Told You Shakespeare Was Bad!

I Told You Shakespeare Was Bad (1)

Regular readers of Inside the Mind of Davy D know about the fractious relationship I have with William Shakespeare. As time has progressed I have learned to appreciate him a little more. The love deepened in October 2017 when it was revealed students at Cambridge University were having to be given warnings, alerting them some of his works, like Titus Adronicus and The Comedy Of Errors, could be upsetting; the warnings given to help protect student’s mental health. You can read contrasting reports from these links at The Guardian and Daily Mail.

Maybe I missed a trick, but wouldn’t someone have noticed, and discussed at length, the content of Shakespeare’s poetry and plays over the past 400 years. Cambridge University defended the action saying it wasn’t a general University policy, but it was down to the discretion of individual lecturers as to whether warnings were issued to students.

This is just one example of an over protection culture taking hold in the UK and every day is beginning to feel like the 1st of April. Watch any TV channel and you will see telephone numbers for helplines at the end of programmes for anything liable to offend any human sensibility. Although they have merit, are things becoming overprotective to the point where the realities of life are being hidden or at least distorted?

As a writer this has an impact. Working a path through this culture of over protection can restrict the writer’s freedom of expression, which in turn affects the writing and poetry. For example, a few weeks ago I was working on a piece of poetry reflecting something I experienced in my time as a Police Officer. Throughout the drafting process the questions of, Will this word or graphic description offend anyone? What if someone has had this kind of experience? Do I need to place a warning or alert at the start of the poem? played on my mind. In the end the poetry was so safe it was hardly worth the effort, as the emotion had bled out of it.

I am not talking here about poetry or writing which is offensive or hurtful to any group or individual, there are laws in both civil and criminal statutes taking care of those issues. I am focusing more on words which accurately portray and reflect the world we live in, and our opinions in how we navigate through it. I think most poets and writers are mindful of the effect their words will have with specific audiences and self-censor to a point, but sometimes hearing a view or opinion taking us out of our comfort zone can lead to more informed conversations.

As a poet and writer, what are your thoughts on writing in a culture of over protection? Maybe this is something relevant only to the UK and you live in a country where freedom of expression is exactly that. Or, is it the opposite where in the words of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington you, “publish and be damned.”

 

72 Comments

Censorship can be important to a society, simply because all societies have sections of their populace who are either single cell amoeba or pond life, whether simple or vile they use a different moral compass, more suited to much lower levels of emotional intelligence.
However, at the other end of the scale, censorship is a blight on our land. I’m referring to the puerile, pedantic bo****cks (see how I self- censored ha!) that you refer to Davy.
We live in a society where more people than ever enjoy comfort and social/professional standing, have a reason to think ‘ain’t I done well’ but now seek, by whatever means, to achieve self-actualisation . They want to be the best parent ever for example, so end up complaining about school plays or start a campaign to ban ‘anything’ just ‘something’. And if these people are employed in a capacity which gives them the requisite authority , then……….! Another factor tied in with the last point is ‘job justification’ within the civil service. The uk civil service could probably be halved without it having a negative impact. We can all do without the ministry of silly walks for example, so people need to say they’re doing a valuable job to remain employed..
So in conclusion my dear Poets, I say my pen shall be stilled by my hand alone, I shall write as I wish, with truth my guide and look with an air of utter contempt upon the puerile and pedantic.

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    Thank you Nigel for getting the conversation going. The point you raise about job justification is something I never thought about when writing the post. Have you read the book, Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Bregman? He talks about a Western Society ruled by people occupying non jobs (as he calls it) and consultants advising on non jobs. I suppose with the over protection state, it is, as you say, people protecting their status in an industry they have created. From my own experience, the Police Service could operate with half the number of ranks they have. Anything above Inspector is a bureaucratic position. From a writing perspective, I operated in a world of political correctness and that impacted every word put on paper. It takes time to create new habits but I am learning to write with a new truth.

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Nice to see that those trigger warnings have brought you one step closer to seeing the true greatness of the bard! If you have any doubts about Mark Twain or Harper Lee, they’ve both been banned by US school districts recently, so you have a lot of re-reading to get to!

