Dana Dusbiber, the Sacramento high school teacher who recently committed to print her intention no longer to teach Shakespeare in part because of his skin color, created something of a tempest about “The Tempest.”
In fairness to Dusbiber, Shakespeare’s being ”a long-dead, British guy” was only one of the things she holds against him. As she explained in her Washington Post op-ed:
[N]ot only do I dislike Shakespeare because of my own personal disinterest [sic] in reading stories written in an early form of the English language that I cannot always easily navigate, but also because there is a WORLD of really exciting literature out there that better speaks to the needs of my very ethnically-diverse and wonderfully curious modern-day students.
Why not [instead] teach the oral tradition out of Africa, which includes an equally relevant commentary on human behavior?
At the risk of beating a dead horse, I submit — again — that Shakespeare’s ability to remain relevant to readers 500 years after his death is at least as much a function of his art (including his consummate skills at characterization, plot development, suspense, and more) as it is his commentaries on human behavior. It also bears repeating that the either-or argument Dusbiber poses — it’s Shakespeare’s way or the highway — is a straw man. The oral traditions of Africa and elsewhere have rightly or wrongly had a place in the high school literature curriculum alongside the Bard for the past half-century, ever since multiculturalism reared its ugly head.