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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Of course Dahl was the son of immigrants, and so not to be trusted...
Sometimes, life copies art...


Perhaps they'll set The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists instead?


(Although I am getting the feeling that Steinbeck is more in vogue in Britain than in the US at the moment.)

I actually wouldn't mind if they changed the text - it's been on the syllabus for a long, long time - but not because of its nationality!

I really don't see anything wrong with a British educational system preferring British works, all other things being equal. American systems certainly prefer American works, and one remembers the classic moment in the 1950s when the House Un-American Activities Committee made the inarguable declaration that Christopher Marlowe was un-American.

That's hilarious! One can't deny that he was indeed un-American, I suppose. That's not a model I'd especially like to emulate, though.

Shakespeare, Dickens, Bobby Burns, Keats and Yeats, Shelley (both of them), James Joyce, George Orwell ... that was part of my American misspent high school years.

Oh, and Tolkien, but we read him voluntarily.

And how many American writers were there?

Poe, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Shirley Jackson (The Lottery), Hemingway, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, O. Henry, Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter), Stephen Crane (The Red Badge of Courage), Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hallow), and Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451).

And outside of English-language originals, that is "world literature," there was (in translation) Cervantes, Homer, Kafka, and Marx -- yes, I read Karl Marx in literature class as an example of Romantic-era non-fiction. It was hard to take Communism seriously after that.

And, voluntarily, Phillip K. Dick, Henry David Thoreau, and Anne Frank.

What strikes me most is how much time I must have had to read back then.

"Mice and Men" is written clearly and simply, is about topics which teenagers find relevant, and is short enough for almost all of them to manage to read. The ending is very powerful.

Gove is an elitist moron. He's trying to destroy English Lit as a subject. He's too stupid even to realise that.

Angry, moi?

I've been teaching GCSE English re-sits in the local college this academic year. It's a complete departure from my usual subjects and it's been something of a challenge but also totally fascinating to get a glimpse into what sort of thing the less-academic students read. Basically, they read nothing! However, a lot of them have said they enjoyed Mice and Men which was their set book in school for the Eng. Lit. exam.

But I read that article on BBC website yesterday and kept groaning aloud. Gove wants a syllabus that is exactly like the O-level I sat almost 50 years ago. The very same O-level that put me (a bright pupil) off studying English at A-level. And this was despite me being a keen reader who hoovered up books and who was writing fiction in secret and had ambitions to be a novelist. I hated Shakespeare (based on studying plays for exams) until I did an OU Shakespeare course as a mature adult and suddenly "got" him and achieved a distinction for that module. So if the old O-level syllabus did that to me, what effect is it going to have on the kids with no academic ambitions who want to do vocational subjects? It's just setting them up to fail and will put them off reading fiction for life. :(

Mary Poppins has to go, BTW. Travers was Australian and thus unreliable. (I'm not sure we're furrin, but I'm pretty sure we're unreliable.)

Mary Poppins has to go, BTW.

You can't get the staff, you know.

Edited at 2014-05-26 06:27 am (UTC)

She was a good nanny, as nannies go, and as nannies go, she went. FWOOOOSH!

I have no particular love for Steinbeck (which could be because I've never read him) and I don't mind the syllabus being changed around, but I'm not happy about the determining factor being Michael Gove's personal taste.

Yeah, makes sense to me. I personally found Of Mice and Men just as painfully dull when I studied it in high school as other people apparently found Shakespeare or (according to some articles I have now read on this subject) Jane Austen, but, given that it's clearly very meaningful and significant to a lot of students, this hardly seems like a valid reason to kick it off the syllabus - leaving aside my own personal bias in favor of American books (given that I teach in an English-speaking Asian country with a legitimate if not canonical literary history of its own, and yet the only full-length text in four years of the literature syllabus that is not written by a white European male is written by a white American male, I have a feeling that these arguments in favour of teaching texts from a certain national origin just possibly have a tendency to be developed in rather biased ways).