Saturday, 7 May 2011

Fascist state now demands that children read Shakespeare

Is this what you want? IS IT?
The educational establishment was up in arms today after claims that Britain was, far from being a reasonably tolerant liberal democracy with a half-decent history of inclusion, liberty and human rights, was actually a pocket universe where Pol Pot, Mao and Stalin all rubbed shoulders in a dismal, hopeless rule of despair and bondage.

The shock revelation was made after it was discovered by a brave, crack civil liberties commando unit (allegedly called 'Reading Group 6') that the government had thrown the Fourth Geneva Convention and the legacy of the suffragettes in a shitty bin by requiring all students at GCSE level to study 'A bit of Shakespeare.'

'I trust they have all read Charlie and Lola?'
'It's an outrage,' said one parent, chaining himself to the railings of Boris Johnson's bicycle and pouring petrol down his front. 'Our grandfathers fought and died so that Brownshirts like Mussolini and Powell didn't invade the private lives of every man, woman and child in the UK and tell them how to live. Who do they think they are, telling us that our children should read Shakespeare? Shakespeare! I mean, how is that relevant to the modern teenager these days? I can barely understand anything he says: sure, he might have coined the odd useful phrase here and there, but what children need to read is something that speaks to them about their immediate life experiences. Something like 50 Cent says far more to the average suburban child. Well, of course, my children have all read Shakespeare, of course. I mean, I want them to get into University, don't I?'

'This is like something out of 1984. Which is a jolly good book, incidentally. Have you read it? You must,' he said, before lighting a match.

'Mehr Beatrix Potter! Mehr!'
Advocates in the governent have been shamed into admitting that they do, indeed, 'require some Shakespeare to be taught.' But despite allegations that this was abuse, they were unrepentant. 'Curse you, Reading Group 6,' they said. 'You have uncovered our secret plot to make sure that kids have access to a reasonable degreeof their cultural heritage. We shall return!' he said, before vanishing in a plume of Disney sulphur.

Michael Rosen, author of Let's Go On A Bear Hunt and apparently, some kind of authority figure on education and political philosophy, warned of further child abuse, pointing out that there might be plans to suggest a reading list at Primary School as well as at a Secondary level. 'This is totalitarian,' he said.

We spoke to Adelmo Hernandez, a survivor of the repressive purges of the Pinochet government in Chile, where he experienced censorship, imprisonment without trial, regular beatings for expressing political opinions, and was banned from joining a trade union. 'Yes,' he agreed, 'It's just like that. Thank God middle-class people with their heads up their arses have noticed this before it's too late and children grow up brainwashed by The Gruffalo and The Hungry Caterpillar. You don't know how close you came to Fascism, you lucky b*stards.''

Asked if the idea of a partial reading list with a huge variety of options, complemented by a large area of freedom of choice might not be seen as a reasonable way to express balanced support for both a continued cultural inheritance and allowing teachers and schools to design reading curricula sensitive to local, diverse cultural criteria, Hernandez was adamant.

Oh, he'll get a surprise- a JACKBOOT!
'Ridiculous,' he said. 'Today, it's reading I will surprise my friend to them at carpet time: tomorrow, they're marching around the school playground demanding the repatriation of second generation immigrants and putting webcams in cradles and changing rooms. Of course, if the students themselves pick the books, then that's fine. Yes, even if it is Penthouse and Heat. They're books, aren't they? All decisions about what to teach children culturally should be democratic. That's the best way to decide things, all the time.'

'Except perhaps in prisons,' he added, hastily.

'Next thing you'll be saying that we have the right to tell them not to bring knives in. Fascist.'

Enid Blyton is 33.

8 comments:

  1. Tom, I think you're actually a genius! Very good.

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  2. Cheers, Edudicator ('Mr and Mrs Udicator- to you, a son!')

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  3. Hmmm, not sure about this one.

    Yes, silly hyperbole about curriculum changes makes some people look like twerps, but there's a serious question at the heart of some complaints about Shakespeare's place in English.

    He wrote in Early Modern English - a form of English that hasn't been used for about 400 years - while lots of our students need help writing (or even reading) modern standard English. Why force the poor little sods a diet of Shakespeare when they can't master the current standard form of English?

    Shakespeare has a place on the Literature curriculum (and rightly so) but why insist on him appearing in Language teaching too?

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  4. Thanks for the comment.

    My point is really more about the fact that an element of prescription isn't by itself a cause for concern in a national curriculum; if we accept the premise that there will be an NC at all, then the idea of having a core series of texts for any Key Stage is far from controversial, and perhaps indicative of a society that has a desire to impart familiarity with some signature cultural icons.

    As to the place of Shakespeare in English Language teaching- I respectfully bow out of commenting on an area where I don't have expertise, and you may well be right. As a non-English specialist though, I would ask this question: if children need help with Standard English (thereby causing them to struggle with Early Modern English), is the answer to lose him from English Language, or to remedy the problems earlier on with Standard English? Any thoughts welcome; as I say, this is a topic I'm interested in- but unfamiliar with.

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  5. Yes, this is superbly written with an excellent point too.

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  6. Anyone noticed Shakespeare wrote plays, not books? It's fab to read him and to give him a place in Eng Lit. but he wrote his plays to be at very least spoken - more preferably performed. Surely this earns him a place in Eng Lang. too? As for the language being a barrier - that's rubbish, and more often than not comes from teachers own fear of the Bard - the stories are rolicking and the characters are awesome - plus I've worked on Shakespeare with nursery kids (yes, even including some original text) and a good time was had by all :D

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  7. I think they should start with Coriolanus in Reception year, and end up with 'The Enormous Turnip' in A level. Briliant to hear you working Big Willy into the nursery :)

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  8. We'll try 'brilliant' shall we?

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