Officials at the AQA board said their request that schools destroy the anthology containing the Carol Ann Duffy poem Education for Leisure had been triggered by concerns in two schools about references to knives. A spokeswoman confirmed the decision had been made in the context of the current spate of knife-related murders.
(as reported in Thursday's Guardian)
Of course it's the same old idiocy and knee-jerk scare reaction to complaints:
A spokeswoman for AQA confirmed there had been three complaints, two referring to knife crime and a third about the description of a goldfish being flushed down the toilet. The first complaint about knives was made in 2004. The second, made in the summer by an exams officer, was then taken up by an MP.
The most recent complaint was made by Lutterworth grammar school's exams invigilator, Pat Schofield, who welcomed the board's decision and said: "I think it is absolutely horrendous - what sort of message is that to give to kids who are reading it as part of their GCSE syllabus?"
And, of course, it's the same old misunderstanding of the point of the art, perhaps wilful or perhaps spurious.
But what sort of message does the call for destruction of a text give to kids? Hopefully the same ideas that the syllabus should be trying to get across: the very power and relevance of literature.
But what sort of message does it send about those calling the shots? That they can't see the line between the content of the syllabus and the existence outside this syllabus of other text? The very idea that the books containing the poem, although AQA branded and tied to the syllabus, should be destroyed
, is surely the antithesis of what the board stands for as a provider of education. Choosing to remove the poem from the syllabus is an understandable, if disappointing, response to complaint, but there is never a need for censorship via destruction.
-Education for Leisure
Today I am going to kill something. Anything.
I have had enough of being ignored and today
I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets
I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
another language and now the fly is in another language.
I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.
I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
Something's world. The cat avoids me. The cat
knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.
I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
For signing on. They don't appreciate my autograph.
There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
and tell the man he's talking to a superstar.
He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.Carol Ann Duffy