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    Thanks for the heads up Gary and very sad to hear. I have read some of Harper Lee and Mark Twain and would be interested to know the thought process behind the ban. There seems to be a subtle form of censorship being applied to many areas of life, and freedom of thought and speech is being eroded.

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      And just to show you how old I am, Davy, in my youth we could never have imagined that it would be “liberals” doing the censoring and warning people away from “dangerous” books.

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      Nothing is banned in the United States public school system. One private Quaker school dropped Twain from their required reading list. I googled it after I read this comment.
      I can promise you Davy that even with our absurd 45th leader, (who I will never refer to as my President), we do not ban books. 30 percent of this President’s base may be ignorant but the other 70 percent of US citizens are not illiterate nor ridiculous. Hopefully, the electoral college will be abolished and America will never be able to elect such an unqualified person again. I do, however, apologize for his absurd comments, tweets, and actions every single day he is office.

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    They are not banned in Florida nor any other state that I am aware of. IF they have been banned it would most likely be in some rural part of the deep South. But it is illegal to ban books nationwide.

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      Sorry. I meant banned in particular school districts — e.g., in Accomack County, Virginia, they were removed from classrooms and libraries (which sounds a lot like a ban); other local school boards like the one in Biloxi, MS, just removed them from “approved reading lists.” When Newsweek uses language like “the latest in a long of controversial book bans by school boards in the U.S.,” I assume that they are using the word, “ban,” more broadly — and perhaps less accurately — than you. Same problem though. Complaints to the school board get books removed from the school or from the curriculum.

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      Sorry if I freaked out but the thought of people across the pond thinking we over here in the USA are as narrow minded as our current leader is horrifying and are now living in the 50’s banning books. 😳😖

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      Hahaha. No problem. I’m actually living across the pond in Germany, and find that most people here are well aware that Trump doesn’t speak for America in general. Perhaps because of this experience, I am less worried about how we look (since the Germans and other Europeans I interact with daily “get it”) and more worried about some of the trends I see in my homeland universities regarding where some of my liberal brothers and sisters have drifted. In the big picture, though, no doubt you and I are on the same side.

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      D Lex, They can actually be taken to court for banning anything. (Can you tell I was the Teacher’s Union representative in my school?) Districts can change reading lists in various schools any time but NOT state lists. Those consit of a list like summer reading etc. It should never, however, remove a book. I am guessing these are backwoods places where books and teeth are not in high demand. (If you get my drift.) But honestly, they could be sued. A more educated community wouldn’t stand for it and there would be and should be, lawyers beating down their doors. If we want a country with highly educated students we need more books not less. There is a legal process to remove books. I don’t know how they did it unless everyone in those small communities is nutty. I taught gifted students. (The top 1 or 2 percent nationwide – mensa standards) so I was lucky that I was able to use books several grade levels above the state standards. I just had to get parental permission if there was mature content. (Explaining that their child might be brilliant but since they were in elem. school their maturity level might not be sophisticated enough for a particular book. Example: I was teaching Florida history in 4th grade and so we read Hoot which was supposed to be for middle schoolers. It tied in with an endangered owl project we were doing but the book had a couple of four letter words. I needed written permission.I wrote a grant for it, received money and their children were on the local TV and the internet and all the parents agreed so that wasn’t a problem. But a teacher has to cover her/his bases. But communities do determine things. It is really sad how this President has made being ignorant a positive. I suppose that is how he thinks he can be re-elected. I thought we were beyond that in 2018. When I first started teaching I was a divorced mother. There were schools that wouldn’t hire me and it was as if I wore a scarlet letter D on my chest. That was the mid 70’s. You’d think we would have progressed by now wouldn’t you????

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Great piece Davy. Australia is becoming so politically correct I often feel like I am walking on eggshells in case I offend someone with my opinions. We are supposedly living in a world of freedom of speech, but often one is persecuted for expressing ourselves.

