This past week has been filled with news about the GCSE English Literature syllabus and the changes Michael Gove could be making because he 'doesn't like' certain books(Of Mice and Men, for example). At first, the tagline, "Gove kills Mockingbird" could not be ignored; wherever you turned in a desperate attempt to flee what seemed to be an attack on American Literature, there it was. To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men, along with others works by American authors are classics. Whilst people argued that they should be read by everyone, my Twitter feed was filled with outcry; how young people need to be taught the lessons these books include. While Gove has denied that he is 'banning' these books, I'm taking a different stance. Rather than discussing whether the author is American or British, or whether the novel is a classic or not, why not think about what will interest students? English Literature should not be a 'free promotion' of sorts for our British authors, nor should it be filled with plays or poems by only Shakespeare. Admittedly, these new changes will affect students studying in England only, but the GCSE should still be encouraging young people to read. Make it interesting, Mr Gove - and, whatever changes you make, involve those who it will have to study the books, after all.
A few years ago, I was forced into reading books I rarely found enjoyment from; only did a few series' over the course of my four years of Primary School actually interest me. Instead of dragging myself through, I handed these books to my father to read - which probably resulted in him skimming through - while I continued with my ever-growing Jacqueline Wilson collection. Of course, I was caught out during a discussion, and ironically kept in to read during a break. I was one of the lucky ones, though: taken to the library, read with every night, bought books for Christmas, but for many, the only place they will encounter a book is in school. Unless I had been reading what I chose to, I probably would have never developed a love of books, so choosing what teenagers study in depth for GCSE needs to be based on more than the nationality of the author.
At the moment, there are changes taking place to try and achieve more of a variety in the syllabus, but even as a lover of books, so far I'm not impressed. I'm trying to be completely unbiased here and can see why, if this is the course, why reading is deemed as 'uncool' and for 'nerds' or 'geeks'. Literature should include all books - and I would champion modern classics also being included. There are certain things that have to be included now, regardless of whether we're talking about Gove's ideas or a Welsh exam board. What stood out to me was that Jane Eyre was on one of the lists - and I would love to study a novel by Charlotte Bronte. Although, where are the likes of Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, which would interest students, as many may have previously read them. Gove, base what you choose on what you know young people like! Think about it. With J.K. Rowling, themes such as friendship could be explored; with Suzanne Collins the affects of War and how it is handled in a book for young adults.
I'd support an English Literature GCSE that included novels that have strong messages; that teach about life; that you can read without having to type into Google and have the plot summarised. It could be so much better. It's the study of books, plays and poetry - and why not make it enjoyable? Hardly any of what I have seen includes a novel from the 21st Century; the books that the young people of today will probably relate the most to. The books where the language is easier to understand, and the concept simpler to grasp. Keep those much loved classics, BOTH the ones from American and British authors, I feel it is necessary to point out. It would be a mistake to throw them away - but possibly include a wider variety. You can't kill a Mockingbird, that's for sure, but how about giving a young person the chance to study 1984 or Fahrenheit 451. After all, the themes of these books are so relevant.
I couldn't write a post about this without directing you to Charli's open letter to Michael Gove on Huffington Post! Congrats!
So, what books do you think will interest students?
Do you believe those like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter would fit the Literature syllabus?
Tell me in the comments!