Candice: I note, with glee, that they are removing Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from the GCSE English Literature syllabus.
Now I was in the first year to take GCSE’s (1988) and it was on the syllabus then! I have distinct memories of it as I hated that book, I just couldn’t get in to it and it was the only time my parents came home from a parents evening, took me into the dining room and told me I wasn’t to leave until I had read the book. Obviously, not all that night but they would be keeping an eye on me.
I was savvy though, I just read some of it and then the penguin pass notes, so I could get through the course. Luckily, I did a pure coursework GCSE so they just didn’t use that essay when they submitted my paper – I do remember getting good marks on one about Malvolio from Twelfth Night and that was used instead.
In fact, I know children everywhere will be moaning about the fact Shakespeare is still included in the syllabus. But as someone who can still quote parts of some of his plays now, and works in the town that millions of people flock to just to see where he lived, I can kinda see his relevance still now. And that ability to quote has been very useful in pub quizzes! I’m sure there are elements of Romeo and Juliet in their day to day life all the time.
What I find interesting is what they have now included. One of the pieces is ‘Anita and me’ by Meera Syal. I read this years ago, can’t remember what it was about but do remember enjoying it. It’s a complete change from the works above, but if it engages those who don’t like to read – all the better.
I don’t think Phil and I will ever hit the GCSE syllabus but maybe they will grow up to read our books?
One response to “To kill a book?”
I also read TKAMB for English Literature O level (Like GSE but far, far harder obviously. Grade B since you ask.) and I think I quite enjoyed it. Even compared to Billy S, the world of the book is very unlike that that either of use lived in at the time. I went to a very multiracial school as I’m sure did Candice in the posh end of Birmingham. The heat-soaked racist world of the Southern USA was completely alien. That’s not always a problem but if you can’t realate to a story at that age, it makes reading harder going. In this respect, the underlying themes of the Bard are easier to deal with. Look at how many of his plays have been performed in modern settings without much tinkering – Westside story anyone?
The bigger problem is that literature is taught by people who think good books are the ones you struggle with. That’s rubbish. Unless you want to be a heavyweight newspaper critic, it’s much more important to get students reading, enjoying and appreciating books. If they love the writen word, they will move on to “harder” texts. At the moment the attitude seems to be, “This is a great book. I’m reading it at 2 pages a day while smashing myself over the head with a frying pan. I’m a HARD reader and better than you!”
Not sure Gove is the man to fix this but swopping the odd book for something more relevant and interesting seems to be a good step. You can always read TKAMB if you want to after school. Perhaps now Mikey Gove says it’s bad, it will seem all that more appealing…