Hands off poetry!

Shakespeare Teacher and Manifesto Club member, Michele Ledda, launched a petition against the banning of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, ‘Education for Leisure’. The exam board AQA has removed the poem from its GCSE anthology, and has asked schools to destroy old copies containing the poem, because it supposedly glorified knife crime.

Over 700 teachers, students and parents have signed the petition. Among the signatories are poets George Szirtes, Ann Sansom, Catherine Smith, former Laureate Andrew Motion, critic Ronan McDonald, novelist and anti-censorship campaigner Lisa Appignanesi and many others.

Read and sign the petition.

See Michele Ledda’s outline of the banning of ‘Education for Leisure'; see News Coverage of the petition. Read the poem below.


Petition comments:

I am a student aged 15, and I strongly oppose the ban on the poem education for leisure. The poem deals with one of many issues that need to be brought to light, in a grabbing and interesting way. It does seem that anything slightly out-of-joint or politically incorrect, is suddenly banned, or kept from prying eyes. And to be frank, it infuriates me. Helen Jones

Professionals have got to stand up for themselves and not accept interference from people who have no idea what they are talking about. Lucy Nankivell

Read a selection of petition comments.


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.


Mrs Schofield’s GCSE [the poem which Carol Ann Duffy penned in response to the banning of ‘Education for Leisure’]

You must prepare your bosom for his knife,

said Portia to Antonio in which

of Shakespeare’s Comedies? Who killed his wife,

insane with jealousy? And which Scots witch

knew Something wicked this way comes? Who said

Is this a dagger which I see? Which Tragedy?

Whose blade was drawn which led to Tybalt’s death?

To whom did dying Caesar say Et tu? And why?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – do you

know what this means? Explain how poetry

pursues the human like the smitten moon

above the weeping, laughing earth; how we

make prayers of it. Nothing will come of nothing:

speak again. Said by which King? You may begin.