Leading headteacher praises Taylor Swift as a great philosopher

Taylor Swift the great philosopher: Headteacher says she should be viewed alongside Shakespeare and he uses her lyrics for inspiration in school assemblies

  • The headteacher of Harris Westminster has praised Taylor Swift as a philosopher
  • James Handscombe, 46, revealed he uses her pop songs as source of inspiration
  • He often quotes her alongside Shakespeare, Yeats, Donne and Samuel Beckett

Taylor Swift is known as an international pop star and award-winning singer-songwriter – but philosopher?

A leading headmaster of a school in central London has praised the 31-year-old pop singer as a great philosopher and often quotes her lyrics in school assemblies.

Headteacher James Handscombe, 46, of Harris Westminster school has revealed that he uses Taylor Swift songs as one of his main sources of inspiration – alongside Shakespeare, Yeats, Donne and Samuel Beckett.

A leading headmaster of a school in central London has praised pop singer Taylor Swift, 31, as a great philosopher and often quotes her lyrics in school assemblies

According to The Times, Mr Handscombe, who was introduced to her music through his teenage daughters, believes that Taylor deserves to take her place in the canon of great philosophers.

He discusses the words of wisdom found in her lyrics in his new book, A School Built On Ethos, revealing that he believes her songs teach his pupils valuable life lessons.   

Her country song Mean is a ‘spirited defiance’ in standing up to bullies, Welcome to New York is a wonderful lesson on ‘shaping your own future’ and Shake It Off teaches listeners to ‘do your own thing’.  

Headteacher James Handscombe, 46, (pictured) of Harris Westminster school has revealed that he uses Taylor Swift songs as one of his main sources of inspiration

He said: ‘It always gets a laugh when the headteacher knows anything about pop culture, and it’s great fun quoting a pop lyric completely straight under the guise of philosophy and watching the nudges move round the room, “hang on”, “did he just say?”, “I think I recognise this”.’

The educator, who took degrees at Oxford and Harvard in maths, said: ‘Her songwriting is telling her own stories and that they are gloriously the stories of a young woman negotiating the 21st century, is a great example for our young people.’

Mr Handscombe, who admits CS Lewis is the writer of philosophy he knows best, believes the theologian would have enjoyed Taylor Swift’s thesis ‘that being yourself is key and that following the crowd is dangerous’. 

Harris Westminster opened in 2014 with the help of neighbouring Westminster School and the Harris Federation, a not-for-profit charity.

It gives priority to disadvantaged teenagers from around London and last year, 44 of its students received offers from Oxbridge.

A SWIFT PHILOSOPHY LESSON

‘She’s not trying to follow everyone else’s tune, she’s not trying to dance anyone else’s steps, she’s doing her own thing’

Headteacher James Handscombe’s favourite Taylor Swift quotes: 

‘Spirited defiance’ 

  • In Mean she tells bullies: ‘Someday I’ll be living in a big old city — and all you’re ever going to be is mean’.

‘We can shape our own futures’ 

  • In Welcome to New York, she sings: ‘Everybody here wanted something more, searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before, and it said Welcome to New York’.

‘Being young means taking risks. Be careful about who you entrust with your heart’

  • In Blank Space she says ‘Cause we’re young and we’re reckless, we’ll take this way too far, it’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar’. 

‘She’s not trying to follow everyone else’s tune, she’s not trying to dance anyone else’s steps, she’s doing her own thing’

  • In Shake It Off, she says: ‘I’m dancing on my own, make the moves up as I go and that’s what they don’t know’

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