Amanda MacGregor, Critical Race theory, culture jamming, deconstructing Shakespeare, Penn English Department, School Library Journal, western civilization, William Shakespeare
In January of 2017 I wrote Deconstructing Shakespeare, which was the story of the Penn English Department and it’s oh-so-woke students and faculty, in their attempts to banish the Bard.
As a symbol of their “…way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English Department,” an iconic painting of Shakespeare was removed and replaced with an image of one Audre Lorde, a black female writer.
Most of the faculty “declined to be interviewed,” but students were not similarly shy:
College junior Mike Benz, also an English major, agreed. He said that he thought the students’ action was bold and admirable, adding that the students acted in a positive way by taking matters into their own hands.
‘It is a cool example of culture jamming,’ Benz said.
Cool and “jamming” indeed, whatever “culture jamming” might be. I ended that article thus:
If this is an example of the kind of teachers of English that are due to be unleashed on unsuspecting parents and children in the near future, God help us all.
Lee Brown at The New York Post explains why my prayer was prophetic:
William Shakespeare, thou hast been getting canceled.
An increasing number of woke teachers are refusing to study the Bard — accusing his classic works of promoting ‘misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism, and misogynoir.’
Dictionary.com tells us misogynoir is a:
the specific hatred, dislike, distrust, and prejudice directed toward Black women (often used attributively): misogynoir attitudes and comments; The media’s erasure of the contributions of Black women to the project was called out as an instance of misogynoir.
Of course it is. The word was recently invented by “queer Black Feminist Moya Bailey.” We continue:
A slew of English literature teachers told the School Library Journal (SLJ) how they were ditching the likes of ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to instead ‘make room for modern, diverse, and inclusive voices.’
That is always an issue for competent teachers, particularly in K-12 education, where fads, testing mandates, and leftist political indoctrination leave less and less time for genuine curriculum every year. Until recently, professional English teachers opted for the classics. They understood the trendy, “diverse” and “inclusive” were not necessary to “engage” contemporary students of any color, and accordingly, refused to abandon the best, most intellectually stimulating and challenging literature mankind has ever created. Rather than exalting narrow, sectarian contemporary politics, they explored truly universal internal and external struggles. No more. Now, they do all they can to abolish the greatest evil known to man: whiteness.
Teachers also need to ‘challenge the whiteness’ of the assumption that Shakespeare’s works are ‘universal,’ insisted Jeffrey Austin, who is head of a Michigan high school’s English literature department.
Shakespeare’s works are universal—to the human race. However, if humanity is to be divided into warring tribes by race, gender, imagined gender, sexual preference and fidelity to Marxist philosophy, literature will not be used to educate, and provide a common base of understanding, an appreciation of our shared humanity, but to subjugate and destroy us all.
Former Washington state public school teacher Claire Bruncke told SLJ she banished the Bard from her classroom to ‘stray from centering the narrative of white, cisgender, heterosexual men.’
‘Eliminating Shakespeare was a step I could easily take to work toward that. And it proved worthwhile for my students,’ she insisted.
In my teaching career, I found two types of teachers that tried to avoid Shakespeare: one group honestly disliked Shakespeare’s style. Some, of these, I suppose weren’t fond of drama in general, and others just had other favorite bits of literature they wanted to teach instead. The second were not well read, and didn’t understand Shakespeare. Rather than do a little research to upgrade their knowledge of the times, the issues, even the language of the late 1500s, rather than ask better-educated colleagues for help, they chose to avoid Shakespeare. Surely many of them were afraid of the questions their students would inevitably ask. No teacher wants to be unable to answer the questions of a 15 year-old, and these teachers knew so little of Shakespeare, they would be deer in the headlights in such situations. At least they were intelligent enough to understand their deficiencies, but sadly, not sufficiently motivated to correct them.
Both groups tried to justify their negligence by claiming students couldn’t understand the English of Shakespeare’s time, which is true if they don’t have a teacher capable of explaining it. They also argued it is essential students read works by authors just like them, by which they meant, black, Hispanic, female, gay, lesbian, trans, etc.. Without the work of such authors, which they labeled “authentic,” students would not enjoy reading or understand what they read.
This is a part of the contemporary “student centered” education movement. It holds kids are brilliant, and teachers must not teach in the traditional sense, but must be “facilitators,’ whose sole purpose is to guide students in unleashing their innate brilliance. To that end, students not only get to critique—daily—what teachers are doing, but should tell teachers how they should teach, and even what literature they want to learn next. Rather than individual work, the emphasis is on group work. In other words, kids must be given the authority to remain as uneducated as they were the first day they walked into a teacher’s classroom.
Kids don’t know what they don’t know. They have no idea of educational psychology or human intellectual development. They don’t know what they need to learn to develop their brains, or how that might be done. They might indeed chose trendy contemporary authors–or merely prefer to surf the Internet for cars, sports, fashion, celebrities or porn–but have no basis of knowing how deficient, how trivial, in comparison to the great authors of western civilization, they are. Lacking exposure to Romeo and Juliet, they miss an opportunity to become wiser in ways all kids need.
Sarah Mulhern Gross, an English teacher at High Technology High School in Lincroft, NJ, said she was teaching ‘Romeo and Juliet’ ‘with a side of toxic masculinity analysis.’
Oh yeah, good move there, Sarah. That’ll really hook boys on the classics. As one might suspect—and fear—librarians, who are supposed to be the guardians of the canon, are helpfully dismantling it:
In her SLJ article, ‘To Teach or Not To Teach,’ librarian Amanda MacGregor acknowledged the Bard as a ‘genius wordsmith’ responsible for ‘masterful wordplay, creative use of language, biting wit, puns, and innovative characters.’