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I think it all boils down to who you are responsible for. If I am a writer, do I write for the art or for the monetary gain. Writing for the art means that I am only responsible for myself. Anyone else can read it or not read it as they wish. Writing for monetary gain, means I have to be responsible for my readers, which changes the game. Back in the day, censorship was meant to represent the majority. The first book we read in school, was ‘Dick and Jane’. Today it would have to be titled, ‘Two People, representing all races and all religions, stand side by side doing nothing.’ The University of Missouri actually has a room where the athletes can go and take a time out if their feelings get hurt by something their coach said. Fully staffed with counselors.

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A pox on both the houses of those who want to censor the Bard!!! GRRR. I have been in love with William Shakespeare since I was 16 years old! It was Bob Dylan and Will Shakespeare that touched my heart in the mid 1960’s, and had this then teen age girl, saving up my baby sitting money to buy my first guitar so that I could write poetry and lyrics and sing my own songs. Both Dylan and The Bard were as relevant to the young, innocent version of myself, as to the now groovy grandma that responds to this blog.
To censor any creative artist is just plain wrong. End of story!
I remember listening to the radio in the 1960’s and they would bleep out John Lennon singing “Christ you know it ain’t easy.” The Disc Jockeys who played that song got into trouble, some were fired even though they took out the word Christ. Censorship is obscene, NOT artistry.

To me, William Shakespeare is THE absolute most brilliant writer I have ever read, ever performed, and ever taught. The beauty of his words when strung together is simply magical. As an actress who performed his work, I can tell you that his gift of writing magnified a performance. He gave the actor an ability to reach a fever pitch just by reciting the eloquence of every syllable spoke. I never thought I would be able to cry on stage and then when I played his Juliet, it happened so naturally and simply, because of the words that told the story. The intensity of the character he created and the way he wrote emotions was unlike any other character I had performed. His talent? Shakespeare has a way of making the actor become the character. His Lady Macbeth descended from evil into madness and eventually redemption with ease, grace, and brilliance. His writing takes my breath away. I have stood before 5th graders and read lines and they instantly fell in love with his words. I have performed with young children plays like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and watched them laugh hysterically at Puck and Bottoms and let them dance and sing with the fairies. Yes, sometimes I’d have them perform a rock and roll version and those children, many of them grown now, or in college, still contact me and tell me how learning Shakespeare changed their lives. He is SO easy to understand when a teacher explains the language through plot and through acting. The best professor I ever had told me, “SHAKESPEARE WAS MEANT TO BE SEEN, NOT READ.” Shakespeare was the spoken word poetry of his day. I know I digress…. But Here I am in my 60’s and I am still madly, hopelessly, devoted and still in love with The Bard. What fools we mortals be.

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    Thank you for this wonderful response Lesley and it fantastic to see your passion put forward in such a way. I think one of the points I was raising in the blog was about the subtle form of censorship which is eroding freedom of thought and expression. Your response is a wonderful example of why Shakespeare’s work should be observed warts and all. They were written to evoke emotion and not to be buried under a cloak of political correctness. Thank you for putting forward such a passionate defence of the Bard.

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      Yes, I did understand your intent and fully planned on addressing that. However, I somehow got so carried away discussing my hero that I lost track of that. LOL Sorry. Political correctness has its place. People of all nationalities need to be respected and addressed. There are some Agatha Christie lines in a few of her books that are anti-semitic. I still want to read them but do not particularly want to see them when I watch Poirot on TV. There are Sherlock Holmes adventures where racism is shockingly blatant. Those stories I never had my students read in class. I did mention that due to the times Doyle lived in, a few of his adventures were racist and sexist because in the 1890’s when the character was created, the author was not very enlightened. But to stop an artist’s creativity and change their words? No, creativity should never be stifled.

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      I agree Lesley. I think literature like you mentioned still needs to be accessed and for people to make up their own minds, although that is dependent on the age group. As you say they are a reflection of the times they were written in and sometimes serve as an example of how we have progressed with views over time. Sometimes the response to the art serves a better purpose than banning or pushing it underground.

