The English press was full, yesterday, of stories on the government's latest initiative to bolster national interest in the nation's seemingly leading export: Shakespeare. Children as young as five years old will be introduced to the works of Shakespeare, and a number of teaching initiatives, "with tried and true teaching methodologies" are being advanced among primary students. Here are links to the wide press coverage this story gained:
- Five-year-olds to study Shakespeare (The Guardian)
- Shakespeare 'for five-year-olds' (BBC)
- Shakespeare lessons for five-year-olds to be introduced (The Education Union)
- New drive for Shakespeare appreciation in schools (The Telegraph)
- Making Shakespeare simple: Children to be taught the bard's work from age six(Mail Online)
- Shakespeare to be taught to five-year-olds (Birmingham Post)
- Children as young as five to learn Shakespeare(Times Online)
The PDF ("Shakespeare for all ages and stages") describing the new effort can be read from the department for schools, children and families.
While England was abuzz, the rest of the world, seems not to have noticed. Really, I suppose there are two questions: 1) Is it appropriate to introduce so complex an author to such young children?; and 2) What makes English pedagogues think Shakespeare needs their help?
On the first head, I would submit there are some things inherently unsuitable to the "for Dummies" treatment: nuclear physics, reformation theology, and the works of Shakespeare among them. Simplifiied explanations can exceed the point of obviating their objects.
On the second head, the last time I checked the Shakespeare industry was thriving and needed no help from educators. In fact, in spite of the best effort of educators to discourage interest Shakespearea has triumphed. If one could invest in Shakespeare.inc it would be the better than owning Google.
Ah well, elementary educators will be elementary educators, one supposes.