The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1065 Monday, 17 May 2004
Date: Friday, 14 May 2004 21:47:02 -0700
Subject: British teachers ask, What has this got to do with Shakespeare?
Macbeth test silly, say irate teachers
By Liz Lightfoot, Education Correspondent
Telegraph, May 15,2004
English teachers are demanding an apology over the "worst ever"
Shakespeare question in a test sat by 630,000 pupils last week. The
14-year-olds taking the compulsory exam on the Bard were asked in the
paper on Macbeth to write as if they were agony aunts for a teenage
The question, in the paper devised by the Qualifications and Curriculum
Authority, told the pupils: "In Macbeth, Banquo warns Macbeth about the
witches' influence. You give advice in a magazine for young people.
"You receive this request: 'Please advise me. I have recently moved
school and made some new friends. I like spending time with them but my
form tutor thinks my work is suffering. What should I do? Sam.'
"Write your advice to be published in the magazine."
Bethan Marshall, a lecturer in English at King's College, London, said
it was "the silliest question I have ever seen. It is a pointless,
contrived link with the play which could be answered without any
reference to it," she said.
Trevor Millum, of the National Association for the Teaching of English,
asked: "What has this got to do with Shakespeare?"
The qualifications and curriculum authority said the paper will be
changed next year to relate more closely to the work of Shakespeare
following an outcry last year over the "dumbing down" of the test.
But Dr Marshall, who trains English teachers, said the curriculum
advisers should apologise to this year's students.
"They acknowledged more than a year ago that this is a silly paper
demonstrating a philistine approach to Shakespeare which English
teachers reject," she said. "Now this year's wretched cohort have been
faced with an even sillier paper and a patronising attempt to make
Shakespeare relevant to them."
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