Shelley said “poets are the world’s unrecognized legislators”, but politicians may be more powerful after the education secretary attacked the removal of poems by Philip Larkin and Wilfred Owen from a GCSE course as “cultural vandalism” and called for their reinstatement.
Nadhim Zahawi condemned a decision by the OCR Board of Examiners to replace two works by Larkin and Owen from next year with a more diverse selection of authors to be studied as part of its English literature course at GCSE.
“Larkin and Owen are two of our best poets. Removing their work from the curriculum is cultural vandalism,” Zahawi said on social media. Their work must be passed on to future generations – as it was to me. this clear. “
Zahawi added: “As a teenager who improved my knowledge of the English language, Larkins’ poems taught me so much about my new home. We must not deny future students the chance to forge a similarly strong connection with a great British writer or to miss the joy of knowing his work. “
The OCR – part of the Cambridge University Press & Assessment – said it was revising the series of poets studied to “replace some 20th-century Victorians and poems that have either been overruled through the judging process,” or who have been found to have unexpected difficulties or seemed less accessible to students. “
The Larkin poem An Arundel Tomb will no longer be included in the section “Love and Relationships” in the GSCE anthology, while Owens Anthem for Doomed Youth will disappear from the “conflict” section. Poems by William Wordsworth, Lord Byron and Emily Dickinson remain. The anthology was first compiled in 2015.
The new authors include the British-Jamaican poet Raymond Antrobus and the Ukrainian poet Ilya Kaminsky, whose poem We lived happily ever after during the war included in the conflict theme. Kaminsky has recently published a collection of reports from poets whose homes have been occupied or attacked by Russian forces during their invasion of Ukraine.
Zahawi has previously recounted how he arrived in Britain with a poor knowledge of English after his family fled Iraq as refugees in the late 1970s.
In a recent interview, he said, “I could not understand the Telegraph because my English was not good enough. But I started reading The Sun, and it actually helped me improve my reading.” He later graduated from Imperial College London with a degree in chemical engineering.
The OCR said 15 new poems were included, 30 retained and 15 removed from the previous anthology.
“Our anthology for GCSE English literature students will include many poets who have never been on a GCSE curriculum before and represent different voices, from living poets of British-Somali, British-Guyanese and Ukrainian heritage,” the OCR said in a statement.
“Of the 15 poets whose works have been added to GCSE English literature, 14 are poets of color. Six are black women, one is of South Asian heritage. Our new poets also include disabled and LGBTQ + voices.”
Judith Palmer, CEO of Poetry The community said: “It’s amazing to see this new selection of poems from OCR, including poets from so many different backgrounds and identities writing in such diverse forms, voices and styles.
“We are sure that young people will enjoy the opportunity to study poems by some of the most striking new voices in contemporary poetry along with a refreshing selection of classical texts from different authors. These poems will speak strongly to the young people’s experiences. Today.”
Earlier, Zahawi described teachers ‘unions’ threats of labor disputes over pay as “irresponsible”.
“Our young people have suffered more disruptions than any generation that has gone before them, and to reinforce that now that recovery is in full swing and families are thinking about their next big step after school or college, it would be unforgivable and unfair. . ” Zahawi wrote in the Telegraph.