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Call to remove Of Mice and Men from GCSE's over racial slurs

Call to remove Of Mice and Men from GCSE's over racial slurs

One student has called for the text to be removed from the syllabus

A student has called for Of Mice and Men to be removed from the GCSE English literature course after raising concerns of racial slurs.

The high-achieving student, Angel Mbondiya, from Belfast, has addressed issues with the text written by John Steinbeck which was originally published in 1937.

Angel has explained her opinions on the matter - namely how she doesn't find certain content within the novel 'appropriate'.

The Belfast student has issued a call to remove Of Mice and Men from the GCSE syllabus.
BBC

Speaking to the BBC, Angel said: "I just don't find Of Mice and Men appropriate for schools and how that impacts young black people, and young white people."

Due to this, the A* student believes the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) should swap out the text and replace it with another on the GCSE English literature course.

If you're unfamiliar with the plot of the Steinbeck novel, it narrates the experiences of George Milton and Lennie Small - two displaced migrant ranch workers.

The pair move from place to place in California in search of new job opportunities during the 1930s Great Depression in the United States.

Another seminal character in the text is Crooks - someone who Steinbeck portrays as facing discrimination because he is Black.

While the novel is optional - being one of seven that schools in Northern Ireland you can choose from - it is chosen by many schools to be included in the curriculum.

The novel is chosen by many school in the GCSE English Literature course.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

But student Angel has said it's finally time for a change.

She told the outlet: "It's a very violent book to begin with but it's mostly just to do with racism and how that affects me and some other black students in my class.

"It's just really uncomfortable sitting in a classroom where we have to listen to racist slurs and comments.

"I understand the history behind it and stuff but you can learn that in history about slavery."

Speaking of its decision to include the novel as an optional text on the course, the CCEA said: "The language given by Steinbeck to characters in the book reflects the discriminatory language and attitudes of this period, which we recognise as offensive today.

"This and other messages/themes from Of Mice and Men reminds the reader of the struggle for racial equality and the importance of equal opportunities, diversity, and inclusion in today's society."

Angel explained the negative impact reading and listening to the novel had on her, noting: "The impact that it's had is that it just makes you feel weak, really.

"It doesn't sit right."

Angel's mother also agrees that Of Mice and Men should be removed from the GCSE course.
BBC

The student's mother, Apolonia Mbondiya, also agrees with her daughter, telling BBC: "Angel loves English, she's very good at it and she didn't pick it for A-level.

"She could have picked it, she's marked to get an A* in English but because of Of Mice and Men she chose not to pick it.

"We need to move on and to do things that are inclusive and protect the mental health of our young people, whether black or white."

While she understands the argument that Of Mice and Men was a product of its time, Apolonia explained: "We have history, which is dealing with slavery, which is dealing with the suffragettes fighting for the rights of women.

"We have quite a lot on racism and discrimination and everything that happens in the world but we are moving on to other ways of dealing with past history and not repeating the same thing over and over.

"I'm not sure what Of Mice and Men is actually teaching kids."

A spokesperson for CCEA told LADbible that it was 'committed to giving students the opportunity to engage with a diverse range of texts, themes and ideas that resonate with them through their study of English Literature.'

The CCEA said the text 'does not examine slavery'.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

"Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck has featured on the CCEA GCSE English Literature specification for many years due to its popularity with both teachers and students."

The statement continued: "The novel does not examine slavery.

"It does, however, include the character Crooks, a disenfranchised Black ranch worker, where the surrounding narrative alludes to racial segregation and prejudice in 1930s America.

"The language given by Steinbeck to characters in the book reflects the discriminatory language and attitudes of this period, which we recognise as offensive today."

It added: "This and other messages/themes from Of Mice and Men reminds the reader of the struggle for racial equality and the importance of equal opportunities, diversity, and inclusion in today’s society."

The CCEA also said it welcomed the opportunity to 'review and refresh' the literature offered to students and teachers alike to provide 'thought-provoking works' that 'represents the range of diverse voices in our society'.

Featured Image Credit: BBC / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Topics: Books, Education, Ireland, UK News, Racism