The headmaster of a school described as the strictest in Britain has warned that William Shakespeare it will disappear from the classroom as schools in England come under pressure to decolonize and diversify the curriculum.
Katharine Birbalsinghthe controversial headmaster of the Michaela Community School in north London, said Shakespeare had already been “lost” in many places in America and warned: “We are following America this way.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Birbalsingh said schools were under a lot of pressure to change what they teach, but stressed the importance of keeping “dead white men” in the curriculum.
Reading lists for GCSE and A-level English literature Y drama they have recently expanded to include more black and minority ethnic writers, and activists have called for African-American history to be fully incorporated into the curriculum.
When asked about decolonizing the curriculum, Birbalsingh said: “I think dead white men have something to offer us. Shakespeare has been influencing literature for over 400 years. It is correct to teach Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s ideas are universal.
She continued: “I’m concerned about the trend in America now influencing what’s happening here, where we will eventually remove cultural icons like Shakespeare.”
Today, students in England are still required to study Shakespeare. Students taking the AQA GCSE English literature exams this summer will have studied one of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing and Julius Caesar.
“The point is that there will come a time when I don’t think that will happen anymore,” Birbalsingh said. “I think that in America it has been lost in many places. And we are following America in this way.”
When asked what would replace Shakespeare, he said: “Any number of different black and female authors. Maybe they’ll have me there. The point is that I am a black author. I would never suggest reading my books instead of Shakespeare or Dickens or any other dead white man. My color and my gender shouldn’t be that important.”
Birbalsingh emphasized that he wasn’t saying he didn’t want to have black authors in the curriculum, but added: “I don’t agree with this idea that you can only identify and appreciate an author who is your skin colour. You should be able to really appreciate anyone, and what matters is how good they are.”
She said that students who take A-level English at Michaela study Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island. “I think it’s excellent. So I’m not saying they only teach dead white men. I’m just saying don’t campaign to get rid of them.”
Birbalsingh allowed cameras into his school free of charge for the first time for an ITV documentary titled Britain’s Tightest Headmistress, which aired on Sunday.
He founded Michaela Community School eight years ago and since then it has become England’s most talked about educational experiment.
But far from being a complete portrait of a school and its controversial director, it is an author’s documentary in which he exposes his vision, not only of education, but also of raising children and creating a better society.
Their manifesto is based on 12 golden rules, including: don’t give kids unsupervised internet access, teach them gratitude, keep your standards high, stand your ground, and don’t let them listen to filth or drilling music because “it’ll hurt them.” it will ruin life,” he said.
“Middle-class white people don’t realize that, because their kids can come and go and that’s not a problem. While your black son in the middle of the city could literally destroy your life.”
Birbalsingh told The Guardian: “It’s not me saying, oh my God, the parents are doing a terrible job. This is me saying, these things will help us all be better at parenting as a society.”
He first rose to prominence at the 2010 Tory party conference, where he delivered a speech about Britain’s “broken” education system, which caused an uproar among his fellow teachers and cost him his job.
Her school has become famous for its strict ‘no excuses’ behavior policy and its success: She was deemed ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and in 2019 more than half of all GCSE marks were level 7 or above. Her many admirers include Toby Young, Michael Gove and Peter Hitchens.
She was appointed as the new government Social Mobility Commissioner and has attacked “wake-up culture”, engaging in regular spats on Twitter on a number of topics, including white privilege, racism, Ofsted and original sin. Last month she came under fire after she suggested that girls not take A level physics because they don’t like it.”hard math”, comments that he said were taken out of context.
“People misquote me,” he said. “People say all kinds of nonsense. I spent 20 minutes talking about the cultural issues of why girls might not choose STEM subjects.” In addition, she said: “I don’t think we should meet the quotas. If I don’t respect my girls enough at 16 to say, ‘No, you have to do physics, because we need to have 50% girls doing physics,’ I think that’s wrong.”
Earlier this week, Birbalsingh battled his critics over a quote painted on an internal wall of the school, which an eagle-eyed observer saw had been wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill. She can see why people caught the mistake. “But demand a public apology? Than? Because of something on my school wall? it’s stupid
“Of course, point out a mistake. Laugh if you want. I do not understand what the problem is. Yes, we have a misattributed quote. We will change it. Like, who cares?
As for white privilege, he acknowledges that it exists, but says that there are many other types of privilege, such as “pretty privilege,” “high privilege,” and “good family privilege,” and in any case, he says , is harmful to black children. to follow up on racism and white privilege at school.
“That’s all they hear on the outside. We have to counter that somehow. I can’t tell you how debilitating it is to hear as a black child that the world is against you, that everyone is racist, and that you’ll never make it. This is not helpful to any of us.”
Birbalsingh agreed to the documentary because he wants millions of people to see what happens in Michaela and for parents and teachers to learn from his experience. “I’m not courting fame at all,” she says.
“It’s more that I feel that as a society we are making bad decisions for ourselves, for our children. And many people can’t talk about it because they will lose their jobs or lose their friends.
“The thing is, I already lost my friends when I gave a speech at a Conservative party conference, so I can speak and I feel I have a duty to do so.”