Are dead white males like Shakespeare really irrelevant to Britain’s students?

Mary Bousted: not dead, not male, not ethnically diverse 

The joint general secretary of the UK’s National Education Union, Mary Bousted, has criticised the national curriculum for failing to include enough black and female writers. She claims that “schools must look beyond ‘dead white men’ such as Shakespeare and Shelley to make the curriculum more diverse”.

Speaking at the Bryanston Education Summit, she claimed that she has “no problem with Shakespeare, with Pope, with Dryden, with Shelley”. However, she cited the educational needs of ethnically diverse pupils: “If a powerful knowledge curriculum means recreating the best that has been thought by dead, white men – then I’m not very interested in it.”

And yet in doing obeisance to the religion of multiculturalism, Ms Bousted merely succeeds in displaying her own prejudice. She dismisses famous literary figures as irrelevant purely on the grounds that they are dead, white and male, none of which they can help, and regardless of the fact that despite their colour, sex and biological status, their brilliance continues to inspire both sexes and people of all races. 

All this, however, appears to mean nothing in comparison with the opportunity they present for Ms Bousted to look down upon them, and as a live white female English teacher and co-leader of a trade union, clearly she is their superior --although her grasp of English leaves a lot to be desired.

She declares that when teaching at a school where “38 first languages” were taught other than English, she knew she had to include Afro-Caribbean, Indian and Chinese writers “to enable pupils to foreshadow their lives in the curriculum”. However, she adds that in order to succeed, children need to see people like themselves in the curriculum, so presumably this is what she means.

But it is insulting to pupils of diverse backgrounds to suggest that they cannot learn from writers who do not look like them.

Far from someone appreciated only in his own culture, Shakespeare's fame rests on the fact that his appeal is universal; his plays can be translated into any language and still inspire. Rather than helping ethnically diverse pupils Ms Bousted patronises them by implying that the poor darlings can’t cope with anything outside their own personal station in life.

She told delegates at the conference: “It is important for students to know some of ‘the best that has been thought and said’ but it is also important for them to know that it was a choice that was made and a choice made by the powerful.”

This statement reveals her approach to be political rather than educational, because our revered literary figures were not chosen to occupy the pantheon of fame by the rich and powerful in order to keep the masses – including the foreign masses - in their lowly place. Anyone who thinks so clearly has never read Shakespeare on the weaknesses, temptations and most importantly calamitous downfalls of the rich and powerful. 

Sadly, however, Ms Bousted’s educational approach is gaining ground, and her intervention helps to explain why our educational standards are slipping behind those in other countries, where patriotic pride is not disdained, and pupils are not subjected to soft Marxist propaganda in the guise of sexual diversity lessons.

Ironically, the Marxist-inspired educational approach has proved disastrous for those pupils from the class whose interests the Left claims to defend, but who, thanks to educational dumbing-down, are doing worst of all – poor white males. Denied the chance of a grammar school education, discouraged by the bias towards female-friendly course work and denied the opportunity to learn from dead white males, they are unlikely to transcend their lowly station in life.

Shakespeare was a grammar school boy whose fame was well-earned; what better role model to encourage our own oppressed classes to achieve true greatness?

Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).  


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