So, Michael Gove hates ‘Of Mice and Men’? Well, I’m pretty antagonistic about him, but apparently that doesn’t stop being in charge of the education of our young people.
To remove Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ from the GCSE syllabus is typical of a man who seems to know nothing about education, or the need to instil the values, morals and ethics demonstrated by the two in our young.
In today’s increasingly shallow and amoral society, introducing 15 & 16 year olds to Atticus Finch, Boo Radley, George and Lenny seems to me to be one of the few ways in which we can teach them about doing the right thing, about maintaining a strong moral code, about being a decent human being.
I studied ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ when I was just a little 15 year old Steve, but I read it, and I read it well ahead of the rest of the cast. I was drawn in by the injustice of a man being put on trial for something he didn’t do, but would accept the consequences imposed on him by a prejudiced world. I wanted to be Atticus Finch for a while, I even contemplated law as a career, but more crucially, I wanted to know him, or someone like him. He was someone who was brave enough to stand up for a wronged man, someone with a strong enough sense of morality to say ‘No. This is unjust.’
As someone who has been involved in the teaching profession, however briefly, and who has a degree in English (just like Michael Gove), I want the next generation to understand that people used to stand for something, not just want to be famous. I want kids to know that humanity and compassion are better things than a fake tan and having people know your name.
Someone on twitter said to me today that Gove hates these texts because ‘humanity cannot be sold off for profit’ and I think they are right.
When I have children, regardless of if the books are on the GCSE syllabus, and they should be, my children will be reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and they will be reading ‘Of Mice And Men’. And not only will they be reading them; they will be talking about them, and exploring the characters and the decisions and choices that they have made. I want my children to know, that in the world there exists good and evil, and that there exists a right and wrong. My children will know that everything is not a shade of murky grey; that they should stand up for the little guy, and fight for what is right.
So, after all that, Michael Gove, don’t deprive our children of learning something which will make the world a less crappy place to be, just because you didn’t like them, doesn’t mean generations of kids shouldn’t have role models as strong as Atticus and Scout (a great female character with guts and brains). Put these texts back on the reading lists. And if you could go away after that, that would be great...