That’s big of her, though she failed to mention Shakespeare added a great many descriptive and useful words to the English Language, unlike “misogynoir.” She damns him by faint praise (Alexander Pope, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot—1733). “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Queen Gertrude, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene II).
Still, she understood why so many of the teachers were ‘grappling’ and ultimately ‘abandoning Shakespeare’s work.’
‘Shakespeare’s works are full of problematic, outdated ideas, with plenty of misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism, and misogynoir.’
God help us. It is the job of teachers to show kids what is valuable, uplifting, and essential for their development. It is their job to pass on the essentials of western civilization and culture, that we do not descend into the squalor of the past. It is their job to explain to them what is good and true and timeless, and why that is so.
Only propagandists and the unprepared, not teachers, push the idea the classics are outdated, racist, and meaningless to us. So sophisticated are we, we’re beyond all that stuffy stuff. We have transcended humanity and can afford to fill our heads with propaganda, division and hatred. But the wise and truly educated understand Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Pope, Chaucer, Swift, and all the other dead white men are invaluable because times change, but people do not. Oh, we have iPhones, the Internet, and social media tyrants and politicians now censoring us for our own good, but human beings learn no differently than they did in the time of Aristotle. We have the same emotions, desires, concerns, worries, good and bad qualities the Jews of Christ’s time had, which is why the Bible is timeless. It is the owner’s manual from the Creator, if we’re smart enough to embrace it.
In the same sense, Shakespeare is a wellspring of insight, commentary and guidance for human beings. We read him some 700 years after his death, we produce his plays, because of all that came before us, few, if any understand human nature as well as did he. His characters, the trials they faced and overcame, or failed to overcome, the good and bad qualities of mankind, are all there for us, to learn and to understand our humanity, to revisit as long as civilization exists, or to ignore and make the same mistakes over and over again, and in so doing, slip backward to barbarism.
When we judge history through a contemporary lens, particularly a lens that pretends to be diverse and inclusive, but is in reality among the most intolerant ideologies ever to infect Mankind, we are unable to learn from it. We cannot understand how, if at all, we’ve evolved, and whether that evolution affirms the best in us, or feeds the evil that tempts us all.
Of course slavery was wrong, but we have abolished it, even though it persists in parts of the world today. This is an enormous, if unfinished triumph for good, and it shows us all the brighter, better angels of our nature, but we can’t appreciate the triumph, or even recognize its existence, if we don’t honestly study history and honor the sacrifices of those that fought for good that we might enjoy its benefits.
If we refuse to study literature with a complete understanding of the times and events that inspired it, we knowingly, willingly and maliciously empty our souls of the knowledge, the insight, we need to become better people and societies, and we lose the ability to understand what we read, not only as useful data, events and people worthy of remembrance and emulation, but to apply the lessons of the past to our present and future lives and experiences for good.
Too many contemporary teachers lack an understanding of history, of the evolution of government, culture and knowledge. They learned little but Critical Race Theory in college, and so they are unprepared to elevate anyone or anything. They know only how to criticize and destroy. They don’t understand that it is only in advanced, technological societies we have the leisure and conceit to destroy ourselves by dividing ourselves into the tribalism and clannishness untold millions have given their lives to rise beyond. While pretending to represent the heights of intellectualism, tolerance and altruism, our self-imagined elite hate anyone that does not worship them and their beliefs. Because their ideology is focused on the here and now, on their brilliance and remaking of human nature, they must ignore or warp history and the timeless literature it spawned. They alone, in all of history, are sufficiently brilliant, sufficiently moral, sufficiently evolved to do what no one has ever been able to do: transform human nature; make a “new man.”
Shakespeare had their number, and those that can even dimly understand him, hate him for it.
Sic transit Gloria mundi—the glory of man is fleeting. While pretending otherwise, they are only mortal, and in their arrogance, they will ignore the lessons of Shakespeare, of history, and will accomplish only destruction, misery and ignorance, the essential elements of dictatorship, of socialism, which has always, and will always, fail.
In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene V, Hamlet says:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
The small, arrogant and insecure minds that would abolish Shakespeare and the other truly great authors of the canon, of western civilization, would limit us to a poor philosophy indeed. They would make our dreams nightmares, and condemn us to the horrors of the past.
PREPOSTING BONUS THOUGHT: Learning—learning anything of value—takes work. It takes focused concentration over time. Learning to pay attention is a life-long task many never truly master. We all know who those people are. We work with plenty of them. One of the fundamental duties of teachers is doing the practice that gives kids the opportunity to learn to pay attention for longer and longer periods. Most people, given the choice, will chose to work as little as possible. Oh, to be sure there are always self-motivated people, but they are decidedly in the minority, and are usually despised because they make people who don’t want to do any real work “ look bad.” Give kids the choice to avoid work, and most will gladly take it—group work, cough—and learn nothing.
But it’s not written by people that look and think just like me! Look around: are any of the people that look and think just like you capable of much? Are they published authors? Do they have college degrees—in anything? Are any of them hard workers bettering themselves every day? No? Then shut up, concentrate and read Shakespeare.
Shakespeare–all truly good literature–takes work, real, hard work. But it’s not fun! Quit your whining and read. Fun comes with understanding and accomplishment. Fun comes with increased abilities, when a kid suddenly realizes he’s reading faster, reading more complex material and actually getting it. That’s fun, but it’s fun kids will never understand and appreciate if they don’t develop the interest in, and ability to, do hard work, over time.