Pretty ridiculous article making the rounds today. Just wanted to add a few thoughts about his champion Romantic Poets: Shelley, Wordsworth and Keats. I am certain I recall the broad details of my university degree as well as I think I do (?).
First of all, they all wrote poems, not novels. So it’s kind of like saying ‘don’t watch this TV show, see these movies!’ Apparently the hundreds of years comprising the canon of English literature could not provide one actual book for Whiting to offer up in contrast. Second, none of these poets taught children complacency. While Wordsworth may have had his support for the French Revolution tempered by the methods of the Jacobins, they all pushed for revolution at various points in their lives, particularly Shelley. Naturally, the zeal to cast off what they saw as oppressive weights in their society is evidenced in their works, particularly Ozymandias or The Mask of Anarchy. Third, notably absent from the list is the firebrand William Blake, whose works offer us the first instance of the word ‘Orc’ and are alive with both the fire of mystical fantasy and condemnation of the Catholic Church. Blake clearly advocated for making free and independent choices, and behaving in ways that would upset any governing body demanding subservience.
Now, I don’t live in England. I have heard rumour that the school system is in dire straits, but any insight I might offer is surely hearsay. Suffice to say, it seems like there is plenty of bad behavior and I understand the desire to point fingers. Rotten attitudes can snowball throughout a school year, and one bad apple can definitely spoil the bushel. If underage students are delighting in the adult content of the books A Song of Ice and Fire (or, more likely, just watching the ribald show itself) it is easy to assume pulling out the root will kill the weed.
But it will also kill the flower. Lumping all fantasy into one category and making broad generalizations is ridiculous. This actual argument is likely the death throes of a bleating puritan, and as such not worth addressing. Further, while I do not live in England, I am a teacher, and one who appreciates that how a teacher wishes students to act is not always parallel to what is best for them. While I’m teaching a lesson, it would be ideal for me to have 100% engagement and participation, 100% effort once the work starts. That would teach the meter of Ozymandias to an excellent degree. But social understanding is as big a part of the school system as formal education, and while challenging to listen to, cope with, suffer through for a results-bent teacher of 30 pupils, it translates into growth for the young individual. This dichotomy comes down to respect: they respect your time while imparting new information and ideas, you respect their time when they push, pull and revel in their generation’s congealing identity. As long as they are not overlapping, butt out.
After all, it bears mentioning that Percy Bysshe Shelley himself was expelled from Oxford in 1811 for not following the rules. He was yet to publish anything of note.