Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Education for leisure

I've just finished reading the story of how the AQA exam board is removing a poem "about a knife-carrying violent loner" from its anthology for GCSE English because of fears over teenage knife crime. All well and good, you might think. The poem in question is Education for Leisure written by Carol Ann Duffy. What's more, AQA has advised schools to destroy all copies of the anthology (why not have a ritual book burning, it's been done before, right?) - generous to the last, the exam board says it will send replacements not containing the offending poem.

So why all the fuss? Yes, the poem begins with the line: "Today I am going to kill something. Anything." But it is surely anti-violence, anti-knife crime, and, in my view, about as far from glamourising it as can be. Surely there is value in getting people of GCSE age to think about the issues and thought processes that lead to crime of this nature? Surely there is value in encouraging people to think twice about this issue?

The BBC article does not reproduce the poem in full, so I will, here. Read it, and have a think - then make your own mind up. Are AQA doing the right thing? Or pandering to ill-conceived, knee-jerk panic?
Education for Leisure by Carol Ann Duffy
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.

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