I read 'To Kill A Mockingbird' in my final year of GCSE. It was not on my syllabus, in fact very few pieces of great literature were. I read it because an inspirational teacher of mine gave me her love of books and knowledge. Michael Gove's proposals have sparked incredible uproar from the Great British public, this in itself is a sign of hope for the future of education in this country. It seems every 5 seconds there is a new plan that will reform what many deem to be a broken system.
GCSE's are too easy! A Levels are too hard!
Nobody can make up their own mind as to what exactly is wrong with the way children are taught and examined in the 21st Century. However, Gove's plans for English Literature to only include English authors is a step too far for the majority of people. The argument? Children will miss out on great pieces of literature that educate, inspire and teach. Teaching is Educating though. I suppose when I say educate I refer to grammar, the structure of a novel and why alliteration is so important. When I say teach I mean in the broader sense of morality and life. To Kill A Mockingbird taught me about justice, Huckleberry Finn taught me about adventure and Great Gatsby taught me about love and loss.
I am not suggesting that English authors and playwrights do not do this, I still cry at the end of The History Boys and Blue Remembered Hills, I still find Shakespeare funny and yearn for Mr Darcy. But in cutting children off from other cultures' literary history altogether serves no purpose. The real problem is making sure that any changes, not just Mockingbird related, don't scare off the teachers with the capability to change children's outlook and perception of the world. There are very few great authors, there are even fewer great teachers.
Below are the words written to me from my English teacher as I left school and entered university. Alongside this she gave me a book of George Orwell's Essays. She cared, she understood why people teach.
Thanks for keeping us all organised and with such good humour and graciousness. You will go far. Enjoy uni and make sure you keep the carpe diem approach to life. I am sure we'll be reading about your exciting life in the papers before too long!!
This incredible woman, kind-hearted, passionate and just that little bit revolutionary gave me a mother figure and so much more. She cares about her students, she cares about their lives as well as their grades. Teachers like this must be held onto tightly, they must be cherished. They should not be scared off by regulations that prevent a rounded education. Regulations that make teaching, not educating but teaching, that much harder. This is an unusual article for me, it is not detached or based on solid facts. It is based on my strong belief that children need that one teacher who can reach them and make them engage. Michael Gove will not ruin the education system with ridiculous rules and poor judgement calls. The education system will prevail as long as those one-in-a-million teachers stick it out and continue to teach. It is our job to let them.