Latest news from the madhouse: the AQA examination board has removed from the GCSE curriculum a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, “Education for Leisure”, which was claimed to “glorify” knife crime (the poem’s protagonist says “Today I am going to kill something, / Anything. / I have had enough of being ignored and today / I am going to play God.”).
Duffy’s eloquent response to this has been to write a poem highlighting a certain other English poet – one even more admired and respected than herself – whose work should, on the same basis, be axed from the AQA’s curriculum:
Mrs Schofield’s GCSE
You must prepare your bosom for his knife,
said Portia to Antonio in which
of Shakespeare’s Comedies? Who killed his wife,
insane with jealousy? And which Scots witch
knew Something wicked this way comes? Who said
Is this a dagger which I see? Which Tragedy?
Whose blade was drawn which led to Tybalt’s death?
To whom did dying Caesar say Et tu? And why?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – do you
know what this means? Explain how poetry
pursues the human like the smitten moon
above the weeping, laughing earth; how we
make prayers of it. Nothing will come of nothing:
speak again. Said by which King? You may begin.
“Mrs Schofield” is the AQA examiner who first objected to “Education for Leisure”, describing it as “absolutely horrendous”. What I find absolutely horrendous is the thought that children’s educational accomplishments are being measured and assessed by someone whose appreciation for poetry and literature is illustrated by her reaction to having a poem written about her by Duffy:
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”.
Edit: I’m told that Mrs Schofield is in fact only an invigilator, not an examiner. This means she isn’t actually involved in marking or setting papers. That removes my concerns about her attitude towards poetry, and reinforces that the villain of the piece is the AQA exam board (plus a rent-a-quote Tory MP who “doesn’t believe in censorship, but…”). Speaking of which, do join D.S. Ketelby’s Facebook group, Memo to AQA Exam Board: Try Growing A Spine.