One of my middle school students told me that they had just started a unit on Shakespeare. She goes to an American system school. They were going to read Romeo and Juliet.
Initially I thought great finally on par, another middle schooler student of mine who goes to a British system school was doing Romeo and Juliet as well.
She told me that they'd read the play for the first time in class.
All in one day? I asked.
And then she showed me "the play". It was entitled Romeo and Juliet at the Mall.
The opening line, "Two households alike in dignity" had been turned to "Like this is totally a sad story."
I wish I were joking.
The story continued with "and then the characters had these geeky names like Tybalt and Benvolio... not cool ones like J.Lo or Ke$ha."
"And then her nurse pulled Juliet away and totally freaked out because she was kissing some guy."
"And then the chick Juliet was like hello where are you Romeo?"
"And he was like hey hello I'm standing right underneath your balcony."
"Tybalt didn't know they were married but he should have been happy because he totally got out of buying a wedding gift... and then Mercutio was like 'screw both your houses.'"
Like no way and then they die at the end? Uncool.
While she's reading Romeo and Juliet are like dying at Verona Mall, the British school system middle schooler is reading the actual text of Romeo and Juliet and then moving on to Macbeth. They do have one "fun" project which is to do an illustrated research paper on Shakespeare and the Elizabethan era.
This American system middle schooler's project is to construct a paper mache representation of the Globe. They are also supposed to create a talk show interview between Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare.
"You know this isn't the real version of Romeo and Juliet right" (just in case.)
"Yea I know, but it's a modern translation."
"NO.. no it is not. At all!"
"We are going to read the real text ok? Two houses alike in dignity yes? I want you to understand the language, the imagery, the..."