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Canceling the classics

THEY CAME FOR CHAUCER. 

Late last January, the U.K.’s University of Leicester sent out a staff email proposing that authors prior to the year 1500 be dropped from the English curriculum to make room for “a selection of modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity, a decolonised curriculum and new employability modules.” That would put Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir Thomas Malory, and Beowulf on the chopping block. Just what students expect from an English degree, Micah Mattix wryly observed at The American Conservative: “politics and vocational training.” 

In spite of strident protests, the proposal is still on the table. If it goes into effect, there’s another brick removed from the wall of Western culture for the sake of contemporary relevance. Also for the sake of future English majors who can’t navigate “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote.” 

The university administration insisted it was not removing Chaucer because of his “whiteness.” The same can’t be said of educators here in the United States, where #DisruptTexts has quickly gone from hashtag to movement. On its website, #DisruptTexts is described as “a crowdsourced, grassroots effort by teachers for teachers to challenge the traditional canon in order to create a more inclusive, representative, and equitable language arts curriculum that our students deserve.”

The influence of these teachers is significant: They speak at conferences, write for publications, and have the ear of organizations like the International Literacy Association and the National Council of Teachers of English. They are recruited by publishers to promote diverse literature for children. They insist that “disrupting” does not mean book-banning but elevating authors of all races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations to a platform previously dominated by whites. 

Read more at World Magazine

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