Shock, horror children know more Justin Bieber lyrics than they do Shakespeare! This eye-catching headline is making the rounds today as the world expresses dismay that children are not memorizing the words of Shakespeare. But here’s the thing, I did a degree in English literature, and I can tell you right now I didn’t spend my younger years memorizing the Bard. I sat in front of the CD player and sung along to ‘Rock DJ’ until I could recite it word perfect. Christ, I probably still can.
And there is nothing wrong with that. Now we tend to stay away from this kind of thing on Ramblings About. It’s not really our wheelhouse and is far too serious but points like this piss me off. As if the ability to recite Shakespearian verse is somehow equated with intelligence. As if caring about music more than great literature is a sin. In fact scrap that, as if caring about literature that isn’t considered great by the establishment is a sin.
Because a degree in English or not I still couldn’t recite Shakespeare. I could do ‘to be or not to be’ but much further past that, and I’d be struggling. Do you know who I could recite? Terry Pratchett, James Hetfield and Kurt Cobain. I can do a bit of Star Wars too if you’re interested, and I’ve read far too much about Buffy Speak.
We need to stop assuming that just because children are interested in stuff that’s new that it’s stuff that’s bad. I don’t like Justin Bieber. Click on the music button up above and have a little scroll down and that will probably become clear to you. However, I also no longer like Robbie Williams but sitting in front of that CD player is a moment that I remember vividly. It was the first time that I really loved something like that. That I got the appeal of music, and it’s led to a life-long obsession that despite what my bank balance says has done me a hell of a lot of good.
You don’t need to love Shakespeare or Wordsworth to be an intelligent rounded human being and being unable to quote Othello wouldn’t help you. In fact, I’d bet half the folk that wrote those articles couldn’t do so either. This is just one more branch with which to beat kids who like things that we don’t think they should. The truth is you should like whatever the fuck you want and I’d much rather the next generation have that attitude than the sheep-like one some people want to give them.