Only for the mad and bad

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
The Government has perplexed English teachers by blacklisting Dracula. Ian Whitwham brews up a cunning plan to confound ministerial orders.

Our English department has always been under siege - Black and White and Green Papers. Semioticians and post-structuralists and taxi drivers have all had a bash.

They've accused us of promoting illiteracy and obesity and teenage mums and junkies and hooligans and homosexuals.

But now there's another complaint from the fundamentalists. We have, apparently, been peddling the supernatural. And we thought we were doing the national curriculum.

It started with The Puffin Book of Spells - then things just went downhill. Nothing seemed safe. The Ancient Mariner, for example, dabbles in darkness, drugs and dodgy women. Macbeth, an everyday tale of witchcraft, skull-crushing and infanticide - popular with examiners for years - seems to have caused eyelids to be batted.

Then came the final straw. The Government's English Order, the list of approved poets and novelists, shunned Bram Stoker's Dracula. Dracula has always been a hit with Year 8 and an A-level set text.

It probably isn't so good on citizenship or curfews, but none of my charges has been tempted to go far beyond the odd love bite.

My head of department, a mild-mannered man who has never strangled a chicken in his life, has had enough. We've all have. We are going to cut our losses. Opt out. Become a "specialist school".

A religious one. A college of excellence - of Satanism. St Lucifer's or Paradise Lost or Rosemary's Babies. We will be offering an arena which will recognise the worth of all children, not just the goody-goodies.

Standards will not be remotely bog. We're talking meritocracy here. However unpalatable, we will make no bones about being selective. Rosemary's will not be a haven for dilettante Goths and Marilyn Manson fans.

Nor will we have truck with those parents who get sudden bouts of religiosity and join neighbourhood covens, hell-bent on getting their offpsring a place.

We will cast our net wide in the cause of egalitarianism. The upper classes may well hav a head start - they've always had a long tradition of barking lunacy from Byron to Crowley. But whole sections of our society hitherto marginalised will be empowered and embraced.

Truants, school phobics, those exiled and excluded will, like Milton's angels, get a break. All those benighted souls presently toiling vainly towards Level 2.

All those writhing on the lower rungs of the national curriculum, who are already in Hell. To these, Rosemary's will open its gates. Inclusion units will become havens for the gifted and talented. Dave Mania, for example, at present incarcerated in internal exclusion, has both the aptitude and the ability to take to Rosemary's like a bat out of Hell.

Dave was a prodigy even at nursery. We will hothouse these elves of Satan. We will, of course, be multicultural. Bogeymen and nutters from all religions will be studied: Satan, Beelzebub, Pluto, Wotan, Hannibal.

Our pastoral curriculum will have a clear, moral basis. Assemblies will be a rich brew of muscular Satanism with a bracing Pentecostal input. Jerry Lee Lewis could, perhaps, be persuaded to perform Great Balls of Fire.

The national curriculum will be radically refurbished and made more relevant to our pupils. We would simplify levels - something more akin to Dante's Inferno. Merit stars would become marks of Cain. And we would no longer feel the need to apologise for Shakespeare, Milton, Baudelaire or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Nor would we forget that old chestnut Lord of the Flies - a key text.

Professor Richard Dawkins has recently referred to church schools as being "positively evil", our agenda precisely and our probable logo. We intend to become a beacon of hellfire for other schools and will make our acknowledged expertise available to the more failing religions.

Sponsorship is looking good. Big business has always been allied to the dark arts. Indeed, we will probably have as core subject the darkest of all disciplines - the general national vocational qualification in greed, cheating and deception - that is business studies.

Ian Whitwham teaches at a London comprehensive


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