British “Ban” of U.S. Writers from Curriculum Causes Controversy

June 2, 2014

Michael Gove, education minister in Britain, has removed works by John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, and Arthur Miller from the General Certificate of Secondary Education test, a key standardized test for high school students. The books have been replaced by British authors’ work. Some see this action to have a political motive, noting that the three books incorporate themes of social justice, inequality, and prejudice. Anna Hartnell, writing for The Guardian, called the decision parochial and regressive, going on to say, “Gove and his colleagues at the Department for Education are fantasizing about a nation unencumbered by racial or cultural difference, or calls for greater social and economic equality.”

Others feel the move is one of a growing sense of nativism in Europe. Christopher Bigsby, professor at the University of East Anglia and author of a biography on Arthur Miller said, “I put this in the context of what's going on in Europe and the world at large, which is a growing nationalism, a growing suspicion of other people's perspectives and ideas and values.”

Gove, however, says there is nothing to the outrage surrounding his actions. He claims not to have banned anything, saying in a piece written for The Guardian, “Just because one chap at one exam board claimed I didn’t like Of Mice and Men, the myth took hold that it – and every other pesky American author – had been banned. I have not banned anything. Nor has anyone else. All we are doing is asking exam boards to broaden – not narrow – the books young people study for GCSE.”

He goes on to explain that the Department for Education changed the requirements for the GCSEs to include broader, deeper content. There is now a core that is to be covered, including a Shakespeare play, poetry from 1789, a nineteenth-century novel, and fiction or drama written in the British Isle since 1914. Aside from that, says Gove, “exam boards have the freedom to design specifications so that they are stretching and interesting, and include any number of other texts from which teachers can then choose.”


Sources: LA Times & The Guardian

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