The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0428 Thursday, 22 February 2001
Date: Wednesday, 21 Feb 2001 17:41:56 -0500
Subject: Bard Bade Goodbye
From the Chicago Sun-Times
U.K. schools shelve Shakespeare?
February 18, 2001
BY JOHN CLARE
LONDON--British secondary school students would no longer have to study
Shakespeare or any other great work of English literature for exams
under proposals the government is considering.
The plan recommends that Shakespeare and the entire English literary
canon be abandoned in favor of media studies, the "moving image" and
"information reading," which includes the study of Web pages and e-mail.
The plan has been sent to David Blunkett, Britain's education and
employment secretary, by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority,
the government's adviser.
The proposals are the advisory group's new specifications for the
general certificate of secondary education in English.
The general certificate is a diploma handed out to students at age 15 to
The plan would take effect next year. Besides removing the requirement
that students study two plays by Shakespeare, the proposals also drop
two lists of major writers of fiction and poetry published before 1914,
included as "examples of the English literary heritage."
There is also a new emphasis on "drama," which English teachers take to
mean contemporary films and videos, and no mention of poetry. The
advisory group, which describes its mission as "promoting quality and
coherence in education and training, in the interests of individuals,
the economy and society," refused to discuss the proposals.
A spokesman for Blunkett insisted Shakespeare will continue to be
studied. "There is no question of ministers accepting any diminution,"
he said. Nick Tate, a former chief executive of the advisory group, said
he was disappointed by the proposals.
"We had a long, hard-fought battle to make sure Shakespeare and the
English literary canon remained at the center of the study of English,"
he said. "We won against a fair amount of opposition. It would be a
tragedy if that victory were now to be reversed."
Eric Anderson, the provost of Eton, who once taught English to Prime
Minister Tony Blair, said: "Thank God we are not yet a people who let
things go without a fight. If the proposals are as they have been
described it would be monstrous for the next generation not to be
encouraged to study what is probably the world's greatest literature.
Any other country that spoke the language of Shakespeare would insist on
the study of at least two of his plays."
News of the plan leaked out when one of the secondary-education exam
boards called a meeting of English teachers.