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I should add a few things. I realize I got carried away because of my extreme passion for Shakespeare. I do not believe in censorship. However I DO believe in age appropriate teaching. I would not perform Hamlet to ten year olds. And I bought a set of Shakespeare plays for children which had a shorter version and edited. NOT censored. Little kids aren’t going to perform a three hour play nor do they need the sexual innuendos left in. In high school they can read them. So modifying books and plays to give children an appreciation of a story is to me acceptable in teaching. THAT is not censorship. I don’t like dumbing down his words either and translating his lines as if Romeo was meeting Juliet at the mall. As a teacher, when I taught writing and poetry the only limitations were no swear words since we were school. (It forced them to think of other vocabulary words rather than four letter words.) Okay, enough…. I could go on and on and on…

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    Please do Lesley, as it is good to hear a viewpoint from someone who has been involved in teaching Shakespeare across different age groups. Bearing in mind these trigger warnings were given to adults, and many would have been exposed to him throughout their education, it makes me wonder about where the motivation and purpose for them came from.

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      You know what I find interesting… Many of the classics are now being dumbed down. My sons are almost 16 years apart in age. Both were in advanced placement English Lit classes in school. I saved all my favorite Literature books because I love books and I wrote notes in my novels and highlighted important parts etc. When each of my sons was in high school I said they could buy new books or use my old novels. Both opted to use mine thinking that it was pretty cool to read my thoughts when I was their age. My oldest son used my novels and the books his classmates bought were all the same content. However, when my youngest son used my books the new ones were totally different. He answered a question and the teacher marked his essay wrong. UNTIL he showed her my book. Then she realized the new version of the they were studying was entirely different, which made her instruction different. She called me since she knew I was a teacher. She was astounded at how much they had dumbed down The Great Gatsby. So much so that the meaning was entirely changed. THAT to me is worse than leaving a couple bad words out. To dumb a book down and change the content is absurd. If you expect students to understand more, they will. If you think they are idiots. That’s all they will ever be. And the crazy part is this was the gifted/advanced Lit class. So these were the top students in the school. How crazy was that???

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Davy, I feel that I must protest to one of your followers comments about banning books in the United States. AND by liberals. This is totally untrue and rather absurd. Liberals do not ban anything except perhaps sugar and glucose. LOL.
I am retired from teaching now but I still write curriculum for the school board so I am very aware of state guidelines and how curriculum is selected. It is against the law to ban books. I promise you that laws have to be changed in order for books or authors to be banned in this country. Each state has specific skills that must be passed in every subject area. That is a nationwide criteria. So the entire country has a set of national standards and goals. Then each state has their own curriculum guide which features a set of state standards that must be taught and passed for students to go on to the next grade.(Example: each state teaches their own state’s history in addition to American history.) For books to be banned they would have to be banned on a state level and that isn’t ever going to happen.
Curriculum wise, certain Literature is required to graduate high school. For instance, you cannot graduate high school without reading Shakespeare. At least not in Florida or in most states. There are a list of his plays that MUST be taught. Even GED students must read Shakespeare. My late husband taught GED at night a few times a week after teaching history during the day. (He made extra money that way.) He would always have to call me at home when grading the Shakespeare part of the GED classes. Often putting me on speaker phone to talk directly to the students. In regard to other authors many required books change over the decades as newer classics come into the picture. Neither of my sons read David Copperfield. I did when I was young, but books change. And my kids read a few newer books that I didn’t read. However, they both read most of the same classics. Kids still read Austen, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck,Vonnegut, Mary Shelly, George Orwell,Golding, Salinger, Tolstoy, etc. Mark Twain is read in Elementary and middle school. Some people find his work outdated and do not use it as often as they did in the old days. But Twain isn’t banned. America does not ban books. Religious nuts were up in arms over Harry Potter when it first came out because they thought it was promoting witches. ALL school libraries in the country still had it on their shelves. I wrote a grant and got 25 copies for my classroom. I had one parent complain about the book and I told her to read with her child together at home if that made her feel more comfortable. Obviously, she realized how ridiculous she had been once she read it.

I don’t want people think that we here in America are idiots and ban books. That simply isn’t true. Just because we have a crazy leader right now, doesn’t mean our entire country has gone down the tubes. Private schools and home schooled children still have to follow state standards. Okay, I feel better in explaining that. To whomever wrote that bit, perhaps a private school in your area just decided to read another book rather than Twain. Children today like fast paced novels and in JK Rowling may very well have replaced Twain on the book list in a particular school.

