ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

A Not-So-Happy Birthday for the Bard

April 23, 2014 by Avi Snyder

What famous literary figure would have turned 450 today?

If you guessed William Shakespeare, you’re right on the money … maybe. No one actually knows when the Bard was born, but April 23rd is widely regarded as his birthday.

Though it is a testament to his genius that his plays and poems are still widely studied, one group of Americans is being deprived of exposure to Shakespeare’s enduring legacy. Many top American universities don’t require their students to study Shakespeare, and even many English majors are never asked to study any of Shakespeare’s works.

When our nation’s elite schools no longer require students to study one of the English language’s greatest writers, they are depriving young Americans of the rich liberal arts education they deserve.

As ACTA’s Daniel Burnett writes in an op-ed for the Denver Post:

It is not by chance that Shakespeare was with Nelson Mandela on Robbins Island and that a copy of his works sat on Abraham Lincoln's desk in the White House. Or that Winston Churchill urged on the movie production of Henry V during World War II. These plays have served as the school of leadership for centuries. Yet still, far too many graduates will have no more exposure to Shakespeare than the frantic skimming of SparkNotes the night before a ninth-grade English test. In some cases, not even that.

The serious study of the liberal arts summons us to maturity. It is simply reckless when colleges don't require such meaningful, fundamental courses.

In the words of the Bard himself (in Henry VI), “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”

It’s time our colleges and universities stop holding students back and start helping them fly.

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