During a mid-year literature examination at Dunearn Secondary School, parents and students have been up in arms over a poem that allegedly condones violence in schools. The offending poem was said to described a teacher using strangling, shooting and slashing his students with weapons, all in graphic detail, reminding some students about school shootings that took place in the United States.

The poem is titled, “The Lesson by English poet Roger McGough”.

Students and parents reacted with shock after the exam was over, but Dunearn Secondary School principal Boo Hian Kok said that the poem was selected for its “literary value”. He said that through the poem, students could appreciate the comedic effect of the humorous tone in the poem. He added that teachers do not avoid topics such as violence and tragedy in the classroom and have guided students to make clear distinctions between real-world situations and make-believe fantasy.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said that schools have the liberty to choose their own literature texts for students.

This same poem also received angry responses from students and parents in 2007 when it was used in lessons in the United Kingdom.

The poem is appended in full below. Viewer discretion advised.

Chaos ruled OK in the classroom
as bravely the teacher walked in
the nooligans ignored him
his voice was lost in the din

‘The theme for today is violence
and homework will be set
I’m going to teach you a lesson
one that you’ll never forget’

He picked on a boy who was shouting
and throttled him then and there
then garrotted the girl behind him
(the one with grotty hair)

Then sword in hand he hacked his way
between the chattering rows
‘First come, first severed’ he declared
‘fingers, feet or toes’

He threw the sword at a latecomer
it struck with deadly aim
then pulling out a shotgun
he continued with his game

The first blast cleared the backrow
(where those who skive hang out)
they collapsed like rubber dinghies
when the plug’s pulled out

‘Please may I leave the room sir? ‘
a trembling vandal enquired
‘Of course you may’ said teacher
put the gun to his temple and fired

The Head popped a head round the doorway
to see why a din was being made
nodded understandingly
then tossed in a grenade

And when the ammo was well spent
with blood on every chair
Silence shuffled forward
with its hands up in the air

The teacher surveyed the carnage
the dying and the dead
He waggled a finger severely
‘Now let that be a lesson’ he said

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