Thursday, November 19, 2015
One Flew Over Cuckoo Nest Has Themes Galore for Educators
School Scope: One Flew Over Cuckoo Nest Has Themes Galore for Educators
By Norm Scott
I began to explore some of the themes of the play we are performing this weekend at the Rockaway Theatre Company production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in my RTC column. I want to delve into some of the larger issues in this column. The question of authoritarian governing structures, the nation-state level down the school and an asylum run by an authoritarian Nurse Ratched, a iconic figure in fiction who represents state authority. I have one big speech in the play as the so-called doctor in charge who is in reality under the thumb of the nurse. I explain the concept of the so-called “therapeutic community” we are supposedly running. “This ward is society in miniature and sine society decides who is sane and who isn’t you MUST measure up,” I explain to the new patient, McMurphy, who is clearly not insane but acting like he is to escape the drudgery of the work farm where he was imprisoned for various transgressions, including statutory rape. An interesting concept that society decides who is sane. I then tell McMurphy that “our aim is a completely democratic ward governed by the patients working to restore you to the outside.” McMurphy either seems to take this seriously or else plays along to milk the system to undermine it by calling for the patients to take a vote on a fairly trivial matter like watching the 1963 World Series which Nurse Ratched clearly won’t allow because doing so will threaten her control over the patients. And thus the battle is joined between McMurphy and “Miss Rat-Shit” as he refers to her.
How modern is this play in today’s world? As a teacher I was also an instrument of the state working to control the inmates and often forced to repress certain behaviors that threatened my control of the classroom. So was I and other teachers a version of Nurse Rat_shit? As a somewhat free spirit I fought against the suthoridy of my at times Nurse Rat_shit principal and an undemocratically run UFT. So I often found myself playing the part of both protagonists in the play.
I won’t go any further this time but will get back into it in my column after the play closes this weekend.
Norm rails against authority daily on his blog ednotesonline.com