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    Thank you Lesley for your informed comments and one of the reasons for Thursday Thoughts is to read and inform myself about what is happening elsewhere in the world. My daughter is 19 and just started University and she is more informed and holds views on many things I would never had dreamed of at that age. The world is changing with social media and even if people try to ban something there will always be a way around it. That is why people like your President should be allowed to air their views, as long as there is a balanced right to reply. I do wonder how far he would be allowed to go before he was banned from Twitter. Maybe power and privilege offers a different level of censorship?

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Actually a rogue twitter employee did block his account for about 11 minutes but he was back on after that.LOL I am sure their lawyers did not want to fight him. Although, I think it would be great if they did. Americans worry daily that he will get us into a war by tweeting something dangerous.
I just do not want anyone to think that he can actually get away with his rantings. He is uninformed and believes he can ban things or do things that are totally in violation of our constitution and he cannot. That is what happens when people elect someone who is not well versed in history, the law, and do not even surround themselves with a Constitutional lawyer. Obama WAS a constitutional scholar and attorney and a professor so we had elegance, intelligence and reason governing. Sigh. But Trump cannot change the Constitution without Congress and the Senate and that isn’t going to happen.

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Hi Lesley, Davy, et al. I would agree that traditionally book-banning is a conservative thing, but it seems identity politics/pc liberals have seized the strategy lately. When Davy speaks of trigger warnings on Shakespeare, that sounds more like today’s identity politics liberals than conservatives. Banning Twain and Lee for racial insensitivity could go either way, but when you hear of districts like Manchester NH requiring teachers to take racial sensitivity training before being allowed to teach Twain, one suspects today’s liberals are involved. I would agree with Lesley that traditionally liberals would be against censorship. I suspect that she and I share the political values of those traditional liberals, but I we may differ on how much liberalism has drifted in the past couple of decades. I am far less sanguine about this drift. As a 1960s type liberal, I find myself becoming more and more alienated from today’s identity politics liberals without becoming one whit more conservative. Politically, I suppose I’m a little bit like thebackyardpoet in this thread — broke, hungry, and alone 🙂

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Hey Davy. At least you’re getting an earful from different perspectives across the pond. I think you owe Lesley and me a beer. Maybe two beers for Lesley for her exceptional expertise. Me, I’ll be happy with just one pint of that good English bitter 🙂

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    It is good to read D Lex and the whole purpose of Thursday thoughts – to allow writers to have informed debate in the way only writers can. I owe Lesley many beers and a pint of Lakeland bitter is on your tab 🙂

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      You guys are fun! D Lex, Gary? Davy, I’m not much of a beer drinker but I’ll take a glass of wine and toast you boys! I’m a 60’s liberal too. (I think younger people call us progressive these days.) My friends and I call ourselves resistance fighters. We were the free spirited intellectual hippies of the late 60’s protesting for the end of the Vietnam Nam war and for equal rights. If anyone would have told me that 50 years later my gal pals and I would have to put on pink hats and start marching again for equality and freedom, I wouldn’t have believed them. So now we are groovy grannies, still VERY cool (at least in our own minds) and more politically radical than our children. It’s never too late to drag out the old soap box and try to change the world. Bravo to you both for writing and inspiring! I’m amazed at how brave I have become on social media. Lol Cheers! Power to the people! Peace,love, rock -n- roll!👍✌️❤️

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      Thank you Groovy Granny / Rock Queen. 🙂 Have a great weekend and raising a nice glass of Malbec as we speak.

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Great discussion going on here!

“I think most poets and writers are mindful of the effect their words will have with specific audiences and self-censor to a point, but sometimes hearing a view or opinion taking us out of our comfort zone can lead to more informed conversations.”

Yes, I agree with you, Davy!

I think every writer has a right to say what they want and I think most have an audience. Some have an audience of a handful and some an audience of millions. I think every person should have a right to read what they want to read.

And all of us should get out of our comfort zone and read things that challenge us, make us think, share opinions we’ve not considered before, introduce us to a place we’ve never lived, get us to speak out about something that is wrong, etc.

