25 May 2014

Is Of Mice and Men being dropped from GCSE syllabus?

Classic American novels Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird could be dropped from the new GCSE English exams by Education Secretary Michael Gove in favour of works by British authors.

Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and the Arthur Miller play The Crucible are among the books that have apparently been taken off the GCSE reading list for some students.

The new curriculum is set to be unveiled this week and The Sunday Times reports that three quarters of the books will be by Britons, with the majority written before the 20th century.

Paul Dodd, the head of A-level and GCSE reform at exam board OCR, said: “[Steinbeck’s] Of Mice and Men, which Michael Gove really dislikes, will not be included. It was studied by 90 per cent of teenagers taking English literature GCSE in the past.”

However, he also pointed out that between 70-80 per cent of the work studied on the current curriculum are by British authors.

Twitter users started the hashtag #getgovereading in an outraged bid to highlight classic literature by non-British writers – although the Department of Education was trying to pour cold water on the row, tweeting: “We have not banned US literature from English Literature. Here is the guidance on the minimum content GCSEs must include ow.ly/xeB0G.”

Perhaps predictably, the nuances in the story did not stop tweeters from getting quite heated quite quickly, with the hashtag soon trending across the UK. Some of the recommendations are below.

The chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English, Bethan Marshall, told the Sunday Times: “It’s a syllabus out of the 1940s and rumour has it Michael Gove, who read literature, designed it himself. Schools will be incredibly depressed when they see it.”

She argued that studying 19th century British works would deter students from continuing with the subject, saying: “Kids will be put off doing A-level literature by this. Many teenagers will think that being made to read Dickens aged 16 is just tedious.

“This will just grind children down.”