Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014 7:41 am by Cristina in , ,    No comments
The Michael Gove controversy rages on. The Daily Mail lists the new line-up as compared to the old one (despite Michael Gove's words of a few days ago saying he would 'never dream' of getting rid of Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, remember):
Schools must choose one set text from a choice of four British novels and two plays as well as a 19th century book.
The modern texts are: Meera Syal’s Anita and Me; Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go; George Orwell’s Animal Farm; J.B.Priestley’s An Inspector Calls; Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should and Dennis Kelly’s DNA.
The 19th century prose includes Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; H.G.Wells’ The War Of The Worlds; Robert Louise Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
An ‘exploring poetry and Shakespeare’ section features Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing.
In the previous OCR specification, under ‘prose from different cultures’, pupils could study Of Mice and Men; To Kill A Mockingbird; Anita and Me; Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club; Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and Athol Fugard’s Tsotsi. (Sarah Harris)
A teenager writing for The Guardian defends his/her right to read Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird at school. He/she finds Of Mice and Men particularly relevant to his/her generation.
The question of why nineteenth century British writers books are not capturing our imaginations at the minute is a different one. A lot of people my age feel they are just not ahead of their time: works by writers such as Charles Dickens are narrow-minded, and though his novels are by far some of the best written and structured writings of any era, they lack liberal thought which we, as young people, value highly: we are not, for the most part, judgmental (or I'm not at any rate!). We'll also be left with Jane Austen, who I have read and loved, but must judge according to how her novels leave so many things out, how they forget or ignore what is going on around them. I feel as if Gove is trying to pull us back instead of forward by insisting on these books; he is trying to change the era we live in.
After saying these words about English literature, I must state that there is great literature in the English language. It was just yesterday that I stood for a little over two hours in the pouring rain watching actors perform Antony and Cleopatra at Shakespeare's Globe theatre, and I have found such brilliant joy whilst reading the works of the Brontë sisters. With all this said though we must ask the question, why is the government not choosing these books to read then? Because they are liberal, and talk of equality, which this government has shown they clearly do not care about with their disregard of To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. (scoutingforbooks)
Janice Turner from The Times belongs to the school of putting down the now-banished (if not banned) American novels in order to defend the British ones.
The point of teaching OM&M is not to excite children with the thrill of language or the power of story. It was chosen for 90 per cent of GCSE students because it is short, simple and has a didactic "message": bullying is bad.
My sons, like many, will leave school ignorant of Jane Austen, the Brontës, Chaucer, Conrad, Hardy, Lawrence, George Eliot and, saddest of all, Dickens, whose work not only illuminates the 19th century but is funny, vivid and passionate about the plight of the poor. If children are not enticed into "hard" books at school, they may never open them at all.
Anne McElvoy from the London Evening Standard thinks that,
Gove is right that a lot of literature written in Britain has turned into a vague mulch for many pupils. We must intermittently remind our young that Jane Eyre is not, in fact, an author. 
The rain in my purse coincidentally started reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall yesterday on Anne Brontë's death anniversary. Bettie's Books posts about Wide Sargasso Sea.


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