Teachers want to dump Shakespeare because of ‘whiteness’ (Opinion)
I mean— we knew it would come to this. If you can cancel all history by ripping down statues then you can certainly cancel literature, too.
According to an article in The Washington Times, there are teachers who want to do just that. Namely, Shakespeare, whose writings (to them) are all about “white supremacy.” The article goes on to say that teaching Shakespeare is, in effect, promulgating Shakespeare’s problematic world view.
That’s the thing about art though: people create it from their own worldview, whether negative or positive. But to a growing group of teachers, the idea is that if literature like this is taught, students must also be taught about the inherent “whiteness” of their thinking, according to the article. It’s a problem. As many times as people have tried to explain this to me, I still don’t get what it means.
Nevertheless, we’re setting ourselves up here for a problem. The vast majority of novelists and playwrights who make up the bulk of the high school and college literature canon are white—and could have been racist. We don’t know because we didn’t interview them. They might have written about racism, and yet not been racist themselves. Or perhaps they were ardent racists but wrote lilting and beautiful prose about love and acceptance. But what they wrote, like most classic literature, was through the lens of the time that they wrote in.
In order to get rid of all distasteful themes in literature, we’d have to get rid of all literature—particularly that which reflects the attitudes of Americans during the Civil War and prior, or the monarchies of Europe. So now what do we do? We’ve painted ourselves into a fine corner here.
The Times piece goes on to explain that many teachers will, in fact, teach the works of these “offensive” authors, but in a different way. For instance, the article says that a teacher named Sarah Mulhern Gross, who teaches at the technology high school in Lincroft, taught “toxic masculinity analysis“ to her students who read the classic Shakespeare play “Romeo and Juliet."
But to teach a value system alongside of literature is to teach an educator’s opinion. Shouldn’t we be leaving values out of it? Or, perhaps we’d be better off just dumping all but modern, well-constructed literature by minorities only. Or we could just pretend that nothing existed before 2020 – the year that everything became right with the world.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.