Sunday, June 26, 2022

This be perverse – cancelling Philip Larkin is political activism, not education - CapX

Philip Larkin’s cancellation by the OCR exam board is as predictable as it is wrong. Predictable, because ‘England’s other poet Laureate’ was both a supporter of Margaret Thatcher and well known for his ‘problematic’ views on women and minorities. Wrong because any decision to remove authors from the GCSE English Literature syllabus should be done on literary merit. There may be many reasons for replacing Larkin’s An Arundel Tomb with Flirtation by Rita Dove, but nobody except the most swivel-eyed social justice warrior could say the latter is the better poem. This is cultural vandalism, and the losers in this campaign to extend the culture wars into every corner of every classroom are the children denied the opportunity of studying a work of genius. 

Other poems to be edited out include those by Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas, William Blake, Wilfred Owen, Seamus Heaney, John Keats, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. In come inferior replacements by Fatimah Asghar, Martin Carter, Caleb Femi and Ilya Kaminsky. Some of the choices deserve their place in the new anthology, including Langston Hughes and the highly skilled and provocative Raymond Antrobus. But this ‘refreshing’ of the list of authors is censorship – political activism motivated by the misplaced idea that pupils can only ‘relate’ to writers from the same social, ethnic or other category as themselves. It is the centering of protected characteristics in the classroom, crowding out the nuances of life lived, and life yet to be lived, in order to keep people (including the writers themselves) in neat, politically constructed pigeonholes. 


Predictable, wrong, sad. It would take a Philip Larkin to come up with the words to describe it adequately.

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