The internet is atwitter with opinions about the latest blog on Shakespeare’s value in the contemporary classroom. Dana Dusbiber, a high school English teacher, recently claimed that Shakespeare should be left out of today’s curriculum. She contends that the works of William Shakespeare represent the narrow Caucasian view of a man who recorded his limited experiences from a by-gone era of centuries past. She also notes that literature from other cultures should be included and weighed as heavily to broaden students’ exposure to different perspectives.
As you might expect, other teachers have written their own rebuttals of criticism to Dusbiber’s ideas.
The proposal that we do away with Shakespeare in high school, of course, is not new. Dusbiber’s piece comes on the heels of the latest report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni which stated that most of the “elite” higher learning institutions were no longer requiring Shakespeare courses (a report that understandably created a bit of a stir among practitioners in recent months). Late last year, we told you about the Michael Godsey blog post which purported to substitute Shakespeare with the popular podcast ‘Serial.’ In 2013, we mentioned a teacher who crafter a pop culture course under the provocative banner: “Enough Shakespeare.” Before that, there was even the story about a father who was shocked to learn his daughter’s school favored teaching ‘The Simpsons” so heavily that there was no time for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Back in 2012, I covered the same argument when New Zealand removed Shakespeare from the final exam and Scotland replaced his plays in the curriculum with Scottish texts. And there’s always the debate about whether we should keep units of study “relevant” to students’ daily lives.
It’s hard to say whether, taken together, these disputes represent the dawn of a new cynicism against Shakespeare in general education, or whether we’re merely stuck in a perpetual ebb and flow of resistance to and acceptance of our cultural norms and expectations.
Or perhaps we’re seeing pumped up bits of controversy in our world of never-ending news cycles.
What do you think? Have you personally noticed a trend for or against Shakespeare in the classroom? Do you have a response for Dusbiber’s post yourself? Do you have a critique of any of the rebuttals you’ve read?