Sunday 25 May 2014

Gove stoops to a new low in 'banning' US classic literature

“In every bit of honest writing in the world, there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. TRY TO UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER!”    John Steinbeck.

Michael Gove has long since become a hated figure to anyone who genuinely understands education. However, the news in this morning's 'Sunday Times' that Gove has insisted that classic American literature such as 'Of Mice and Men', 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'The Crucible' must be dropped from the new English literature GCSE has shocked and angered teachers, parents and students alike. 

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results"             Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

Of course, not only are these books fantastically written and enjoyed by the young people who study them, they are also thought-provoking - and of thoughts that perhaps Gove doesn't want pupils to have. After all, as in The Crucible, perhaps Gove doesn't want students to consider what life would be like in a world where dissent became unlawful - perhaps far better to 'ban' such 'satanic' literature instead!

"The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate --"We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one"    John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

This narrow-minded act by Gove may yet prove to be another miscalculation. Books like these have made an impact on many a young person - and young people who are now parents with children of their own. Gove's ignorant decision will help to make crystal-clear why teachers have to take action to stop the damage being inflicted on education - and why we are calling on parents to support our struggle.

UPDATE - In answer to some of the disingenuous DfE 'mythbusting' which has followed since the news first broke on the date I wrote this blogpost, this post - from the English & Media Centre - is certainly worth a read:

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