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Teachers Debate Requirement to Teach Shakespeare

Teachers Debate Requirement to Teach Shakespeare

For high school students, the teaching of Shakespeare is a requirement in English classes across the country under the Common Core standards. One teacher, however, is arguing for why she thinks Shakespeare instruction should be optional.

Dana Dusbiber is a high school English teacher and a in a write-up for the Washington Post explains why she would rather not teach Shakespeare in her classes.

She feels this way "because there is a WORLD of really exciting literature out there that better speaks to the needs of my very ethnically-diverse and wonderfully curious modern-day students," she said.

Dusbiber argues against saying "it's always been done this way" to adapt English classes to more modern-day needs. She does not believe that reading Shakespeare will guarantee students any skills needed to navigate the world or understand human behavior.

"I am sad that we don’t reach beyond our own often narrow beliefs about how young people become literate to incorporate new research on how teenagers learn, and a belief that our students should be excited about what they read — and that may often mean that we need to find the time to let them choose their own literature."

Further, Dusbiber argues that relying on Shakespeare could potentially result in overlooking other important cultural perspectives. "Many, many of our students come from [different] languages and traditions. Why do our students not deserve to study these 'other' literatures with equal time and value? And if time is the issue in our classrooms, perhaps we no longer have the time to study the Western canon that so many of us know and hold dear."

By other literatures, Dusbiber is referring to texts she would like to teach in her classroom, such as oral tradition transcribed from Africa, or early writings from Latin America or South Asia.

"Let’s let Shakespeare rest in peace, and start a new discussion about middle and high school right-of-passage reading and literature study."

In response to Dusbiber's passion about bringing more relevant literature into high school English classes by doing away with Shakespeare, Matthew Truesdale, an English teacher at Wren High School in Piedmont, S.C., responded to The Post in disagreement.

"To dismiss Shakespeare on the grounds that life 450 years ago has no relation to life today is to dismiss every religious text, every piece of ancient mythology (Greek, African, Native American, etc.), and for that matter, everything that wasn’t written in whatever time defined as 'NOW,'" he wrote in his post.

Truesdale went on to ask Dusbiber why English classrooms do not have room for both Shakespeare and alternative teachings of oral tradition from non-Western areas.

Read Dusbiber's post here and Truesdale's here.

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Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

06/16/2015

Should English classrooms keep Shakespeare instruction or replace it?

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