Saturday, September 6, 2008

Things that depress me in the education system...

Top exam board asks schools to destroy book containing knife poem | Education | The Guardian: "Britain's biggest exam board has been accused of censorship after it removed a poem containing references to knife crime from the GCSE syllabus.

Officials at the AQA board said their request that schools destroy the anthology containing the Carol Ann Duffy poem Education for Leisure had been triggered by concerns in two schools about references to knives. A spokeswoman confirmed the decision had been made in the context of the current spate of knife-related murders."
... exam boards dictating what is or isn't acceptable to teach our children and the lack of awareness of what constitutes culture to say that a poem of this calibre should be removed because of references to knives.

So, here's the poem in full:

Education for Leisure

Today I am going to kill something. Anything.

I have had enough of being ignored and today

I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,

a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets

I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.

We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in

another language and now the fly is in another language.

I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.

I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half

the chance. But today I am going to change the world.

Something's world. The cat avoids me. The cat

knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.

I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.

I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.

Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town

For signing on. They don't appreciate my autograph.

There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio

and tell the man he's talking to a superstar.

He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.

The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.

Carol Ann Duffy

It's a wonderful piece of writing as far as I'm concerned. Darkly, bleakly, sinister. Evocative. Powerful. Loaded with seething emotion. Even if you don't like it, to pull your skirts up from round your ankles and shriek that it's somehow contributing to teenage knife crime is beyond ludicrous. Are we are so weak as a society that we can't cope with teenagers reading it??? Or analysing it? Or turning it into something of lasting worth in their lives? Jeez. The only thing that's acceptable is literature from long dead 'greats' who are at a sufficient distance from our lives that we can breathe a fearful sigh of relief that their base behaviour won't contaminate our precariously balanced social order. Could someone kick the exam board and check that there is still life in it?

The most recent complaint was made by Lutterworth grammar school's exams invigilator, Pat Schofield, who welcomed the board's decision and said: "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?"

Get a grip. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is criminal. Let's pacify the nation and let them watch Big Brother 24/7. Heaven forbid they should read anything which has any greater meaning than you might find in an outlet of McDonalds.

Truly, dismally, pathetic.

1 comment:

  1. "Truly, dismally, pathetic."

    Agreed. The news reports suggest that this was sparked off by a single complaint over the poem's inclusion. Does this mean that a single complaint about its exclusion will get an equally quick reinstatement?


    Martin Harvey


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