Woke teachers want Shakespeare cut from curriculum: ‘This is about White supremacy’

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The crown teachers once put on Shakespeare now lies uneasy upon his head as the English playwright comes under assault from teachers who fault his un-woke attitudes regarding race, sexuality, gender and class.

For the new breed of teachers, William Shakespeare is seen less as an icon of literature and more as a tool of imperial oppression, an author who should be dissected in class or banished from the curriculum entirely.

“This is about White supremacy and colonization,” declared the teachers who founded #DisruptTexts, a group that wants staples of Western literature removed or subjected to withering criticism.

The anti-Shakespeare teachers say fans of the plays ignore the author’s problematic worldview. They say readers of Shakespeare should be required to address the “Whiteness” of their thinking.

If Shakespeare must be taught, these educators say, then it should be presented with watered-down versions of the original or supplemental texts focused on equality issues.

Elizabeth Nelson, who teaches English at Twin Cities Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, told School Library Journal she gives her students Marxist theory when reading Shakespeare’s tragedy “Coriolanus” about the Roman leader.

Sarah Mulhern Gross told the journal that she delivered “toxic masculinity analysis” to her students reading “Romeo and Juliet” at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey.

The war against Shakespeare did not begin in 2021. Last December marked the fifth anniversary of students at the University of Pennsylvania removing a portrait of the Bard from their Ivy League halls.

The organizers behind #DisruptTexts put Shakespeare in the social justice crosshairs in October 2018.

The School Library Journal, which describes itself as “the premier publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens,” joined the fight early this year and offered young adult novels as alternatives to Shakespeare.

The librarians also showcased an essay questioning the contemporary value of the playwright responsible for classics such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth,” and “King Lear.”

“A growing number of educators are … coming to the conclusion that it’s time for Shakespeare to be set aside or deemphasized to make room for modern, diverse, and inclusive voices,” said the essay titled, “To Teach or Not to Teach: Is Shakespeare Still Relevant to Today’s Students?”

“Educators grappling with these questions are teaching, critiquing, questioning, and abandoning Shakespeare’s work, and offering alternatives for updating and enhancing curricula,” it said.

Some scholars are dubious that blacklisting Shakespeare would enhance education.

“It’s a new version of cancel culture,” said Peter Wood, president of the conservative National Association of Scholars. “They have little regard for the great books.”

A study last year by the association pinpointed a 1987 march at Stanford University as a turning point in modern education when Democratic activist Jesse Jackson led undergraduates chanting, “Hey, ho, Western Civ has got to go!”

Within a year, Stanford had erased Western civilization requirement for undergraduates. At about the same time, classrooms everywhere began adopting a multicultural agenda hostile toward White male authors, according to the report.

Indeed, the opposition to Shakespeare appears rooted in his status more than in an argument Iago despises the title character Othello because of the Moor’s race, the modern teachers say.

“We believe that Shakespeare, like any other playwright, no more and no less, has literary merit,” wrote Lorena German, a teacher who penned #DisruptingShakespeare and is often engaged in Twitter discussions on the subject. “He is not ‘universal’ in a way that other authors are not. He is not more ‘timeless’ than anyone else.”

The organizers of #DisruptTexts, whose work is also featured by the School Library Journal and hosts regular Twitter discussions on various writers and topics, did not respond to emails asking about their approach to Shakespeare and other once canonical authors.

Shakespeare is by far the most famous author to be squeezed through the social justice cheesecloth, as #DisruptTexts also went after F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Golding and other dead White male writers who long dotted high school syllabi. As such, Shakespeare became the poster boy for a longer anti-White, anti-male trend in education, according to Glynn Custred, a retired anthropology professor in the Cal State system and a co-author of California’s Proposition 209 that banned racial preferences in state agencies.

“The rationale for purging Shakespeare from the curriculum, as formulated in the standard rhetoric of the left, reveals their agenda, which is the conversion of schools and universities from educational institutions to organs of indoctrination,” Mr. Custred told The Washington Times.

“Since Shakespeare’s work has been considered exemplary and universal, these claims must be discredited,” he said. “Shakespeare’s removal from the curriculum and the collective memory is thus mandatory.”

Shakespeare averse teachers are urged to assign contemporary young adult novels as replacements or supplements. These range from “The Hunger Games” to “Poet X,” which details a young Black/Hispanic teenager in Harlem who rebels against her mother’s religious upbringing and finds herself in slam poetry.

In teenage literature reviews this year, the School Library Journal often features books wrapped up in race and “queer” or “lesbian” stories. Shakespeare alternatives celebrated by these liberal teachers and critics offer “something for all teen readers and fans of the Bard,” like a “retelling of Macbeth for the #MeToo generation,” according to an article in the librarian journal.

Such approaches, narrowly tailored to appeal to slivers of a student body, do college-bound students an injustice, and are chiefly a screen for infusing students with radical left-wing political concepts, Mr. Wood said.

“It’s a race to the bottom with bad ideas,” he said. “They present themselves as the all-knowing gurus of wokeness, and on most campuses, they’ve already won.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. I can’t stand it. The plays of Shakespeare illustrates the full range of the human condition proving its timelessness over and over again. I get that the language can be difficult at first but with a little effort, a little discipline, the reader is handed the keys to open a book of wisdom that transcends any specific culture, it is universal in its understanding of our shared nature in all our faults, glory and humor. Please reconsider as a knowledge of Shakespeare, like knowledge of any of the holy books, ties one generation to the next and the current generation to the first.

    • There is no hope of reasoning with these Marxist radicals because they view everything through a lens of emotion and not logic. After two “hot” and one Cold War, we finally see why our parents and grandparents fought so hard against Communism. It is the mongrelisation of not just race, but of thought as well. It is the overt dumbing down of our children to destroy all intellectual discipline and critical thinking skills. The commies knew they couldn’t divide the U.S. based on religion or social class, like they have done elsewhere, and inside played the race card.

  2. Maybe these teachers against Shakespeare are right. Maybe the only way to remove White superiority from our curriculum is to do away with anything that requires rational thought, analysis, and personal insight. Maybe we can make courses more appealing to People of Color by removing texts with a large or nuanced vocabulary and by censoring any ideas which require consideration of human history. Perhaps the diverse culture of the future will be more easily attained by erasing such White concepts as truth, honor, tolerance, and reason. Maybe teachers have come to believe that our Brown brothers and sisters are unable to understand the great works of literature which form the foundation of Western Civilization.

    At least the Asians will understand and appreciate great literature.

  3. But…But… Like Friar Tuck as according to BBC, William Shakespeare, A Mozart, Beethoven, Jeanne D’Arc Margaret D’Anjou were black Africans, only A Hitler was a white supremacist ..

  4. NO….THIS IS ABOUT RACISM AGAINST WHITE PEOPLE.
    AND IN SECOND PLACE…………TOO MANY CAN’T READ.
    AND THIRD PLACE, THE GLOBALISTS NEED YOU DUMB.

  5. Being “woke” implies an intellectual level way below that required to appreciate the immense contribution made by the Bard of Avon to, not only literature but, more importantly, English civilisation.

  6. God help the children. What a shame to be censored of all the great literature and truths of history. Cancel culture needs to go.

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