Should We Teach Kids Shakespeare or Russell Brand?

By Gary Cutlack on at

English A-Level students will soon be allowed to read Russell Brand's newspaper columns and Caitlin Moran's Twitter feed on study time without worry, as part of a move by the OCR exam board to jazz up the teaching of English by adding the literary stars of today to its reading list.

As good as he was, Shakespeare isn't what you'd call accessible. A Kindle copy of Richard III is unlikely to motivate the youth to read things more than 140 characters long or look at anything that isn't accompanied by a photograph of a cat or Miley Cyrus' pubic mound, so perhaps getting them engaging with Russell Brand's verbose yet ultimately futile nonsense might at least teach them some new words?

According to the Guardian, though, someone at the Department for Education is not happy about it at all, raging: "Schools should be aware that if they offer this rubbish in place of a proper A-level, then pupils may not get into good universities. We will expect other exam boards to do better," also claiming that it's "...immensely patronising to young people to claim that they will only engage with English language and literature through celebrities such as Russell Brand."

And language is fluid. As Shakespeare and the many youth movements of the past have introduced new words to our language, so will the kids of years to come. Any attempt to define English at a set moment in time is doomed to fail, as by the year 2017 anyone talking like a 2014 youth will sound as outdated and archaic as one of Shakespeare's lesser known characters.

So what to do? Continue forcing kids to read Romeo and Juliet until they cry from boredom and beg to be allowed 30 seconds of looking at their telephones, or tell them that Caitlin Moran's latest column and watching Russell Brand twirling his hair on Newsnight are just as worthy of debate and will probably also be held up as a works of genius 500 years from now? [Guardian]

Image credit: Shakespeare from Shutterstock