Last week Michael Gove expressed the controversial plan to remove American authors from English GCSE’s in Great Britain. The move comes after classics such as John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men have been a staple on the English programme for years. The gap left by American writers will be filled with Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, as Gove proposes a more ‘English’ literary tradition to support this qualification. This means that around 70% of the books studied at GCSE level will come only from the English literary canon. This plan has prompted uproar from many teachers, academics and students and rightly so.
By excluding American authors from such important exams that develop and pique a students’ interest, Gove is limiting children’s exposure to great works of fiction. To Kill A Mockingbird will be wiped off the list in favour of a pre-20th century text, Romantic poetry and a Shakespeare play (which has always been a staple of English studies). Whilst some are heralding this move as a fantastic way of promoting English authors who have perhaps fallen by the wayside, it is also a destabilising idea that limits exposure to literature in the English language as a whole. Students will not experience American authors in their studies until reaching A-Levels, at which point they will not be accustomed to the tropes, ideology and style that forms an understanding of a range of texts. Even more worrying is the fact that this notion of ‘English writers for English studies’ is a disturbing and elitist view that could limit students’ desire to experience new, diverse authors.
In short, the plan to scrap American authors in favour of those desired by Gove is a limiting move that will stagnate English studies at a key development level in students’ academic careers. We can only hope that it does not limit students’ reading experiences outside of the classroom.
By Nicola Borasinski
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