The ditching of Amercian classic novels from the GCSE syllabus “smacks of censorship” says Bradford’s politician in charge of education.
Councillor Ralph Berry has heavily criticised Education Secretary Michael Gove after books including To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men were removed from exam board OCR’s draft GCSE English Literature syllabus.
Instead, more works by British authors will reportedly be included, such as pieces by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
The Department for Education (DofE) wants pupils to appreciate the “power of the English literary heritage” and more pre-20th Century works.
Coun Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children’s services, said Bradford students could miss out if American classics were pulled.
“It smacks of censorship. It seems to be getting to some sort of level of what people should, and shouldn’t, know.
“My main feeling is it’s a great shame. This is silly. There is some good, stimulating reading he is dismissing.”
The new GCSE syllabus, which will start next year, will reportedly include more works by a host of British authors instead, including Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
Mr Gove’s overhaul has also led to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible being removed.
The course will feature at least one play by William Shakespeare, a selection of work by the romantic poets, a 19th Century novel, a selection of poetry since 1850 and a 20th Century novel or drama.
OCR said the decision to drop the well-known works by the US authors was because of the DofE’s desire for the exam to be “more focused on tradition” and there were fewer opportunities to include them in the new syllabus.
But Coun Berry said children should read a broad range of books.
“What are we scared of here by banning these books?
“I have also read books of a different view. It also smacks of trying to create some sort of orthodox thinking,” he said.
“The books Mr Gove is banning are some of the ones that have had the greatest impact on my life.
“We’re not going to get a new generation of curious minds if they are getting away from reading some of the key, seminal works of the past 100 years.
“There seems to be a desire to prevent people from reading books which have a critical understanding of society and power.”
A Department for Education spokesman said in the past English Literature GCSEs were not rigorous enough and “their content was often far too narrow”.
It said no authors, books or genres would be banned.