I was introduced to Mr. Bill Shakespeare when I was 14 years old. The teacher of the class did a great job helping us to understand his “speak” and to delve into the deep things he wrote about. As a result, I fell in love with his words and stories. 🙂

Having been a teacher, and being a mom, I think parents and kids can read books together, or at the same time, and then have discussions about them. My youngest reminded me at Christmastime that I had done this with her and her siblings. Just one example…she reminded me that we read A Time to Kill (Grisham) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee) together and we discussed them. She’s asked many people if their parents ever discussed important subjects like racism with them when they were children and most people say “no”. So she thanked me for exposing her to important books and important subjects when she was a child.

HUGS!!! 🙂

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    Thank you Carolyn and I am glad you took time out to add to the conversation. It is good to hear how you introduced literature and debate to your family. I had a similar experience with my dad and followed it with my daughter. She is now at University, part of a debating society, and has a social conscience way above anything I had at her age. It is only if we expose them to the many differing types of writing and views that we can support them into becoming responsible as adults. I am beginning to see how people fall in love with the Bard. It has taking me while but getting there 🙂 Thank you for lovely response.

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    Doesitevenmatter3 Nice to know that I wasn’t the only teacher/mom who had those lessons at home. Good job! I think It worked. My oldest son is the director of a foundation that gives back to the community Daily helping local youth and one of the programs is a Poetry network where students win scholarships. My younger son is in the film industry and just got into the director’s guild. He writes amazing scripts that I feel will one day impact society. Modeling compassion and a sense of community pays off.

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      Thank you! 🙂

      OH! What a joy to hear about your amazing children! It actually brought joy-tears to my eyes!

      I am fortunate, too. My oldest is a writer and an editor. Next one is a university music professor. And last one works for an organization that helps at kids who have turned 18 and been “kicked” out of the foster care system (between the ages of 18 and 21). They help the kids get on their own and learn how to succeed in life.

      It does! 🙂
      HUGS!!! 🙂

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      It sounds like your children have benefited greatly from your expertise and guidance. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done! That’s one of the best things about middle age. We see the products of our hard work! And we survived those terrible teenage years. Yay for Moms!

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      We need to mutually pat ourselves on the back! Way to go, you! 🙂
      Yes, and YAY for Moms! 🙂 And being a grandma is even fun-ner! 🙂

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Why worry about what Shakespeare wrote when we are exposed to fake news?! Even news that is not fake is worse than anything that Shakespeare wrote. Our youth will be exposed to volatile topics throughout their young lives and into their adulthood. I feel it best they learn the meaning and the impact of what they read and hear and how not to overreact.

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    A very good point Eugenia and I think more people are exposed to riskier things on social media than they would ever find in any of Shakespeare’s work. I wonder if anyone would consider banning Facebook or Twitter for example. Like you say, leave it out there and let people make their own informed decisions. If people cross the line there are laws to deal with them. Thanks for adding another interesting viewpoint to the conversation.

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    Hmmm interesting take Eugenia. The teacher in me would compare and contrast his plays to events in society happening today and then have students write how reactions to political conflict changed or stayed the same some 400 years later (since the Bard wrote his plays.) the children could discuss and debate implications in a setting that teaches them not only coping skills but to be able to think rationally and deductively to not be fooled by fake news. Your incite has me creating an awesome lesson in my head that I just might turn into a grant. I’d culminate the lesson with poetry of course! Political verse is always the best way to reach the masses! Be it Poetry, songs, plays etc.

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We live in strange times. Academia has become a self-parody.

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    This is true in the UK Jan, especially in the Universities which are deemed seats of learning. There are still some excellent Academic Institutions in the UK but many are now run as businesses.

