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Shakespeare’s Plays Might Not Be Appropriate To Teach In Florida Schools – New State Laws Taken Into ‘Consideration’

Source: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images

Florida’s newly expanded Parental Rights in Education Act is once again making headlines, this time because its stipulations are causing certain schools within the state to limit their students’ exposure to Shakespeare.

Although Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking, otherwise known as B.E.S.T recommends Shakespeare’s plays for every year in the high school curriculum, some schools are deciding that parts of these recommended Shakespeare plays are actually inappropriate and go against the newest amendments of the education act.

Hillsborough County schools have already decided to only teach their teenagers from excerpts from the famous plays. Tanya Arja, the spokeswoman for the county school system, told National Review, “We redesigned our instructional guides for teachers because of revised state standards and new state exams that will cover a variety of books and writing styles. Instead of 2 novels read in their entirety, students will read one full novel plus excerpts from 5-7 other novels and B.E.S.T. texts.”

But that wasn’t the only reason they decided to change the curriculum. Arja also stated that the choice was certainly made by “taking new state laws [of the Parental Rights Education Act] into consideration.”

The “new state laws” to which she is referring state that no materials which are not appropriate for the age of the students, pornographic, or depict or describe sexual conduct should be used in the classroom.

And while most people likely agree with this statement, the fact that it is being applied to one of the brightest and most important playwrights of all time is sparking quite the debate. And because the world is talking about Hillsborough county’s decision, spokeswoman Arja has spoken out in defense of the announcement.

“First and foremost, we have not excluded Shakespeare from our high school curriculum,” she said, “As state standards evolve, we adjust curriculum guides to ensure standards are supported in the classroom.”

A Hillsborough school board member, Patricia Rendon, has also made a statement supporting the decision, “I don’t know why they’re highlighting it now. I don’t know why they’re making it about Shakespeare… This process of teaching segments of our different novels, and not just Shakespeare, but even some of our other classic novels, actually started a couple cycles ago.”

B.E.S.T. spokesperson, Cassie Palelis, also spoke directly to the press, but her mission was to make it clear that Florida does not support Hillsborough’s choice. She said specifically, “The Florida Department of Education in no way believes Shakespeare should be removed from Florida classrooms.”

Of course, Florida’s newly amended Parental Rights in Education Act is being debated throughout the state and the country not just in regards to teaching Shakespeare, but also due to the changes it’s making in the Florida educational system.

While supporters of the act claim that it is being misinterpreted by the media for political purposes, the opposition feel strongly that this new law is an extreme form of censorship that simply cannot be allowed.

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