Magazine article English Drama Media

English in the News

Magazine article English Drama Media

English in the News

Article excerpt

Tom Rank surveys media coverage of English. This term:--why Michael Gove must try harder ...

I want to take on the lowest-common-denominator ethos, the 'let's not be too demanding', 'all this smacks of targets', 'the poor dears can't manage it', 'the idea of a canon is outmoded', 'it's all on the internet anyway' culture which is anti-knowledge, anti-aspiration and antithetical to human flourishing. Instead, I want a culture in which the more you read, the more you are celebrated. (Michael Gove, Daily Telegraph, 1 April 2011)

[An A Level English Language and Literature class in Michael's Dream School. On the teacher's desk, a cutting from The Independent, 19 May 2011, with the headline: 'Why Michael Gove must try harder.' Zoom in to extract: 'His policies are slapdash, his intellect lacking and his instincts elitist, according to his opposite number, Andy Burnham.' MICHAEL GOVE enters, catches sight of the cutting, ostentatiously plonks his red despatch box on top of it. He addresses the class.]

I hope you've all brought along your latest reading to review today?

Yes sir, I've been reading Umberto Eco.

O, very good. Tariq, My attempts to persuade you to take reading seriously are paying off at last! How many of his books have your read? Remember, you should be at number 30 on your reading chart by now.

Oh no, sir, I haven't read any of his books. It's what he said in The Guardian, sir: 'There are more books in the world than hours in which to read them. We are thus deeply influenced by books we haven't read, that we haven't had the time to read. Who has actually read Finnegans Wake--I mean from beginning to end? And yet I've a fairly accurate notion of what I haven't read.' And sir, on the website, someone called Lord Adonis agreed: T got through my literature degree based on this rationale. Glad to know that Umberto's still keeping it real.' Is that the real Lord Adonis, sir? Like, if he can get to be a Lord without reading much, what's the need?

'Oh reason not the need,' Tariq!

OK, I have read King Lear--that's the other lesson where we read books that actually get us through the exam.

But Tariq, if you read what I told The Telegraph on April 1st, you'd know that only 1,236 out of 300,000 students read Pride and Prejudice, 285 studied Far From the Madding Crowd and just 187 completed Wuthering Heights--that's terrible!

So are those you favourite books, sir?

[Camera zooms onto students who rise at the back of the class, affecting parody accents to suit--simpering, etc, the while.] Oh, Mr Gove, I thought you were Darcy! ... Nay lass, thou art too high and mighty for me ... Quick--he's completely madding!

Now look here, class, at least one headteacher agrees with me. Geoff Barton says in the Times Educational Supplement: 'Michael Gove is right on this one. We have a duty to heave open the doors.' He quotes the OECD report that says 'being an avid reader at school is more of an advantage than having educated parents.' So all you deprived kids will just be fine if you buy some books. I've printed off copies so you can all take it home.

Ah, but sir, he also says: 'We need to make sure that the library is brimming with great fiction and poetry and that there's a buzz about it. School libraries should be places that are vibrant, where reading is a social act and a natural part of being human.' The cuts mean our librarian's been made redundant--how does that help, sir?

Hang on, this is supposed to be about your proper reading, not media studies and gossip magazines. Chloe: you can't tell me that photo of Kate Moss has anything to do with English?

But that's just it, sir--it's Kate Moss and Coleridge, you could say they're an item: she's gone to live in his house. It's OK sir, it's not OK! magazine, this is from the Guardian Review: 'Good news that the beautiful Kate Moss is joining the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge as No 3, The Grove, Highgate, London. …

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