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      Same thing here, alas. I don’t want to rant, but higher education has turned into something entirely else. From free speech to lock down. And this at some of the best unis. Some really creepy things are happening under the cover of all this “intersectionalism” and “safe space” – the safety is only for those who think in PC lockstep. Troublingly, anti semitism, a clear one-sided political bias, and pro- violent leftist groups have become commonplace on campus, not extraordinary occurrences. Professors have been known to base grades on student attendance at favored political rallies, etc. Young people aren’t being educated for critical thinking – or for thinking at all. Yikes – I ranted! Sorry 🙂

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      That is alarming and sad to hear Jan. I wonder at what stage did this shift begin to take place. The core of learning is about listening to different views and forming coherent arguments but here in the UK many learning institutions have become battlegrounds for capital and political doctrine.

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      Sad but true, here too. We can only hope this awful state of affairs is cyclical and that things will swing back in time.

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      We can but hope Jan.

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I live in a country with too much censure and it would take pages to describe the frustration of journalists and writers here. But still, good and brave writers navigate the tricky and sneak in some political satire. For those who cannot bear the burden of their own conscience, they usually migrate to another country or just stop writing, which is a huge loss to our society. Many brilliant Malaysian writers write from different shores now and we benefit as we get to read their otherwise unpublished words. Very good point of discussion Davy. It also brought to mind how some books are banned here and even some textbooks get re-written to not ruffle feathers. I appreciate you being bold enough to bring this forward.

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    This is so sad to hear Gina, and brings another dimension to the conversation. Reading your comments highlights that those of us who have this freedom should honour the privilege. This applies to both reading and writing. I hope things change over there Gina and those writers can return.

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Bravo to all the writers who fight censorship!

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This is a thought-provoking and emotive post, Dave. Reading through the comments brings out a lot of complex key issues and challenges we all face as writers.

In the UK university setting, we are now riddled with censorship. In part, this is to do with broader legislation in the UK (for example, the PREVENT agenda and associated pressures this brings) and also the last couple of decades of ‘medicalising’ the education experience (for example the rapid growth of mental health issues – not to undermine or ignore the very real medical conditions some people face, but increasingly these are fabricated or ‘redefined’ in the face of new cultural norms). There appears to be a growth in deflecting and avoiding blame. If there is a way for something to be ‘not my fault’, to ‘blame the other’ (the ‘other’ can be any individual or group), then so be it. A good example is the (over-)use of ADHD diagnosis, which is convenient for parents who need reassurance their children’s behavioural problems are not their fault. The medical label also assists the child to blame something else. We then see a lack of responsibility for our actions. (see Frank Furedi for good commentary on this: http://www.frankfuredi.com/article/being_mentally_ill_the_new_normal).

The ‘offensive’ nature of some educational writing, materials and tools is now something lecturers are having to think of every day (this has shifted a lot in the past 10 years, for students in particular the term ‘I don’t agree’ has become ‘I am offended’). As you’ve highlighted in your post, anything deemed ‘offensive’ has to now come with a health warning. I’ve even seen certain topics removed from degree programmes and / or students being told they cannot address certain topics because they are offensive. I could go on a long rant about changes in university ethics procedures. I won’t.

The no-platforming agenda (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42481329) has sprayed the powerful bleach, you can watch academic freedom, the standards of higher education and the student learning process dissolving and slowly draining away (excuse the metaphor, it’s a more tactful approach – no pun intended).

All of this is symptomatic of broader changes and issues (it’s not just a higher education issue). Generally speaking (and in a UK context), the implications for autonomy are potentially huge. The writer is in a predicament (how will a particular piece of writing be perceived? or received?) I don’t think these issues are new, but the rapidly evolving ways we receive information have brought more voices to the table than before. Information is more accessible. Everyone becomes an expert on what you have to say. Constructive discussion and debate disappears. Although, the are some wonderful pockets of inspiring, constructive discussion – this blog being one of these.

The writer should stay true to themself. I feel a lean into the philosophical here – ‘doing the right thing, for the right reason’, in an autonomous and categorical way. Immanuel Kant can explain this much better than me.

Liked by 1 person

    Thank you for this valuable addition to the conversation Dan, especially one from someone involved in the academic side of things. I agree with your observations that as writers we may have to operate with different levels of censorship in differing environments. It is sad to hear that certain arenas for comment and conversation are being eroded in academia as debate, in my view, sits at the centre of learning. I will have a look at the links you have provided and thank you once again for the valued input.

    Liked by 1 person

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