The Diseased Imaginings of a Tainted Mind
So Gove is removing “Of Mice and Men” from the curriculum, and I’d like to say “About Time”. Now, before you all start throwing things, let me explain why.
“Of Mice and Men”, by Steinbeck is brilliant. It’s amazing. The In-Depth study I did of it when I was school placed a love of this book in my heart, and I still have a copy of it. I can’t bring myself to re-read it, because of the impression it made on me, but Lenny and George live on in me, in a very profound way.
So, I hear you ask, why take it off the syllabus? well, because it’s been on there for 40 years. I know that there are arguments about allowing parents to help their children with the homework, but, and here’s my non-teacher-educated suggestion, why not get another book, of similar quality, and get both parent AND child to learn to appreciate a new book?
If education in this country was actively being supported by parents, (and indeed by the government), then short seminars at the beginning of the term could be run for PARENTS to learn the new book, tips and tricks to help their child, and, more to the point, the child will see their PARENT reading said book.
For me, Steinbeck has held the top slot on the GCSE’s for good reason. However, since Steinbeck there have been many other good authors, and many other classics that will help and engage pupils into the joy that is reading.
That said, Gove, you missed the point. Removing Steinbeck good, introducing (if the papers are to be beleived*) a load of other, MORE ANCIENT books is not the way forward. To induce a love of reading, people need to read in their *own* language. Seriously, if Christianity can work out that people need to be able to read the Bible in modern English, surely, Mr. Education Secretary, you can work out that people need to read books that will help them enter into the joy of English in an English that’s closer to what people actually speak.
The English in Dickens is *hard*, because it’s very difficult to connect too. Shakespere is the same. I would be for updating the curriculum with all kinds of wonderful modern plays (that is, things written since the Reformation*2).
It’s not that I don’t think that there aren’t kids out there who can handle it, there are. Kids are far brighter and more intelligent than we tend to give them credit for. It’s more that there are also kids out there for whome reading is not something they do. Not something their parents do. Not something that interests them. It is for these that I would suggest a more modern, updated book-list. Let the truly smart ones read dickens, if you must, but don’t do it to the detriment of the others.
tl;dr ; Removal of “Of Mice and Men” good, replacing it with more ancient junk, bad. There are far more intersting and exciting books that will entice people to read.
*If the papers are to be belived : currently the state of the British Press is a joke. Very rarely do I read a story where I don’t feel the need to shout “Cite your damn source”. When you know that Wikipedia is likely to be more reliable than the press, we have a problem.
*2, Shakespears comic plays are truly comic. It requires an understanding of reformation history, and politics of the time, but they really are funny. I’m sure I’m not the only one getting strange looks when your watching Sakespeare, roaring with laughter because your the only one that gets the joke. Shakespeare should not be “appreciated”, he should be “enjoyed”. Let childred really get into literature with plays that make them laugh, that arn’t a chore, and make them *enjoy* theatre. Shakespere should properly be taught alongside a history curriculem that explains the jokes, but that requires joined-up thinking, something Gove is totally incapable of.