Sunday, September 07, 2008

Banning Carol Ann Duffy from the GCSE

[Response to The Guardian story]

The world is awfully absurd and you can always find evidence of it. In Britain, the exam board AQA had ordered schools to remove Carol Ann Duffy's poem, "Education for Leisure" from its GCSE curriculum. The reason? The poem supposedly glorified knife crime.

Duffy responded in the most civilised manner possible, I think. Instead of an outraged public statement, she wrote a poem about it: "Mrs Schofield's GCSE" (available on The Guardian).

Note: Pat Schofield is an external examiner at Lutterworth College, Leicestershire. She complained about Duffy's poem and called it "absolutely horrendous".

Contacted by the Guardian last night, Schofield said she felt "a bit gobsmacked" to have a verse named after her. She described the poem as "a bit weird. But having read her other poems I found they were all a little bit weird. But that's me".

Seems to me it's easy to want to ban something when you don't understand it. Yes, it's just you, Mrs Schofield. It's just you. (Full disclosure: I love Carol Ann Duffy's poems.)

I have included Carol Ann Duffy's banned poem in this post. You judge for yourself if it deserves to be banned.

Education for Leisure

Today I am going to kill something. Anything.
I have had enough of being ignored and today
I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets
I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
another language and now the fly is in another language.
I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.
I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
Something's world. The cat avoids me. The cat
knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.
I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
For signing on. They don't appreciate my autograph.
There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
and tell the man he's talking to a superstar.
He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.

~ Carol Ann Duffy

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