Diversity and English

Article excerpt

The main theme of all three editions of EDM this year is English and cultural diversity. In October, our writers explored racism, multiculturalism and world literature in relation to English, and in June we will return to issues of prejudice, ethnicity and multiculturalism. In this edition, we take a broader approach to diversity, focusing on issues of creativity and access to the curriculum.

Two articles, one by Geoff Dean and one by Julie Blake and Tim Shortis, explore the potential of the new English curriculum to increase access to learning in the subject by reflecting the diversity of contemporary education, culture and language. Geoff Dean argues that innovative thinking about personalising the curriculum will enable English teachers to challenge fixed practices in order to place students at the centre of learning, whilst Julie Blake and Tim Shortis take a positive view of a new emphasis on creativity in the National Curriculum, arguing that teachers can grasp the moment to explore and work with textual, linguistic and modal diversity in society. Earlier in the journal, an extended feature on the teaching of Shakespeare explores how, under current conditions, Shakespeare can most effectively be made accessible to the widest possible range of schoolchildren.

Standing Up for Shakespeare

The RSC's timely manifesto for Shakespeare in schools, unveiled by the RSC's Head of Learning Jacqui O'Hanlon in this edition of EDM, takes the title Stand Up for Shakespeare. This splendid pun--summarising the RSC's argument for 'pushing back the desks' when teaching Shakespeare, as well as suggesting the need to protect Shakespeare from the less desirable recesses of the education system--is echoed in a quote from Janet Suzman in Bruce Wall's article on the redemptive potential of Shakespeare in prison: 'You have to teach Shakespeare by standing up. All other methods lead to death by boredom.'

The articles in our Shakespeare feature testify to the power of experiencing Shakespeare as performance both in the classroom and out, a philosophy which NATE has consistently championed over the years. O'Hanlon's article and an article by Fiona Banks of Shakespeare's Globe explore the heartening initiatives that the RSC and the Globe are leading to bring active approaches to the centre of students' experience of Shakespeare in order to counteract the often deadening effect of the deskbound SATs-led experience which so many now suffer. Bruce Wall writes of the life-changing effect of Shakespeare on many of the thousands of prison inmates he has worked with. …