“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it” Harper Lee’s hard hitting To Kill a Mockingbird has become a seminal book with an immense impact on almost everyone who read it. Yet there are rumours (unsubstantiated as of now) that Michael Gove wishes for examining boards to push British books over American counterparts.
OCR, a leading examining board, claims Gove’s personal preferences are filtering through the education system, disregarding American classics like To Kill a Mockingbird. This favour of British books and British history is detrimental to Britain in the long run. We live in a globalised world where we must be able to empathise and understand other countries; To Kill a Mockingbird offers this opportunity at a formative age for many people, including myself. While Gove claims that he intends to widen the curriculum by pushing British authors, there is the possibility that a generation, who already find it harder to read due to the incessant distractions of the internet, will find the works of Dickens unapproachable. This impenetrable barrier to incredible literature will see Britain’s standing in the world decline in the future.
Gove has likewise pushed for British schools to teach British history; this is not unfair, and this is not inherently bad, but it does risk teaching a glorious history of an inglorious and somewhat shameful empire. We must be able to understand how others function, and imagine things from their point of view. Good literature gives this possibility (Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby all accomplish this with an approachability unmatched by Dickens), as does understanding the historical forces at work across the world. International relationships today are irrevocably linked to historical forces that have been at work for decades, if not centuries, so to isolate Britain’s education to the history of this isle is absurd.
…Gove has likewise pushed for British schools to teach British history…
Gove has rejected the premise of these claims, but even if the debate is empty it raises an integral issue. People are reading less and less; it does not matter what people read as long as they read, but it is equally important that the introduction to classic works is engaging. Dickens is an amazing writer, but the ease at which one can grapple Catcher in the Rye can lead to a lifetime of reading, seeing others in a complex way, and empathising with others. These skills are necessary to functioning in society, and to prevent people from entering the enthralling world of Holden Caulfield will have a negative impact on the country.
We must place reading on a far greater pedestal than it is currently, and while Gove’s reforms may be a work of fiction by media outlets seeking an argument, there is value to this empty debate if we begin to instil the value of literature in the education system again.