramatic cliché. But I note his emphasis on intellect. I suppose this is appropriate for a philosopher.

However, by contrast, any Shakespearian play makes me think about the humanity of the characters whether it’s poor ambitious Lady Macbeth, bitter, hurt Shylock or lovelorn fool Bottom.  And when I think about the characters’ humanity, I reflect on my own.

As a writer, I seek not to prove how clever I am, which is frankly, not very clever at all. But to connect and share my humanity.

Following my visit to Lincoln, I heard that my talk had stimulated a discussion about the goal of happiness. For me, this is a result. I provoked them to think and they did the same for me.   Thank you Lincoln!

About merlenygate

Writer, script editor
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