The Washington Times:
The crown teachers once put on Shakespeare now lies uneasy upon his head as the English playwright comes under assault from teachers who fault his un-woke attitudes regarding race, sexuality, gender and class.
For the new breed of teachers, William Shakespeare is seen less as an icon of literature and more as a tool of imperial oppression, an author who should be dissected in class or banished from the curriculum entirely.
“This is about White supremacy and colonization,” declared the teachers who founded #DisruptTexts, a group that wants staples of Western literature removed or subjected to withering criticism.
The anti-Shakespeare teachers say fans of the plays ignore the author’s problematic worldview. They say readers of Shakespeare should be required to address the “Whiteness” of their thinking.
If Shakespeare must be taught, these educators say, then it should be presented with watered-down versions of the original or supplemental texts focused on equality issues.
Elizabeth Nelson, who teaches English at Twin Cities Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, told School Library Journal she gives her students Marxist theory when reading Shakespeare’s tragedy “Coriolanus” about the Roman leader.
Sarah Mulhern Gross told the journal that she delivered “toxic masculinity analysis” to her students reading “Romeo and Juliet” at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey.
REFRESHER – “Mercutio and Tybalt begin to fight. … Enraged, Romeo declares that his love for Juliet has made him effeminate, and that he should have fought Tybalt in Mercutio’s place. When Tybalt, still angry, storms back onto the scene, Romeo draws his sword. They fight, and Romeo kills Tybalt.”
The war against Shakespeare did not begin in 2021. Last December marked the fifth anniversary of students at the University of Pennsylvania removing a portrait of the Bard from their Ivy League halls.
The organizers behind #DisruptTexts put Shakespeare in the social justice crosshairs in October 2018.
The School Library Journal, which describes itself as “the premier publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens,” joined the fight early this year and offered young adult novels as alternatives to Shakespeare.
The librarians also showcased an essay questioning the contemporary value of the playwright responsible for classics such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth,” and “King Lear.”
“A growing number of educators are … coming to the conclusion that it’s time for Shakespeare to be set aside or deemphasized to make room for modern, diverse, and inclusive voices,” said the essay titled, “To Teach or Not to Teach: Is Shakespeare Still Relevant to Today’s Students?”
“Educators grappling with these questions are teaching, critiquing, questioning, and abandoning Shakespeare’s work, and offering alternatives for updating and enhancing curricula,” it said.
Some scholars are dubious that blacklisting Shakespeare would enhance education.
“It’s a new version of cancel culture,” said Peter Wood, president of the conservative National Association of Scholars. “They have little regard for the great books.”