Monday, February 22, 2021

Canceling the Classics

 From World Magazine:

Late last January, the U.K.’s University of Leicester sent out a staff email proposing that authors prior to the year 1500 be dropped from the English curriculum to make room for “a selection of modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity, a decolonised curriculum and new employability modules.” That would put Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir Thomas Malory, and Beowulf on the chopping block. Just what students expect from an English degree, Micah Mattix wryly observed at The American Conservative: “politics and vocational training.” 

In spite of strident protests, the proposal is still on the table. If it goes into effect, there’s another brick removed from the wall of Western culture for the sake of contemporary relevance. Also for the sake of future English majors who can’t navigate “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote.” 

The university administration insisted it was not removing Chaucer because of his “whiteness.” The same can’t be said of educators here in the United States, where #DisruptTexts has quickly gone from hashtag to movement. On its website, #DisruptTexts is described as “a crowdsourced, grassroots effort by teachers for teachers to challenge the traditional canon in order to create a more inclusive, representative, and equitable language arts curriculum that our students deserve.”

The influence of these teachers is significant: They speak at conferences, write for publications, and have the ear of organizations like the International Literacy Association and the National Council of Teachers of English. They are recruited by publishers to promote diverse literature for children. They insist that “disrupting” does not mean book-banning but elevating authors of all races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations to a platform previously dominated by whites. 

Opening the floor to diverse views is a reasonable, even praiseworthy, objective. Often, though, the implementation means either shouting down historical voices or putting them under a social justice microscope. Writing in School Library Journal, novelist Padma Venkatraman recognizes the literary excellence of the classics. But, she argues, justice demands we relegate them to social studies classrooms, “where inherent ideas of inequity are exposed and examined; where Huckleberry Finn may be viewed as an example of literature that showcases the white lens.” Students should not read classic texts as literature, or even as valuable insight into the faults and virtues of the past, but as analytical challenges: to dissect the subtle and unsubtle underpinnings of white supremacy. (Read more.)


1 comment:

julygirl said...

What next will the Cancel Culture/Thought Police cancel? Their control over everything is reaching farther and farther. It is all part of the fact that they believe they control everything including the weather and the earth's revolutions around the sun.