Michael Gove is right about the English syllabus

It turns out he doesn’t want to ban any books – but the furore says a lot about his critics’ prejudices says Claire in The Guardian.

The big story of this bank holiday weekend was the tale of an education secretary who was allegedly trying to stop teenagers reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men on the basis that only British writers would be allowed on the new GCSE literature syllabus.

The hashtag #Govekillsmockingbird may have spent the last few days trending, but it also is a fiction. It has now come to pass that Michael Gove has not in fact banned any books. In fact he has now written a rebuttal, explaining that he is rather fond of those novels and of American literature in general. So even though this appears to be a non-debate, and the Department for Education directive actually says the choice of 19th-century novel may be written anywhere, and merely prescribes that the post-1914 component should feature “some fiction or drama written in the British Isles”, it is still interesting to reflect on the arguments generated.

Firstly, it seems that whenever there’s a chance to Gove-bash, too many in educational circles lose their heads, and facts become a mere inconvenience to prejudice. On Twitter, #GetGoveReading did a roaring trade in listing every non-British canonical writer ever, as though the education secretary were a philistine who had missed out on the glories of Fyodor DostoevskyRohinton MistryVS NaipaulGustave Flaubert and Miguel de Cervantes. Many were never regular texts on GCSE syllabuses in any case, many were not written in English at all.

Read the full article here.