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A ‘Deep Dive’ on the Themes of:

Sheryl, Hamlet and Me
a piece by Michelle Haner
part of ROLE CALL

This piece considers questions at the cross roads of arts, education and social change – at this juncture of digital transformation. At play also: what it means to be an ambitious woman in the 21st century – seeking purpose and influence – but also balance, in relation to self, family, work.


Some of the history behind the piece

Michelle Haner and Sheryl Sandberg met during their first year at Harvard University, where they lived next door to each other in their freshman dorm. However, both at and beyond Harvard, they chose very different paths. Michelle was passionate about theater (working on over 20 productions during her years at Harvard) and much engaged in Latin American social justice issues (she wrote an award-winning senior thesis on Popular Opposition to Pinochet in the Chilean Shantytowns, with particular focus on the women who created Ollas Communes, soup kitchens that also became centers for community and opposition). Sheryl was a phenomenal economics student, also winning top prizes in her field and, famously, crashing the Harvard server when processing data for her senior thesis (Mark Zuckerberg would later crash the same server when he launched his Facebook prototype on campus).

While Sheryl would go on to work at the renowned consulting firm, McKinsey, be that top of her Harvard-MBA class, serve in the Treasury Department, then head to Google, Michelle’s commitment to theater only deepened. She went to Europe to study with Jacques LeCoq and Ariane Mnouchkine; she obtained an MFA at UCLA and studied extensively with Actor’s Studio guru, Salome Jens. She also become deeply committed to education for young people and later, like Sheryl, to raising her two young children.

It was really Sheryl’s much-publicized TED talk on women that put Sheryl back on Michelle’s radar. It was a springboard to reflection on the different paths they had chosen, at a junture Michelle felt evermore dedicated to her own choices – artist, educator and mom – but also poignantly aware of the relative lack of power and prestige associated with such positions, which indeed are often associated with the feminine, and exemplify traditionally female roles. Transformations in education – which indeed is being as upended by technology as any other arena – also propelled further reflection not just on different paths open to women, but on the place of technology in relation to arts and education.


Additional Resources

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Gender Based Equity:
Sheryl Sandberg has become an important, widely respected public figure. There are many resources to learn more about her ideas and her books. A starting point is the TED talk, “Why we have too few women leaders”, that really brought her into the public forum on this issue. After publishing her first book Lean In, she proactively created a non-profit and underpinning structure to organize and mobilize women around the issues suggested in her book. That can be accessed here.

The issues Sheryl raises about the lack of women in many areas of power are well-documented, and especially poignant in the wake of the 2016 election, as this New York Times review suggests.

Some additional facts on females in leadership positions are here, and detailed data on the wider issue of the gender pay gap can be found here.

Recent events in the Tech Sector have highlighted gender inequality in the that sector in particular, including articles in The Atlantic and Forbes.

Sheryl Sandber’s ideas have also given rise to ample discussion and debate. One salient article includes Ann Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”.

A critical overview of debate stirred up post Lean In, here.


Theater Arts and Education – the Teacher as Gardener

Michelle Haner, is a theater artist and educator, passionate about her own fields of collaborative theater and live education. You can read more about her background and other projects at michellehaner.com.

In particular, she values Ken Robinson’s notion of teaching as “gardening”, an approach that recognizes the organic quality of our beings. He advocates for an approach that raises the bar for educators, and honors the individual integrity of each student. Ken Robinson’s reflection on these themes is entitled Teachers as Gardeners.

While his excellent TED talk on the state of our current education system, and call for more individuation is here.

Michelle was asked by her students to give a TEDx talk on Stanislavsky, and the role of method acting in enriching one’s life perspective in the 21st century. You can see that here.

Of course, there are many resources on acting, theater and how and why it is still purposeful. Just one example is offered by master theater artist, Patsy Rodenburg, who speaks on the theme of “why she does theater.”

Some additional resources for arts education can be found at the American Alliance for Theater and Education


The broader impact of technology on power and democracy

Beyond reflecting on her individual path, Michelle’s work on the piece has inevitably led to reflection on the rise of digital technology, and the power in particular of technology giants such as Facebeook, Google and Amazon.

There is also ample food for thought in this domain. Some resources and relevant articles in relation to social media, big data and technology include:

The New Yorker—”Who Owns The Internet”

The New Yorker—”How to Call B.S. on Big Data – A Practical Guide”

Newsweek—”Big Data Mines Personal Info to Craft Fake News and Manipulate Voters”

Newsweek—”Facebook Use Could Damage Your Health, Study Suggests”


Teaching and the Rise of Educational Technology

The piece also invites reflection on teachers – their compensation (a reminder that three-quarters of teachers are women) and even their presence in the future.

The following is always a good starting point….for anyone who thinks they won’t be the object of replacement by technology. The piece notably highlights the influx of venture capital funding (and the growing interest of private corporations) in the domain of education, and especially in educational technology. It touches on the virtual certainty that evermore education will take place online and through digital forums.

Also Relevant:
Epi.org—”The Teacher Pay Gap is Wider Than Ever”

CBinsights.com—”The Most Active VCs In Ed Tech And Their Investments In One Infographic”

Recode.net—”Here’s why the Big Four’s investments in education are great for ed-tech entrepreneurs”

EdSurge Research—”Following Edtech Money”

Forbes—”Surprisingly, These 10 Professional Jobs Are Under Threat From Big Data”



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