What a crazy weekend for news. While I’ve been pottering around running races and making breakfast frittatas for the week, Twitter has been sparking with the EU election results, the horrific misogynistic killing spree carried out by Elliot Rodger (which spawned the amazing #yesallwomen hashtag – read it and take it in, because that is what you have to put up with every day as a girl/woman), and Michael Gove taking two seminal works of literature off the curriculum because he doesn’t like them? Literally, was it that arbitrary a decision? Please tell me that’s misreported. I was introduced to To Kill A Mockingbird at my (state) school, by a teacher I remember as one of my favourites, and one of the best that taught me. I’d always loved reading, but at that point ‘wider reading’ to me was the entire back catalogue of The Saddle Club. And Pride and Prejudice. And almost anything where animals could talk to humans. So the likelihood of my finding it at a point where it would resonate as deeply as it did without being introduced to it by someone who could explain the bits to me that I wasn’t sure about… slim to none.
I can still remember phrases that we underlined in those copies, and I still remember how a simple, wonderful turn of phrase made me think. Harper Lee’s only novel isn’t just a masterpiece debut, it’s a way of teaching tolerance and thinking for yourself instead of following the pack. Because instead of judging someone, you should “climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Right?
How Mr. Gove can fail to be moved by this book is beyond me. How he can be responsible for broadening minds through education when he can’t see past purely British authors? Unbelievable. You know what? I might even put aside the book I’m reading at the minute (Harriet Ann Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl, by the way, and pick up my battered little copy of TKAM. And leave you with one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite characters in literature:
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
– Atticus Finch