All the world is a library

By 25th May 2014 May 4th, 2015 Blog

grapes-of-wrathBloody foreigners … coming over here with their brilliantly-written books and educating and entertaining our children.  What are they like? Coming here and forcing their classic works of literature with moving plots, captivating characters and powerful social messages upon us. Bloody foreigners.

Weekend news reports claim that the UK’s Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is set to change the English syllabus for schools in England and Wales so that only works by British authors, many of them pre-twentieth century books, are to be taught to pupils.

This means that novels such as The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice And Men, The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird will no longer be taught in schools.

At first I thought it was a joke, or perhaps a UKIP policy that was being wrongly credited to the British government, but then I remembered that UKIP just want to get rid of any Romanian literature from schools … well, at least for just now.

Regardless of your position on the forthcoming Scottish Referendum, be thankful that education is a devolved power because we most definitely wouldn’t be better together if this attitude was enforced on our education system.

I’m happy for any country to celebrate its cultural heritage and that Scottish schools, for example, teach Scottish literature, and we have a wonderful heritage of great books as well as vibrant and thriving literary community right now.

But it shouldn’t be an exclusive syllabus or at the exclusion of great books from around the world, including some of the titles I mentioned above.

I recently did an interview for a podcast called Desert Island Tims. I was given the Complete Works of The Dandy and a Bible to take to the ‘island’, and was then asked to choose another book. My choice was The Grapes of Wrath. It is a brilliant book, regardless of the nationality of the author or the setting of the story.

Similarly, I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about one of my favourite memories from school – studying Catch 22 in my fifth-year English class.

Education should be about expanding young people’s minds and their horizons, not narrowing it on the whim of one person’s idea of what is the right thing to be taught. It’s difficult enough to get people to read now, given the number of different, mainly electronic distractions, on offer, and schools should be trying to foster a love of literature rather than an aversion to it.

I don’t imagine teachers in England will welcome this policy, and it reinforces the belief that most political interventions into education are ill-thought out and ill-advised.

And should Scotland vote for independence in September, would that mean a foreigner in Edinburgh-born Michael Gove would be dictating education policy in England. Just as long as he doesn’t come up here and meddle in our system.

My new book, Read All About It: My Year Of Falling In Love With Literature, is out now and is available to buy on Amazon. And I’ve read books from all over the world in it!

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