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Avon not calling on axed-Bard unis

Only four of America's top universities require their students - the English teachers of the future - to take a course focusing on Shakespeare, a shock study has found.

The Unkindest Cut: Shakespeare in Exile 2015, a report by t he American Council of Trustees and Alumni (Acta), unearthed the information from the nation's 52 US News & World Report -ranked universities and colleges.

Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy for the Washington DC-based council and lead author of the study, called the findings "a terrible tragedy".

"It is with sadness that we view this phenomenon," he said. "It really does make us grieve for the loss to a whole generation of young people who would look to a college or university for guidance about what is great and what is of the highest priority."

The report was released on what is believed to be the Bard of Avon's birthday in 1564. It comes a day after the new musical Something Rotten! opened on Broadway that mocks Shakespeare as a rump-shaking word thief.

The schools that still ask English majors to study the Bard are Harvard University, the University of California-Berkeley, Wellesley College and the US Naval Academy.

The report notes that those majors are often future English teachers and many will graduate without studying in depth the language's greatest writer.

It says many colleges are downplaying the classics in favour of trendy courses that introduce various styles of thought, such as Duke University's Creatures, Aliens and Cyborgs.

"Rather than studying major literary works in depth, students are taught the rationale for and applications of critical approaches that are heavily influenced by theories of race, class, gender and sexuality," it said.

The report urges trustees, alumni, donors and administrators to stop "a vicious circle of cultural illiteracy" by reviewing curriculums and re-evaluating what students need to learn.

"There is more common sense outside the academy and it's important for these voices to pull us back to the things that are right in front of us for us to cherish and to grow from," Mr Poliakoff said.

The council calls itself is "an independent non-profit committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America's colleges and universities".

"The Bard, who is the birthright of the English speaking world, has no seat of honour," its report says. "A degree in English without serious study of Shakespeare is like a major in Greek literature without the serious study of Homer."

Acta's president Anne Neal said in a recent interview: "It's no wonder that the public is rapidly losing faith in our colleges and universities."

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But William Gleason, who chairs the Department of English at Princeton University, said it was impossible for students in his department to ignore the Bard.

He said learning about Shakespeare was a requirement in an introductory course that all English majors take and all theatre majors must take a Shakespeare class to graduate, adding that any examination of social issues inevitably led back to Shakespeare. "He was usually there first," he said.

"He is such a vital presence in everything we teach, even if he's not the sole focus of a course," said Mr Gleason, who specialises in American literature and culture.

"Shakespeare exerts such an influence that it would be a mistake to think we could ever dismiss him."


From Belfast Telegraph