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.
Scott Newstok’s How to Think like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education really is a feel good book. A thick lather of the author’s enthusiasm, a comprehensive coverage of his subject matter, and the common sense inherent in his value judgments, work together to whip up a likeminded enthusiasm in his readers. It has an advantage of being a small book, easily transported in a bag ... The book delivers what it promises ... Exercises leading to refinement, conversation generating precision, teaching a common stock of knowledge seen as privileging, constraints on reading and thinking, failure to allow our thinking, as well as our words, to stretch the boundaries...all feature in Newstok’s breathtaking work. All aspects are argued in cogent fashion. Some views may be thought extreme, but no one can deny the passion, the brilliance of the thought, the cogency of the argument, and the depth and breadth of the writer’s knowledge ... I found the experience of reading Newstok nothing short of exhilarating.
...[a] clever new book ... Newstok takes an original approach: his purpose is not so much to enhance our understanding of Shakespeare’s works as to develop our own mental processes with Elizabethan schooling as our guide ... He turns to Shakespeare’s classroom because, in his view, it embodies this philosophy; he recognizes from the outset that 'building a bridge to the sixteenth century must seem a perverse prescription for today’s ills,' but does so because it allows him to conjure an educational environment that privileged writing, speaking, and critical thinking. These are valuable skills too, Newstok argues, skills that need to be pursued with just as much rigor as those taught in STEM fields ... The problem, however, is that How to Think Like Shakespeare idealizes the Elizabethan classroom and the Latin drills that underpinned it ... Newstok’s is not a historicist book, nor does it aim to be. Yet more attention to the historical particulars might have strengthened the project; as it stands, his view of early modern pedagogy is somewhat rosy-eyed ... Scott Newstok’s smart and valuable new book, luckily, teaches us only to think like Shakespeare: it’s as close as we can get to the real thing, and perhaps as close as we might want to.
...[a] pithy diatribe about the honing of the modern creative mind ... In this moment when teaching and learning methods are by necessity restricted, Newstok’s fascinating polemic is easier to read and appreciate if one takes it as it a description, rather than a prescription. As a concise history of Western pedagogical development, How To Think Like Shakespeare succeeds beautifully ... That educational methods are culturally (and politically) determined is hardly a groundbreaking notion. Newstok knows this ... Still, it’s interesting to be reminded of all the ways pedagogical ideals — as well as the hallmarks of an educated human being — have shifted over time. And who among us doesn’t benefit from having her intellectual blind spots probed, questioned, and revealed.