Education: We Don't Want Shakespeare! PUPILS DEBATE THE MERITS OF MODERN LITERATURE AGAINST CLASSICS FOR YOUNG READERS FESTIVAL

Birmingham Evening Mail (England), May 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Education: We Don't Want Shakespeare! PUPILS DEBATE THE MERITS OF MODERN LITERATURE AGAINST CLASSICS FOR YOUNG READERS FESTIVAL


Byline: DIANE PARKES

More than 200 youngsters will next week be debating the values of reading the classics in schools. As J K Rowling and Jacqueline Wilson vie with Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy on school book lists, Birmingham youngsters are asking if there is still a place for Shakespeare in the classroom. Debating the motion 'This house believes that young people should not be forced to read Shakespeare, Dickens and other works of classic literature' will be teenagers from local schools. Here, DIANE PARKES presents the views of to two youngsters from George Dixon International School in Edgbaston.

DEBATE ONE

Bernard Moyo, aged 15, of Weoley Castle pleads for a release from Shakespeare:

FOR years upon years, school children like me have been forced to read texts from classic authors.

Today I am going to represent a majority in the education system to cry out at this inhumane torture. I call it 'inhumane' because it has ruined the reading pleasure of so many teens and put the rest off reading. I ask you, the audience and judges, who classifies a novel under children's novels; us, the children - or a critic? Most of the time it is the critic, which really confuses me as a critic is not a child, so how does he or she knowwhat children around the country want to read? We have no say in what we want to read. If we had, Shakespeare, Dickens and the likes would stay gathering dust in bookshops and grandma's closet.

Let me tell you what is wrong with these novels.

The language used by authors of classical literature is what really pains me. If you read a sentence it would take you a whole day to figure out what is going on in the story. It is difficult and archaic, yet the book still finds its way into the classification of children's novels!

It is outrageous and disheartening for children who want to improve their vocabulary by reading. Why increase your vocabulary by reading Shakespeare? Half the words in the books are not used in today's modern society.

Not only is the language ancient, the characters and ideas that form classical literature are backward and old fashioned. We live in a society wherewe are given a diet of Dizzee Rascal and MTV. Where does Shakespeare fit into any of this?

The time that most Shakespeare and Dickens stories are set is unfamiliar with the youths and readers of our age, which is very inappropriate as we would like to read about issues and places that we know about.

The characters do not strike a meaningful chord with the young people today. A good example is Tom Brown's Schooldays which is set in a public school environment!

What about modern classics? Aren't they just as worthy of study as Dickens, Shakespeare and other so-called classic authors? Authors and playwrights like J K Rowling, Philip Pullman, Judy Blume, Tom Stoppard, Jacqueline Wilson, Ann Fine and Robert Swindells to name but a few. Many classic novels of the past are only revered today because at the time of their publication there was little else available.

Times have changed. Since the 1960s the world of children's literature hasexploded into life. …

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