Friday, October 31, 2008

Poem Banned from British Exam Syllabus

From the Manifesto Club comes this news of a poem removed by the AQA (the awarding body for A-level exams and GCSE's) from the GCSE (General certificate of secondary education) syllabus in Great Britain.

The poem is entitled "Education for Leisure" and was written by the award-winning poet, Carol Ann Duffy. It can be found here.

Syllabi change all the time, but this case is special, since the decision to remove it was spurred by an exam invigilator, Pat Schofield, who apparently felt the poem glorified knife crime. She is quoted as saying, "I think it is absolutely horrendous - what sort of message is that to give to kids who are reading it as part of their GCSE syllabus?"

What's next, banning The Charge of the Light Brigade because it glorifies suicidal military exploits?

The AQA itself responded with these weasel words: "The decision to withdraw the poem was not taken lightly and only after due consideration of the issues involved. We believe the decision underlines the often difficult balance that exists between encouraging and facilitating young people to think critically about difficult but important topics and the need to do this in a way which is sensitive to social issues and public concern."

It looks like Carol Ann Duffy got the last laugh, however. She's written a response entitled Mrs. Schofield's GCSE. How fitting that Schofield, like Bowdler, will pass into the language as a synonym for small-minded censorship.

Mrs Schofield's GCSE

Carol Ann Duffy

You must prepare your bosom for his knife,

said Portia to Antonio in which

of Shakespeare's Comedies? Who killed his wife,

insane with jealousy? And which Scots witch

knew Something wicked this way comes? Who said

Is this a dagger which I see? Which Tragedy?

Whose blade was drawn which led to Tybalt's death?

To whom did dying Caesar say Et tu? And why?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark - do you

know what this means? Explain how poetry

pursues the human like the smitten moon

above the weeping, laughing earth; how we

make prayers of it. Nothing will come of nothing:

speak again. Said by which King? You may begin.


Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Control of Education in Britain is a deep problem nowadays. It goes far beyond the banning of the poem you mentioned. Do you know that thinking is, essentially, discouraged in many schools and universities? What I mean by this is: Pupils, students are spoon-fed, are being taught to memorise rather than understand, in all subjects, including Mathematics! Teachers and professors alike turn a blind eye to the decline of education. They prepare, for instance, exams which are either trivial or almost identical to past years' exams, to make sure that students pass. And guess what? Pupils, students, and their parents (with exceptions) love it. The difference with the US is that, in the UK, everybody *must* pretend the system works meticulously. Therefore sh*t happens, but it does so with panache.

Garkbit said...

Be fair Takis, the very recent abolition of SATs at age 14 is a step in the right direction. Also your use of the term "Britain" is slightly suspect since different educational systems are in use in different parts of the UK.