Parse the sickbag

29th November 2002 at 00:00
To be or not to be? This is the question: for one mark, identify the parts of speech in this quotation. If English literature's classics were animals, there would be laws to protect them against the kind of Gradgrindian abuse being inflicted under the guise of key stage 3 tests. What will future generations think of Shakespeare after being forced to parse bits of the Bard, rather than appreciate the beauty of his language or the way it still permeates our speech and culture? No wonder English teachers are in revolt.

The obsession with testing measurable outcomes is threatening to distort our whole education system. Literature is there to help us understand what shapes our culture, to be read and above all enjoyed - as the BBC's Great Britons project did. The next generation needs to understand the big picture, not just tick boxes. Shakespeare is for enjoyment: instruction manuals are for parsing.

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