I am fresh from school (only a few years back), but I still keep in touch with the developments of syllabi and of the National Curriculum for England and Wales. The National Curriculum swears to be inclusive, yet it seems to forget (oops) a large minority of the population: the LGBT community.
Teachers, you will be pleased to know, students, are not free to choose which books to teach until Sixth Form, and even there their choices are sometimes constrained, so, I would not blame them, snowed under as they are with useless paperwork and now performance management…again, red tape, but I have to, in my conscience, examine what the Government means by ‘inclusive’.
I must say that I am not against inclusiveness, on the contrary, I am all for it, but I know what I am going to say could (and very likely will) be misconstrued. So, I need to forestall criticism: the examples I am going to make are not as a way of saying, ‘These are books we should not read,’ but rather, ‘Why only books that see inclusion mainly from one point of view?’ Is that clear, dear critics?
Which point of view, then, if I can say it without having tomatoes thrown at me? Before I say this, I need to look at the Anti-Discrimination Law in the UK: it clearly states that no discrimination on the bases of.. hear, hear, race, age, ability, gender, sexuality and religious persuasion, should take place. Instead, the National Curriculum, which should promote all forms of inclusiveness, clearly promotes one, race, above all others, and clearly leaves sexual orientation to the initiative of daring teachers who can find a minute to spare between exam preparation and filling in forms to maybe teach an LGBT poem (a short one, as there isn’t much time for it…)
While To Kill a Mockingbird, outdated as it is, is still on the syllabus, so as many poems from ‘different cultures’ and Of Mice and Men, which must have been taught to my great grandparents, and nice though it is, it is quite limited as a text, not a drop of refreshing LGBT rights has rained on the desert of the National Curriculum since the abolition of Section 28.
Even worse, a great novel, with a clearly homoerotic theme and possibly a gay character, Simon, and I am talking of a real great classic, Lord of the Flies, had by mistake appeared on the syllabi but was quickly removed.
There are great, and when I say great, I mean great, works of gay literature out there by contemporary writers (forget the vampires, I am talking about gay literary fiction), but the National Curriculum totally ignores them, why?
I would just like the Government to put their money where their mouth is… Anyone up for signing a petition to include works about LGBT characters and themes in the syllabi?