#Teamtate and The Merchant of Shelton

Why are our schools failing? It is a popular question these days and too often people point at the teachers. They too rarely look at school administrators and I think the whole #teamtate fiasco is a good illustration of where administrators are failing.

Let me start off by laying out the story, at least as I understand it. James Tate, a senior at Shelton High School came up with a great way of asking a girl to the prom. He posted giant cardboard letters on the school. At least as I am hearing the story from the school administration’s perspective, this involved trespassing on school property after dark. This was grounds for a one day suspension, and any student who has been suspended cannot participate in other school activities. The rules are very clear. James Tate cannot go to the prom.

The rules are there for a reason and should not be altered, the argument goes. Else, you may head down a slippery slope. Someone else might do something destructive and since the rules were bent once would argue they should be bent again. It all makes perfect sense in a black and white world with no room for shades of grey, let alone anything colorful.

It may be that we are moving towards such a world. It turns school administrators into automatons applying the rules, without any critical thinking. Yet isn’t critical thinking an important skill our schools are supposed to be teaching? Is critical thinking something taught by rote? Learn the rules. Apply them. Do not attempt to be creative.

No, if our schools are going to stop failing, they need to move away from this black and white thinking. They need to celebrate creativity.

So, perhaps the students at Shelton High School need to study The Merchant of Venice. Perhaps they could even stage an adaptation with Shelton High School Headmaster Beth Smith taking the role of Shylock, James Tate taking the role of Antonio, and Sonali Rodrigues playing the role of Portia.

Yes, Shylock Smith is entitled to take a pound of flesh from Antonio Tate.

but, in the cutting it, if she dost shed
One drop of Tate’s blood, her lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Connecticut, confiscate
Unto the state of Connecticut.

Already the Mayor of Shelton and the Governor of Connecticut have lined up on the side of Tate and if we read The Merchant of Venice further, we will see that perhaps Shylock Smith will need to be seeking mercy from Duke Dannell. Will someone find such a creative solution to this current mess to help Shelton and Connecticut recover from the damage that Shylock Smith is doing to the city and the state? Let us hope so. Let us hope that this can be a reminder to all of us about the importance of celebrating creativity, even if it requires rethinking and even bending rules sometimes.