Michael Gove, the UK Education Secretary, has decided that To Kill a Mockingbird will be removed from the English and Welsh GCSE reading list. Of Mice and Men is another classic tale that will be removed from the reading list, and it has lead to a number of parents, children and other members of the British public lashing out at the decision. The reason is simple (although questionable), and is just to add more British reading to the lists.
The Education Secretary has made a number of changes over the last four years. There have been calls for many years to make the GCSE and A-Level systems harder, similar to the original O-Levels. That is something that Gove has attempted to do, but some parents argue that his reforms are now going too far.
GCSEs are taken in the fifth year of high school in England and Wales, so students are around 16-years-old when they sit the exams. Learning the material for these exams takes two years, and students choose the subjects that they would like to take—with some compulsory ones added—during their third year of high school. AS-Levels and A-Levels then follow this over the two years afterwards, but are not compulsory for all students. Some students choose to leave the education system at 16, making the GCSEs extremely important.
English Language and English Literature are two subjects that are compulsory for all schools. Literature aims to bring in various novels, including a range of classic stories. To Kill a Mockingbird is just one that was previously on the English GCSE reading list but is now being removed. Some of the decisions for removing books is also due to a personal taste from the Education Secretary. Gove admitted that he dislikes Of Mice and Men and does not like the fact that 90 percent of students enjoy it.
The argument is that if a student enjoys a book, he or she is more likely to do better in essays and exams on that book, whether it is Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, or even something like The Cruicible. Schools also opt for some of the classics because they are better for children with various learning capabilities and difficulties. Gove would like Shakespeare added to the curriculum and to become compulsory, but that could put some students at a disadvantage. The language used in Shakespeare’s plays is arguably difficult to comprehend for some.
Huffington Post recently released a letter from a 13-year-old boy who picks holes in the new reforms. In one case he makes a point that the new list of reading material only consists for English authors. The boy, who refers to himself as Charli and is an aspiring lawyer, points out that for a country that wants to show tolerance to other races, this is not the way to go about it.
This is not the first time that Gove has come under fire for his proposed plans. Just a few months ago parents were outraged at the idea of their children, as young as four, being forced into school for longer hours while having less time off for the summer holidays. With that in mind, To Kill a Mockingbird being removed from the English GCSE reading list is a minor concern, but still one for the education secretary to rethink.
By Alexandria Ingham