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Be more British. That appears to be the message that U.K. minister of education Michael Gove is sending to students in Britain after cutting classic American novels from a major high school curriculum.
British students will not be required to read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible or any American masterpieces in school. According to The Associated Press, the syllabus focuses exclusively on British and Irish authors.
While some Americans may be critical of the move, British scholars also question the decision. “The idea of cutting out American books because they are not British is crazy,” Oxford University emeritus professor John Carey told the AP.
The New York Times reports that the main issue is the new requirements to take the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) English exam, which is given to students when they are 15 or 16-years-old. Gove was angered that many had only read one novel before taking it and, for 90 percent of them, that was Of Mice And Men.
To change that statistic, Gove’s new requirements state that students must read at least one Shakespeare play, a 19th century novel, a poem from 1789 onwards and “fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards.” While there is no specific list of novels recommended, examination boards are now replacing American novels with U.K. ones.
Gove later defended the move in The Telegraph, writing that American novels are not being “banned.”
“I have not banned anything,” he wrote. “Nor has anyone else. All we are doing is asking exam boards to broaden – not narrow – the books young people study for GCSE.”
Gove has been education minister in the Conservative government since 2010 and has been frequently criticized for decisions during his tenure.