Opposition grows over Gove’s plans for English Lit GCSE
28th May 2014
A storm of protest has erupted in response to Education Secretary Michael Gove's plans to drop American classics such as Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird from the GCSE syllabus for English Literature.
Several petitions have been launched, with at least one, led by English teacher Mary Stevens, gathering nearly 50,000 signatures. Stevens asks 'Do we teach literature written in English or the literature of England? Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird...these books are commonly chosen by teachers because they are brilliantly written and contain themes which help all our students empathise; no matter what their ability and background.'
The new syllabus is to include at least one play by Shakespeare, at least one nineteenth century novel, a selection of poetry since 1789 including representative Romantic poetry and 'fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards'. Although there is scope to add extra books, the rules appear to leave little opportunity for these to include non-British 20th century texts.
Children's author Alan Gibbons said in a blog that To Kill a Mockingbird's themes of racism, prejudice and difference are 'highly relevant' to today's children, while scores of other writers rushed to defend the excluded works, including Malorie Blackman and Marcus Sedgwick, who advised teenagers via Twitter to to 'march up to your parents right now... and demand they vote this man out of office'.
Academics also opposed the changes, with senior lecturer in English at King's College, London, and chairwoman of the National Association for the Teaching of English, Bethan Marshall expressing concern that the changes will deter teenagers from taking GCSE and A'Level literature, and describing the new syllabus as being 'out of the 1940s'.