'Of Mice and Men' is Tedious, says Prof Who Claims He was Behind Gove's 'Book Ban'

'Of Mice and Men' is Tedious, says Prof Who Claims He was Behind Gove's 'Book Ban'

The professor behind the idea that British students should read older works of English literature has today taken “blame” for the imbroglio that Education Secretary Michael Gove found himself in earlier this week, and has made no apology for his negative thoughts about American author John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Professor Jonathan Bate, a leading academic and Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford has claimed responsibility for the ‘war on US literature‘ that was reported in the British press earlier this week. Writing in the Guardian, Bate said: 

“No doubt to the dismay of the Twittersphere, I have to report that the idea that our teenagers should be asked to read a few older works of English literature before the statutory school-leaving age was mine, not Michael Gove‘s. When the GCSE reforms were being considered, the Department for Education called in an advisory group of teachers, examiners and other stakeholders.”

Bate gave his expert opinion that students should have to read older, English literature rather than more recent American novels on the basis of “liberating teachers” and bringing “the best out of our schoolchildren by stretching and stimulating them”.

He argues that the ensuing “Twitterstorm” following the revelations was unnecessary, and that “the real culprits are the craven examination boards, who cannot free themselves from a ludicrously old-fashioned notion of a canon of set texts.”

And Bate was unapologetic about his disdain for Of Mice and Men, regarded as an American literary classic, though slated by some English literature teachers. He said: 

“I’ve also found it depressing how often teenagers have said to me that their main GCSE set text was John Steinbeck‘s Of Mice and Men, which they found tedious, undeveloped, overly schematic and all too easy to reduce to a set of themes instead of a literary experience. In short, an insufficiently demanding book.”

His solution? That students should be subjected to a wide variety of texts: “at least one Shakespeare play, at least one 19th-century novel, a selection of poetry, including a taste of the Romantics (who invented our modern idea of poetry as the true voice of feeling) and a novel or play from the rich diversity of English literature written in the century between 1914 and 2014”. 

Thousands of Twitter users are yet to apologise to Mr Gove for their knee-jerk comments.