UK’s ‘strictest headmaster’ fears schools will stop teaching Shakespeare | English and creative writing
The headmaster of a school described as the strictest in Britain has warned that William Shakespeare will disappear from classrooms as English schools come under pressure to decolonize and diversify the curriculum.
Katharine Birbalsingh, the controversial headmistress of the Michaela Community School in north London, said Shakespeare had already been ‘lost’ in many places in the US and warned: ‘We follow America in this way’ .
In an interview with the Guardian, Birbalsingh said schools were under heavy pressure to change what they teach, but stressed the importance of keeping “dead white men” in the curriculum.
Reading lists for the GCSE and A-Level English Literature and Drama have recently been widened to include more black and ethnic minority writers, and campaigners have called for black history to be fully integrated into the program.
Asked about the decolonization of the school curriculum, Birbalsingh said, “I think dead white men have something to offer us. Shakespeare has influenced literature for over 400 years. It is right to teach Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s ideas are universal.
She continued, “I’m worried about the trend in America now influencing what’s happening here, where we’ll eventually get rid of cultural icons like Shakespeare.”
Currently, pupils in England are still required to study Shakespeare. Students taking the AQA GCSE English Literature exams this summer will have studied Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing and Julius Caesar.
“The point is, the time will come when I don’t think that will happen anymore,” Birbalsingh said. “I think in America it’s been lost in a lot of places. And we follow America that way.
When asked what would replace Shakespeare, she replied, “Any number of different black and female authors. Maybe they’ll get me in there. The thing is, I’m a black author. I would never suggest reading my books instead of Shakespeare or Dickens or any number of other dead white men. My color and gender shouldn’t matter that much.
Birbalsingh stressed that she wasn’t saying she didn’t want black writers on the program, but added, “I don’t agree with this idea that you can only identify and like a writer. which is your skin color. You should be able to really appreciate anyone, and what matters is how good they are.
She said students taking an A-level English course at Michaela study the novel Small Island by Andrea Levy. “I think it’s excellent. So I’m not saying only teach dead white men. I’m just saying don’t campaign to get rid of them.
Birbalsingh has allowed cameras into his free school for the first time for an ITV documentary called Britain’s Strict Headmistress, which aired on Sunday.
She founded the Michaela Community School eight years ago and it has since become the most talked about educational experience in England.
But far from being a complete portrait of a school and its controversial headmaster, this is an auteur documentary in which she lays out her vision, not just for education, but for raising children and creating. a better society.
His manifesto is based on 12 golden rules, including: don’t give kids unsupervised internet access, teach them gratitude, keep your standards high, hold the line, and don’t let them listen to filth or drill music because “it’s going to ruin their lives,” she says.
“Middle-class white people don’t realize that, because their kids can tap and tap and it’s not a problem. While your black kid in the city center – it could literally destroy your life.
Birbalsingh told the Guardian: ‘It’s not me saying, oh my God, the parents are doing a terrible job. I’m saying, these things are going to help us all raise children better as a society.
She first rose to prominence at the 2010 Conservative Party Conference, where she gave a speech about Britain’s ‘broken’ education system, which caused an outcry among fellow teachers and cost her her job .
His school has become famous for its strict ‘no apologies’ behavior policy and success – it was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and in 2019 more than half of all GCSE grades were level 7 or above. His many fans include Toby Young, Michael Gove and Peter Hitchens.
She was appointed as the government’s new social mobility commissioner and has attacked ‘woke culture’, engaging in regular discussions on Twitter on a number of issues including white privilege, racism, Ofsted and the original sin. Last month she came under fire after suggesting that girls shouldn’t take level A physics because they don’t like ‘hard math’, the comments she says were taken out of context.
“People misquote me,” she said. “People say all kinds of nonsense. I spent 20 minutes talking about cultural issues why girls might not choose STEM subjects. Furthermore, she said, “I don’t think we should meet the quotas. If I don’t respect my daughters enough at 16 to say, “No, you have to do physics, because 50% of girls have to do physics”, I just think that’s fake.”
Earlier this week, Birbalsingh fought back against critics over a quote painted on an interior wall at the school, which an eagle-eyed observer spotted had been wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill. She can see why people understood the error. “But demand a public apology? What? For something on my school wall? It’s absurd.
“Of course, pointing out an error. Laugh if you want. I don’t understand what the problem is. Yes, we have a misattributed quote. We will change it. Like, who cares?
On white privilege, she acknowledges that it exists, but says that there are many other types of privilege, such as “nice privilege”, “big privilege” and “good family privilege”, and in all cases, she said, it’s damaging for black children to continue on racism and white privilege in school.
“That’s all they hear outside. We have to counter this somehow. I can’t tell you how debilitating it is to hear as a black kid that the world is against you, that everyone is racist and you’ll never make it. It’s not helpful to any of us.
Birbalsingh agreed to the documentary because she wants millions of people to see what happens at Michaela and parents and teachers can learn from her experience. “I’m not looking for fame at all,” she says.
“It’s more that I feel like as a society we make bad decisions for ourselves, for our children. And a lot of people can’t talk about it because they’ll lose their jobs or they’ll lose their friends.
“The thing is, I’ve already lost my friends when I gave a speech at a Conservative party conference, so I’m able to speak, and I feel I have a duty to do so.”